Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Couple Of Things

If I mention I like something around the holidays, I often get over indulged.  Biking for example. Everyone who bought me a gift gave me a bike related book.  One coworker gave me a book of 1001 tips on riding a bike. I accepted it graciously because it was thoughtful, but something suited for a novice.  My sons got me bike books, one of which I really enjoyed and was written by David Byrne of Talking Heads fame.

Bicycle Diaries chronicles David’s observations and insights — what he is seeing, whom he is meeting, what he is thinking about — as he pedals through and engages with some of the world’s major cities. In places like Buenos Aires, Istanbul, San Francisco, and London, the focus is more on the musicians and artists he encounters. Politics comes to the fore in cities like Berlin and Manila, while chapters on New York City, and on the landscaped suburban industrial parks and contemporary ruins of such spots as Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Columbus are more concerned with history in the urban landscape. Along the way, DB has thoughts to share about fashion, architecture, cultural isolation, globalization, and the radical new ways that some cities, like his home town, are becoming more bike-friendly — all conveyed with a highly personal mix of humor, curiosity, and humanity.

We heard a bang outside and the dogs began going nuts.  I though it may have been a car accident till wifey said it sounded like someone slammed the breezeway door.  I look out the window and saw and unconscious hawk on our porch. He soon recovered but remained there dazed for around 30 minutes. I was able to get withing a couple of feet for this photo.

I decided to ride the SS to the market.  It still didn't feel right even with the bar ends installed in the "bar middle". I went for a short few miles repositioning the end and settled on a relatively upright position.  The bike is still not quite right and I'm thinking a new saddle may get it to an acceptable comfort level.  It's something to do on a chilly 35 degree Sunday afternoon.  Ride to the ocean, yea....that's the ticket.

 It's not pink, it's Salmon colored.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's OK

I am pretty much finished with the SS. It's something I have thought about for a couple of year. I came close to buying one new from Sheldon Browns bike shop in Boston last year. A few months ago my neighbor offered me his 1980 something Raleigh 12 speed. Over time I stripped the parts off and installed new gearing, cables and had the rear wheel rebuilt. I installed some fenders this week and am going to put on bar ends on the flats of the drop downs to give me a couple more options. 

It's not fun to ride yet but I'm told it will grow on me when I'm able to ride it more.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Buenos Aires

As always, click any photo for big. Click again for bigger. Click the back button to return to the post

We boarded LAN airlines in Bariloche for the two hour flight to the Atlantic coast of South America, Buenos Aires.  Todd does a ton of business travel and is a Hilton Platinum member.  With that we were able to get five star accommodations in the city for a three night extravaganza to put an exclamation point on our trip.

Celebrating 5 Stars

The Hilton has second happy hour at 6PM.  Our ritual was to meet at the bar, have a couple or three bourbons, some light tapas and check the internet.  Then it was time for a two or three hour siesta before going to town for a 10:30PM dinner.  We chose restaurants that were recommended by friends who had visited Buenos Aires and a couple from different tour books we had.

Day 2 in Buenos Aries we taxied to the Boca district specifically to tour the Boca Jr. stadium.  To say that Boca is one of the premier sports teams in the world, their stadium left a lot to be desired. As a matter of fact, our local amateur pitch would give it a run, if your don't count the game atmosphere of course.

Louis who gave the tour was gracious enough to repeat everything for the four English speaking fans, (us).  He told some really off beat stories, for example.
Louis our gracious host
The visiting team enters through a very small doorway, the locker room is tiny and there is no hot water provided. Many times the teams arrive in uniform, and shower back at their hotel.
Ma and Pa at La Bombonera
The Stadium at gametime

We ventured into the Boca district nd lunched at the artisan section. Tango dancers entertained while we tried to eat very bad food.  Overall the experience was a good one.

Houses done with leftover boat paint

Dancers entertain while we lunch

Sue favorite activity. Feeding dogs.

