Snow… no… GLACIER boarding

To many people, Ushuaia is a city that invokes a sense of adventure. It attracts the explorers who come forth in the spirit of discovery.

It was the same for us as well.

As we looked for our next snowboarding adventure, we decided to explore the nearby Martial Glacier. We discovered one thing… trying to snowboard down a glacier, no matter how cool it sounds, is a fucking bad idea.

For those of you (like us) who are clueless about what a glacier is… it is basically one solid block of ice. This means that it is VERY slippery… which we thought would make it PERFECT for snowboarding.

Theoretically, this means that we can go very very very fast.

We should have realized that things were not as rosy as it seemed when we arrived at the glacier. Even though the ski passes were half the price compared to the ski resort down the road, there were not a lot of people at the snowboard rental shop.

How could such a fine slope have so little snowboarders?

How could such a fine slope have so little snowboarders?

We disregarded that, decked ourselves out in the fine-looking snowboarding outfit and bought the full day pass for the ski-lift.

Ready to go...

Ready to go…

Then we realized what was wrong…

We forgot that ice is very very very hard, and when it comes to snowboarding, we are very very very amateur-ish, which means we have a strong inclination to fall… a lot.

I swear, the first time the snowboard slipped out from under me and I did a “Three Stooges”-esque backflip, I could feel my entire skeleton vibrate and my brains bang against the front of my skull.

PAINNNNN!!!!

PAINNNNN!!!!

I had just snowboarded about 200 metres.

Jo made it to the 300 metres mark before collapsing in a heap.

Because we didn’t want to die in Argentina, after a grand total of 10 minutes on the slopes, we picked up the snowboards and did the Walk of Shame back up to the ski-lift and took the next lift down the slopes to return our snowboards (that we had on a full day rental).

The ski lift attendants and the snowboard rental guy did not seemed too surprised to see us return so fast. In fact, I might or might not have seen the guys at the ski lift exchange a knowing look and glance at their watches. I am pretty sure some pesos changed hands.

Having already paid for a full-day ski pass (and being a typical Singaporean), I decided we should spend the rest of the day taking the ski lifts up and down the slopes.

Life is happier without that impending sense of doom... yes... we got the ski lift attendant to take this photo for us (the attendant that lost money)

Life is happier without that impending sense of doom… yes… we got the ski lift attendant to take this photo for us (the attendant that lost money)

Ski Lift up the hill

Ski Lift up the hill

Ski lift down... seriously... with views like this, we could do this all day long... and we kinda did

Ski lift down… seriously… with views like this, we could do this all day long… and we kinda did

Oh yeah… other then the fact that we almost died up there (totally not being melodramatic here), Martial Glacier is gorgeous… in a desolate, frozen wasteland kinda way.

I am the King Beyond the Wall

I am the King Beyond the Wall

ushuaia martial glacier hands up

And the Place Beyond the Wall is cooooold

And the Place Beyond the Wall is cooooold

Nothing for miles around

Nothing for miles around

We like that we (almost) had the whole glacier to ourselves.

And what good is having an entire glacier to ourselves if we don’t take some truly ridiculous and horribly camp jumping shots?

Notice how we had to look for the "bald" patch to do these jumping shots? We would've slipped and cracked our skulls if we did this anywhere else. The glacier was THAT slippery

Notice how we had to look for the “bald” patch to do these jumping shots? We would’ve slipped and cracked our skulls if we did this anywhere else. The glacier was THAT slippery

All in… it was not a bad day trip to Martial Glacier. The view was awesome and the scenery was cool… just don’t go there for the snowboarding… if you do, you should probably take a bet with the ski attendants on how long you can last on the slopes.

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Journeying to the end of the world… wearing a pair of slippers

One of the things about travelling long-term is that after a while, we noticed that we were slowly losing our senses.

The first sense to go was definitely whatever fashion sense we used to have. Initially, this was planned and kinda borne out of necessity. We agreed we should just pack one nice set of “going out” clothes because we didn’t want our pretty stuff ending up in dubious laundromats. But after a period of living out of a backpack, wearing colour-coordinated clothes started taking a backseat to finding something that does not have (too many inconveniently placed) holes in them. Also… we must’ve been quite deluded to think that we would actually go to laundromats.

Fortunately, at this point, the next senses to go were our sense of smell and any sense of shame.

This was essentially the state of mind we were in as we prepared to embark on the 32-hour-long journey from Puerto Madyn to Ushuaia (apparently pronounced ooh shoo ahhhhh ya)

So far removed, even Google don't know how to get there...

