The Great Margration

Stories of my life on the road.

Life at the bottom March 22, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 10:20 am

Ah, Patagonia. We tried to plan ahead! Make reservations, et cetera. Alas.

I will save us both the agony of reliving the frustration and utter nonsense that was required to get us camping reservations in Torres del Paine National Park during the peak month of high season. All I can say, is don’t do it.

After securing our reservations, we had a week to burn in Puerto Natales, which is a great town to spend maybe two days in.

We went on lots of walks, gazing across the water at the cloud-obscured mountains that were to be our destiny.

M waiting Natales

A bridge to nowhere. Or a pier, depending on your frame of mind.

One day, we rented bikes and rode 15 miles out to a bunch of caves. Our bikes had seats that were made of concrete, designed by the devil himself. The gravel road was a relentlessly bumpy washboard, which had the effect of something like a jack hammer to my tender saddle-region.

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This is me, unable to sit for the entirety of the ride home.

The caves were pretty cool. One of them had a giant sloth statue, to aid us with imagining what it might have been like 10,000 years ago when the sloths were around.

Charles sloth

Get out of my cave!

 

I found a horse jaw one day, when the tide was way out. Yet another thing I loved, but had to leave behind.

 

M horse jaw

 

Then, finally, it was time to start hiking! We caught an early bus, waited in line for a long time, paid a bunch of money, waited more, checked the weather forecast:

 

Whiteboard weather

So much to love about this weather.

 

And then we were set loose to explore the wilds of nature! Along with hundreds of other people trying to do the same thing.
Crowds

 

When we got to the top, Charles insisted on trying to fit in with all the selfies, and people trying to capture themselves mid-jump.

 

Charles crowd

 

Thankfully, we left the day hikers behind after the first day. It really was lovely out there.

 

Charles TDP

A nice rock for sitting.

 

M handstand TDP

The first in a series of handstand vignettes.

 

We walked and walked.

 

M lake

 

 

C&M Grey Glacier

Lago Grey, with Grey Glacier in the distance.

 

After leaving Torres del Paine, we took a bus to El Calafate, Argentina, which is near a rad glacier called Perito Moreno. The glacier is unusual because it’s advancing instead of retreating like most of our planet’s glaciers. We sat and watched for hours, as giant chunks would break off and make explosion noises.

 

Perito

 

There’s not much to do in El Calafate aside from the glacier, so we hopped on another bus to El Chaltén, home of the famous Fitz Roy mountain, which is featured on (clothing brand) Patagonia’s label.

 

M&C Chalten

 

El Chaltén is pretty much the opposite of Torres del Paine. You can do all sorts of amazing hikes right out your front door. For free! Without all the crowds! We loved it there.

 

M Chalten

Handstand progression.

 

M Fitz

Nothing but trails and brisk, mountain air.

 

C Fitz

Another glacier, another lake.

 

After Chaltén, we spent a few days busing and flying our way back to Santiago.

Next up, Perú! I hear they have food with actual flavor in it. Please let it be true.

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End-cuador February 28, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 5:25 pm

Like all good things, our time in Ecuador came to an end (awhile ago, but I’ve been busy!). We spent our last week there hiking the Quilotoa Loop, and visiting the volcanic mountain village of Baños.

The first thing everyone should know about the Quilotoa Loop, is that it’s actually a through hike. It took us an embarrassing amount of time researching to realize this. In total, if you don’t get lost, the hike is around 22 miles with 7000’ish feet of ascent and 4000’ish feet of descent. It wasn’t easy, mostly because of the fact that we were doing all the ups and downs between 9,500′ and 12,600′ above sea level.

 

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After being at sea level and sea-adjacent for the last two and a half months, it was great to look out onto vast expanses of green topography.

Our second day started with some pretty steep downhill, safely executed with two hands and a fanny. We adopted the lovely Gemma (pictured below), as she was quite sure she’d become desperately lost without help. Not for nothing, as most everyone gets at least a little bit lost at some point on the trail. Not us, though, thanks to Charles. (Thanks, Charles!)

