Tag Archives: Patagonia

Learning to Sail in Patagonia – Chile and Argentina

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Fierce windy breezes, stratus clouds moving rapidly, crispy cold air with glimpses and sprinkles or rain, glimpses of sunshine with dolphins prancing in and out of the water, the sound of banging tools and buzzing machines. The start of the Sailing season in Punta Arenas. We are preparing.

I am currently in the thick of the sailing summer season which starts right around Christmas and tappers off around March. Early January is when most of the prime time weather kicks in for many trips to Antarctica. Summer is in the air, yet with the weather we have here in Patagonia, you would never know it.

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The boat I have been working in is called “Northanger” (above, and we are about to put it in the water in 2 days) owned by pair Greg Landreth (New Zealand) and Kerri Pashuk (Ontario, Canada). For this trip Greg with be the Captain while Kerri is on their other boat called Saoirse. She is currently sailing in the from the Bahamas down to Punta Arenas. Her blog is great, she blogs about cooking and apparently she makes some delicious brownies. I can not wait to meet her. You can check out both of their websites, the couple has been around these waters for a long time and have tons of knowledge and experience. I have a lot to learn from them.

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Above is more or less what we will set off to do. Puerto Williams is actually the Southern most city of South America which is lower than Ushuaia. The Cabo de Hornos, Cape Horn, is a trip we will make twice after Williams. You are looking at the most Southern tip of South America. The lower part where you see a big line, is the border. Argentina is to the right and Chile to the left. Ironically you can not cross from Southern Argentina to Northern Argentina without crossing through Chile. The roads in between the borders are also all dirt filled windy pothole roads. They have quite the history and relationship but more on that later.

We will be setting sail from Punta arenas, Chile – and making our way trough glaciers, Magellan straight, into the beagle canal to Puerto Williams.

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The 7 day trip and a fully hands on experience. I will be setting off with a couple Rene and Duncan from Newfoundland, Canada as well. I also found a friend to come along from Germany! It is looking like a good trip. It will be my first long sailing trip!

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We have less than 4 days before heading out onto the Magellan to go 7 days to Puerto Williams. So far most of my tasks on Northanger have involved cleaning the bilge (the part of the underneath side of the boat, filled with grease and water), cooking delicious veggie meals, revarnishing the food drawers, and helping out with miscellaneous tasks.

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As an introduction when I first arrived to Punta Arenas to the Magellan and Patagonian waters, my friend Jimmy (Missouri, USA) who I met at Erratic Rock introduced me to a wonderful man Marcello who took us on quite the adventure. We took a zodiac boat right out into the straight of Magellan that took 8 hours on a zodiac going against the currents and around the most Southern Tip famously called “Cabo Froward”.

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The destination was an island called Carlos Tercero where Marcello had an organization called “Whale sound”. Pretty amazing Organization that’s works on the preservation and continuation of the families of whales who migrate to the Carlos Terceo waters to feed before going back up the pacific coast to Colombia to breed. They have identified over 150 consistent whales that keep coming back every yet. They can tell what whale is which by the fin and the marks on the tail. They have a whole binder filled with 150 whales and names and identification pictures. Then it took us another 6 hours back to Punta Arenas, but fortunately with the winds.

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Marcello bravely makes the Punta Arenas zodiac journey twice a week. He was generous to let us go with him and experience the process. It was a wonderful introduction and I can confidently say my body took quite the beating from that trip.

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Working on a boat is quite the process and ironically reminds me of painting (like everything in my life does). The process and lifestyle of sailing are much apart of sailing as the actual water experience.

Like painting, when you want to paint a picture, for example a rose; there is also a lengthy process. Buying paints, cutting wood, stretching the canvas, preparing work space, mixing colors, creating a vibrant work space, setting up the picture and then finally you paint the background that takes hours and you learn that painting the rose only takes 1 minute. It’s all about process and steps to get to the final piece. That is what is so beautiful about art, sailing and life.

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We are constantly in a process of changing, growing and learning. A process that will never stop. The more we think about life once we finish that rose, once we get a perfect job, or once we become the perfect person, then we lose sight of what life is all about.

We are only here in the moment, and that’s the life we are creating. Tomorrow and next year will come when they come so why not focus on this moment instead?