A journey so long that even Google doesn’t know how to get there…

We figured that since we were gonna be spending a lot of time on the bus, the smartest thing we could do for ourselves was to get as comfortable as possible. We happily packed our warm socks, boots and heavy winter-wear in the backpacks and stuffed those un-laundered packs of stink into the luggage compartment of the bus. We were gonna make ourselves super comfortable, sipping red wine on the toasty bus in our t-shirts, thin jackets and our bathroom-going flipflops, thank you very much.

We were actually pretty smug at first. We were watching the hostile Patagonian landscape pass us by outside. We were in one of those infamously comfortable Argentinian buses, happily watching Robocop 3 (in Spanish), playing yet another game of Bingo and having one too many glasses of red wine.

Probably some of the harshest living conditions around... if you were OUTSIDE

Probably some of the harshest living conditions around… if you were OUTSIDE the bus

I think we kinda forgot that we were journeying TOWARDS the city closest to the South Pole (or as it is known by its less dramatically foreboding nickname, Fin del Mundo – END OF THE WORLD!!!!!)… a journey that would see us go through three-buses-one-boat-transfers, as well as four-custom-post-crossings.

Yup, the first time we realized how stupid we were was when we had to get off the bus very early the next morning to change to another bus in Rio Gallegos… and then we were reminded again when we had to get off THAT bus to go through a veeery long custom check at the Argentinian border… this reminder went on for the entire day when we had to pass through the Chilean Checkpoint, another Chilean Checkpoint and then again through a final Argentinian Checkpoint. Somehow, Chile had (why not?) laid claim to a teeny strip of land on the road between Puerto Madryn to Ushuaia.

The proverbial (and pretty literal) icing on the cake was when we had to swap from the bus to a ferry ride across the Strait of Megallan.

Outside...

Outside…

Ever wonder what it is like to have sub-zero, wintery winds blowing against your very exposed appendages? I will be the first one to say… it doesn’t feel very good at all.

Not feeling the heat... literally

Not feeling the heat… literally

So was it worth it?

We got into Ushuaia around sunset, and I just snapped these shots with Jo’s Samsung phone…

ushuaia sunset lake 2

ushuaia sunset mountain range

ushuaia sunset lake

At that moment… Our trip was starting to look really good.

There was one other little problem…

We had a 2km walk to our hostel in the cold, dark wintery night… and we couldn’t get our boots out of the backpack.

Patagonian Small Towns

Jo and I sort of fell in love with the small town feel of Puerto Piramides when we went there for our ocean safari. And since we had a day to spare in Puerto Madryn before moving all the way to the southern tip of Argentina, we decided to just hop on some buses and explore the nearby townships of Trelew and Gaiman.

What’s there in Trelew and Gaiman? To be honest, if you’d asked us that at the start of the day, we would not have been able to tell you (It’s one of those things that we do without putting too much thought into it… #funpartoftravelling). But we do think it is pretty cool to go to a town that shares a name with one of my favorite authors (author of American Gods and the Sandman series – Neil Trelew).

That’s why we thought it was pretty cool that one of the first things we saw when we arrived in Trelew was…

A DINOSAUR MUSEUM! Yeah… I know we’ve been to one before. But they are kinda friggin cool!

There are dinosaur fossils EVERYWHERE. Is it only me? Or did anyone else ever wonder why they NEED to put all the dinosaurs with the open-mouthed ROOOOAAARR pose?

There are dinosaur fossils EVERYWHERE. Is it only me? Or did anyone else ever wonder why they NEED to put all the dinosaurs in the open-mouthed ROOOOAAARR pose?

Altogether now.... ROOOAAAAAARR!!!

Altogether now…. ROOOAAAAAARR!!!

And the one thing that made this Paleontology Museum different from the one in Cordoba was that we got to be really up close and personal with the fossils.

Dinosaur - to - us size comparison

Dinosaur – to – us size comparison

Apparently, Trelew is really near one of the biggest fossil excavation sites in the world. To this day, there are still active digs going on, and this Paleontology Museum is a key centre to store and restore the fossils. A big bonus for us was that we were able to see real-life Paleontologists at work.

Like I said... kinda cool...

Like I said… kinda cool…

Of course, there is more to Trelew than dinosaurs… To us, it feels like one of those towns where everyone knows everyone else. The main drag is along four perpendicular streets and beside the odd Starbucks and McPancho (NOT a real thing) outlet, the rest of the shops are Mom & Pop establishments… We kinda felt like we were in Stars Hollow on the set of Gilmore Girls.

