Sunday, January 22, 2012

Photos from WVNY '12/'12

Hop over to facebook to check out photos from my trip with Andrew around Patagonia:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Moto Day 9: Pucón to El Bolsón, Argentina

I had a lot of kilometers to cover on my last day of motorcycling (New Year's Eve! What a time to complete a trip!), and not much time to cover them, since I hung around my friend Marie's WWOOF farm until 2pm making pancakes. I set out into the national park around Lanin Volcano. Lush mountains and lakes gave way to drier territory as soon as I crossed the border into the Argentine rain shadow. A long descent led me into a vast, glaring wasteland cut through by a giant blue river. The air got hazier and hazier until I realized it was a cloud of volcanic ash from Puyehue Volcano turning the air into milk. You can hardly tell the shimmer at the bottom of the cloudy photo below is the giant river. After stopping for a quick snack in Bariloche I pressed on into the evening toward El Bolsón, and encountered a few more famous-year kilometer posts. In the town I asked directions to the Río Azul, where Alex's farm is. I found it, eight km outside town, by hook and by crook. It was almost 11pm when I arrived, and quiet--no New Year's Eve party here. As I set up my hammock in a tree (not wanting to disturb Alex) I heard distant fireworks. Early the next morning I crawled out of my cocoon for a joyful reunion with my old friend, an auspicious beginning to 2012.

Moto Day 8: Cauquenes to Pucón

Today was the day I realized I'd arrived in my home latitudes. Mixed deciduous and evergreen forests, grassy fields with Queen Anne's Lace in the ditches, summery sunshine in a place that obviously also has real winters (check out the firewood in the Nissan)...a good feeling.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Moto Day 7: Valparaiso to Cauquenes

Wine country day! The landscape looked like Napa, except the towns were shabbier and more adorable. Life in these little vineyard towns felt slow-paced and friendly. I took windy back roads, which were a lot of fun to drive. They twisted up and down scrubby hills and moseyed along hot valleys full of vineyards. Some were small, some were industrial-size, probably producing wines we see in grocery stores in the States. I kept an eye out for a Concha y Toro sign, but saw only unfamiliar brand names.
By the time I got to the end of my day I'd reached lumber country. Pine plantations covered the low inland mountains with shade and the rich scent of pine straw. This was the best relief from the desert yet. I camped in the edge of one of these forests, just out of sight of the road. There seemed to be no risk of rain so I slept tarpless, gazing at the unfamiliar constellations until my eyes drifted shut.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Moto Day 6: La Serena to Valparaiso

For the morning the moto was in the shop getting the chain changed. The day before I'd run into a German-Kiwi motorcyclist riding a machine that cost perhaps 15 times what mine did, and he'd invited me to a delicious gas station espresso (only in Chile). After hearing about my chain's loosening habit he recommended I change it as soon as I could. So I did. I didn't want to worry about it again in remote territory.

The maintenance meant I couldn't leave before early afternoon, and I had a date to meet some Angeleno traveller friends from Colombia, so I booked it down the 5, stopping little and only taking photos of a windfarm on the coast.
How appropriate that the sign for the windfarm (parque eólico) had blown down.
The drive was interesting principally for the gradual increase in vegetation. The first stretch was a regression to pure inland desert, but coming back to the coast, the cacti and tumbleweed-y shrubs I'd begun to see the day before were now accompanied by dry grasses and a few shrunken trees. Farther south, more trees asserted themselves, and more towns too, until I felt like I was actually in a country where people can go about their lives normally rather than fight against the desert.

Valparaiso was funky and charming, with quirky grafitti and run-down but charismatic architecture. The neighborhood where I stayed, Cerro Concepción, sits up on a hill with a great view of seagulls wheeling over ships at anchor. Motley crowds populated the streets until very late, which I know because we stayed out salsa dancing (mostly watching excellent salsa dancers, actually) until 3am. I wished I could spend more time in this bohemian, laid-back city.

Moto Day 5: Pan de Azucar to La Serena

My campsite from above. There was a nuclear family camped next to me. Oh Chile. So first world.
The road to the south.
The frequency of roadside shrines in Chile was overwhelming. This one included a grave, which had been amply supplied with jugs of water.
First flowers in who knows how long.
This view towards the coast shows San Francisco-style fog doing its best to creep over the mountains into the desert. There was much fog and chill along the coast, a far cry from the bright aridity just inland.