My apologies for the complete lack of posts over the last few months years… as you may or may not know, we’ve landed back in the states and have been settling back into life in the US of A. But you’re probably wondering how we ever made it out of Mongolia…
Our last evening at the gar was a special one, as the goats were being milked Erbolot started pulling one of the larger males out of the heard by his horns and almost instinctively “Bruce” knew what was up. 15 minutes later “Bruce” was hanging over the stove smoking, his hide was tanning outside, and his head and hooves were sitting by the door of the gar. It was amazing how quickly and efficiently everyone in the family executed their jobs of dispatching and using every part of “Bruce.”
The next morning after saying by to the family; Liz, Erbolot and I headed out onto the Mongolian steppe on horses while our driver put a few chunks of “Bruce” in the van and drove to our next camp.
Over the next 5 days we spent half the day riding and the other half enjoying the beautiful surroundings and some pretty amazing sunsets.
Liz enjoyed every minute on horseback as we crossed fields and streams.
We explored petroglyphs high on a hillside.
We tried to make friends with some 2 hump Bactrian Camels. But they weren’t having any of it.
We camped out under the stars and enjoyed some wonderful fresh caught trout shared with us by some locals and ate plenty of Bruce.
In true Mongolian fashion, we had beautify blue skies and some pretty ridiculous weather. One afternoon we had our cook tent blow down in the wind and unfortunately our day hike to the highest point in Mongolia, Khuiten Uul Base Camp, was a bit anticlimactic in the rain.
View of the highest point in Mongolia.
We also enjoyed one last bottle of wine given to us by our good friends Gavin and Becky to celebrate the conclusion of our trip. They sent us off on our journey with an amazing bottle of wine that we enjoyed in Nepal; So it was extremely special to enjoy another outstanding vintage from such a remote vantage.
And before we knew it our time was up and we were rattling through fields back to Ölgii.
We were still hot on the trail of the top restaurants in Lima, even after our Central experience. Next up was Astrid y Gaston – we tried our same tactic of showing up and hoping, but still couldn’t get in for the tasting menu. However, we did score a seat at La Barra, the a la carte part of Astrid y Gaston.
They brought out the wine list in this swanky little envelop, and I kinda felt like I’d won some kind of award. And the prize was wine!
We had an appetizer of langostino, which was delicious. And then got the roasted suckling pig to share – unfortunately, it looked and tasted sooo delicious we failed to get a picture of it. #foodcriticfail
The flavors and dishes were spot on – from the appetizer of spiced olives, to the langostino to the pig. I wish we had gotten to do the tasting menu here, I’m certain it would have been out of this world!
Another day we went to another of Gaston Acurio’s restaurants, La Mar Cebicheria, and it may be our favorite restaurant in Lima! It’s not in the awards list, and is much more casual, but completely surpassed our expectations. Starting from the variety of native potato chips with three sauces, and Cancha Salada (it’s a special kind of Peruvian corn that has really large kernels, they roast and salt it. You can squeeze lime over it, or dip it in hot sauce, or just eat it by the handful) the flavors were awesome!
We decided on the ceviche tasting and Causa tasting. Each ceviche was completely different, but super fresh and interesting. The Causas were my favorite though. I really shouldn’t be sharing this on the blog, because I have a secret plan to start a restaurant in the states that’s all about Causas – it’s gonna be the next big thing!
Causas are these amazing little appetizer dishes made of layers of mashed potatoes, and in between the layers it’s filled with things like avocado, onions, chicken, tuna, crab… you name it.. then topped off with a sauce that compliments. There are hundreds of varieties, but they all taste amazing. It’s like a super fancy potato salad sculptured and filled with the best ingredients. Ours at La Mar included one with crab and langostino, avocado, a savory/sweet passionfruit sauce and another with tuna and salmon tartar, wasabi and a crispy nori topping.
To finish it off at La Mar, we had octopus two ways. It was remarkably tender, and I just couldn’t stop eating the version with an olive sauce.
Bummer is, we didn’t even bring the camera to this most extraordinary meal, so no pictures… unless we go back again before we leave Lima, which is a very real possibility.
Anyway… on to the next stop in our foodie tour… we went to Maido, another restaurant on the Top 50 restaurants in the world list.
