Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Archive for October, 2012

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 10)

We glided over the paved narrow two lane following the contours of the fjord.  The mountains rose even higher around us and the peaks were covered in a gleaming white snow.  The brightly shining sun bounced from mountain top to the water’s surface and back creating a spectacular sparkle.  Sunglasses were indeed necessary as we wended our way closer to the Perito Moreno glacier.

We stopped at a little toll booth at the entrance to the park and paid a small fee to see what would be yet another marvel on this trip.  Just a few more miles down this winding and now forested road, lay an icy giant, silent and seemingly unmoving, yet amazingly powerful.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At road’s end, we found ourselves in a fairly large parking lot complete with a few tour busses and hundreds of cars.  A couple of well maintained and new buildings sat to our left, providing places to eat and relax at what is one of Argentina’s natural treasures.  There were several walking paths and we randomly chose one that split the two buildings.

Soon we were on an elevated and grated walking trail above the surface of the ground, heading along the water and then…  There it was, the first close up sight of the Perito Moreno glacier.  Just the far end was in bright sun and the remainder was in shadow, but the size and the power of the glacier could not be hidden.

Giant spires of ice rose from the face of the glacier like the pikes of an advancing ice army.  As we got closer, the shadows could no longer hide the spires and they became clearer and larger.  The immensity of this frozen monolith was as apparent as its ability to act as an irresistible force of nature.  As the sun navigated its way in and out of the clouds, the ice sparkled, and the snow changed from dark grey to gleaming white, changed merely by the passing of clouds and will of the wind.  Nature could indeed paint pictures using its own natural pallete.

We lazily walked our way closer towards this awesome sight on the elevated metal corrugated carpet, eyes riveted to the ice and snow.  Just when we thought we’d seen it all, almost right in front of us, a grey fox rambled by us, not so much in a rush to hide from us, but more interested in finding a tasty morsel to dine upon.  We were truly getting the whole show today.

As close as we could get to the glacier on our man made walkway, it was nothing compared to the up close and personal look we would get from the giant sized catamaran that would take us to within 100 feet of the glacier.  As the time for departure approached, we eagerly boarded in anticipation of catching the aura of the glacier.

We were not disappointed as we slowly cruised out to the glacier.  It was far better to slowly cruise out to it.  The mountains framed the glacier perfectly and the passing clouds provided a cottony backdrop.  Never had white taken on some many different shades.  White ice, white snow and white clouds were all different shades of white and they were perfectly offset by the black of the rocky mountains and grey blue of the sea and the sky.

After about ten minutes of cruising, we reached the glacier.  For a brief period of time, the giant catamaran turned off the engines and the glacier came alive.  At times, we could hear the ice creak and groan as if it were restless and yearning to move faster.  A cool and sometimes downright cold wind flowed from the top of the glacier and spilled over the edge like a waterfall of cooled air.   Jackets were zipped and hats securely fastened in response to the glacier’s cold heartbeat of air.

So while we stood and stared in awe, we heard a gigantic crack like a single clap of thunder and a then a slight rumble.  About 500 yards away, a large chunk of ice had wrested itself free of the glacier’s face and plummeted to the water below.  We saw but did not hear the gigantic splash made by the ice and the waves generated by the bus sized chunk of ice now floating before us.  It was an awesome sight.  We were on a nature overdose and loving every moment of it.

But like all good things, our time at the glacier passed so very quickly.  Soon it would be time to start our ride back to our little hotel in El Calefate for the night.  As we walked back to the bikes, we marveled at how much we had seen in such a short period of time and how much we had enjoyed ourselves already.  But still, we had a two hour ride back through gorgeous country to the hotel to look forward to.  Not bad, not too bad at all.

After what seemed to be a very quick night’s sleep, we were back on the road early and covering some significant miles on mountainous yet smooth pavement.  We swooped around corners and leapt over the tops of the mountains and dove down their backs.  Four hours of pavement passed almost instantaneously.

But almost as suddenly as the road had been smooth and mountainous, we entered the plains again and were back on gravel.  As much as we had enjoyed the pavement, it was good to be back on the gravel and heading into some remote areas again.  As the mountains began to fade, the wind began to increase and once again we found ourselves crabbing into a steady wind with our 2 wheeled craft.

But we would not be too long without our friends the mountains, for we were headed to Torres del Paine and the most impressively beautiful mountain sunsets we have ever seen.  We’ll take you there in Part 11.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 8)

Having sneaked our way into El Chalten in the midst of a snow and rain storm, we had been quite pleased to make it to our comfy little hotel snuggled in the back of this hiking and trekking town.  The rooms were small and spartan, but they were indeed warm and inviting and we took off our cold and damp riding gear and put on some nice dry warm clothes.  It just felt good to be out of the wet and wind.