 

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Charles eats log crossings like this for breakfast.

 

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We got some non-selfie Chargy shots, thanks to Gemma

 

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I wanted to keep this skull SO BAD.

 

Day three, we did some more down’ing and up’ing. We started smelling the barn (as it were), since today’s ass-kicking climb would take us to the epically beautiful Quilotoa crater lake.

 

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Too tired for quiet beauty.

 

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As we got closer to the top, we learned that the route we had taken was seriously hardcore.

 

Then finally, we made it! We celebrated by sharing a Four Loko (new style) that we had chanced to find at a grocery store in Latacunga before we started hiking. It was a very special moment.

 

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So dang pretty!

 

After reaching the top, we had a short walk around the rim to the town of Quilotoa where we slept for the night.

 

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So happy to have the excuse of posing for a picture to stop walking uphill.

 

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We managed to extract ourselves from warm beds early the next morning to catch sunrise over the lake.

 

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And then, Baños! It’s a charming little mountain town with some thermal waters. Hence the name.

 

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Baños from above.

 

We tried out the hot tubs, which were crowded and highly developed. Not my favorite, but they’re right at the foot of a legit waterfall, so bonus points awarded. We also hiked up to a giant swing on the edge of a cliff.

 

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Yeeeehaw!

 

And that was it! We bussed back to Quito for an uneventful flight to Santiago. The next chapter of our adventure: Patagonia.

 

Islas Galápagos January 22, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 9:10 pm

Wowzers. It’s difficult to express how fabulously surreal it was to set foot on a Galapagos Island, and the feeling didn’t wear off the entire time we were there. I’m sure anyone who studied Darwin in school can relate, which is maybe everyone? Unimportant. I’m going to stop talking and start in with the pictures, because there are a lot of them. You’ll probably want to get a snack.

Welcome

From Guayaquil, we Uber’ed, then flew, then bussed, then boated, then bussed again, finally ending up on Isla Santa Cruz. It’s the second largest, and most populated of the islands. Our first stop was the Darwin Research Center, where there’s lots of tortoise breeding and rehabilitating going on. Here’s Charles doing his best “curious traveler” impression:

 

C curious

 

I couldn’t stop watching the giant tortoises, which, for the record, are the most fantastically boring things walking on four legs. But somehow, you can’t stop watching. Hard to explain.

 

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In the afternoon, we went to the most pristine white sand beach I’ve ever seen. I had an opportunity to take a dead turtle picture to balance with all these living things. It was so good! His intestines were inflated and blown out his back end like a giant balloon. I wanted to take a picture, but Charles convinced me that we’d get it on the way back. Huge mistake! Someone had disappeared it in the interim, so you’ll just have to use your imaginations. Saw this cool (disappointingly) living thing, though:

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We booked a tour for the next day to see Isla Bartolomé, which included some rad snorkeling and walking around on lava fields. I could stare at this stuff forever:

 

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So cosmic. There was an underwater caldera, with colors that looked like photoshop overkill:

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And we made some lovely friends (hey Jen, Adolfo, and Bev!), who were kind enough to take our picture from the top:

 

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The next day, we took a “ferry” to Isla Isabela to spend a few days. I say “ferry” because it was really just a medium-sized speed boat, packed to the gills with humans. But it got us where we were going, so that’s important.

 

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There was this beautiful lagoon, with mangroves and junk:

 

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Our second day on Isla Isabela, we booked a trip out to see an area where lava tunnels had formed on the coast of the island. During the boat ride over, we slowed down to watch this manta ray. A google search tells me they do flips like this to push plankton into their mouths when there’s not much current. Doesn’t matter, it was rad to watch.

 

 

We walked around for a bit on the lava, and saw some boobies. Like, for reals boobies:

 

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They get blue feet from having a diet full of carotenoids, and they do a hilarious dance to show them off when they’re trying to attract the ladies. This guy was protecting his bird wife, who was sitting on a couple of eggs nearby. We also saw this baby boobie:

 

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They don’t get fancy feet until they’re older, so this guy is cursed with surviving on his fluff for the time being.

