<![CDATA[Michael's Travels]]>http://pratt.im/travels/Ghost 0.5Sun, 16 Aug 2015 04:24:55 GMT60<![CDATA[Perito Moreno Glacier]]>On March 7, I took a bus from El Calafate to the nearby Perito Moreno Glacier. This glacier is within the same national park that surrounds El Chaltén, hours to the north. Los Glaciares National Park is one of the largest in South America.

Perito Moreno is the largest glacier I have visited, and the one I could get closest to. Its face is several kilometers wide, and over 50 meters tall. Standing right in front of the glacier, you could watch individual chunks fall off and crash into the lake. The biggest chunks sound like a gunshot when they detach.

Perito Moreno glacier

Water flows through this small gap, creating archways when the ice reaches all he way to the shore

A low-quality panorama from my phone

http://pratt.im/travels/perito-moreno-glacier/602614ca-195f-49c6-aa4f-14b22b3051a5Sun, 08 Mar 2015 13:12:05 GMT
<![CDATA[El Chaltén]]>On March 1, I returned to Puerto Natales after completing the ‘W’ Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park. On March 2, I took a bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate, Argentina, then another to El Chaltén. I will be back to El Calafate, but I wanted to head directly to El Chaltén first.

El Chaltén is a small town with about 1500 residents. It is situated within Los Glaciers National Park, and was only incorporated in 1985. It is know as the ‘trekking capital of Argentina’ due to its ease of access to Mount Fitz Roy and surrounding mountains (which in featured in the Patagonia brand logo). I quite like it as a base for hiking, as most of the trails can be down as day hikes, and all of the trails leave directly from the edge of town.

El Chalten is a small town of about 1500 residents, situated directly in Glaciers National Park

The small town of El Chalten.

March 3 was very cloudy, preventing views of the top of Fitz Roy and other tall mountains, so I avoided the long hikes and simply took a short hike to a small waterfall.

The weather looked much better in the morning on March 4. I could even see Fitz Roy lit up red by the sunrise from my hostel. I headed out on the 10km trail up to Laguna de Los Tres, right at the base of Fitz Roy.

By the time I got to the top, clouds obscured much of the view, but the formation was still very impressive. I waited for the clouds to clear, but started heading back down (along with everyone else) when rain started to mix with the strong winds.

Looking down the valley as I head up to Fitz Roy

One of the better views of Fitz Roy

Laguna de Los Tres, directly below Fitz Roy

Laguna de Los Tres, directly below Fitz Roy

Looking back on the way down

On March 5, the weather was rainy and generally awful, so I didn’t do much other than hike up to a view of the town and landscape out of town. On March 6, the weather was much better, and I spent the beautiful day hiking to Laguna Torre before catching an evening bus back to El Calafate.

Valley with Laguna Torre at the end

Laguna Torre

Heading back out of the valley

Amazing landscape for hiking

http://pratt.im/travels/el-chalten/fadd46c2-dc2b-47d4-8def-10cd2fea02a2Sat, 07 Mar 2015 13:38:16 GMT
<![CDATA[Torres del Paine]]>On February 20, I took a bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales, about three hours north and gateway to Torres del Paine National Park. Torres del Paine National Park is basically the embodiment of what Patagonian landscape should look like, and is one of the most popular destinations in all of Patagonia.

The most popular route to trek in the park is the “W Circuit”, which I completed. As you can see below, the trek has several segments requiring backtracking, hence the name ‘W’. The ‘W’ takes about five days to complete. I opted to stay in ‘refugios’ along the way, which provide beds and food, allowing me to carry a much lighter load.

I spent February 24 to March 1 in the park. While I was there, we had amazing weather. It rained only on the last day, when I had seen everyday. The other days were either warm, sunny, and (very) windy, or slightly cooler, partly cloudy, and slightly calmer. I have never hiked in stronger winds than I did on the sunny days!

The park is amazing because there is so much to see, and so much variety. Everyday there were large changes in scenery, all of it beautiful.

View of the Torres from the first refugio.

Los Torres del Paine

Los Torres del Paine

Someone decided it was a great idea to take a dip in the freezing lake

One of many lakes in the park

Headed down the trail on day 2.

Los Cuernos, from an angle.

Better view of the lake

Sunset on day 2

Looking back on the lake as we hike up Valle Frances on day 3.

Every 15 minutes or so we could hear a chunk of ice fall.

Valle Frances

Valle Frances from Mirador Britanico

There were amazing views in every direction.

Heading out of Valle Frances

Our first peak at Glacier Grey.

Stopping to take a look.

