All posts by Katie

Tierra del Fuego National Park

After our jaunt to the glacier, it was time to start our first camping trip of the year. After all, we didn’t bring our tent all this way for nothing. We planned to do some hiking!Kay planned for us to camp for two nights in Tierra del Fuego, leaving us three days for day treks from our campsite.
But before we could get the tent set up above, we had to make it to the campsite circled in green on the left below. We took a bus from Ushuaia into the park.Would you believe, buses in Argentina are not as reliable as Swiss ones, and ours broke down getting from one stop to the other just after we’d gotten to the park! We had to hop out and hitch a ride with a second bus to get to our camping location.Once we arrived, it was actually really easy to hop off the bus and set our tent up already. I felt a little guilty that we didn’t have to “work” to get there, but we were easing our way back into trekking and hiking. After the day hike to the glacier, here we would go camping, but just do day hikes from the campsite. Baby steps! Kay got to use his filter for the first time this year, which we’d just replaced the actual filter in Zurich just before leaving. He slogged out to the middle of the freezing river to pump water. He was a bit worried that people washing their dishes in the river would contaminate it and get us sick. You weren’t supposed to wash in the river, but people were still cleaning their clothes and dishes in the river nearby us, so we were kind of annoyed at their carelessness.I actually don’t know how he did it, twice. I got into my ankles the second time and it was so painfully cold, I had to get out immediately. I really don’t know how he could stand to stay there and pump. That’s dedication to healthy water!
Around the park, we hiked several of the treks over the days. Above we saw the sign for the end of the Pan American highway, the longest route in the world stretching from Alaska down to Ushuaia. Maybe some day we will make it up to the other end!We had very little time in Switzerland to prepare for traveling beforehand, so unfortunately we brought almost no dry food with us, which ended up being pretty hard to find in camping stores in South America. Instead, we ended up struggling for gluten free solutions with polenta, dried tomatoes, wine, carrots, and in the mornings we had legitimate baby food powder mixed with dulce de leche.

We might have been that couple that brought wine and/or liquor on every hike… It was cold. I needed it. DON’T JUDGE ME. 🙂And really, it was pretty freezing. This is summertime in Ushuaia! I had on pants, socks, shirt, pullover, down jacket, rain/wind shell, buff, hat, and my fancy new gloves, which, just after arriving in Chile after this time in Tierra del Fuego, I lost one on a bus… and was gutted because they were really expensive, new, awesome waterproof, windproof gloves. Of all the things I’ve lost on this trip already (which is really weird for me to do) I am most upset about losing one glove!!

So just look at me enjoying that glove… and know that I was devastated to lose it shortly after this. :'(Kay was enjoying wearing his new puffy jacket, which we replaced shortly before leaving. Thankfully he hasn’t lost this yet… he has a better track record than me on this trip.For having decided sort of on a whim to come to Tierra del Fuego, it was really gratifying and worthwhile. We loved it!I would walk along these views and think, “Stahp. No, really. Stahp. Shut up. This is the most beautiful place EVER.”Most of the time, my view looked something like below, looking up at someone’s backside. That’s how we do it. Every time. I fall behind, I stay there. Kay waits for me intermittently and at the top, we catch up.We tried to check out the beavers that are supposed to be ruining the area a bit, but we didn’t see any while we were around. We only saw one much later on.The beavers are said to be pretty destructive to the habitat though. It did have a bit of a wasteland feel to it in these photos. It seemed like nothing we had ever seen before.On trek number 3 from the map above, which we did on the first day, we trekked to the edge of Argentina and Chile, which you weren’t supposed to cross because it’s a no-no to do a border crossing in the middle of the national park.Shhh, I “went to Chile” anyway. Don’t tell anybody. 😉On day two we did trek 4 on the map, which had the amazing view below. One of the best from our whole time in Patagonia.And in case anybody was wondering by this point, yes, we needed proper hiking boots on this trail. And my poles, my God, they saved me more than once. When we got to the base of the ascent to this spot, we had just crossed a swamp. Some fellow hikers asked me how I got out with my pants so clean. It was because I would “test the ground” with my poles first, not my legs!It was reeaally cold at the top though. Like, after 30 minutes of photos, I wanted to die. There was also a little fox running around at the top, looking for food to eat. People must have fed him in the past, because he seemed reaaally interested in our sausage. And every time we threw rocks to scare him away, he would just check out if the rocks were food or not.After the three days were up it was time to head back to Ushuaia for one night in town before heading on to Chile. I couldn’t believe it, but our visit to Torres del Paine was already coming up!

