Sarah's Travel Blog
Sunday, February 15, 2009
In search of the Maca Tobiano
I have decided that in addition to doing the normal trekking circuits that everyone else is doing here in Patagonia, I am going to seek out one of the world´s rarest birds, the Hooded Greebe. Many people have spent a significant amount of time trying to find this bird, and many have failed. Here is an account of my attempt so far:
I agreed to meet my new friends from France, Switzerland, Canada, and Northern Ireland for breakfast at the hostel. Funny enough, it was raining and the three women solo travelers (including me) were all camping and the two men had wimped out and were staying in the hostel. We went for a luxurious breakfast at the gas station which makes eggs and REAL coffee and we had so much fun chatting, that the morning slipped away from us. By the time we hit the road, it was afternoon and we walked out of town along the highway to try and hitchike. No one wants to pick up hitchikers here, and I don´t think four people with packs stood a chance together. After a few hours, the Swiss girl decided to go on ahead and look for a ride by herself, the French girl decided to go to a different city and the Irish guy and I went to look for a bus. I was informed at the bus station that no bus would dare to drop me off in the middle of nowhere to look for a rare bird because of liability issues with leaving tourists in the middle of nowhere. The Irish guy was told that there were no buses until Tuesday, and the French girl had purchased a ticket for the next morning. The French girl and I headed off to the nature preserve which was flooded but filled with geese and flamingos and ducks. On the way back, we found a tiny museum about the history of Patagonia, and I decided that I wanted to stop there for awhile. The man at the museum had lived in the area for some time, knew of this rare bird, and advised me that I do not dare travel to find it without taking a 3-4 day supply of water, food, and full camping gear. He gave me better directions to get to the exact spot. That night, we met up with the Irish guy and made a pasta dinner in the campground. They both went to bed early, and I decided to go to the free rock concert at the other end of town. I never made it to the rock concert as I was stopped by the ice cream store that has the extra dark chocolate yuminess. As I ate my tiny cone and watched the amazing firework show, I chatted with my campground neighbors the hippy troupe of jewelry vendors who schooled me on the art of hitchking in Argentina. One of them has been hitchiking for almost 20 years here and never takes buses. She takes her daughter with her who is around 4 years old and assures me she has never had any issues. We learn later that the swiss girl has been picked up by a trucker and has arrived safely in Rio Gallegos.
I meant to wake up early, pack camp and head out on the road to find a ride, but the weather is awful. The idea of heading out into the middle of nowhere during a giant storm just seems stupid, so I´m hanging out at the internet cafe and spending all my money on coffees. As much as I´m enjoying the camp with the bathroom that I share with 500 people, I was seriously happy to receive an e-mail from my new friend Mario the high school teacher who I met on a fishing trip down south. He lives here in town, and I´m hoping that there might be storm free lodging somehow involved. Tomorrow, I will try and figure out the best way to get to nowhere with the help of a local!
Friday, January 23, 2009
This trip has been absolutely phenomenal. I cannot describe in words
or pictures or even video the vast wildlife paradise I have been
traversing over the last month. It is a seriously hopeful thing to see
pods of whales swimming around feeding, the whole ocean teeming with
life, and every rock covered in downy baby birds of every variety. I am
heading back into the real world of South America, but I feel there is
nothing that can compare to what I have experienced.
Friday, January 02, 2009
Tomorrow we are going to land on Steeple Jason and then we're
off to South Georgia for a while. Please feel free to write and send me
messages (to Ben's address) and let me know how everything in the main
world is going. We have a packed itinerary most days, except for days
when if I looked at the computer screen I would barf on the
keyboard...but I will try to post again soon. Maybe if I barf on the
keyboard I won't have to wait for computer access. One computer, 100
The next day, we went to West Point island and hiked over it to
an even larger albatross colony which was tucked away in the hillside.
This one had all kinds of features...a freshwater stream where penguins
were taking baths, a large colony of Albatross and penguins together,
and big grasses to hide behind to get nice close shots. I tried not to
take 20398476 baby penguin photos, and failed miserably. The caretakers
of the island provided a proper British tea for us at the end, and in
their honeysuckle bush I found a large spider with a big green abdomen
and had to do acrobatics to get a decent photo. Later that day, we went
to Carcass Island, where we landed on a sandy beach full of penguins and
geese. The geese looked like herds of livestock covering the hillsides.
I went out with a group of botanists and found some really cool
probably endemic plants to photograph, then went snipe hunting and shot
two (with a camera of course. When we got to the beach on the far side
of the island, it looked like a typical tourist beach with some playing
in the waves, others swimming, some lying on the beach, and some taking
walks up and down, except there were no people ONLY penguins! It was
like the Cozumel of the penguin world. It was kind of like the opposite
of a nude beach in that it was so formal, there were no swimsuits, but
everyone was wearing a tux. We watched penguins slip and slide down the
sand dunes which was hugely entertaining.
