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Beer and cards after a long day on the trail. If the refugio has its own home brew we have to try it :)
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Morning reflections. What a stunning sight to wake up to.
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Mt. Tronador in the distance. We weren skilled enough to capture a pic of the condors flying around us, but we felt pretty high up.
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We started on the other side of the mountain behind Dale, and were only halfway to our destination.
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View from the top, spectacular.
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Unimpressed with the direction the trail takes. At least there is no snow on it.
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Enjoying a well earned beer with a fantastic view.
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There was no real trail, just scramble up as best you can without starting a rockslide. But we were glad we were going up not coming down cause it was steep!!
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Breakfast view
You may be wondering what happened to Bariloche part 1. Well that was 4 days of rain and nice day hikes without too much to write home about. Although we did spend 2 hours on the top of a hill sipping hot chocolates in a rotating restaurant, which was quite enjoyable.
This time, a week and a half later, Bariloche rewarded us with stunning blue skies so we are making the most of it. These pics are from a 3 day hike we did to Laguna Negra and Cerro Lopez. The camping and refugio at laguna negra is perched on the edge of a 1000ft cliff. To get to the refugio you have to walk over a rock bridge at the outlet of the lake as the water begins its cascade down the cliff.  It was a beautiful setting and well worth the long haul up the valley and then up the cliff next to the waterfall. The following day was a long 8 hours of climbing and descending on loose rock, luckliy we made it through with our ankles intact. We were lucky enough to see a few Andean condors soaring up the canyons and around the snow capped peaks, they are so graceful whey them fly and it is rare to see them flap their wings. Well up the first hill and around the second to the saddle between 2 peaks. Then we saw what the fuss was all about, we had to descend into the vally below then trudge/scramble up the imposing face of Cerro Lopez. Neither of us had ever tackled a climb like this, especially with packs on, and for Dale with one arm tied behind his back. But slow and steady we made it up. I think it was close to 2 hours of straight vertical. At one stage when I looked behind me I could not see where we had come from it was so steep. But we were rewarded with amazing 360 views of the Andes and the Lakes District. Mt Tronador dominated the landscape but there were a few other impressive snow covered volcanic domes. Then anoter descent! This time we could have a bit of fun cause there was a lot of snow, so the fastest way down was to sit on your bum and slide. 3 sections of sledding then a descent down a steep rocky face, at times through a slight waterfall and we were at camp. It was an unreal day with the difficulty paying off with amazing vistas.
We made it out the next day for a quick refueling stop, and now we are about to head out for a 4 day trek, celebrating New Years up in the mountains. Hopefully we will have some equally amazing vistas.
 
 
Well El Bolson has been a bit of a misadventure, but we have sincerely enjoyed our time here. We initially came here because supposedly El Bolson is in a rain shadow- well this did not help us, it rained for the first 6 days we were here. But we did not let that stop us. We headed out into the mountains for a 4 day trek. Crossed not one but two dodgy bridges successfully, and when I say dodgy I mean it, planks of wood missing from the bridge and 30% of the other planks broken in half and dangling toward the river. But we made it across and managed to see a couple of Condors as well. Our first camping site was at Refugio Caj0n de Azul. To get there we had to cross a 10 foot bridge over a 40 ft deep canyon with gorgeous blue water. The refugio was like utopia for me and Dale. Set amidst craggy snow covered peaks is a wonderful little farm. Sheep grazing in a green pasture spotted with cherry, apple, and apricot trees. And a huge kitchen garden with all sorts of vegetables growing robustly. We were greeted by an adorable puppy, but he was soon competing for attention with the 4 cats and 2 kittens who were more than eager for some rubs. The next day was a strenuous  climb to a mountain pass,  at times the path was not much more than a stream and occasionally we had to scale a few small waterfalls. Refugio Natacion was our destination for the night, aside from the refugio keeper there were only 4 of us there-in a month there will be close to 100! We spent the evening chatting and drinking the delicious home brew beer, made with some incredibly fresh water melting from the peaks surrounding us. Woke up with a few inches of fresh snow covering everything, including our tent. Hiked down a steep, snow covered slope then were about to cross the river when poor Dale slipped on a wet log and hurt his wrist (the misadventure begins) Dale told me that his wrist hurt - if Dale admits pain then it has got to be bad. So we headed to the refugio 10 minutes away and assessed the situation. With big storms forecast for the next day and Dale in pain we decided that one more night on the mountain was not wise. So instead we needed to head down, 20 kilometers and numerous wet and muddy bogs later we made it to town; dinner at midnight and bed by 2am (oh argentina). Got lucky enough to have a mostly wonderful experience at the hospital, waited 5 minutes to see the doctor, straight to X-ray and into a cast, poor Dale was so mad!!! Then it was thank you and goodbye, no payment, no need to show a passport or anything just quick, efficient and free medical attention.  The next few rainy days we spent at the hostel hanging out with some crazy Swedes and celebrating Christmas with an 11pm dinner on Christmas Eve with drinking and singing until 3am.  Five nights in the same location with the same people really makes it feel like home when you are on the road and we had a great time in El Bolson. We even had an entire day, Christmas, without rain so we were able to head out on a walk to appreciate this beautiful fertile valley surrounded by sharp, rocky, snow capped peaks.  Last thing before we left, a quick partial cast removal, for the minimal break of the wrist that Dale had we figured he did not need a cast past his elbow and a smaller cast is much easier to travel with.
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Dodgy river crossing
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Christmas Eve Dinner, the trout was caught that day by the hostel owner
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ChillinĀ“at the refugio
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View of the Rio Azul Valley
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Dale is not impressed
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Overly eager cast removal, everyone wanted in on the action
 