 

Ushuaia: Glacier Martial

After a short few days in Buenos Aires in January, it was already time for us to pack up and head on a plane to the very southern tip of the world: Ushuaia.

When we first got to town and to our very basic airbnb, I was a little worried if it had really made sense coming allll the way down south. At first glance, the town was pretty underwhelming, quite cold compared to Buenos Aires for “high summer”, and I was worried that there wouldn’t be much to do considering how little we had researched this place before hastily booking flights in our December madness. Thankfully, it was definitely worth it!When we woke up the next morning and went to breakfast with the other guests, we realized they were Swiss. Yep. We traveled all the way to the bottom of the world and the first people we met were Swiss German. Go figure.They gave us a couple tips though, and before we knew it, we’d grabbed our daypacks and some supplies and headed off to Glacier Martial.Boy, after all the stress, STRESS, of Kay’s graduation, moving back home, packing up our whole life, haphazardly planning a trip of a lifetime, and a whole lot of computer stress, it felt GOOD to get out there and hike. It heals the soul.The glacier also gave us the first taste of just how stunning Patagonia is. I was instantly gratified and Kay, who hadn’t really thought about going to Patagonia before my insistence, was impressed. He was also simply a very, very happy boy to be out in wilderness again.We found the hike to be very easy going and a great reintroduction to our long hiatus while Kay was in school. The hardest part was bearing the freezing glacial wind at the top for photos and a snack.While we did not have a hard time with this hike, it somehow tired us both out a lot. We were pretty out of practice, and the next day I was actually really sore and fatigued. But with real backpacking coming up, I needed to get ready for some serious hiking both physically and mentally!

Argentina: Bus vs plane

Considering that driving to Ushuaia from Buenos Aires via bus takes approximately three continuous days of bus riding, we were very happy to take a 3.5h flight instead. The price made sense too.

(psst, I did it anyway!)

We heard great things about how affordable it is to ride long-haul buses, but when it came down to booking during high season with only a few weeks left and on the spot while in the country, it was expensive! A bus ride might cost $170, while a flight would be $200. Saving $30 to spend a 24-72 hours in a bus suddenly didn’t really make sense, unless we were keen to explore the interiors of Argentinian and Chilean buses, which we actually weren’t.

The problem is that often booking domestic flights in a South American country is more expensive for foreign tourists, and in fact, it sometimes did stop us. From Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and from Bariloche to Buenos Aires cost about $269 per person per flight on Google Flights, but on LATAM’s website, they would double or triple in price if you went to check out. A $240 bus ticket looks very different compared to either a $269 or $750 plane flight.

How did I get around this? Well, even though LATAM is a member of Oneworld, their flights show up in Delta (Skyteam alliance) flight searches. For whatever reason, I could look up the flights directly on the Delta site and purchase them there for the same price as in Google Flights, and I could not do this on the LATAM site. Even better was that I am still a Oneworld gold member, so I got some more upgrades and lounge access for us. (Just kidding, there is no lounge in Buenos Aires or Ushuaia or Bariloche! Hahaha. But it did get us priority boarding.)

Unfortunately, this didn’t work when I was looking to book Aerolingus tickets from El Calafate to Bariloche, so we ended up buckling down for a 24h ride from El Chalten to Bariloche, which ended up being like 26h. It was not a great day, but the bus tickets were still a lot cheaper than a $800-900 plane ticket.

We ended up flying down to Ushuaia, taking the bus to Puerto Natales in Chile to visit Torre del Paine, then to El Calafate, El Chalten and Bariloche before flying back to Buenos Aires from Bariloche.FWIW, it’s not fun traveling as a celiac on buses. They do not provide any special food for you at all, you just receive the pitiful “meal” above: a sandwich, bread-thing, and cookie. There is no opportunity to get off the bus during stops, so you need to bring enough food and drink for the entire journey. Also, they only provided this crappy meal twice, and one cookie for breakfast, so Kay was pretty hungry and needed snacks too, even eating double the portions since he got all of my bus food. I’m glad we asked beforehand and that we bought ALLLL the pão de queijo in El Chalten before we left!

The moral of the story is, buy the plane tickets if you can finagle the price. It is worth it, especially on shorter holidays, to see more of the country instead of being cooped up in a bus. If you have several months off and find good bus prices, go for it. Otherwise, fly and don’t regret it!