We posed for a lava tube bridge shot:

 

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Our guide promised us that absolutely everyone has their picture taken in this spot.

Once we flopped into the water for some snorkeling, things got ridiculous.

 

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We didn’t have underwater recording devices, but our guide did, so the following are his work.

Sea turtle, who is most definitely judging you right now:

 

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We saw piles of these (non-human consuming) white tip sharks:

 

 

And sea turtles that were as tall as I am, swimming like magical angels:

 

 

Another day, we took a walk to see some flamingos, which were exactly as odd as I remember them being at Disney Land. But no one really cares about flamingos, right? Luckily, there were more tortoises and iguanas! This dude was sitting on a bridge, so Charles sat down with him to see what’s what.

 

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We saw some road tortoises:

 

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And we ended up at a turtle sanctuary, where there were some amazing things happening. For one, we captured this MMA-style action:

 

 

Also, this devastatingly upside down little guy:

 

 

I really hope one of his buddies helped him out eventually. After watching him for 20 minutes, we couldn’t take the sadness anymore. Luckily, our moods were bolstered by the fact that the people running the sanctuary embrace the reality of their purpose enough to have this sign on their visitor center:

 

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Another day on Isabela, we rented some bikes and visited some cool spots in the highlands of the island. Charles made friends with these fellas:

 

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And we stopped by these massive sinkholes:

 

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AND we walked through some giant lava tubes:

 

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We spent a day doing a hike on Volcan Sierra Negra, which was supposed to erupt imminently. Alas, we did not have the opportunity to flee for our lives, since volcanoes don’t care about once in a human lifetime photo opportunities.

This is one of the largest examples of (whatever it is) in the world. Very cool.

 

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And this was the view from the top. So much volcano, and so little Charles:

 

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I’m almost done, swear it! Just a few random things left. Charles in a random lava tube lake:

 

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Sea mammals relaxing super hard:

 

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These guys almost destroyed me with their lounge skills:

 

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This short video is for all of you out there who hate mouth noises:

 

 

And that’s the end! We’re heading out in the morning for a four day backpacking trip to a volcanic crater lake, so that will be next up in the chronicles.

Hasta pronto!

 

Parte Dos, con más animales muertos December 11, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 6:03 pm

So there we were, having a perfectly lovely time in Canoa, when we decided to leave for Olón, where we had planned to do a hostel work exchange for awhile. Olón is about a six hour bus ride from Canoa, and is known for having great surfing and for being near the cesspit of young backpackers that is Montañita. Oh look! Here’s us at a three floored, Alcatraz themed dance club:

Montanita

Thanks to Simon for the picture! Music was too loud for me to think clearly enough to operate my camera.

The beach there was pretty nice, and we walked on it a bunch.

Olon splash

Margy, making a splash as per usual.

The thing was, though, we weren’t happy with our work situation. You know how sometimes things aren’t quite the way you were expecting? And it’s not anyone’s fault (especially not your own), but you just have to stop throwing good money after bad? As it were?

So we came back to Canoa!

Canoa sign

So much happened while we were gone! For one thing, they made this sign.

On the way, we stopped in for a night at a sweet little fishing village called Puerto Lopez. It was more or less like this:

PL sunset

Requisite sunset picture

PL malecon

Beach establishments, ready to meet your happy hour needs

PL boats

Hard to have a fishing village without fishing boats

We’ve been working at a different hostel for the past 10 days, and it’s been MUCH better. Charles has been surfing every day, looking all professional:

Surfing C

So tubular

We almost made a bad decision at this place:

Tattoos

What could possibly go wrong?

But we couldn’t agree on whether to go temporary or permanent, so we passed. For now.

And finally, for all my fellow creepy weirdos out there, más animales muertos! The faint of heart can feel free to close their browser windows now.

Fish3

Skeletor

Seahorse

Sir Horace Curl Tail

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This one looked like he might have died from a small bowel obstruction. Or else something related to the rope tied around his tail.