Process is important, and what I believe defines a persons. I want to see people for who they are in the moment and not by the outcome of who or what they become but rather by how they got there.

One of my not favorite questions to ask people (preferably older people) is what was your first job? I love the question, and it’s one that I think people get more excited about then if you ask them what they do right now. Why do we have to be nostalgic about something we want to be doing, or dreaming of? The reality is that we can all be making it come true right now. If you can dream it, you can manifest it.

With tangible analogies like sailing and painting a flower, I am able to see this representation of the way that I want to live my life. It’s not slow, it’s present. It’s not fast, it’s absorbent and meaningful. It’s not comparable, it’s just unique and has its own breathe.

I have learned so much from this sailing world already I can’t wait to actually get out on the water. However now I will work. And the work and wait will be just as fabulous as when we start to sail.

The ¨W¨ Trek, Patagonia Chile

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The ¨W Trek¨ of Patagonia in Chile is home to the most special landscape that I have ever experienced in my life.

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This trip to the National Park of Torres del Paine was full of growing glowing blue glaciers, wise tall majestical mountains, roaring snowy peaks, tiny crunchy pebbles, rocky paths, crisp fresh stream drinking water, granite climbing, rock diving, 70 mile an hour winds knocking you off your feet blowing, sleeping on bare cold earth dreamy, pasta with soup and squished bread eating, awe inspiring energy filled 5 day trek. The trip gave me a new backdrop for my dreams.

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The Cordillera del Paine mountains soar above 3,050 meters above sea level and you can feel how large they are because the paths are at the base of these massive mountains. You can literally understand what a mountain that large feels like. These mountains also join with the Curenos del Paine and well known lakes – Grey Lake, Pehoe Lake, Sarimiento Lake and Nordenskiold Lake. The colors of these lakes ranging from deep dark blue to grey silvery turquoise.

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The park in total is 181,000 hectares and is located about 112 kilometers from Puerto Natales. It was easy for me to get to the park by hitch hiking and avoiding the $30 USD bus that takes twice as long. Only 3 Chileans cars picked me up but I met a farmer, a dentist and a park ranger who were able to drive me. I never waited more than 5 minutes for a ride in the blistering wind. It was absolutely worth it.

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The park rangers dropped us off at the pay station where we discovered was the eastern side (the side less travelled to start the trek) and we were off to start trekking. $36 USD for the park entrance fee and we headed into the Mountains towards the first free campsite which was 6 hours up hill.

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Day 1: When you start off trekking your backpack is super heavy and you think that you cannot even hike up a steep in grade. However, after an hour or two you get warmed up and it gets easier. Really you start to think about the things you have on your back and what you really need versus what you really want. It puts things into a healthy perspective. That same day we found the free campsite, went to bed early.

Day 2: We woke up at 4:00 am the next day for the famous ¨Tower Sunrise¨ where you can see the Towers of the park. They are three pillars that stand high on the mountainside overlooking a blue and green lake. It’s a 1 hour morning climb straight up to the highest part of the whole circuit.

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It was well worth it as until 7 am we watched the sunrise and then the sunlight hit the towers.  We got super lucky as they say, there are four seasons in one day in Patagonia so we were expecting the worse, and head there was a lot of rain and wine. We had no rain and no wind; it was perfectly sunny, a little chilly but so still that the water made a reflection of the towers perfectly for us, just unbelievably beautiful.

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One of my favorite parts about this trek is that you can drink the water from the streams that you stumble upon at least every 30 minutes. You don’t need to have the heaviness of water because you can just fill up as your go and the water tastes so refreshing and wonderfully amazing.

That same day we continued to trek 13 hours in the hot hot heat, which is unusual to have such good weather in the park. I got sun burnt and we had a fabulous lucky day for the long way.

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We trekked to the next free park. We passed through fields of singing birds, wild flowers I’ve never seen, and gigantic mountains with wise and enormous energy just radiating intensity. This part of the trek was not so famous but one of my favorite parts because it has 360 views of lakes and the 3 mountains at once. It was so peaceful and not so many people were on this path.

Later that day, again we called It an early night and cooked some pasta, drank more stream water and slept tightly in the tent with rough sleeping in the grueling wind.