Day three was more sightseeing.  After visiting the art museum and the exhibit of Andy Warhol we visited a very funky cemetery in the Recoleta district, which is a bit like the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  Here is a the cemetery where Evita Peron is buried. The grave are mostly above ground, like New Orleans but these are big and gaudy. They could be the tombs of kings or queens. The caskets and their inhabitants are visible through the glass doors of many of these "little palaces."  This is a neighborhood, a barrio, exclusively for the dead. Necropolis, where one can also see stairs going down into semidarkness where you can just make out more shelves holing more inhabitants. Probably where previous generations "live"

There are long avenues of "buildings" in varied architectural styles--art deco, classic Greco-Roman, gothic, modern--block after block, and entire metropolis just for the dead, built on a slightly reduced scale from the real city outside the high wall that surround the cemetery.

We had a 9:30 PM flight to JFK and the day for a walking tour of the city.  This day the temperature soared to 97F with high humidity.  When we were out in the sun it was stifling.  The shade was a welcome reprieve.
When we looked at a map of the city we realized how tiny an area we were able to experience in four days. Pretty much two grids on a giant map.

Buenos Aires is the Paris of the south, due to its wide avenues, cafes, and nightlife. Avenida 9 de Julio is the widest avenue in the word. If the obelisk wasn't set in the middle of this boulevard you could easily land a 777 in the middle of the city. Located in the temperate zone the Argentines tend to see themselves as more European, and more sophisticated than their Brazilian and Chilean neighbors.  It's felt and seen in the Argentine architecture, cuisine and clothing.  I have to say the the women dress very sheik and the men handsomely.  I rate Buenos Aires four stars for class, and the Patagonia of both Chile and Argentina get my highest rating.
Pedestrian Bride at Puerto Madero
Bike Route
The Hilton entrance
Avenida 9 de Julio
Apartment House designed by Italian Farmer

Bye By Argentina.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bariloche, Argentina


July and August  is the height of ski season in Patagonia. A winter wonderland and a time for school break.  High school students arrive in Bariloche in droves and they have some unusual customs which have become tradition.  For example.  All the kids go to a costume shop and they all buy the same outfit, like a toga or spider man.  Around midnight they board buses and all the different schools gather at one of the three discos. The next day they return the costumes and buy one of another theme. Repeat daily for a week.

As always, click any photo for big. Click again for bigger. Click the back button to return to the post

  Cerro Campanario Volcon Tronnador-Glacier

Located at bus stop N17, 4K which is, north 17.4 kilometers from the central square in Bariloche. At Cerro Campanario a ski lift takes visitors to the top for a magnificent vista of Patagonia.  For the more fit and adventurous, a strenuous and sometimes very steep but short hike is an option.  A cafeteria is available for excellent and inexpensive lunches. 
Short but Steep Hike for Lunch


Magnificent Visa 

Lunch at Cerro Campanario


After the lunch and hike the rest of the day was dedicated to shopping. We usually got back to our rooms around six for a siesta to prepare for the night life.  Dinner in South America is late by our standards.  The early bird specials began around 9PM. 

Chile and Argentina both have lots of stray dogs.  They blend in well and don't bother anyone. They also all look very well fed and were especially so when Sue is around. She always carried treats or leftovers for her little peros.

Bariloche Central Square


Our third day in Bariloche we made arrangements to hike Volcon Tronnador.   We saw this on our ferry crossing from Chile and we were thrilled to be able to hike this landmark.  A two hour bus ride is required to get to this spectacular national park. There is and additional 30 pesos (US $8) fee to enter the park on top of the reasonable bus fee.  The ten plus mile bus ride inside the park was the type you always hear about from others.  You know, the crazy bus driver on the edge of the cliff stories.   Yup, we had him, and he gave us the ride of our lives.  The road is one way in from dawn till 5PM and one way out from 5PM till dusk.  (around 9PM). 

Checking our route to the glacier
The round trip shorter hike to the glacier takes approximately four hours. That allows enough time for a leisurely lunch before boarding the bus back to Bariloche.  There is only one bus departing, and if you miss it you are stuck there till five pm the following day.  Unless you are lucky enough to hitch a ride from the few others leaving. 
Hiking to the glacier at Mt Tronnador
Checking the map

 Left to the glacier.  Only one hour more

First view of the glacier

Almost there
 At the edge of the avalanche zone

 The return hike
Lunch with new friends.