Dolphin?

I had to fight the vultures away to get a picture of this dolphin. You can see their talon prints in the sand. 

Fish2

Mr. Whiskers

Eso es toda por ahora! Until next time.

 

 

 

 

A Month in Ecuador, Parte Uno December 1, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 11:43 am

Almost exactly a month ago, Charles and I started our six month South American adventure. Our loosely defined agenda includes spending three months in Ecuador, then a month each in Patagonia, Peru, and Colombia (precise order of operations yet to be determined).

The first month has gone by quickly! We arrived in Guayaquil after the requisite 36’ish hour journey from Oakland. We planned for a couple of days there to handle some business before bussing out to the coast. It’s a fine city, that apparently sometimes looks like this:

Guayaquil stock pic

Guayaquil

It’s a less dreary image than I would have captured, had I taken pictures. From there, we took a seven hour bus ride filled with dubbed action movies at maximum volume (great opportunity to practice our Spanish listening skills!) to Canoa:

Canoa map

Canoa!

We stayed in a lovely hotel on the beach, where we took daily Spanish classes from our buddy Luis. And long walks on the beach!

Charles’ ocean prance

This drink is locally famous – it’s called La Uña de la Gran Bestia, and it’s a pretty good kick in the pants.

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La Uña de la Gran Bestia

I loved walking the beach every day and finding cool things, like shells, rocks, and dead animals. I will only include one dead animal picture in this blog, but more are available upon request.

Zombie turtle

Zombie turtle

Our Spanish classes were generally held outside, with the ocean in view to help a person keep perspective when he was sure that his brain couldn’t hold any more information.

Charles Canoa office

Charles working from his new office

One of the highlights of our time in Canoa was visiting a finca (growing coffee and cocoa and tons of other tropical delights) and craft brewery in the hills above Canoa, in a town called Rio Canoa. They make delicious beers, which aren’t quite reminiscent of the beers for which they’re named (IPA, Irish Red, Belgian Tripel, and Golden) but they’re a massive improvement on the flavorless Pilsener and Club alternatives.

Beerkingo

Talking politics with friends at the brewery

After our tour of the brewery, they made us dress up and pose for pictures:

Battle

Weapons were legit

Phew. In the interest of keeping this entry a reasonable length (also it’s lunch time), I shall end here and bring you Parte Dos in the next few days.

 

 

Nepal! April 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 12:57 am

My inability to keep up with blogging can be mostly blamed on the long walk we did here in Nepal, half because there wasn’t internet, and half because I’m just now regaining the strength necessary to revisit the aforementioned long walk.

The total distance for our trek was about 130 miles, starting at an elevation of around 2,600 feet, and topping off at Thorung La (the pass) at around 17,800 feet. THAT’S A LOT OF FEET.

With our map and the occasional handy trail markings, we set off from Besisahar. We were so so ready to be done with crazy cities, pollution, and constant price negotiations for awhile. Here’s an example of one of the not remotely confusing trail blazes. Image

The first few days featured a lot of bridge crossing, upping and downing as we made our way up the Marshyangdi river valley. Image

We quickly got used to the fact that the menus all featured the same limited options at fixed and inflated prices. After a long day of walking, though, you find a way to get excited about whatever happens to be on the plate in front of you.

There were pretty things to look at, mostly just hills and the beautiful (never ending) river winding its way through the valley. Occasionally, a waterfall to spice things up.

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Along the way, we met many people who were using porters to help them carry their gear. We felt pretty good about ourselves for being hardcore enough to carry our own packs. Then, one day, these guys scooted by us:Image

They were djs, on their way to a gig some ways up the valley. They became our new heroes.

We spent a non-insignificant portion of our trek moving out of the way of a variety of hoofed mammals. http://youtu.be/eQ3eKvw03D8

Charles tried befriending many of them, with little success. I think they were worried we would make them carry our stuff up the hills. Can’t say I didn’t seriously consider it at times.Image

Eventually, we started getting up a bit higher, and things got prettier.