We actually got a reservation for this one through our hotel – Score! We’re big time now! …or so we thought. We arrived to learn that we did get a reservation, but not for the tasting menu, that had ended 15 minutes before we arrived. But never fear, I’m a determined foodie, and they made the mistake of putting the tasting menu list of dishes in the a la carte menu… so we proceeded to recreate it ourselves (our server was less than thrilled with this, but obliged)
Maido features the signature Lima fusion of Peruvian and Japanese, “Nikkei” – so lots of raw fish was on order. Every single piece was delicious! The sushi was incredibly fresh and well prepared – we particularly liked the octopus and the tuna. My favorite dish of our experience there was the Nuevo Ceviche, it was beautiful cuts of raw fish, but instead of being marinated in a lime juice sauce, it came dry then tableside had a powder added to it and stirred in that gave it a wonderful smoked yellow pepper and light citrus flavor. It was much less sweet than the typical ceviche (which I’ve found to be really quite sweet here in Peru). It was crazy delicious and truly innovative… sadly, the picture does not do it justice at all!
We also tried out the 48-hour braised short ribs and they were everything you could hope for! The meat fell apart, but wasn’t greasy, just buttery. We almost ordered it again for another course, it was so good! Oh sweet meat perfection!!
I typically wouldn’t order ramen at a place like Maido, but it was on the tasting menu, so we went for it. And it was truly excellent. And we finished it off with a clever little dessert they called “Ceviche”, you can see the resemblance. It was a variety of tropical fruits, both fresh and crispy freeze dried, ice cream and a citrus sauce. Again, delicious!
There were quite a few other courses that we really enjoyed, each well thought out and well executed. I would definitely say Maido was worth it!
We had some other incredible meals at less well known places. Like our sushi dinner at Osaka. The straight up sushi was the win here – I would say it’s the first or second best salmon nigiri I’ve ever had (a very authentic little spot in Vancouver being the competition).
We also had a superb dinner at AmorAmar, which was our super backup choice on our first night here, but turned out to be one of our favorite meals in Lima. I’m always partial to a place that blows you away with an amuse-bouche.
We still have a couple days here in Lima and I’ve got big plans to explore the “hole in the wall” food scene, especially the anticuchos.
So despite hiking for about 20 days of the last month we’ve spend in Peru, I think I’ve managed to gain weight from my six days in Lima! At least it was for a worthy cause – Peruvian food is amazing!!
I have to be honest, as a whole, South American food has not been my favorite. There have certainly been some amazing meals (I’m lookin at you, Boragó, my love!), but as a whole Argentina, Chile and Bolivia aren’t doing a lot with flavors or spices and have a special way of completely ignoring the existence of vegetables and fruits. (unless you love mayonnaise, white bread and sugar)
I’ve been looking forward to Peruvian food for the last few months – it has a reputation for some of the best food in the world – and Lima is a the capital of that! We basically planned our entire time in Lima around eating.
There’s this list of the “Top 50 Restaurants in the World” – it’s definitely the most widely known international list and has the best google ranking. Rick and I are very suspect of exactly how the rankings are calculated… we’ve been meaning to ask on the blog, do any of you chefs and foodies have a recommendation as to the best list of top international restaurants?
But for this trip to Lima, this listis what we’ve got to work with and so far the restaurants hadn’t disappointed. We went to Boragó in Santiago based on the recommendation of the list and it was incredible!
Lima has three restaurants on the list so of course we were going to try to go to all three… but of course we also didn’t have any reservations. Thanks to a gift card from some very generous friends and Rick’s Marriott points, we got to stay in the JW Marriott – which translates to a real shower and getting to look cleaned up – and asked the concierge to help us with reservations.
She looked at us like we were crazy and informed us that Central (#4 on the list) is booked through August, Astrid y Gaston takes reservations a month out and Maido is “very popular”. Still she tried calling them all and got the predictable answer, they were all full.
But we’re not so easily throw off the trail of amazing food!
So we got dressed up in our fanciest backpacker clothes and decided we would show up at opening time at the restaurant and see if there was a cancellation or a seat at the bar.
….Central – Night 1 – Arrived at 7:30. Were told it was a private event. Didn’t make it past the door.
…Maido – Night 1 – Arrrived at 8:00. Hostess laughed at us for trying to walk up. Escorted out the door.
…Astrid y Gaston – Night 1 – Called at 8:30. No cancellations.