Day 3: The next morning we woke up at 8am and it was raining and hailing. We were going into the French Valley and heard there were some beautiful 360 views. Unfortunately it was raining and then the rain turned into violent windy snow that would burn your face because it was cold. It was an odd balance between being cold and being warm because you have so many layers on and your core is hot because you are working out. There was a lot of exchanging of taking off clothes and putting on clothes.

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In the French valley we saw baby ducks learning how to cross the raging powerful river, fields of trees frozen in a windy blown shape from the wind, electric blue glaciers pouring off the mountains, and foggy views. The birds were still singing and the views were still incredible, even though we were not able to see everything.

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It was hard to face the cold for a long time so we didn’t enjoy it as much as we wanted to, but well worth it.

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After we got down the 6 hour hike we packed up our stuff which was hard to do as we were cold and freezing and we moved onto another 3 hour hike to the next camp where we were exhausted and called it another early night, but made some delicious hot chocolate from chocolate bars and powdered milk. Some of the camp sites even had free gas stoves and inside areas to cook.

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Day 4: The next morning we start at 8 am again and headed to the glacier! The glacier was about a 5 hour hike to the view point and then 5 hours back. I never thought I would ever see a glacier in my life. The views were incredible, the sounds were stunning, and the emotions I felt were heart melting and almost overwhelming for me.

The paths passed alongside a river where you could see the wind currents across the top of the water. Pools of mist would gather and spray you as it crossed in circles in all different directions and running off the water onto the land.

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This part of the trek really made me sad as you could tell the effects of a 2011 fire. 3 Israeli men were trekking and lit toilet paper on fire and it got out of control and set 20 percent of the National Park on fire for 3 days just devastating effects. The after effect was horrible as whole mountain sides were burnt to a crisp. However, interestingly enough there were some trees that were able to regenerate and were forming buds at the bottom of their roots, almost giving life to seeds as it was dying. This was pretty impressive.

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Now, the parks require that you only have tiny gas camp stoves and cook in certain areas that are allowed in the park. The rules for camping are quite strict as well, and for this many of the campsites are crowded because you have to park in specific parts. After trekking all day again, my body was getting sore and I was ready for bed. I did the trek in running shoes which, with a pack and extra weight, was super intense. It gave me a lot of blisters and affected my body differently than if I had strong shoes. Not to mention all of the rain, wet, and mud that I had inside my shoes. I loved it because it is what Patagonia is really like and I was enjoying just being in the middle on 70 mile an hour wind. Just beautiful.

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Then we were off to the Glaciers! I had never seen one before in my life, and I was super excited for this part of the trek. I really was not prepared for what we were about to see.

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The glacier in the park was huge named Glacier Grey. There was also Glacier Pingo, Tyndall and Geikie which along belong to the same Southern Patagonia Ice Field. This ¨Field¨ was stunning, with chunks of huge ice bergs falling off the glaciers into the cold blue waters and floating around.

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Also, last but not least, as we walked 5 hours out of the park onto the main road to hitch hike we got saw some pretty amazing animals. A private jet pilot picked us up from the road hitch hiking and we were able to see some animals from the car which was exciting because we found 3 baby foxes. I couldn’t handle all the babies we saw, because it is Spring time in Patagonia. How beautiful!

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This W Trek is really what backpacking is all about! Food for five days, sleeping bag, tent, stove, utensils, clothes for wet and dry, and whatever else you need for 5 days of 8-13 hour days of walking. It is one thing to walk 8-10 hours but with a backpack its another story! I survived and definitely am addicted I would like to do a lot more trekking in California and Washington when I get home. Maybe I will do one more in Patagonia before I leave here. For the next couple of weeks I will be painting in Puerto Natales, a hippy van of the wonderful Oregon family of Erratic Rock (erraticrock.com) and am looking forward to spending more time in Patagonia as the air is clean, the people are friendly, and the scenery is spectacular. Feeling refreshed.

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Here is a look at some of the wild flowers that I could not stop taking pictures of because I had never seen such flowers before in my life. On all the trails they had these flowers, even in the parts of the park that were affected by the forest fires had bright patches of flower life.

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