I can't believe someone would have a war over these
islands...although the penguins ARE cute.
We landed in zodiacs and hiked to a place where there was a canyon that
led down to the sea. Perched on all the rocks were Rockhopper penguins
and a constant flow of penguin groups going down to and coming up from
the sea. All the penguins going down were filthy and muddy, and the
ones coming back up were brilliantly white. It looked like penguins
were taking themselves to be dry cleaned. There is almost nothing cuter
than a baby penguin...except maybe a baby albatross. I was sitting on a
cliff taking the 4690873th photo of baby albatrosses and penguins when I
heard a slap slap slap and looked over to find a huge albatross right
next to me staring me in the face! I froze and it walked around me in
circles checking me out and twisting its head side to side to get a
better view. Then it walked down the hill and annoyed at least 40
penguins before finding its mate and chick and barfing up squid for the
All I wanted for Christmas was a decent pair of sea legs/It's
not easy feeling green.
We got on the boat and took off for the Falkland Islands. The sea was
much rougher than expected, and for two days I didn't dare let my eyes
leave the horizon. I have never been sea sick before, but I've also
only been on small boats where you are not enclosed. The boat rocked so
hard that two large men who were not holding on, crashed into each other
and rolled together like a bowling ball into a group of women who fell
like pins. Fortunately, no one got hurt. I half listened to all the
lectures on digital photography, Birds of the Argentine Shelf, and more,
while trying not to barf. In the end, it was fruitless, and I went to
bed after taking sea sickness medication.
Tierra del Fuego National Park
The next day, we all boarded buses and went to Tierra del Fuego National
Park. I joined the birding group. It was a typical birder bus ride
where every five minutes someone yelled "STOP" or "PARE" because
they had spotted something and all we did was annoy the driver. There
were a few spouses of people that were really annoyed too, and they were
all wishing they had gone with a different group. We saw a lot of birds
in the morning, and I got some nice photos of the Andean Condors. It
made me miss the California Condors that would be flying over my house
right now if people were not such idiots. I spotted the Magellanic
Oystercatcher. In the afternoon, we went to another part of the park to
find a unique woodpecker. It was windy, and I could tell that we were
probably not going to see a woodpecker, so I ventured off into the
forest and took pictures of orchids and bryophytes and fungi. Note: I
am super pleased with the macro setting on my new little point and shoot
Ushuaia is the farthest city south in Argentina. We landed there to
catch the boat. The whole town is kind of an Argentinian Whistler, or
giant ski lodge, where you can buy an overpriced fleece, a stuffed
penguin, or have an overpriced steak. Flooded with tourists, this
southern port brings in major cruise ships full of thousands of people
who want to go see a little island with a few penguins on it. Just
outside the town itself reminded me of places in the Alps where the
plants are low-growing and the air is always cold. The first day there
it snowed -- and this is the height of summer! The best part of Ushuaia
was that the hotel had a hot tub, and we got to see a local fire-fighter
get married. At first it looked like a giant accident...horns blaring,
siren wailing...but then we caught up to the front and noticed there was
a bride and groom in the cab, and the firetruck was decorated with
ribbons. The first day, we drove over a gorgeous snowy pass to get to
Tierra del Fuego Island. After an excruciating two hour bus ride with
beautiful scenery, we arrived at Esteban's sheep farm. We saw wild
guanacos along the way (like a llama but not) and ibises and a beaver
lodge. The place where the beaver lived looked EXACTLY like Dagoba
where Luke goes to find Yoda in Star Wars. I was half expecting Esteban
to use the force to raise a giant aircraft out of the murk, but no such
luck. The hillsides were covered with wildflowers and I spotted a few
orchids off in the woods. Esteban's house looked like something out of
the sound of music with flowers all around and cute little lace
curtains. They then gave us a sheep dog herding and sheep shearing
demonstrations. One of the dogs was exactly like the yucky puppy in
Mexico with dirty nasty dreads and long mangy hair. Everyone kept
saying how cute it was and asking me to translate what kind of dog it
was to the owner who only spoke Spanish. I wanted to say, It's a
"Yucky puppy". But instead I kept translating "Mutt" over and over
again. The dog ran down to the river, got all wet, and then rolled in a
giant pile of sheep crap. One of the women on the trip decided this was
a prime chance to get all lovie with it and stuck her face down put her
arms around it. I wanted to suggest to Esteban that we not let her back
onto the bus. Loving dogs is one thing. Making out with a dog that
just rolled in a pile of crap is another.