We were not off to a good start… We decide the next day to try for lunch reservations and have the concierge make the calls again. No luck. So we decide to try showing up again.
This time we’re in luck and after waiting in the bar area for 30 minutes, Central has a table for us! We of course do the 17-course tasting menu with wine pairings.
The highlight of meal for us was the plating – all of the dishes were small works of art, truly beautiful! Unfortunately, though, the flavors and execution did not deliver for the most part. There seemed to be a lot of supurlfous ingredients and techniques that really didn’t do anything for the food… it was just kinda there for the sake of being there and seeming fancy. For example, the “caviar” of bacteria from the altiplano that topped the chicken… no flavor, didn’t really add any texture, just there to say it was there.
The theme of the tasting menu reminded us a bit of Boragó, in that it was about ingredients from different parts of the country. Central did it by elevation, going from -20M below sea level (razor clams), all of the way to 3,900M above sealevel which include a three piece bread course with coca bread, high Andean herb butter, and uniquely shaped breads.
Our favorite dish of the menu was the razor clams. They completely stole the show! They were delicate, sweet, slightly salty and so fresh I swear some little sous chef had to run out and scuba dive for them when we walked in. They were paired with “sweet cucumber” which is more like a sweet-savory fruit. The picture doesn’t do the dish justice. This was our second time to have razor clams in Lima and they have quickly become one of my all time favorite seafoods!
Another win was the octopus and coral (yes, coral!) dish. The coral is the cotton candy looking blue stuff… it had the texture of pork skins, but a nice light seawater-kissed flavor.
While the names of the dishes were clever for the menu theme, it came across like most dishes might have been a great concept in the beginning, but the ideator of the dish passed it off to someone else after the original concept… and that person was forced trying to shove what they could actually do and the ingredients they had into a pre-set description. We’ve all been on both sides of that… you have a great, grandiose idea for a project, then hand it off and the way it gets brought to life is just so much less than you expected…. Or on the other side, trying to bring to life this impossibly huge idea. In quite a few cases the primary ingredient which tied the dish to the theme and dish’s name, and was the highlight of the description, was no more than a smear of emulsion of that ingredient on top of the dish. For example, the “River Scales” dish with description “River Snails – Gamitana – Sangre de Grado” – there was a drizzle of emulsion of river snail on top. The same was true for the dish that said it had Smoked Duck in it. But, hey, they sure as heck were pretty!
I think the final blows were the veal dish and the potato dish. (here’s where I become the mean food critic, I guess). The veal dish was supposedly slowly cooked for long hours, with a traditional sauce on it. I expected ridiculously tender meat, and instead got rehydrated jerky – it was chewy. And the sauce was way too overpowering and sweet, like a cheap BBQ sauce. We couldn’t get ourselves to finish it. The potato dish was fairly mundane, until I took a bite of the onion garnish and was taken aback by how overpowering the onion flavor was – like sticking my tongue in a jar of onion powder. I said something to Rick about it, and he looked surprised and said, “Really? Mine has no flavor what so ever”. So we traded plates and sure enough, his had no flavor and mine was grossly onion-y. But again, pretty plating….
The wine pairings were pretty fantastic, when you got a wine pairing. There was a great Riesling that started it off – perfectly off-dry and well paired. And other Chardonnay that was quite good, along with a single red wine pairing that we really enjoyed. I was a bit disappointed that a few times the wine pairing was for multiple courses. One of the courses was paired with a cocktail that was less than exciting, and one was paired with a beer – not a particularly unique craft beer or anything, just a standard Peruvian beer.
We did end on a good note with the Amazonian Rainforest dessert featuring Rose Apple and Lemongrass, and then the Cacoa icecream dish (but it featured Chaco Clay shavings… which was really just colored white chocolate, again just there for show).
Maybe it was it’s ranking as the #4 restaurant in the world that set up our high expectations, or the aloof nature of the staff, or just their reputation – but it didn’t quite live up the hype. Still we enjoyed our lunch and the experience.
…the next two restaurants on our culinary tour definitely did not disappoint…
Cusco is known as the Capital of Archeology in the Americas, Peru’s Capital of Heritage, the most historical city in South America, and a bunch of other superlative titles… for us it seemed more like the big tourist hub base for Machu Picchu. But despite the touristy-ness we had fun exploring it.
