Archive for December, 2011


Horseback riding in the Andes

December 30, 2011   

A relaxing morning then repacking of my bag for a few days away from Mendoza. I headed to the bus station and took a local bus for an hour and half into the Andes and got off at Manantiales which is a village next to Potrerillos.

There is a hostel that is owned by the same person as the one in Mendoza and it has the same renovation needs.

The hostel dog is called Lola, she is very friendly and enjoys going on walks with you. Which after being dogless for the past 15 months I very much enjoyed – sorry Draeger!

The hostel is at 2000m and is surrounded by mountains with a mixture of vegetation including large rushes along the river, cactus, wild sweet peas and fragrant honeysuckle.

A 5km walk downhill from the hostel is a large number of horse riding stables so after leaving my bag up at the hostel I went on a horse ride.

It was great to be back on a horse after what I think must be a few years. My bum is a bit sore to be honest.

The horses are ridden western style which is with the reins in one hand not two like I was taught. To be honest the horses know the way so well you don’t have to do anything with the reins besides hold them!

There is a horse tied up next to the hostel which I fed with lots of green grass from across the road as she had fully stripped the area within her reach. Every time I went to leave her she walked after me to the extent of her rope so I had to go back and stroke her some more. Seems like I have bought myself a friend for the next few days.

Luckily I brought myself up some food so I didn’t have to use the mini market which is due to it being a village in the Andes is a little more expensive than town.

Bleary eyed Mendoza

December 29, 2011   

I was slightly bleary eyed all day with the lack of sleep from the night before. The guide company I am with had neglected to make a reservation for me but luckily there was a lot of room. The place is a lot scruffier than the hostel in Santiago it needs a bit of a renovation. After a shower and leaving my bags at the hostel I wondered around Mendoza doing all the must see sights in one day. There isn’t a lot to the city very easy to walk around and on a grid pattern hard to get lost.

Plaza Espana had a tiled display depicting what I am sure is history of the place however, I can’t read the Spanish that was on the sign.

Plaza Independcia has a fountain, craft stalls and a Museum of Modern Art. The Museum is small and the artwork was odd. I think I am more of a landscape oil painting fan type of person than speakers playing voices and projections of peoples various body parts on plastic bags hung from the ceiling. Some of the wood carvings were actually quite good.

I met up with two other people set to climb Aconcaqua next week at the hostel. One is Margaret from Germany who is climbing with the German Alpine Club and the other is Derek from Lexington Kentucky who is with my group. Margaret decided she was interested in the last year of my life and wanted to see some pictures so I showed her a few until I was bored amazingly she was not! She is a freelance writer who specializes in science journalism and is heading of to climb a 5000m peak before Aconcaqua. I was hoping to join her but the guide wanted a very large sum of money for a 5 day climb which I couldn’t justify to myself after spending so much money on the actual climb. We had a laugh over the differing amounts of kit we have. Looks like she is going for the light approach and I am going to be a mule but a toasty warm one at that. I did bring everything on the list I was given – Margaret thinks they sent me the Everest one not the Aconcaqua one!

More Culture

December 28, 2011   

Rob and I were leaving later in the evening him to NZ and myself on a night bus to Mendoza Argentina so we had the day to explore more of Santiago. We came across a statue which included what looks like a fur seal being clawed by a lobster!

First stop was the Presidential Palace which has a few statues surrounding the front entrance and two fountains.

There are two ceremonial guards on horseback just inside the crowd control fencing. I guess they don’t have the same rules as the ones in front of Buckingham Palace as they were not statue still. There were also police around the fence line.

Across from the palace is one of the most massive flag poles and flags I have seen.

While we were standing there a few protestors jumped over the barriers and headed for the fountain carrying a sign which unfortunately Rob couldn’t translate and waving some odd flags. There was only one guy the rest were woman and one of them made it to the water. The police in their nicely polished shoes had to jump into the water after them and drag them out. Meantime the riot police were called in along with their dogs and the protestors were being handcuffed. A little bit of excitement ?