Small town with a quaint town hall

Small town with a quaint town hall

with a charming train station...

with a charming train station…

with its own non working train... at least not in real life. We can still imagine the train chugging along

that comes with its own non-working train… at least it is not working in real life – like that has stopped us before…

As for Gaiman… It is a half hour bus ride away from Trelew. According to the various write-ups, Gaiman is supposed to be a quaint little Welsh town on the Argentinian countryside. While we did see a lot of signs pointing out how Welsh the different places are…

A Welsh garden.

A Welsh garden.

A sign advertising the Welsh town of Gaiman

Welsh Culture Town

Another sign with the Welsh coat of arms

Welsh farm with Welsh coat of arms… yes, the color Green is a very prominent theme in the town… wait… isn’t that Irish?

But to be honest, it was a little too… “small town” for us…. Apparently, we do have a limit to how small a town is before it loses its charms (Population of Trelew: 100,000, Population of Gaiman: 6,000).

We are City Folks.

The most fun we had in Gaiman? Sniggering at a giant robot playground where kids slide out of the robot’s bazooka boobs…

A dose of Awesomeness

A dose of Awesomeness

We are childish that way…

The Dog that Wanted to Eat the Sea

Wouldn’t that make a nice Dr Seuss story?

But it’s actually the story of one of the dogs we met along the bank of Lake Nahuel Huapi.

Although it is called a “Lake”, Nahuel Huapi is HUMONGOUS. You can barely see the shoreline of the opposite side of the bank. More incredibly, the lake was large enough to have its own wave system. This could be partly due to the (at times) insanely strong winds in the region (apparently, that’s the price to pay to be at the edge of flat, barren, beautiful Patagonia). And since it was winter, the average temperature around the lake, with the ridiculous wind chill could go down easily to -15°C DURING THE DAY.

And it was in this special, frozen part of hell that I found out that one of the things WE love most in the world was to go for strolls along the lake. Specifically, strolls along the lake at sunset when the temperature is the coldest and the wind the strongest.

To be fair, the scenery around the lake was something else. The trees that were recently “botak” from winter provided a nice foreground to the impossibly clear lake. Across the water, the snow capped mountains of the Andes was the perfect setting for some truly spectacular sunsets.

At the side of Lake Nahuel Huapi

At the side of Lake Nahuel Huapi

Well... Jo can do her Rocky pose

Also… Jo can do her Rocky pose along the lake

Seriously... the sunset were ridiculous

Seriously… the sunsets were ridiculous

Anyway, one day, while we were doing our “usual” sunset walk (where I was NOT bitching about being dragged around in typhoon speed winds), we saw this…

And he/she/it carried on dashed madly/happily up and down the coast trying to eat up the lake for the full 20 minutes we were waiting standing there, waiting for the sun to set (this was right before my nose fell off from the cold).

Before you say anything, I have to mention that the temperature of the lake never goes above 15°C… even during the summer.

So, that is one very determined, or incredibly stupid dog. I am sure that there is a parable about finding the simple joys in life, or a lesson to learn about chasing your dreams fearlessly, but at that moment in time, the only thing I can think of was that Chumbawamba song – right after “extreme brain freeze”.

Switzerland!

Actually… we’re still in Argentina.

But you can’t blame us for thinking otherwise.

To us, Bariloche will always be remembered as the Land of the Godly Meat. (Yup… I am aware that came out slightly wrong). But to many Argentinians, it’s the premier ski resort in the country. The town is situated at the foot of the majestic Andes and surrounded by the HUGE Lake Nahuel Huapi.

The buildings in town are primarily made from stone and wood. Along with the crisp mountain air and the sight of snow capped mountains in the background, we could almost hear yodeling in the distance.

The town hall.... yeah... a town with a Town Hall...

The town hall of San Carlos de Bariloche

Jo... taking a decent photo for once... only to be photo bombed by Drogo from Game of Thrones

Jo in the town square. She’s taking a decent photo for once… only to be photo bombed by Drogo from Game of Thrones

The townfolks certainly did their part to help perpetuate the “Swiss-ness” of the place.

Happy, shiny people walk around the town with snowboards and skis; touts with huge-ass adult and baby Saint Bernards (the dog, not the 11th Century monk) roam the town square; tourist trains ply the narrow alleys, and (very importantly) chocolate boutiques and breweries line both sides of the streets in the main drag of Bariloche (Av San Martin and Av Belgrano… of course)

Tourist Train in Bariloche

Tourist Train in Bariloche

What's better than chocolates? Chocolate IN Ice Cream

What’s better than chocolates? Oodles of Chocolate IN Chocolate Ice Cream

Yup, I think we could stay here for a little while longer…