The Cusco main plaza is really beautiful. We spent a lot of time sitting there, people watching and soaking in the sunshine and beautiful architecture.
We later went on a free walking tour of the city and learned that Cusco was originally an Incan city with beautifully constructed walls and buildings. However, the architecture we had been admiring was a bit more sinister. When the conquistadors came to conquer and destroy the Incas, they wanted to “send a message” to the remaining Incas they enslaved, and as a power play they build all of their government buildings and churches on top of the centuries old Incan walls and buildings. So you don’t see much of what’s left, until you start wandering the alleys of Cusco and looking at the bases of the buildings.
We also got to meet a very sweet man who crafts traditional instruments and was kind enough to play them for us. We tried our hand at playing them, but couldn’t come anywhere close to making the beautiful music that he did.
Our other adventures in Cusco revolved around food. We visited the San Pedro Market almost everyday to try some authentic Peruvian food – from soups, to ceviches, to menus del dia – it was all delicious.
Well except for that bet that Rick lost…. If you’re following me on Facebook you may have already seen this play out. As we were walking around Cusco, Rick commented that we should drop the subject we were talking about and “don’t ________ a dead horse”. Rick’s choice of phrase was “don’t KICK a dead horse”… after he said it a couple of times, I asked if he meant “don’t BEAT a dead horse”. He promptly told me I was wrong… we laughed at each other. But I couldn’t let it go at that. Over a beer, I asked if he was serious about the saying and he said dead serious, I was crazy and wrong, and “come on, Liz, you’re a horse person, you should know this saying”.
Side note – this is the beauty of not having cell phones and internet access at all times. Back home, you would have just googled it and been done, but since we didn’t have access we debated it and got to joke about it for a while. And eventually made a bet.
So I made a bet with him that who ever was incorrect had to eat the icky Frog Soup we saw in the market. And we agreed that the winner would be determined by what our friends on Facebook said — Big thank you to everyone who weighed in!! (at least, from me…)
We got some very creative and excellent responses, but ABSOLUTELY NO ONE said “kick”. The results were in and it was overwhelmingly “beat”. And so Rick got to enjoy some lovely Froggy Soup!
Our final culinary adventure in Cusco was the infamous Cuy, Guinea Pig. It’s a delicacy in Peru. They stuff it with herbs, roast it whole and, just to add an element of animal disgrace, make it where a vegetable hat.
We didn’t actually eat it whole. After the photo session our server came back with a big knife and cut it into quarters for us. The flavor was pretty good, but it was all dark meat, sort of like duck. And there’s really not a lot of meat to it. Rick and I both struggled more with the herbs they used to flavor it more than the meat. They use this Andean Mint on tons of stuff, and it has a slight minty flavor, but more of an anise flavor… which just reminds me a little too much of Jaeger.
Along with the Cuy came an array of side dishes of various forms of potatoes and corn. I will said the variety of types of potatoes they have here is amazing – I’m told there are over 3,500 different varieties of potatoes in Peru – and they all taste different. Not to mention the people here are incredibly creative with how they use them.
Cusco has been a fun culinary adventure – but we’re REALLY looking forward to Lima! Home to three of the “top 50 restaurants in the world” and known for its foodie culture. We’re going big in Lima – we’ll probably just eat and peruse menus the whole time we’re there.
We have been staying with Pablo’s family for the last month in San Martin, and it’s been an amazing experience. We have our own room in the house, but we spend most of our time in the family area with Pablo, his wife Guille, their son Nathan (10), daughter Trinidad (6mo) and Abuelo (the grandfather). It’s been a full cultural immersion, with some comical fails along the way – we’re grateful that the Carli’s have been very gracious with us!
It has been really fun getting to know REAL life in Argentina, not just the tourist or traveler version and getting to know a town… and be known in a town. Now that we’ve been here a while we know people when we walk down the street, people stop us to talk to us, we have our favorite places to eat (Almacen de Flores and La Creperia) and the waitresses ask us about how our anniversary was and if we’ve tried their favorite hang out they recommended to us yet.We even know the names of a couple of dogs in town and they greet us, Carlita the border collie is our favorite.
