Hi from Junin
we're back in Junin de los Andes with anna's family today, having finished with our solo trip. we're going to be here until monday morning, when we leave with susan, andres, jimena, and andres' parents to go see many of the provincial parks and backcountry where they do their biology work. it should be a fairly interesting week or week and a half.
The latter part of the trip through chile went remarkably well. after leaving mendoza we went to aconcagua park, hiked up to about 14,500 feet and stayed there for two nights at the base camp for people climbing to the summit. There's not a lot of oxygen there and it's very dusty b/c there's no vegetation and the wind blows at a sustained 60mph or so. It also drops below freezing at night (and us fools in our shorts and t-shirts--other people there had goggles and walking sticks to combat the wind, not to mention jackets and mules.) we've been having trouble eating while camping too because peanut butter is unheard of in this part of the world, so we have to come up with other creative food items to take with us. everyone here eats meat but that doesn't keep so well and is sometimes kind of weird and interesting to begin with. Anyway, there were stunningly beautiful vistas and near the base camp the mountain looks just like mordor in the lord of the rings movie but with ice instead of fire. Like i said--breathtakingly beautiful. We spent the next night at Puente del Inca just outside the park. there is a defunct hotel there with thermal baths that has been consumed by the mineral waters and looks like a cave with lots of formations where you can bathe after dark under the stars and moon, surrounded by bright orange and red steaming rocks. I strongly reccomend going there someday.
After that was the short and frighteningly swift white-knuckled descent into santiago and valparaiso, where we spent a relaxing three days, checked out the pablo neruda museum, rode the elevators to the hilltops, and spent way too much money eating out.
We spent the next 12 or so hours on a really uncomfortable overnight bus to pucon, chile, in the lake district in the south. This was the really fun part of the trip, because here we got to climb an active volcano near the border. climbing was not so much the fun part, and involved many hours of clawing our way up a wall of ice and rock using iceaxes. it was pretty, sure, but kind of exhauting and scary at times. then we spent an hour at the edge of the crater asphixitating ourselves in the toxic, smelly gasses being belched out by the volcano. but the fun part--the really fun part--was getting back down. All you have to do is put on a very padded snowsuit, sit on your butt, push off and slide--screaming and laughing--a full vertical kilomenter to the bottom of the mountain's snow cap. THIS IS BY FAR THE MOST FUN EITHER OF US HAS EVER HAD!!!! people have worn grooves, sometimes fairly deep, with their backsides, so it's kind of like bobsledding and you can use your iceaxe as a brake to slow yourself down. three cheers for countries with little to no safety consciousness! we love south america!
bye for now,
randy and anna