 
Buenos Aires has been an enjoyable city to explore despite some ups and downs. Caught a ferry into town from Uruguay but the ferry dropped us on the complete opposite of town than we expected, into La Boca - a somewhat dodgy neighborhood. So it took us a bit to get our bearing but we sorted ourselves out and made it to the hostel, which was more like a frat house, glad we only had to book in one night there before switching to a better hostel. Had a few fun days walking around admiring all of the beautiful European style buildings, we did a ton of walking each day - so much so that we are looking forward to our 22 hour bus ride tonight so that we can give our poor feet a rest. It seems that blue is the color of choice for menś dress shirts and that smoking is much more popular here. The sidewalks are amazingly crowded with people in a hurry to get somewhere and extremely narrow - guess that is the price you pay when you have really old buildings in close proximity to each other.
We really enjoyed the San Telmo markets on Sunday afternoon, and our trip to the Recoleta cemetary which is quite old and very ornate and was so large that it looked like a small city in itself. Our highlights of the trip though dont have so much to do with the places as with the events. Our second night here we were able to watch a political demonstration, people walking down the street waving flags and banners, banging drums and shouting. This was followed by a speech by the president in the Plaza de Mayo and that was followed by fireworks and a 4 hour long concert by a dozen popular Argentenian artists. People were singing along and dancing in the square all around us, it was quite amazing. Another fun event we witnessed was students finished their studies and exam to become lawyers. On the university steps everyone gathered to wait for the students to emerge one at a time every 15 or so minutes. When they came out of the building there was cheering and shouting, then the student had a quick second to hug and kiss their parents before all their friends and family smashed eggs on their head and covered them in flour, confetti, shaving cream and what ever else they took out of the cupboard. It was very amusing to watch it all and see everyone end up filthy but smiling.
Our last night in BA we were fortunate to miss the other end of the spectrum- As we were eating dinner we saw on the TV some footage of thousand of Boca fans celebrating in the street around the Oblisco (1 block from our hotel) The Boca fans are know to be crazy and violent and they did not disappoint. The footage we saw they had climbed on top of the McDonalds and were tearing apart the sign. When we returned to the hostel we only saw the aftermath, but the entire street was coated in broken beer bottles, thousands of bottles were smashed in the middle of the road. The McDonalds sign had been stripped of the yellow coating, and there was graffiti and broken windows everywhere. At the same time as all this was happening, 2 blocks from our hostel in the other direction, there was a violent protest about the acquittal of a dozen people charged with the involvement in the disappearance of woman. The police were out in riot gear and the protesters were throwing rocks and setting stuff on fire. All pretty intense stuff. Luckily for us, we had chosen that evening to spend in the ritzier neighborhood going on a gallery tour, la te da, arent we fancy.
As much as we have enjoyed our time in the city we are really excited to be getting into the country, we are off to Bariloche a town on a lake in the mountains.  Sorry we dont have any photos to post, it is difficult to be able to upload them right now, but we will do our best when we can. We have put a link to a video of the event for you to check out.
 
 
Montevideo reminded us of a mixture of Athens, Mexico and strangely Chicago.
Athens for the height and construction of the buildings - stone buildings with many balconies looking out into the tree lined streets. Mexico for all the spanish signs around and the parks -nice but with some trash around them. And Chicago for the miles long riverfront park and bike trail next to a busy road and enclosed by highrises. And when I say river it only seemed like a river because of the brown color, we could not see across the river to the other side so it could have been a lake or ocean for all we knew. It took us a while to get settled in, after 20+ hours in transit we were ready for a shower and sleep, but while we are settling into bed at 11pm life in the hostel was just getting started and they partied till 4am, not the most conducive to sleeping!
Downtown Montevideo is quite nice and very reminiscent of Europè, large shady squares with fountains, huge ornate cathedrals and beautiful detailed architecture. For the most part these buildings were in disrepair and in need of a little TLC, but Dale and I had some dreams of buying one of them and fixing it up, what an adventure that would be.
So we were both a little shy and rusty with our spanish but we were trying to speak in Spanish as much as possible. That being said, I know we need a lot more practice. Dale ordered us 2 hamburgers for lunch and we ended up with 2 beers instead. Hamburguesa v cerveza I could see where the mix up happened, and hey it was not a bad problem to have, we just drank the beers and tried again, luckily he understood us this time or we could have been in trouble drinking all that beer on an empty stomach.
Overall, we are really glad that flights to Montevideo were so much cheaper than Buenos Aires because we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Montevideo.
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Chivito - A Urugayan specialty. Steak sandwich with bacon, ham, boiled egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato, olives, pickles, peppers and mayo. Quite delicious.
 
 
With less than 35lbs of gear each, our packs are packed and we are set to go. For those of you who are curious - we are each bringing 5 shirts, 3 pants, 2 shorts/skirts, and assorted layers for the cold and rain. In addition we have a tent, stove, and sleeping bags to keep us fed and sheltered while we are hiking in Patagonia. Right now it feels like a lot of gear, but I am pretty sure we will use it all, and use it all often.