Pablo and Guille have been so great about showing us the wonderful area they live in. The last two weekends we have visited beautiful lakes. First it was Lago Melquina.We packed a picnic lunch and, of course, three thermoses of hot water, the yerba and our mate – you can never go without mate! The mate starts in the car on the way to your destination, who ever rides shotgun has to be the Cebador (person who serves mate for everyone)… and basically it’s doesn’t stop until, well, ever. We got to be the heroes because we had our camping stove and pot and could heat more water up, right there where we picnicked.
We stopped at the lake first to take in the views, then walked a little ways up a gorgeous river. We lounged all day, taking turns with the fly fishing rod. Rick caught two little trout that day. My accomplishment for the day was saving Trini (the baby) from a gigantic pig that wondered over from the farm next to us. We played in the water, caught crawfish and swapped stories in a friendly soup of Spanish and English.
The next day we went to Playa Bonita at Lake Lolog, the best beach around! It’s sandy and stays shallow for at least 200 yards out, perfect for playing in. We finally discovered something we could tell Argentines that proved the value of existence for futbol Americano (football, vs. futbol which is soccer) to them… You have futbol Americano, so you have something you can play in the water at the beach. It’s really hard to play futbol in even a few inches of water, and impossible in a foot or so.
We’ve visited almost all of the 7 lakes in the region. We’ve come across some very interesting camping recommendations, which Rick tested out.
My big adventure was attempting to feed jello to a 6 month old baby who absolutely did not want to eat, while riding in a car over a rocky 4×4 gravel road. The cup of jello was empty by the end of it… but I’m not sure any of it actually got eaten.
The Carli’s have treated us to delicious asado, and taught us how to cook a proper asado. Rick is convinced we need an asado pit in our backyard someday.
Since we were going to be in the same place for more than 24 hours, Rick thought it would be a good opportunity to get some real Spanish lessons in. So we got an “intensive” Spanish tutor for 2 hours a day for a week. It kinda backfired on him though as I learned much quicker than he did (taking advanced Spanish all through high school and paying attention probably helps). This resulted in Guille and I telling each other jokes in Spanish constantly… occasionally at Rick and Pablo’s expense. They took it in good stride though. (This paragraph was written by Rick in my “voice”, he needs practice understanding 1st person, 3rd person, tenses, etc.).
[accordion-item title=”Click here to view a translation of this paragraph by Rick”]Nosotros vivamos allí para vente–cuatro horas. Yo sabo es bueno oportunidad para clases Español verdad. Entonces, nosotros compramos un tutor para dos horas un dia de semana. Es abajo enfuego en mi cabeza. Ella empezar mas major, Ella recuerdo esquela atras. Ella y Guille es los chistosas buenas… TODO EL DIA. Yo es bueno coreado. Cuidado para monos bravos; muy peligros. (feel free to compare that to Google Translate).[/accordion-item]
Maybe it’s the feeling of getting to know somewhere, or having a little taste of family and friends, or maybe it’s just hitting the six month mark, but we have both been homesick the last couple of weeks, despite being in such a beautiful place.
Teaching Cards Against Humanity to new Argentine friends in the middle of nowhere We were in the middle of a four-day trek outside of Bariloche and one of the Refugios had Cards Against Humanity. A group of local Argentines asked if we knew how to play and would teach them, so of course we obliged. The funniest part was having to define so many of the cards, things I never really wanted to have to explain to anyone. But we all laughed for hours!
Attempting to trout fish in Cajon de Azul We didn’t catch anything, but it was such a beautiful place. It was a good thing that Refugio Cajon de Azul had a lamb dinner for us! It was the most beautiful refugio we went to, I could have stayed there for three or four days.
Surviving the Haupi Nahuel Traverse Our most technical and mentally exhausting hike to date. It involved rock climbing 50m up a narrow rock shoot on the side of a mountain with a 1,000ft drop below us (probably shoulda had a harness and rope) and 4 hours of ridgeline rock scrambling, followed by 3 more hours of tough hiking.
Experiencing a real asado We stayed in a small guesthouse owned by a sweet family who immediately took us in. After a lot of trekking, and then camping our first night we went to “the locals’ butcher” picked up half of a lamb and learned how you make the perfect asado on your parilla.
The hippie market of El Bolson We just hung out there for hours. Great people watching, good artenseal beer, organic produce. I also scored some feather earrings. El Bolson is Boulder, CO’s long lost twin sister.
Sunrise at Refugio Frey The granite peaks in the background turned bright pink and orange and the lake reflected it beautifully.