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This is probably the most beautiful tea drinking bench in the world.Image

As we got higher up, the walking got harder. I started doing this a lot:Image

At one of the villages just before the pass, we joined up with some other trekkers so that we could play card games that involved more than two people. They were really cool, so we walked with them for a few days. They made us wake up really early to go over the pass, but at least it was pretty.ImageImage

And we totally made it to the top! It was torture! By that I mean that it was the most amazing thing ever, now that it’s finished.

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Cheap beer tastes so amazing at 17,800 feet.

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Being at the top was, as you might expect, the highlight of the walk. By the next day, the surroundings had changed drastically. We unexpectedly found ourselves in a sand-colored wind tunnel. It wasn’t that cool.Image

Charles and the girls tried to make the best of it by jumping up and down on one of the bridges. Pretty sad all around. http://youtu.be/WXC63gPFVNY

After we got to the town of Jomosom, which is basically almost like being back in civilization, our group disbanded. The others wanted to get back to the real world as quickly as possible, so they suffered through some miserable hours of bussing and jeeping. Meanwhile, Charles and I were convinced that we would finish up using our own two (tired) feet.

Going down the western half, through the Kali Gandaki river valley was fine. Nothing too exciting, but warmer at least. Then it started raining. For days. We were so tired of walking and being wet all the time, that we shaved two days off the recommended time by just not stopping. Image

So it was, after 16 days of walking, we made it to the end of the trail in Nyapul. From there, we caught a bus to Nepal’s second largest city, Pokhara. The dude in charge of wrangling bus passengers took one look at our soggy, dirt encrusted bodies, then made us ride on top of the bus. Flying around blind mountain curves in the rain on top of a bus is quite an experience. I was too cold and terrified to get motion sick, at least.

To anyone who has made it to this point, thank you for reading! Tomorrow afternoon, we start our three days of flying to get back home, including a day in Shanghai along the way. I’m so excited for kale and tofu right now that I can hardly stand it.

 

 

 

Doing India an Injustice March 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — margysaur @ 10:25 pm

When we were talking to people in Sri Lanka about where we should go in India, everyone insisted that 12 days was not long enough to see anything, and that we were crazy to try. Well, that sounded like a challenge I was willing to accept, so here we are, almost done with our whirlwind exploration of this ridiculously large, complex nation.

After my last post from Kandy, we took a bus to Colombo, then a plane to Chennai, Bangalore, and finally Goa. It was a long, painful 24 hours. We ended up in a little village called Arambol, which is packed to the brim with Russian and Israeli tourists in what appears to be a market place for Burning Man fashions. Rather unsettling, really. Image

We hiked out to see a really cool, apparently sacred Banyan tree.

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After visiting the tree, we gave ourselves spa treatments with some sulfurous mud from a nearby river.

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Proof that I’m eating amazing food.

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Next up, we took a rocking and rolling night bus to a surreal landscape known to the locals as Hampi. The rocks were nuts. I took too many pictures of them. Image 

On our second morning, we paid for some under-aged Indian kids to take us by boat to a monkey temple high up on a hill for sunrise. Image

There were a bunch of mean monkeys up there. They don’t look too mean in the pictures, but don’t be fooled.

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Tiny baby monkey.Image

 

Larger, friendlier monkey.

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Charles was doing a monkey video when one of them stole his water bottle. It’s worth a watch. http://youtu.be/k5twUhpErlo

One of the Indian children who labored to paddle some overweight Americans around at the break of dawn.Image

Next, wee took a much more pleasant overnight bus ride to Mumbai, then flew to Jodhpur. Unbeknownst to us, we were attempting to travel right before a major holiday called Holi, so all the buses were booked by people going home to be with family. Jodhpur is known as the Blue City. It has an amazing, enormous fort built on a hill, which I don’t have a picture of, but here are some shots from the fort.Image

 

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Holi was COMPLETE INSANITY. It’s like a country-wide color fight. Definitely something that needs to happen in the US.

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That’s all for now. Next up, the last few days of India before we fly to Nepal on April 1st.