One section of Glacier Grey, next to Lago Grey

The last day had cloudier and rainier weather, but at that point we had seen everything, and it made for some interesting views, anyway.

http://pratt.im/travels/torres-del-paine/fa31b930-5797-44c9-a163-7efc9cb41ee9Sat, 07 Mar 2015 02:10:54 GMT
<![CDATA[Magellanic Penguins]]>On February 20, I visited Isla Magdalena, home of Magellanic penguins, situated in the Strait of Magellan, and in the Magellanic region of South America (This place is seriously Magellanic). The island is the breeding ground for a colony of about 60,000 penguins, which inhabit it from about September to April.

This island is uninhabited—the only building is a lighthouse—and is about 2 hours from Punta Arenas by ferry. We got to spend around an hour on the island, which is filled with penguins.

For my mom's class!

These seagulls spent about the entire time making a call along the lines of 'bahahaha!'

Here's what the penguins think of lines keeping the penguins and humans apart

http://pratt.im/travels/magellanic-penguins/86c8074a-b40b-4098-a945-ed9aba00db64Sun, 22 Feb 2015 02:31:44 GMT
<![CDATA[Punta Arenas]]>On February 17, I flew from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas, a distance of 2200km (1400mi), of which there is hardly anything in Chile, due to inhospitable terrain. In fact, there isn't even a road to southern Chile within Chile; you must go through Argentina to drive. Punta Arenas is considered the second-furthest south city in South America (It is beaten by Ushuaia, Argentina).

On February 18, I visited a replica of the Nao Victoria, the first ship to circumnavigate the globe, in 1519-1522, and discoverer of the Magallanes region, where Punta Arenas is located. It struck me as a rather small space to spend three years with many other sailors. The replica is very good, and in the same location they are in the process of building a replica of the HMS Beagle, the ship upon which Charles Darwin sailed.

Nao Victoria

Entrance to the captian's quarters on Nao Victoria

Nao Victoria's hold

It would appear that a cruise ship followed me from Puerto Montt

http://pratt.im/travels/punta-arenas/fba6bc16-6d70-4945-95a5-d077db21ef27Thu, 19 Feb 2015 21:31:33 GMT
<![CDATA[Petrohué and Puerto Montt]]>On February 15, I spent the day around Petrohué, about an hour from Puerto Varas by city bus. Petrohué is much closer to Osorno Volcano, and is situated on Lago Todos Los Santos. I hiked up the Desolation Trail (likely named due to its lack of tree cover), which gave me great views of the volcano and the lack, and also took me through several of the 'rivers' created in one of the previous eruptions. Osorno Volcano last erupted in 1976.

Osorno Volcano from the Patrohue Waterfall

The Petrohue Waterfalls, Los Saltos de Petrohue

'River' created by one of the previous eruptions.

It extends towards the lake

Lago Todos Los Santos (All Saints Lake)

Osorno Volcano

Lago Todos Los Santos (All Saints Lake)

On February 16, I headed back to Puerto Montt, which is one of Chile's largest ports. There, I took a small boat to the nearby Isla Tenglo, which has great views of the city and harbor.

Taking a boat over to Isla Tenglo

The cross on Isla Tenglo, Puerto Montt and Osorno Volcano in the background

A giant Chilean flag greets all the boat in the harbor (such as the cruise ship that was present today)

http://pratt.im/travels/petrohue/defb656e-224f-4da4-9aa6-eadf749d8e3cMon, 16 Feb 2015 23:22:28 GMT
<![CDATA[From Bariloche to Puerto Varas]]>On February 12, I visited Lago Gutiérrez, about 30 minutes from Bariloche. This lake is situated along a national park, which has a small waterfall and short hike to a nice overlook of the lake, with Bariloche in the distance.

Kayaking on Lago Gutiérrez

Lagos Gutiérrez (near) and Nahuel Huapi (far)

On February 13, I took a bus back to Chile, from Bariloche to Puerto Montt, Chile. I arrived fairly late to Puerto Montt, thanks to several hours waiting in traffic at the Argentina and Chile border control stations (There are two, one before leaving Argentina, and another about 30 miles later, on the other side of a mountain pass, entering Chile).

Puerto Montt is actually a fairly boring port town on a bay, so in the morning on February 14, I took a short 30 minute city bus ride to Puerto Varas, a tourist lake town, situated on Lago Llanquihue. The lake is overlooked by the Calbuco and more impressive Osorno Volcanos.