Stopping to pick wild blackberries In the middle of our search for a hostel in El Bolson we came across a huge patch of wild blackberries and just stopped for 30 minutes to pick them and eat all we could. They were so sweet, I think I ate a couple of pints there on the side of the road.
Staying in The Penthouse with a view over Bariloche Best view from a hostel room we’ve ever had
This is the first time we’ve been compelled to write an entire blog post specifically about a hostel. No place on our current trip has felt more like a home and been harder to leave than Erratic Rock.
The vast majority of people that stay at Erratic Rock use it as a base camp for their adventures in Torres del Paine National Park spending a night before and a night or two after at the hostel, which will store a bag for you for free while you’re in the park. That was our plan as well, spend 2 nights to get our selves organized for our trek spend a night when we get back and be on our way. The words of a guy we meet in Pokhara at the very beginning of our trip came echoing back into my head, “Don’t get sucked in!” he had been in Pokhara for nearly on 2 months. I could feel the magnetic pull, like a black hole, sitting at the breakfast table in Erratic Rock.
So yeah… we got sucked in. We spent two nights before our trek and then almost two weeks afterwards, as we couldn’t bring our selves to buy a bus ticket out of town. And we’re so glad we stayed as long as we did. We felt like such a part of the family, and we’ve got memories to last a lifetime: Watching Veronica draw mandalas; Bruce yelling, “You two are still here?” pretty much every day then pulling out one of his awesome maps to show us where we should go next; Having a number of people we talked to before their trek come back and tell us how awesome the park was; Liz cooking more meals in the same kitchen than she has since we left Dallas, and getting to cook for a dinner party or two; Celebrating Paul’s birthday at Base Camp with the locals and a Chilean reggae-ska-punk, band that didn’t start playing until 1am and a party that didn’t wind down until well after 6am; Bill regularly offering us jobs between random goodhearted monologues on Politics, Philosophy, Religion, Street Dogs and more; Kit telling us how much he’s becoming like his mother as he make us omelets; just sitting with new friends getting sucked down the YouTube rabbit hole of SNL clips; and having people in El Chaltén know our names from Erratic Rock though we’d never made formal introductions. These are the memories we’ll take with us until we make it back.
So how did we get there? Erratic Rock came highly recommended online but after a little research we found they were going back to their hostel roots for the 2014-2015 season and not taking reservations unless you’d stayed their before. First come, first serve. We figured we’d try their first and if they were full find somewhere else. Luckily we made friends with three other people waiting for the bus to Puerto Natales from El Calafate and one of them, Matt, had a friend who had stayed at Erratic Rock previously and had made a reservation for him, We figured we’d try and ride those coattails in as well. We were in luck as the 5 of us got the last 5 beds for the night.
A wood burning stove that had been converted to gas warmed the kitchen and similar stove warmed the living room which also housed the largest collection of VHS tapes in the southern hemisphere (as well as Netflix and Apple TV if you want something produced after 1998). A couple of cats that were or were not allowed inside depending on who you asked sat curled up on a couch and a jovial but straightforward guy from Portland, Oregon, Bill, ran the whole show; which often felt a little like a 3 ring circus with all the different characters playing their parts right on queue.
There’s no hard sell at Erratic Rock, take a look at the room and if you want to stay great, if not no worries. Breakfast is included and is nothing short of wonderful, that is if you like omelets, homemade bread, their proprietary blend of cereal and what feels like a never-ending supply of yogurt. There is hot REAL coffee (or Nescafe if you’re into that) and there is almost always a mate going somewhere in the house at any given moment. Paying for anything that wasn’t included as part of your stay, like keeping one of the homemade recycled tent shopping bags or breakfast when you didn’t actually stay there that night, was handled by a donation the one of their non-profit causes via the tin cans up front.
There is no hiding the slight hippie vibe of the hostel, highlighted by the bins for every type of recycling and compost imaginable and you can borrow some of their homemade shopping bags made from old tents to run to the store. And if you like the bags, which we did, you can buy one, which we did, for a donation to one of their causes, of course. Zip-lock bags are washed, dried, re-used and traded like rations during war. And luckily, there is the occasional incense stick used to dull the smell of stinky hiking boots drying by the stove.