Sue had a good day.

We end our trip in Buenos Aires

Part 1. Chile

Part 2 Patagonia.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Journey to Patagonia

As always, click any photo for big. Click again for bigger. Click the back button to return to the post

  The second leg of our trip began with a two hour flight from Vina del Mar to Puerto Montt, Chile. At the airport we taxied the 20 miles to our destination where we had rented an apartment for the night.

 Puerto Varas:

Puerto Varas is one of Chile's most charming villages, located on the shore of Lago Llanquihue. Like Pucón, it is an adventure travel hub, and it is also the gateway to the Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales. Unlike its neighbor Puerto Montt, 20 minutes away, it is a spruce little town, with wood-shingled homes, a rose-encircled plaza, a handsomely designed casino, and an excellent tourism infrastructure that provides all the necessary services for visitors without seeming touristy. It can get crowded during the summer months, but not as busy as Pucón; seemingly because of its distance from Santiago. The city was built by the sweat and tenacity of German immigrants, and later it became a port for goods being shipped from the Lago Llanquihue area to Puerto Montt (mostly timber). Today most of the area's middle- and upper-middle-class residents call Puerto Varas home and commute to Puerto Montt and other surrounding places for work.

Todd and I decided to walk around town to see what it was about. The German influence was very obvious and we had read that this town was one of the place in Chile where Anthony Bourdainhad reviewed a quaint little place called Donde el Gordito.
Fodor's Review:

You'll find great seafood here. Some of the fish is personally caught by the avid fisherman owner, El Gordito, who is usually on hand with his wife to wait tables and ring up checks. This little eatery, housed inside a downtown fishmarket, also has entertaining decor, some of it chosen by its owner and some of it given to him by the many tourists that luckily find their way to his food.
 Puerto Varas

The German Influence in Puerto Varas

We boarded an eight am bus for the first leg of our  journey to Argentina. This tour is a very popular and highly recommend excursion. We stopped briefly at Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales where we did a short hike to a white water rafting area.  I hesitate to use any adjectives because of what is to follow.

The second leg was a spectacular lake crossing with the Chilean Andes as a backdrop

Our last stop in Chile

Puerto Puella was our transfer out of Chile.  After we passed customs we boarded a bus for the ninety minute, eleven kilometer crossing into Argentina by bus.  A dirt road was build specifically for this tour company to make the border crossing.  In reality the border is at the top of the Andes and special arrangements were made with both companies to accomodate this unusual crossing.  The Chilean driver and guide on our bus would make the trip with us, and change places with the Argentine driver and guide bringing people from Argentina into Chile at the Argentine border post.

This dirt mountain road was only wide enough to accommodate one vehicle. Visibility was only a few dozen yards because of the winding road through the jungle.   The drivers were in constant contact by satellite radio and an opposing bus always knew where the other was. If one got to a pull out cut into the road, the drive would pull over to the side and wait for the other bus to pass.   While traveling I did notice four different bicycle tourers making the trip from Argentina to Chile.  Except for bicycles, no private vehicles were allowed on this road. Only the tour company cars and buses with radios.

The bus made a couple of stops for us to take photos. 

Border Crossing into Argentina
on a dirt mountain dirt road in the jungle
on a bus.   Nice.

In Puerto Frio we passed customs and boarded another boat for a twenty five minute crossing to Puerto Blest. The total crossing from Puerto Varas Chile to Bariloche Argentina was four buses, four ferries and a three kilometer hike.

Boarding a ferry at Puerto Frio Argentina

Another Spectacular View

Speechless Awe



The Ferry for the Crossing to Bariloche Argentina

Thirteen hours after leaving our apartment in Puerto Veras we arrive in Bariloche.  A final bus ride will deliver us to our hotel and accommodations for the next four nights.  Bariloche will be our base camp for our hiking excursions into the Andes including a long moderate climb to Monte Tronador Glacier.

That will be the next installment.  For now I'm off to our room in the quaint Hotel Tyrol

Part 4 Buenos Aires