Osorno Volcano and Lago Llanquihue

Osorno Volcano from Puerto Varas

http://pratt.im/travels/from-bariloche-to-puerto-varas/1af0fc1d-39ff-4383-a88d-3844a10dfadeSun, 15 Feb 2015 00:59:19 GMT
<![CDATA[Bariloche]]>On February 10, I arrived in Bariloche, Argentina after taking a scenic bus ride through a pass on the Chile-Argentina border. Bariloche is a very nice small mountain/lake resort town, which looks like it would fit in well near Lake Tahoe, or in the NC mountains. It is situated on Lake Nahuel Huapi, a beautiful mountain lake.

On February 11, I rented a bike and followed a scenic 27km (17mi) route along the lake. Though the route, particularly the hills, were tough, the views were amazing.

Lake Nahuel Huapi at the beginning of the ride.

Making our way to a better viewpoint.

Lake Nahuel Huapi and a few of its islands.

Overlooking Lake Nahuel Huapi

http://pratt.im/travels/bariloche/efbf7f9f-9b3a-4e9b-9ab2-73ef1a715f53Wed, 11 Feb 2015 20:56:23 GMT
<![CDATA[Lima and Santiago]]>Despite feeling bad off and on for a few days, I headed to downtown Lima on February 6. In the San Francisco Monestary, I got to visit the catacombs under the church, where you can see the bones of the thousands that were buried there sorted by type and arranged in odd patterns. I'm not sure why they went through the trouble of sorting...

I also visited a museum about the Peruvian Inquisition, which lasted from 1570 to 1820, and tried and executed people for their deviation from the faith. The court may have had a secret passageway to the catacombs at San Francisco Monestary.

Lima's Plaza de Armas

San Francisco Monestary

On February 7, I flew to Santiago, capital of Chile. Santiago is the largest city I've visited, and the most modern, feeling much like a large city in the US (For example, the hostel I was in was 9 stories tall!).

In Santiago, I visited the Museum of Human Rights, which covers the mass disappearances and exiles of political opposition during the reign of the military dictatorship from 1973-1990.

Santiago's Museum of Human Rights

View of Santiago from Santa Lucia Hill

Overnight on February 9, I am taking a bus south to Osorno, in the Lakes District, then catching another bus to visit Bariloche, Argentina for a few days.

http://pratt.im/travels/lima-and-santiago/cc99fa29-5fa6-47ee-82e2-f5e14616f32fMon, 09 Feb 2015 19:41:01 GMT
<![CDATA[Lake 69]]>On Tuesday, February 3, I went on a day hike to Lake 69, in the Huascaran National Park, near Huaraz. The lake sits at 4600m (15000ft) above sea level. It was a three hour drive to the trailhead, and a two hour hike up to the lake, passing several other lakes along the way.

One of the Llanganuco Lakes, on the drive to the trail.

Lake 68, halfway to Lake 69.

Approaching Lake 69, just below the glacier.

Lake 69

Lake 68, viewed from above

Looking down the valley

That night I took a bus from Huaraz to Lima, where I arrived at 6:30am. The Miraflores district, where I am staying, is considered the nicest part of Lima, and its modern feel makes it seem like a different country from the rest of Peru.

Miraflores coastline

http://pratt.im/travels/lake-69/e88a35c1-dd4d-4687-99ec-ecc6d55380e5Wed, 04 Feb 2015 21:31:10 GMT
<![CDATA[Parade in Huaraz]]>This morning (February 2), I noticed the sound of marching bands right outside. Lo and behold, there was a full parade happening on the street below. I haven't yet determined why there was a parade.

http://pratt.im/travels/parade-in-huaraz/89a48353-c9be-46af-bdac-86ebaec26ff9Mon, 02 Feb 2015 21:22:10 GMT
<![CDATA[Laguna Wilkacocha]]>On January 31, I flew to Lima, and the same day took a 7 hour (OK, 10 hour, since the bus broke down) bus ride to Huaraz, Peru, home of the Cordillera Blanca (White Range) mountains.

On February 1, I took a short hike up to Laguna Wilkacocha, a small lake with a great view of the mountains. 20 minutes in a jam-packed "collectivo" took me to the trailhead, and it took a little less than 2 hours to climb past many traditional homes to the lake.

Laguna Wilkacocha

The laguna with the Cordillera Blanca in the background.

The Cordillera Blanca

http://pratt.im/travels/laguna-wilkacocha/84cc1c48-c465-40fe-870c-6e3a74d28ce9Mon, 02 Feb 2015 02:31:36 GMT
<![CDATA[Pisac and Colca Canyon]]>On Friday, January 23, I visited Pisac, a small town outside of Cusco in the Sacred Valley. It was a really nice place to visit, as it was very calm and quiet compared to Cusco. The ruins on the hills surrounding the town were neat and a nice place to enjoy the view.

Ruins at Pisac.

The town of Pisac.