It’s a haven for big wall and rock-climbers of all types, who are happy to share their knowledge of where to camp or what to do when you’re go to insert your next destination. We also learned, climbers are better than most weathermen when it comes to predicting the weather. I guess when you’re hanging on the side of a cliff by a rope it pays to know what the clouds mean and what the wind is doing.
Erratic Rock is probably best known for “The 3’o’clock info talk” at Base Camp next door to the hostel. Bill’s brother Paul runs Base Camp and they rent everything you need for a trek into the park as well as serving delicious pizza, beer and wine and hosting the occasional concert. As we’ve mentioned before “The Talk” is awesome and totally worth the time if it’s you’re first time visiting the park.
So, if you’re ever in Puerto Natales swing by Erratic Rock, tell Bill we sent you, and make some memories of your own!
We woke up early to another beautiful day in the pampas and after packing up, we quickly found ourselves climbing again. There is one big hill before a mostly flat hike to Refugio Dickson.
As we crested the hill we were greeted with views of Lago Paine. And some more wind. At times it was difficult to walk a straight line as the wind gusts would push you around and you never knew how long our how strong the would be. We discovered Liz and I have very different ways of handling the strong winds. Liz crouches low and moves quickly to try and limit her exposure. I on the other hand, spread my arms out like a bird and lean into try to see if I can get it to hold my whole weight.
We fought the wind the rest of the afternoon but it was totally worth the awesome views. We really got treated today to some awesome glacier views and an epic rainbow.
Once we made it to Dickson I thought it was a perfect opportunity to try and patch the hole in my Therm-a-rest sleeping pad. Try being the optimal word here as first I had to find it. After a failed attempt with some soap and water (soap wouldn’t really suds enough to blow bubbles) I resorted to a knee-deep dip in Lago Dickson’s glacier melt to locate the holes. Liz opted to not join me for a swim and instead to take pictures from above.
With camp set-up it was time for dinner… Mmm lentils. Again.
We woke up to more blue skies; where is this notorious Patagonia weather? I mean yeah it’s windy as heck but the blue skies are no lie, it’s B-E-A-utiful here! #Foreshadowing
From Dickson it’s all up hill to the last camp before John Gardner Pass and it’s 1200m, the highest point on this trek. We made our way through the woods filled with some of the thickest moss we’ve seen and a million shades of green.
We made the 4.5 hour hike from Dickson to Perros in closer to 3.5 hours which meant we were at camp a little after noon. Awesome we’ll get the afternoon to relax before the big summit day tomorrow and maybe check out the day hike to Glacier Puma. We found Diego and Jacky already at camp. They said they were feeling good and going to make the most of the great weather and go over the pass.
I went ahead and set-up our tent and as I was coming out of the tent I look up to see what at first glance looked dog not 15 feet from the tent. What’s a dog doing way up here… NO THAT’S A FOX! I scrambled for the camera and got a couple of shots. When I told Liz she said “I was wondering why they called this camp Perros, I guess that explains it!”
We’d heard varying instructions on the pass, some saying it takes between 2 and 6 hours to get to the top depending on weather and it’s ill-advised to start after 7 or 8 am. As we sat in the cooking area debating “go/no go” we saw Brad pass through camp with out even stopping for a break; he was going over the pass as well!
It was now almost 2pm so we decided to enjoy the afternoon, do the day hike and get an early start for the pass in the morning. We went over to the Guardaparque (Ranger) Station to find out where the trail to Glacier Puma is and find out it’s closed. So we ask about the pass and they said we could go if we left right away and we’d be the last ones allowed over for the day…. so much for having to start before 8am. We already had camp set-up and decided to stick with our plan of summiting the pass in the morning.
Jose rolled into camp not much later and we spent the evening in the cooking shelter. We finished the evening with Liz and Jose comparing camp cooking recipes and I modified the door that was troublesome to close.
We hung out well into the evening with our new friends Diego and Jacky and talked about where we’d been and where we were going. They are just a few weeks into their “world trip” and like the mountains as much (if not more than us). They’ve got their mountaineering boots and big plans for the taller peaks up north. Hopefully we’ll be joining them down the road.
After a wonderful and warm nights sleep we awoke to clear blue skies, more views of the lake and a lot less wind. We planed to make it up to the Mirador Base de las Torres, and it’s classic views of torres.
