Chile – Day 12 – Torres Del Paine National Park

Today I woke up at 7:00am. Catherine was still sleeping so I made us some coffee as well as some cheese and eggs on toast for us. Once I had made breakfast I woke Catherine up and we had breakfast together. After breakfast I made us some salami, cheese and avocado sandwiches for our lunch later on. We quickly got ready and hopped into the truck for a 2 hour drive to Torres Del Paine National Park. During our drive the scenery just kept getting more beautiful.

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Torres Del Paine National Park encompasses mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers in the southern Chilean Patagonia and is known for its three massive granite peaks, which are actually an eastern spur of the Andes mountains. The park receives about 250,000 visitors each year and is a very popular hiking destination in Chile. I would absolutely come back here to hike more than the one hike that I did here, and would easily spend a week or two here just hiking.

The entrance to Torres Del Paine is setup similar to a passport office but has multiple steps. “Step 1” has a booth where you fill out a double sided piece of paper with a lot of your personal information, including your address as well as your passport number. After you fill out the paper you take it to “step 2” which stamps the paper and takes your money; in this case 21000 Chilean Pesos ($42.30 CDN) for 3 days of entry. “Step 3” involves taking your stamped piece of paper over to a different desk where they will stamp it again with a different stamp and provide you with instructions and a very detailed map.

After checking into the park we slowly drove to Mirador Condor Trail (a hike I wanted to do), while taking multiple stops for photos. We arrived at the Mirador Condor Trailhead at about 10:30am. The hike takes about 1.5 to 2 hours return and has an elevation gain of roughly 200 metres over 4km (2km each way) and has a beautiful view from the top overlooking Pehoe Lake. When we started the hike the sky was fairly clear except around the three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range but the temperature was a cool 15 degrees Celsius. We were both wearing jackets when we started the hike, but I quickly took my jacket off because I was starting to get hot. Catherine kept hers on the entire time because she is usually always too cold.

Half way up to the viewpoint we noticed the wind started picking up, but we had no idea what we were in for until we actually got to the top. At the top we could barely stand up and we later learned in the day the top regularly sees 160 kph winds, which is very substantial. At the top I took the opportunity to make some hilarious faces with the wind morphing my mouth into all sorts of ungodly positions. The viewpoint is absolutley breathtaking. On one side you see the beautiful shimmering turquoise coloured Pehoe Lake and on the other side you see the remains of a 2011-2012 fire that an Israeli backpacker deliberately set by lighting up some paper rolls. The fire burned 176 square kilometers of the reserve, destroying 36 square kilometers of native forest, which you can see in my photographs. The Israeli government sent in reforestation experts to the park and has committed to donate trees to replant the affected areas.

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While on our way down from the top we ran into an older couple named Martin and Sophie who were visiting from the Netherlands. We talked for a bit and then realized that we were going to be on the same Lago Grey glacier tour tomorrow. After talking for a bit I was really starting to deteriorate because of my cold and being out in the cold wind so we head back towards the truck. The return only took about 30 minutes and we even saw some condor birds on the way down; they’re huge!

Once we arrived at the truck we were both quite hungry so we ate the salami, cheese and avocado sandwiches that I made for lunch. We continued on driving throughout the park stopping at multiple lookouts and doing short hikes. Another one of my favorite stops was the Salto Grande waterfall. It’s not a very large waterfall but the colours were absolutely stunning.

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We ended up leaving the park at around 5:30pm and arrived back at our loft around 7:30pm. On the way back we passed Puerto Natales airport where I saw a BAE-146 (Avro RJ-100) taking off. These old workhorses are a dying bread and most have come to South America to spend their last years before they get turned into scrap metal. Many work for the airline DAP which flies to Antarctica.

Catherine made us some pasta with chicken and some red sauce for dinner. I wasn’t feeling too good so we laid in bed and watched “The Impossibles” movie. I’m surprised that I had never seen the 2movie before but it was actually pretty good and is based on a true story on a family that was affected by the 2004 Thailand floods.

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Christmas & New Years 2018

As 2018 slides into 2019 I sit back and reflect on what a wonderful year I had. I changed my career path from Structural Design to Business Development. I met my wonderful girlfriend Catherine and was also able to travel to all these amazing places:

  • Thailand (Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Koh Samui)
  • France (Paris, Mont Saint Michel, Toulouse, Lyon)
  • Spain (Barcelona)
  • Drive US Route 66 with my Father
  • Visit Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary with my Mother
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Greece (Athens, Santorini)
  • Switzerland (Zurich, Jungfraujoch)
  • Ottawa with Catherine TWICE!
  • Jasper National Park

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On New Years Eve I prepared Catherine and I a delicious dinner of salmon, garlic mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables, then we went skating at Canada Olympic Plaza before making a toast to 2019 with some champagne and fireworks.

