Once in a Lifetime

It was 3am, and the outside temperature was hovering just above -10°C. For the 100000000000th time since we woke up to catch our 15-hour bus ride out of Ushuaia, I found myself asking Jo… “WHY THE HELL ARE WE DOING THIS AGAIN???”

We were heading for El Calafate, and we had a choice between taking the Infernal-Bus-Journey-with-the-Ridiculous-Border-Crossing AGAIN or we could take a two-hour flight (at a more humane time) that would not even require us to go through international customs.

The obvious answer to my rhetorical question is… “Because we are cheapskates”.

It’s easy to convince ourselves we are doing the right thing when we see how much we’ve stretched our travelling cash by taking the “stupider” option, but there is always a part of me that is nagging… “You are on a Once-in-a-Lifetime trip around the world, why are you pinching pennies??”

“Once in a Lifetime”…. it is a phrase I’ve come to hate since the hordes of flyer-waving bridal studios sales staff swarmed us with over-inflated wedding packages when we were planning our wedding all those years ago. #anotherstoryforanotherday

On some level, I do understand that this is probably the only time in my life that I will be travelling like this, (probably) the only time I was going to get married. I would also only be celebrating my 18, 21, 30, 40, (insert-other-culturally-significant-age-here) birthday once. 

However, I also believe that every moment is an opportunity for us to do something that we will only do Once In Our Lifetime.

For example, I only got to write this because I am going to be stuck in a hellishly long bus ride to El Calafate for the only time in my life, just as you choose to read this (and I hope you are) for the only time in your life. (It’s ok if this is not the first time you are reading this… I don’t judge…)

I guess my point is.. outside of the “significant” birthdays, you are only going to be XX years, XX months, XX days, XX hours and XX minutes old once in this lifetime. I think it is easy to lose sight of how precious every moment is if you only focus on those supposed once-in-a-lifetime “milestones”.

At the end of the day, it is a personal choice to make any moment your personal milestone.

For us, we chose to travel. We think it is the lazy man’s way of making almost every waking moment a milestone (without trying exceptionally hard).

But I guess a milestone could be as simple as deciding to spend more time with the people that matter, or as difficult as saying “sorry” because it is stupid to spend time being resentful and angry. It could mean telling someone how much they mean to you. It could also mean standing up for yourself and finally saying “no” to unnecessary drama in your life. Or saying “fuck it” to the opinions of random strangers and just boogie to that catchy tune coming through your earphones right now.

You can choose to be happy, or you can choose to sulk and make every moment as mundane as possible. Truth is, no matter what moment it is, you are almost certainly never, ever going to get it back. Every moment occurs only once in your lifetime.

That is why… after this rant, I think I am going to get immersed in a world with two moons, secret Japanese cults and beautiful assassins in Murakami’s incomprehensible 1000 page monster “1Q84”.

Why? Because I can.

Also… because I think both Jo and I are secretly at least a little masochistic. (Jo had decided to take on the challenge to sleep through the whole bus ride)

Why else would we choose to spend 15 hours in a bus?

The End Of the Road….

Quite literally so...

Quite literally so…

The Pan-America Highway, Ruta No. 3 ended right in the middle of Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego –  which was where we found ourselves one VERY windy and rainy morning.

Before we continue, I feel I need to point out that Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego translates directly to “The Land of Fire National Park”. To be honest, we knew nothing about the National Park prior to our visit to Ushuaia (yes… SOMETIMES, we are THAT kinda tourists), but based on the uber cool name alone, we felt that the National Park would be worth a visit (That… and also because Tripadvisor had some nice things to say about the park..)

Did I mention that it was VERY windy and rainy?

Totally not a posed shot

Totally not a posed shot

The first thing we noticed about the park is that we were constantly buffeted by gale force winds. We were at the Southern most point of mainland America. There was nothing to shelter the National Park from the winds coming in from the sea. The winds were so strong that the rain drops that fell on us felt like needles poking at our skin.

Combine this with the almost barren landscape that is synonymous with Patagonia, and I guess they really weren’t joking when they talk about the harsh living conditions. 

"the wild, rain lashed beach of the inhospitable Patagonia"

Or as Darwin calls it… “the wild, rain lashed beach of the inhospitable Patagonia”

However, since this is a National Park, they actually made concessions for sissy tourists like ourselves. There were walking paths throughout the Park and numerous signboards/maps pointing us towards the “correct” direction to go…

Walking the tourist path

Walking the tourist path

Yet, despite the best efforts of the National Park, we still managed to find ourselves wandering on a deer path through the woods.

We are THAT good at getting lost.

Get Lost!

Get Lost!

I swear… at one point, we were bashing through a bunch of shrubbery because we’d run out of road.

But I guess it was because of us getting lost that we managed to see some things that were just off the beaten path.