We went to the house of Pablo Neruna who was a Chilean Poet who got the Noble Prize in the early 70’s. The house is in three parts. The first part he built for his mistress to live in on her own while he divorced his wife. When he moved in with his mistress he added another part and then yet another part. He had a fascination with the sea so his houses are all in a ship theme. The first one is very narrow as it was built to one side of a stream and he must have been a short man as the ceilings are very low. Definantly a man of eclectic tastes with lots of different collections from around the world as he worked in the Chilean consulate in a few different countries.

Rob left before me it was odd to give him a hug and see him walk away after living with him for the last 14 months. Hopefully Tommy and Rob will be coming to see me next Northern winter for some California skiing if we are not all working South again! He is on to an adventure of cycling around the South Island of NZ and then to India to a course in guitar making (although he has already made a beautiful one).

I spent the night on the bus which was actually quite comfortable. It is necessary to take times with a pinch of salt in S America also the estimation of distances or numbers of blocks when taking directions. The supposed 6 hour trip was more like 9 and half hours which was fine as it meant we got to Mendoza at 7:30am. Getting through the border took about 3 hours as four people got full interrogation like me and my apple I guess. I was a little worried about using my British passport to enter but it seems there was not need to be – they are happy to take the pounds in tourism it seems.

25% Cultural

December 27, 2011   

We attempted to do the cultural things in Santiago and only got to see a fraction of what we wanted to. It seemed like everything was closed for renovation and was meant to re open 6 months ago – Pre Colombian art, Santiago Museum etc.

We got to the Museum of Fine Arts finally after going on a wild goose chase as google maps had it about 5km away from its actual location. The exhibits were a bit odd in that there was a Hungarian photographer who had taken photos of New York, Paris and Hungary between 1914 and 1965ish I am not quite sure what his connection was with Chile. There was also a lot of artwork by Matta who is Chilean but his stuff is surrealist style which seemed like he had been at the BAS base of Halley for the past two years. Not quite all there! There was one piece of art by a Chilean whose last name was Scottish made of about 40 old record players which were spinning. On each spinning record player was a globe – all different constructions and sizes (one was a hacky sack). I was pretty certain Tommy would have had a fit if he had seen how overloaded the electrical strips were.

Lunch in a grassy park in the shade of the trees as you can see from the photo my skin is so white you almost need sunglasses to look at me with the reflection.

Next stop was the Cathedral at Plaza De Armas which had its midnight mass at 10:30pm which is why it was closed up when we got there at 11:30 for 12 on Christmas Eve. There was a nativity scene set up and some very beautiful flowers decorating the dais. The Natural History Museum was not in the google maps location so we headed back to the hostel for some refreshments and to re group and get a better map of where we were headed.

Off again in the right direction we past the train museum so I got a few pictures for my nephew Henry of Thomas, Annie and Clarabelle (I think those are the right names!).

The Natural History museum was in a beautiful building with some nice flowers in front of it but it was closed!

Santiago is full of these outdoor gyms they are great. I would jump on if it wasn’t 30 degrees!


December 26, 2011   

More grapes of both the off the vine variety to eat for breakfast and in the bottle variety today. We woke up and thought it was a day for culture however, all the museums etc are closed on Mondays. So what to do! I checked out the top 50 things to do in Santiago and found a winery we could get to by metro.

The winery we went to is the second largest in the world and has 18 different grapes including one that was thought to be extinct after a disease killed all the vines in France. There are two different types of casks to age the wine – american oak and french oak. The french oak casks are double the price of the american so the special wine is put in those and the barrels are used 4 times with the wine being aged for up to 18 months. Rob had my wine though I had a sip of each and the white was OK but the red was very strong.

On the way back we got an ice cream (a rarity on base) and stopped to get my bus ticket to travel to Mendoza which I will do overnight on Wednesday. We stopped at the supermarket and got yet more fruit and lunch makings. Also some fresh lemons for lemonade which is something I have been craving.

The meal at Vacas Gordas (Fat Cow) was very very good at an amazingly cheap price.