The trail spends most of its time today on a private estancia (ranch), which also contains the high-fuletin’, Hotel Las Torres. As we make our way up a hill we hear something rumbling on the other side, Liz instinctually, says, “It’s horses and they are running… towards us!” We see a couple of ears quickly appear and then a whole herd at a full gallop right towards us. We parked ourselves next to a big boulder assuming they wouldn’t want to run into it (or us).
That’ll get you’re heart going!
Shortly after, we come to a fork in the path where you continue up to the Campamento Torres or down to Hotel Las Torres. We make our way up towards the campamento and quickly find ourselves in a place know for “Rolling Stones.”
We cross a stream and we’re at camp just in time for lunch… mmmm lentils. We quickly set-up camp and decided we’ll make the hour hike up to the mirador as the weather is prime and we’re feeling great. On the way up we passed some friends from Erratic Rock who had gone up early to film sunrise and were on their way down, they said sunrise was a “must see!”
The views from the top were nothing short of amazing; Blue sky, turquoise water and granite peaks poking out of the snow and glacier. We attempted our trademark “airplane” but we’re discovering getting a proper photographer to capture the moment is proving more and more difficult; that and my back really doesn’t like laying on rocks.
We set our alarm for before the crack of dawn with big plans of a glorious sunrise. They say they weather at a camp doesn’t always equal the weather and to try to go up for sunrise even if they weather is crap at camp. The weather was crap at camp. We figured we didn’t need to hurry since we didn’t expect much of a sunrise in the rain so we brewed some coffee in our water bottle made some oatmeal to eat at the top in the dark threw our sleeping bags in my pack and started moving up.
We quickly made it to the top, it was completely overcast and we felt bad for all our friends that had gotten up and hour earlier than us to sit in the cold and dark dreaming of beautiful sunrise… that beautiful sunrise never happened that morning. We made the best of it eating our raspberry flavored oatmeal bundled up in our sleeping bags under a rock hiding from the wind and rain. We’ve discovered you can make oatmeal taste like just about anything with the right flavoring. Our raspberry drink powder (think Tang) made it taste like Fruit-loops and looks like something neon designed to convince kindergartners to eat it.
Maybe less drink powder next time.
Well, it’s all down hill (for the most part) to the next camp Serón so we pack-up camp and start down. The weather is misty at best, which generally means we hike faster, I can hear Liz saying to herself, “Get me out of this!” She is bound and determined to be a “fair weather hiker” but the weather is not cooperating with her. After a little discussion, we come to the realization that it’s Valentines Day at the half-way point of our trek, just as the rain starts to pick up, and we see Hotel Las Torres. Maybe they have a restaurant?
We figured a celebratory meal was in order. As we polished off our gourmet lamb sandwiches and champagne lunch we saw the clouds part and blue sky. My fair weather hiking buddy might just be in luck. We headed out across the estancia and into the pampas.
Hotel Las Torres is the end of the W for most people so the crowd thinned out a bit as we made it to Campamento Serón, which is basically camping in someone’s backyard. We enjoyed dinner with all our friends that were continuing on the Q, Brad, Diego and Jacky, and also made a new friend, Jose from New York. His blog Jose’s Worn Out Boots chronicles his treks round the world. He’s a gear junky at heart, so we instantly bonded over the finer points of camp stoves, wool base layers, and hydrophobic down feathers. Liz meanwhile turned a fuel canister into a make-shift foam roller, and showed our new friends how to work out the soreness in their IT bands.
Flying in we got a preview of the beautiful beaches.
Before we could get to the beach we got stuck in a Zanzibar traffic jam for a few minutes. It gave a whole new meaning to “This is bull!!”
But we had no idea just how beautiful they would be. Zanzibar by far has the best beaches we have seen on this trip!
We indulged in fresh, delicious seafood dinners right on the beach almost every night.
And hung out with the herd of cows that hung out on the beach everyday.
Our scuba diving was fun, but we were a little sad that we missed the whale sharks.
All in all, the beaches were just incredible. We couldn’t get over it!! Crystal clear water, powdery, ridiculously fine white sand. It was pretty awesome.
Minus the three days that our bungalows didn’t have water… that set us up for our 40+ hours of straight travel, including the 19.5 hour flight from Dubai to Buenos Aires. I really like to shower before that long of a flight, but not so much this time, Just a bucket bath.