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I’m extremely looking forward to 2019 as there are quite a few wonderful things planned.

  • Travel to Chile / Argentina / Paraguay / Brazil
  • Travel to Vietnam / Chile
  • See Darci Lynne Live in Portland
  • Moving to a New House
  • Numerous Alberta Hikes (Galatea Lake & Lillian Lake, Junction Creek to name a few)

Chile & Argentina 2019Vietnam & Cambodia

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Santorini

I just spent a few days on the beautiful Greek island of Santorini. Santorini’s history dates back to roughly 5000 BC.

Accommodation was at Villa Danezis. This luxury villa was rather affordable at $70 CDN per night and is managed by the owners who live on site. The villa has ten beautiful appointed rooms with nice art work, a sizeable outdoor pool, a beautiful patio area, and morning coffee with delicious home made muffins.

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During my stay I rented a car as it was a lot easier than trying to take the local transit, despite it being a more expensive choice. When I was on the island I did the famous Fira to Oia hike in reverse, which took about 3 hours to complete and is rated moderate. The hike takes you through both the ancient districts, and along the mountainous terrain between the two districts, with many beautiful old churches painted in blue and white. All of the “towns” on the islands are now just referred to as districts of Thera (Thira), since 2011 when the government decided to do so.

I explored Oia and Fira in detail, visited the old Akrotiri Lighthouse on the south side, and the ancient towns of Akrotiri and Ancient Thera.

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The ancient town of Akrotiri date’s back to as early as 5000 BC, when it was a small fishing and farming village. By about 3000 BC the community had developed and expanded significantly. Akrotiri continued to prosper over the years with the introduction of paves streets, an extensive drainage system, and high quality pottery and craftsmanship. This all came to an end in 1627 when the volcanic eruption of Thera buried the entire community in volcanic ash. The community wasn’t found again until 1867 when some locals found some old artifacts in a quarry. Extensive modern excavations of the site occurred in 1967 by Professor Spyridon Marinatos. Excavations are still ongoing to this day.

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The ancient town of Ancient Thera date’s back to 9th century BC until 726 AD when it was buried after a small eruption of the volcano of Santorini covered it in pumice stone. The ancient city was re-discovered in 1895 by Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen and excavations started to occur between 1961 and 1982, and 1990 and 1994.

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I also ate some of the most amazing food I’ve had in my life. The meat and vegetables are so fresh and the Greek meals are delicious; whether it was traditional Greek coffee, Greek salad, fresh sea food, or vegetarian dishes. Yes you read that correctly, vegetarian dishes! Santorini has vegetarian only restaurants and they serve incredible food; my personal favorite being Tranquilo where I had Greek salad and goat cheese filled hot peppers.

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Another fantastic restaurant that you must visit is To Briki. I had traditional Greek coffee served with old wine grapes soaked in honey, deep fried Greek cheese, and amazing smoked salmon and avocado bruschetta.

Check back shortly for my next blog post where I explore the beautiful city of Zurich!

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Sulphur Mountain Hike

Last weekend I went on a wonderful hike up Sulphur Mountain in Banff National Park with my friend Hadrian Robinson. It’s a moderate hike with 744 metres of elevation gain and 11km round-trip. The weather was perfect and we couldn’t have had a better day. Check out Hadrian’s wonderful photography on his Instagram account @hadrianrobinsonphotography. Here’s some of my photos from our hike!

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August 19th 2016 – Outback Tour Day 10 of 10

Today we woke up at 5:30am. I had coffee and toast for breakfast and then packed the rest of my stuff up so that we could leave by 6:30am. 

We drive to Kings Canyon and hiked around the entire canyon, also visiting the Garden of Eden. The hike took about three hours due to our leisurely pace so that everyone could keep up. The hike starts off with a few hundred very step semi natural steps. There is an AED at the top in case anyone has a heart attach climbing it. I was quite impressed that they had one.