We are well a truly full to bursting after potatoe gratin, an 8oz+ fillet steak, spinach and a mixed salad.

Looking back at this post it is rather food orientated which is slightly odd seeing as we do have very good food on base. The fruit and veg though is in short supply hence my excitement with it 🙂

A different Christmas

December 25, 2011   

I woke up early and started to try and figure out if we could get anything to eat today despite everyone saying the restuarants and supermarkets were closed we suceeded! I went to pick up my bag at the youth hostel that had lost our reservation but didn’t make it that far as there was a corner store open. So I purchased a few eggs, coffee, juice, a tomotoe and headed back to the hostel to cook up a breakfast. Rob was up so we had two eggs each (which is such a luxury after KEP) fried with some bread and 1/2 a tomotoe each (again very tasty!).

Time for me to talk to my family in Bermuda who sent me some great pictures of the kids enjoying their presents. I sent them King Edward Point BAS hoodies and some other little presents.

We then headed out to see if we could find a place for Christmas lunch. The hostel with my bag was doing a christmas lunch but wouldn’t let anyone outside the hostel eat there so we jumped on the metro and headed for the park which has the zoo and Virgin Mary. We bought some grapes and banannas from a street stall and gorged ourselves they were so very tasty. Rob tried to use the payphones to call home to no avail – Skype really has changed the way you can communicate.

So we walked in the searing heat up the hill to the summit with the Virgin Mary and a nativity scene.
Rob wondered who the guy was lying behind the three wise men and the cow. I decided it was a shephard who had passed out from the heat!

This is me looking and feeling like a lobster today I thought I was going to die of heat not very christmassy. Hopefully this will not be the case in Argentina in two weeks when I start climbing Aconcaqua! We sat on the steps at the foot of the Virgin Mary and burn our bums on the rock as it was that hot.

My arm isn’t long enough for good self portraits so the Virgin Mary is missing her head. I think this holiday would be better in black and white so I didn’t look so bright lobster red in all the photos. Next stop was a restuarant for dinner which was quite expensive for steak, chips and salad but it was good food. Back to the hostel for talking to friends and family then a relaxing evening and early to bed. Oh and of course listening to the Queen’s speech online.

Hope you all had a wonderful day with tasty food and the presents you wanted.

Adventurous Santiago

December 24, 2011   

Well I have been here less than 5 hours and there have been all sorts of adventures.

First thing was a citation for entering Chile with an apple which I had forgotten was in the bottom of my bag! I talked my way out of a fine but it meant 45 minutes in a room in the airport while Rob waited for me. Lots of paperwork later where I was told to sign things that were written in Spanish – not really advisable seeing as I çan’t read spanish! The man who was to decide my fine was sitting at his desk on facebook and I was given a warning and a fistful of paperwork! Merry Christmas 🙂

Next thing to deal with was the bus we had booked to pick us up wasn’t there so we jumped on a local bus which was 10% of the price. I am lucky to be travelling with Rob who is carrying a very large bag of mountaineering equipment for me. BTW it is boiling hot here 85F. From where the bus left us we got a taxi which of course over charged but being christmas eve couldn’t be bothered with negotiating. We walked into the hostel and were told that the reservation we had made with the actual lady behind the desk by email a month and half ago had been screwed up and there was not room at the inn!

She gave us some crap instructions to another hostel which is actually nicer (without the pool though!) the same price and has rooms for the time we need so here Rob and I are. It has a great outside seating area with fairy lights.

After leaving our stuff at the hostel we took off to the Plaza del Armas to see if there was a midnight mass at the Cathedral which I had been told was the case but everything is completely closed up and the streets are empty. After about a 6km hike we are back in the hostel. All we have eaten all day is crisps and chocolate I am looking forward to my steak dinner we booked on Boxing Day. Slightly jealous of everyone back at base who are at this moment at the church in Gytviken and then will have a wonderful day on base eating great food tomorrow. However, they won’t have the wonderful company of Rob 🙂

Speedy Sheep Shearing

December 23, 2011   

It was a wet and windy day so not a good one for a walk to Pembroke Light. Instead we visited the Reverend Hines and his wife at the Deanery and did a bunch of emails. So not an exciting day really.