On the 24th, I headed to the city of Arequipa, were I headed out on a trek in Colca Canyon. Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world (after another in Peru), and home of the condor, one of the largest birds in the world.

Arequipa's Plaza de Armas.

A hawk in Colca Canyon.

A condor in Colca Canyon.

We started at the top of the canyon, hiked down, where we spent a day and a half in the canyon, then hiked back out.

Colca Canyon from the top.

Made it to the bottom!

Accomodations near the bottom of the canyon.

Thijmen, Saskia, Joost, and I.

"The oasis" at the bottom of the canyon.

http://pratt.im/travels/pisac-and-colca-canyon/23ede7bf-7831-4b13-961c-45fe71c7565bWed, 28 Jan 2015 01:33:59 GMT
<![CDATA[Salkantay Trek]]>At 4am on January 17, I set out on the Salkantay Trek. This five day trek starts in Ollantaytambo, and climbs over the Salkantay Pass, into the jungle, and finally ending in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo). The last day is spent at Machu Picchu.

Our group consisted of 29 people from a wide variety of countries. The trekking company carried some of our gear and cooked three delicious meals everyday.

The first day we drove to Ollantaytambo, and spent the day climbing 1000m (3200ft) (from 2900m (9500ft) to 3900m (12800ft) above sea level). Over the course of the day, we could see larger and larger mountains. We finished the day camping at the base of Salkantay Mountain, just below the snow line.

View from one of the first rest stops.

Hiking towards one of the large mountains, behind which is Salkantay.

Tents in a tent at the Salkantay base camp.

The second morning was spent hiking up to the Salkantay Pass, 4650m (15250ft) above sea level. Much of the hiking was through the snow, but the temperature was well above freezing, which actually made the hike quite comfortable, as I was kept cool, but not cold.

Salkantay base camp, 3900m above sea level.

Headed towards Salkantay.

500m from the highest point on the trek, Salkantay Pass.

Looking back.

It snowed overnight, covering some of the trail.

Getting higher! Our campsite on the first night was in the green valley.

Getting close!

We made it to the pass around 10:30 the second day.

On the pass.

Most of our trekking group, "Sexy Llamas".

After reaching the highest point, we hiked down Salkantay into the wetter jungle.

Descending down from the pass, towards the jungle.

The third and fourth days were spent hiking towards Aguas Calientes. These days were much flatter; the third primarily followed a road, and the fourth a set of train tracks.

One of the river crossings.

A unique way to cross the river.

All of the mountains are beautiful.

Aguas Calientes, or Machu Picchu Pueblo, only accessible by train or foot, sits in a deep valley below Machu Picchu.

On the fifth day, we hiked up to Machu Picchu, the Incan city built atop a mountain. It rained early in the morning, and clouds came and went, but overall it was a great day to see the ruins.

I also climbed up Huayna Picchu, one of the mountains next to Machu Picchu, which provided spectacular views of the city and surrounding landscape.

800m of steps up from Aguas Calientes, the view from Machu Picchu is spectacular.

Enjoying the view.

It rained early in the morning.

The views of the Incan city went in and out of the clouds.

Machu Picchu from the Machu Picchu guard house.

Climbing 250m more up Huayna Picchu.

Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu.

The view from Huayna Picchu was spectacular.

Gotta get a photo!

Exploring Machu Picchu.

Huayna Picchu from Machu Picchu.

Thijmen, Alice, Joost, and I.

"I must have a selfie with a llama!"

The llama wasn't so keen on wearing a hat.

Someone told me I had to take a selfie.

It rained almost every night, but we were very lucky to avoid rain while we were hiking every day expect the last, especially considering it was the rainy season. The views were absolutely spectacular, especially near Salkantay Mountain, and I am very glad I did the trek.

http://pratt.im/travels/salkantay-trek/88279239-8343-4964-8977-ee1298d41faaSat, 24 Jan 2015 02:25:56 GMT
<![CDATA[Qorikancha]]>On January 16, in addition to preparing for my trek, I visited Qorikancha. Qorikancha was the Temple of the Sun in the Inca culture. When the Spanish arrived, they converted the temple into a church, but incorporated much of the original Inca structure, which remains to this day.

On the exterior, you can see the dark Incan structure, and the more modern Spanish structure around.

Modern Cathedral built around Qorikancha. You can see one of the Inca structures on the left.

Incan doorway and structure.

Original Incan Qorikancha layout.

Incan structure.

Cusco from the rooftop.

http://pratt.im/travels/qorikancha/3acb2c3f-bae3-41f3-b1fd-5f0625cf0679Fri, 23 Jan 2015 02:57:58 GMT