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We learned a lot about the canyon and the Garden of Eden during our hike. The kings canyon is comprised of Carmichael sandstone. Carmichael sandstone is like a sponge. If can retain water for a long period of time. There have not been too many rock falls but one did occur about two months ago, and you can tell from the white rock face because unexposed sandstone takes hundreds, if not thousands of years to oxidize. That rock fall was the first in nearly 70 years, and not many buses got through during that time.

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We also learned that Spinifex grass can be used to make a resin similar to super glue. It is used to attach spear heads, as well as be used to patch boomerangs. Spear vines can be used to make spears and if the vine isn’t straight you can straighten it by holding it over a fire.

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White gum trees can be used as a sunscreen but running the powder from the bark on your skin. You can tell if a tree has been used a lot for this purpose because it starts looking like a red gum tree. White gum trees are unique because they can kill off some of their branches during times of lengthy droughts. They will keep their strongest branches alive and kill off the weaker ones. 

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We also learned that traditional punishment of beatings is still done by the aboriginals and police meet them half way. They allow minor lashes, but not abuse, but also enforce some white people laws as well. 

When we reached the top of canyon our tour guide Nat had a whip off with another tour guide who also had a whip. They are the only two tour guides on Way Out Back to have whips. The sounds were amazing and it was really cool to watch. My tour guide also took a funny selfie with my SLR too, so I had to include that picture.

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We continued along the canyon a bit further down some very steep stairs, across a small river leading to the Garden of Eden, back up some steps, where we had a rest and Nat gave us some chocolate chip cookies. She stayed behind while we went and explored the Garden of Eden, which is a permanent water hole within the canyon. The sights were mesmerizing!

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After returning back to Nat we had to go up quite a few more stairs. Some people were struggling a bit here so Nat cracked a joke saying that some people took too many cookies. 

After we finished the hike we had some ham and cheese wraps with vegetables. It was a five hour drive back to Alice springs afterwards, but we broke it up with two stops. We took a fairly bumpy gravel road to shave off 2 hours off the drive. 

I was dropped off second last at the bed and breakfast that I was staying at, called Kathy’s Place. I was greeted by her husband Karl, who showed me around the home and showed me to my room. He offered me some coffee and we talked for a bit before i decided to head out in search of food. Another guest was getting dropped off at the same time I was leaving so the gentleman who dropped him off offered me a ride into the centre town, about 2 kilometres away. He dropped me off at the IGA grocery store where I picked up a few beers and some food for dinner. I walked back, which took about 20 minutes. The walk was a bit scary because Alice Springs has a very high crime rate, and the streets are not very well lit. I walked very fast and kept checking over my shoulder. 

When I got back to the house Karl was watching television. I made my sandwich and cracked a beer. Karl and I talked for about an hour and a half about the Olympics, politics, airplanes, Australia, family, and travelling. I phoned the shuttle company and confirmed a pickup at 10:00am tomorrow from Alice Springs Motor Inn, about 500 metres away from Kathy’s Place. I was getting tired so I decided to head to sleep. 

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July 1st 2016 – Rockbound Lake & Tower Lake Hike

Today I went on a beautiful hike to Rockbound Lake and Tower Lake with my friend Sara. I woke up around 6:30am to pick her up from Lake Louise (where she is living for the summer). We started the hike at about 9:30am. The hike starts off gently, and gradually turns into a gradually steeper hike that is switchback after switchback. You eventually reach Tower Lake after approximately 7km. Tower Lake is a beautiful emerald green colour, with Castle Mountain as a beautiful backdrop off to the side. The hike continues another kilometer or so up to Rockbound Lake. The view is absolutely stunning, with mountains surrounding it on all but one side. We sat down here on some rocks to eat some lunch and admire the views. The hike took 2 hours 45 minutes to get to Rockbound Lake, and about 2 hours to get back to the car.

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June 26th 2016 – Deer Ridge Hike

Today I went on a beautiful medium length hike with my friend Carissa. We started off early morning so that I could get back to my second job for the afternoon. When I picked her up with purchased some Phil & Sabastian’s coffee, which was absolutely delicious, and made the short car ride out to Deer Ridge much more enjoyable. This hike was the first time I’ve really been able to use my new Canon 1DX Camera. We saw some beautiful dogs, some birds, some squirrels, beautiful views, and also got lost for about an hour because we didn’t follow the directions. I absolutely love this camera, and it takes some of the most incredible photo’s ever. I barely have to do any photo editing because what I see is what I get. The colours are so accurate, and the metering is fantastic. Canon really did a great job with this camera.

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