We hung around our little hotel catching glimpses out the back picture window of the hotel of what was supposed to be beautiful mountain scenery.  But rushing clouds and quick bursts of sun only served to tease us with a quick sighting of a sheer rock wall or shining ice, which would almost immediately become engulfed in a roiling mass of heavy wet cloud.  If these gringos wanted to see the mountain scenery, they were going to have to be patient.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

It began to get a little later in the evening so we decided to stroll into town as the days wind started to diminish as did the rays of the sun.  Whether it was it the setting sun taking pity on us or the spirits that surround El Chalten, something seemed to want to take pity on us and the rain and snow stopped as quickly as it had started and the clouds raced away to parts unknown.  For as we walked out of our place of respite and looked behind us, two towering behemoths came into view.  Pointed and sharp as only newly minted mountains can be, they pointed skyward, appearing to rend the clouds from the sky.  Then a third smaller pike came into view, these rock monoliths were not to be ignored, they wanted their presence known.

They had made their points.  We stood there slack jawed, clicking pictures at alarming tourist rates.  It was a conundrum of sorts.  I wanted to take pictures to have memories, but I didn’t want to experience the sight solely through the limited view of a camera lens.  I must have looked pretty foolish, camera up, camera down, camera up, camera down. The net result, fuzzy pictures and an even fuzzier remembrance of the exciting scene.  Next time I’ll have to choose.

Ultimately, we were able to tear ourselves away from the scene and do a little strolling, get some dinner and even a little shopping done in town.  Kim got some fun things and even I got something that you’ll see later (shade your eyes and hide small children).  We chatted with the shop keepers as best we could and even a couple of locals.  Overall we had a pretty nice late afternoon in El Chalten but we were pretty tired from the day of riding in the weather so after filling ourselves with empanadas, we headed back to the hotel for a good nights rest.

When we awoke the following morning the sun was out but the wind was again up.  However, we weren’t going to let that stop us from investigating the rest of El Chalten.  We’d heard that as well as being a climbing and hiking center, El Chalten also had a reputation for being a bit of a hippie throw back town.  This we had to see.

So we started out after breakfast and just started walking around the small mostly dirt streets.  Houses were in varying condition from very good to not very good, but everyone in the town seemed to be in good spirits and even though the town did not seem affluent by any stretch of the imagination, people seemed to take pride in what they owned and they tried to make their places look nice.  Some folks were very creative in their decoration.

Hand painted tiles were fitted into the sides of buildings leaving a rather beautiful adornment to what would otherwise be a very plain house.  Another had used stencils to make “cave paintings” on the side of their house.  There was just a great deal of creativity amongst the townspeople.  But we would find even more later in the day.

As we walked to the back of the town, we found a staircase that led up to the top of a plateau.  You could see that it led up, but you couldn’t ultimately see where it was leading to.  So curiosity obviously not under control, we marched our way up the stairs to the top of the plateau and found…  another town!

Yes, there was another little town within the town of El Chalten.  It had a glorious view of the town below as well as the surrounding mountains.  It was breathtaking.  But there was more to come.  This town was just being built and many of the houses had yet to be completed.  Some were actively under construction while others seemed to be waiting for their next phase to commence.

But what was really cool about this little town within a town was that each street had its own ambassador waiting to greet you as you entered.  Hand crafted from whatever was available, there were statutes of birds, bicyclists, guitar players, skiers, and whatever the towns people felt would be a nice welcome to their little street.  It was great to see that the residents of this little town had taken the time to build a little more charm, a warm welcome for themselves and everyone who came to visit them.  It was great!

There was also another ambassador of sorts.  An Old English sheepdog that had a habit of sneaking around following Kim wherever we went, but never got close enough for her to pet.  He must have been the shy type.  But he did indeed turn up in several pictures, pictures that I didn’t know he was in when I was taking them.  He was sort of like a Where’s Waldo dog!

We enjoyed ourselves immensely up on the little plateau taking pictures and strolling the streets with Waldo.  Ultimately we had to head back to the hotel because the wind was still up and it was getting chilly.  So back down the stairs we went and we spied a couple of the locals chatting in local clothing.  I just loved the look of their local garments.  It make me aware of the fact that I was in Argentina where there are still Gauchos!  Awesome.

As we made our way back to the hotel, we were thankful for all that we were able to see and do in El Chalten.  We’d enjoyed every minute we’d been there, and tomorrow, rain (or snow) or shine or heavy wind, we were headed off to El Calafate where we’ll take you in Part 10.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

BMW and Honda Release Videos of their Adventure Bikes

Wow it’s getting hot in the kitchen!  BMW and Honda have released their own videos of their own Adventure/Rally machines.  Honda concentrated heavily on performance while BMW concentrated more on the places you can go.  Which is more important to you?



KTM Releases Videos of 1190 Adventure

The adventure riding market segment is indeed becoming a very crowded one.  First KTM leaks the news of their new 1190 Adventure, then later formally announces it.  BMW announces its new water cooled GS1200 and Honda announces that it is returning to Dakar with a CRF450 based rally bike.  Phew!  Is it hot in here or what?

Well apparently KTM doesn’t think its hot enough in the kitchen and has released these two videos of the 1190A in action to turn up the heat even more.  So take a look-see and decide whether you need to turn on the air conditioning.

So BMW, what have you got up your sleeve to turn up the heat a bit?