Packing up our whole life

Neither Kay nor I had ever been professionally, internationally moved, but we plan on leaving Switzerland, so a removals company it was! And knowing I should use this time to cut down on things, I didn’t hesitate to get rid of six bags of old clothing and accessories that we don’t need anymore!
In fact, the whole apartment was kind of a mess for all of November and December as we got things ready to recycle, donate, sell, or throw away. This is what it looked like at Christmas. No tree. 🙁And we filled a rented transport van twice with materials to get rid of.I got a little emotional (and freaked out) by the time the movers arrived. I couldn’t believe that we actually had people here to pack up our house… and I needed to trust them not to break anything! These guys were obviously really experienced packing, but it was still a very whirlwind day, especially because we hadn’t taken down our dining room lamp before they came… so we were unscrewing it as they started moving in with boxes and the lamp somehow swung down unexpectedly when it bumped off one of its screws, smashing our long sought and much beloved pendulums. 🙁

“Selberschuld” – your own fault – as we would say in German… we contacted Philips about the lamp, but it seems they do not sell individual glass covers for the bulbs and the lamp has been discontinued since we bought it. Boo hoo!Still, the day went on and the guys got packed up on that cold day in January.And how emotional I got when our flat emptied! I was not quite ready to let it go… even if this particular flat actually holds some of the worst memories of our lives, from me finding out I have celiac disease, to losing Kay’s mother, to that dark, depressing time with pneumonia and missing Kay while he was away studying.Still, it was our first home we bought together. And that means quite a lot. I could have seen staying here for quite awhile. Maybe not forever, but a good chunk of time enjoying that amazing huge balcony in the summer.

Now all of our stuff is packed up and being stored until who knows when. Two months down the road, I am already a little disconnected with the “physical stuff” we own, but don’t actually seem to need.

Have you ever done a cross-continental or cross-country move? How did it turn out?*

*Please tell me all your stuff didn’t break in transit…

First Stop, South America

It was my idea to head west first to start us off on our travel, aiming towards Japan by cherry blossom time. I really wanted to see the mountains of Patagonia, the rugged landscape. And because almost all flights to Buenos Aires or Santiago from Zurich went through Brazil, it made perfect sense to stop in Sao Paulo for a short time and visit Kay’s Brazilian family.

Even though we had just visited his family at Christmas in 2015, you never know when you can get back again, so we decided we had to visit. And the whole family was sooo happy we decided to!
From Sao Paulo, we picked up a car and stopped at a dear friend of the family’s house for lunch on the way to the small town where most of Kay’s family lives.Eloy gifted us a special Brazilian flag work of art for our wedding back in 2011, and I still had never met him. He was incredibly sweet! And Brazilians are fantastically emotional. He cried and hugged us tightly when we arrived, and then cried again when we left, but not before feeding us until we might explode with the most delicious food you could ever imagine.There is nothing quite like Brazilian hospitality. They are some of the most welcoming, generous, friendly people in the world, and they LOVE to feed you. Below was just a sampling of fruits laying around on Eloy’s counter.When we finally made it to Pirajuí, we were overjoyed to see all of Kay’s aunts and uncles. We stayed with his Tio Tarcísio and Tia Vera. Below is Tio Tarcísio explaining some of the things in his workshop to Kay. He is such a handy, creative soul! He recycles tons of things into new designs and is always dreaming up a use for something else.The best part about their house might be the pool, which in the heat of summer was a.m.a.zing.And who wouldn’t love spending their days in the pool being fed fresh bite-size pieces of churrasco meat off the grill and caipirinha drinks that seem to refill themselves?It’s seriously heaven!!We also arrived right in time for a couple birthdays and managed to go to a family party with children running around in swimwear, jumping in and out of pools.I am still a far way off with my Portuguese, but I noticed a big difference after another year of classes. I could understand a lot more and even start to make very primitive conversation, where I could ask about things like holidays, traveling, the weather, our plans. Basically everybody was asking when we will have children, so I had to be prepared for that question as always!

I was also happy to meet some cousins again that I wasn’t sure if I had met in 2010, but who I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Kay has so many cousins! Way more than I do, and all of them are such lovely people.We even had time to visit Kay’s twin cousin in Bauru on the way back to Sao Paulo when our journey was ending.Overall, we were sure that visiting was the right thing to do. Lots of Kay’s aunts and uncles are getting older, much older than his mother was when she passed away and you never know when you will get to see them again, so it was nice to have a good visit.The only thing I might change about our visit here was accidentally leaving my sunglasses in the pool the night before we left when it got dark and there was a crazy bug attack. One week into our 9 month journey and I was already sunglasses shopping in Buenos Aires. 😛