There was a speed shearing competition at the local pup which Ken took me to.

The shearing was such a big event they closed off the street!

Then dinner at Leigh Anne’s (one of the rat team) with the rest of the guys that came back on the Pharos. A very tasty dinner of fishcakes, salad from the garden and squid curry.

Stunning Sail


Went for my first sail today since August 2010! Was worried I might forget what to do 🙂 Rob and I are staying at Sally Poncet’s house in Stanley. Sally is a legend she has an amazing history of work in South Georgia and the Peninsula she is still in South Georgia working on the rat project. Ken Passfield picked us up off the ship he also has a long history of work in South Georgia. He was one of the government officers in 2002 and has a 30 footer here in Stanley. He took us off sailing last night on Pouvenier to Kidney which is a rat free tussock covered island 8 miles out from Stanley. It is a government run nature reserve that few (even Falkland Islanders) know about and the only way to get there is to have your own boat.

The most special time on the island is at dusk when the sooty shearwaters return to their burrows. I have never seen anything like it except maybe when I was in Dubai and saw the cormorants return to roost in the Musandam.

We left the dock at 5pm and with the wind behind us took off through the narrows with jackass penguins porpoising in our wake. BTW they are called that because their call is like a donkey! Out past the patrol ship and oil supply ship and round a small point into an anchorage amoungst the kelp about 100m from shore. We let out 30 meters of anchor all chain but with a windlass to hoist it back up thank goodness.

Ken got the wood burning stove going and it was cosy in the cabin he also cooked up a delicious dinner of local steak, potatoes and salad. The sun was starting to set as we finished dinner and the shearwaters were starting their nightly circling of the island. The behaviour goes back to skua predation however, now there are no longer skuas around so really it isn’t necessary.

We jumped in the dinghy and were soon surrounded by 15 or so curious sea lions (similar to furries but with a slightly different shaped head) that escorted us to shore. The sea lion males on the shore were massive bigger than our fur seals on SG. Two trips later got Graham (rat eradication helicopter engineer), Rob, Ken and myself ashore.

The tussock is amazing it is higher than SG it towered above even Rob and Ken said it could get to 3m tall.

There is a little hut with four bunks which researchers use. The island was packed with wildlife – tussock birds, steamer ducks, thrushes, white chin petrels etc. We headed across the way to Dixie Cove to see if their were any penguins in but the beach was empty which Ken found a little unusual. Back past some tussock mounds which had caught fire in WWII and never regenerated but with many new small plants collinating the earth.

There are shearwater and white chin burrows all over the place one has to be careful not to put your foot down a burrow!

We sat down looking over the water at the sunset and boat at anchor next to a few burrows and watched the 10,000’s of shearwaters circling above our heads. The air traffic control must be amazing 🙂 After quite a while one by one they came into land quite ackwardly. You just hear thump thump thump as they fall out of the sky and skurry into their burrows. One mistook me for a tussock mound and hit me on the head on its way home!

Before it became totally dark we headed back to the boat and motored back to Stanley in a rain squall. What an amazing day which did alter my view of the Falklands!

In Stanley

December 22, 2011   

Arrived in Stanley after a very calm passage from SG of 4 days the FPV rolled like no tomorrow despite the calm seas.

We had some stunning sunsets.

The launch came alongside the FPV to take us ashore as we were anchored off.

Rob next to a sticker on the launch saying – Caledonian Ferries – we Sail to the Scottish Highlands. That would be quite a trip home!

We had a welcome party of Jude (from the South Georgia government), Ken Passfield, Graham (Kelinka’s finacee) and a sea lion which makes furries look positively small.

Time to do a bunch of chores including sending my annual report back and putting together some goodies for those still on base. Off sailing on Ken’s 30 footer this afternoon. The internet is fast here and there are a lot of cars. I am certain Stanley has become bigger as well and of course you have to carry money! Lots to relearn 🙂

Have a great christmas everyone.