When we got back to the hotel that night, the whole group had come in,
and we started to get to know all the people that were going to be on
the ship with us. I had dinner with a fantastic Scottish nurse who
lived in Saudi Arabia and went to bed early even though there was no
sleeping later -- apparently I cannot sleep if there is no cat, yet I
criticize dog people.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Today we went to Tierra del Fuego National Park to go birding. We saw many local birds and also lots of cool looking mosses and fungi. The wildflowers are all in full bloom and it was just beautiful. I'm glad I brought extra clothing, because some people had luggage that didn't arrive and so I had to loan out some clothes. Tierra del Fuego National park is beautiful. It reminds me of Alaska in some ways. This afternoon we're going to get on the ship...I wish I could post photos because our ship is like 1/10 the size of the other two ships on either side of it. It's an icebreaker, and they are monster cruise ships. Once on the ship, communication will be more difficult and all blogs will be going through Ben probably. I bought post cards today to send to everyone who sent me their address. Those who didn't? Too bad. I love my new little digital camera, it took really nice photos of the orchids in the park. I have to go buy chocolate and wine now to take onto the ship for our month at sea. Love to all.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
If you buy Gucci you can smell like a 7th grade boy...
Lately, I have been running into old classmates a lot. Mostly on Facebook, but also in other ways. Today, I flew from San Francisco to Atlanta to Buenos Aires, and was not expecting to run into anyone. We took an hour bus ride across BA from one airport to the other. We walked into the dinky somewhat shabby looking local airport and who is the first person I see? Teddy Franco on a giant Gucci ad plastered all over the airport. It was like the whole airport was his face. Now, Teddy and I were not exactly best pals, but we sat next to each other in 7th grade History class in Jr. High. Now he's all rich and famous and crap and probably has no idea who I am, but the ad is still funny. "If you buy Gucci, you can smell like this hansome man on the poster." My only frame of reference for how Teddy Franco smells is from Jr. High, so to me the ad read, "If you buy Gucci, you can smell like a 7th grade boy." I'm sure he smells better now, and frankly I shouldn't talk because after flying for 48 hours with no shower, I probably smell worse than a 7th grade boy. It makes me think though, would I rather be rich and famous and have my face plastered all over an airport in Buenos Aires, or go to Antarctica and see penguins? No offense Teddy, penguins win.
--Sarah signing out from Ushuaia, Argentina
While Sarah is on the boat way down south, I, her cousin Ben, will be periodically posting updates to her blog for her, since she can't really get at it from the boat.
Sarah's current travel status: Sarah is In Buenos Aires on her way down south.
More details as I get them.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Flickr: celesteh's photos tagged with munich
Flickr: celesteh's photos tagged with munich
Blogged with Flock
check out this furry bike
Blogged with Flock
will this show up in blogger?
Blogged with Flock
Monday, January 22, 2007
Hi everyone! I've decided to include some short works of fiction in my blog. Did you get that TSA? FICTION. WHAT FOLLOWS IS FICTION. THERE IS NO WAY THIS REALLY HAPPENED...IT IS ALL A BUNCH OF LIES! This was a story made up by someone else, this did not happen to me. Got it?! So here goes:
Once upon a time there was a girl who needed to get from one country to another. She happened to be on a boat in a beautiful bay off of Aehaie (our fictional country). Her new found friends had taken her all over the country the night before and shown her a really good time until around 4 am, so when she woke up in the morning she was really tired and hungover. Unfortunately, the sailboat needed to get to another bay, and everyone on that boat woke up late and was groggy, so there was a mad rush to the dingy and everthing was just shoved into bags so this girl could get to the airport. When she got to the airport, she was planning on having a few hours to repack before the flight, but instead, she was early enough that she was able to go standby on an earlier flight, so she had to rush right out to the gate and get on the plane. The people working security in Aehaie were very skilled and talented and made sure that this girl did not DARE bring on board the 1/3 of a latte that she had just purchased in the airport accross from the security entrance. NO, she MUST dump out this small amount of latte before getting on board. So she did. It was a great flight with good views and the girl landed safely and went through customs and immigration in the country of Usahie without any problems. As the girl was looking for change in her purse for the bus, she realized that in her purse were one decent size knife, a book of matches, and more than 3oz of a highly flammable liquid. We should all thank the security agents of Aehaie for saving the lives of the innocent passengers aboard the flight, and this girl, because had she had those last few sips of latte, she might have been caffeinated enough to accidentally pull out the knife on board thereby creating an international disaster and ending up in jail. This was not a podunk airline with a cardboard sign either, this was Usahie Air!
The moral of the story...if you make people dump out their coffee, they will fall asleep and forget to use the 3 inch blade you let them bring on board.
(This is a purely fictional story, any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental and has no basis in reality whatsoever)
I have been kidnapped by pirates. Fortunately, they have a half a million dollar catamaran and sunny dispositions.