Like these geese for example. Initially, we were quite amused to always see them in a black/white pair. It was only after we got back that we found out they were ruddy headed geese

Like these geese for example. Initially, we were quite amused to always see them in a black/white pair. It was only after we got back that we found out they were ruddy headed geese

But my favourite sight for the National Park is easily this dam.

ushuaia tierra del fuego beaver dam

It is supposed to be made by beavers that had stowed away on the early ships from North America to Patagonia. It just feels kinda surreal to find something that looks ALMOST man-made in the middle of the woods…and on top of that to discover it was actually made by the elusive beavers. (elusive because we didn’t see any of them)

It was definitely an interesting trek because the scenery changed so often. One minute we would be walking along a snowy river bank, and the next we would be bashing through a barren shrubbery field, and one minute after that we would be meandering through an eerie coniferous forest. The only things that were constant were the piercing Patagonian winds and the gorgeous Andes in the background.

ushuaia tierra del fuego shrub landOf course, after our adventures were done, we had that little issue of finding our way back to civilization. Being the great woodsman that I am, I elected to find our way out of the forest by using an ancient tracking method… following the sound of the motor vehicles.

Of course, given our luck, we found ourselves on the furthest end of the motorway.

The looooong way home

The looooong way home

The long AND very windy road home

The long AND very windy road home

Thinking back, it was actually a bit scary as we really could have gotten ourselves hopelessly lost. But at the end of the day, aside from our sore feet and some partially frozen appendages, we managed to get ourselves a new adventure under our belt.

So… Great Success!

If We Could Walk (ok, ride) 500 Miles

After our stint in San Carlos de Bariloche, we needed to continue heading South towards Patagonia and Fin del Mundo. Somewhere during our time in Bariloche, we learnt that if we make a slight detour on our way, we could make it to Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

At Puerto Madryn, we were supposed to be able to go on ocean safaris where we could see Southern Right Whales frolicking off the beaches and walk amongst colonies of penguins, sealions and elephant seals.

So… of course we bought the next bus ticket out to Puerto Madryn.

We found out there was a small problem with this plan…

This “slight” detour is 500 miles long and would see us traversing from the West to the East Coast of Argentina. (In terms of bus hours, it translates to “too much time on our flabby asses”)

So it was a good thing that the buses we’d been travelling on in Argentina were ridiculously comfortable. We’re talking about seats that recline to 150 degrees, four hot meals a day, screenings of the latest blockbusters (WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES!!! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this), and to our disbelieving delight, free flow of red wine. There was a point where the bus steward started a game of Bingo (it’s a thing) and the winner got to go home with… a bottle of red wine. We gave up on THAT game because we figured winning that bottle would be like winning a sushi roll at a buffet (NOT because we couldn’t keep up with him shouting random numbers in Spanish)

Since we’d learned from our mistakes and very wisely chosen the front row seats of the bus, it was like a road trip for us… a road trip along Argentina’s Ruta 25 that brought us through some truly majestic valleys, past a few crystal clear lakes and over spectacular mountain ranges.

The 11 hour bus journey was over faster than we knew it… and that’s not just because we were passed out from the alcohol.

Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 6Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 4Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 5Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 3Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 2Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 1

Not enough Snow and too much Meat

Well… this is going to be our fifth post about the ski resort town of Bariloche, and we’ve blogged about how much like Switzerland it looks, the high cost of living here, the awesome awesome steaks and ermm… possibly the stupid-est dog in the world.

I think this is the post where some of you will be wondering… what about the ski resort ???

The famous Cerro Catedral (nope, that’s not a typo) is the biggest ski resort in South America and since it is located just 19km from the town centre of Bariloche, it was THE main reason why we were in pricey San Carlos de Bariloche in the first place.

After our awesome experience in Las Leñas and Pucón, we were really looking forward to spending at least a day on the slopes where we could fall not so glamorously on our faces.

So, you can probably imagine how we felt when we reached Cerro Catedral and saw this…

Yes... that is a snow machine... and that is the total amount of snow at the ski resort even WITH the snow machine in full operation mode

Yes… that is a snow machine… and that is the total amount of snow at the ski resort with the snow machine in full operation mode. The snowfall, even in the middle of winter is bad this year.

At this point, we had basically two choices. We could

a) Pay 300 ARS (about US$65) for a ski pass, take a ski lift to the mountain top and hope that there MIGHT be enough ski-able snow higher up the slopes.

or

b) Laugh this off and just walk around the ski resort.

I know the choice might seem rather obvious now, but on the ground, we were seriously debating whether we should go for Option A since we had made a bit of a detour to reach Bariloche.

In the end, my appeal to Jo’s low tolerance for pain and her reminding me of my cheapskate-ness won out. I imagine it would literally and figuratively hurt having to pay through our noses to crash into dirt.

And that’s how we ended up spending an afternoon wandering AROUND the ski resort, eating waaaaaay overpriced pizzas and laughing at little bundled up puffs of kiddie skiers (who could probably kick our asses ski-ing… good thing there was no snow around) bariloche argentinian flag

Walking... walking... just keep on walking...

Walking… walking… just keep on walking…

Easy to imagine how beautiful it must've looked...with snow...

Easy to imagine how beautiful it must’ve looked…with snow…

Monster...

Oh yeah…. there was some cam whoring with monster trucks too…

Stumbling Babies

Little Stumbling Balls

And then we headed back to the main town of Bariloche for the NEW main reason why we were in this part of Argentina… Our third trip to Alberto’s in three days in a (futile) attempt to eat up all the cows and drink up all the grapes in this country.

Oh... yay...

Oh… yay…

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…