roblog - Official Blog of Rob Hurvitz

28 Jan 2009 - 2:05:48 PM

Hey, I'm in Argentina. It's pretty darn hot here currently -- it's all I can do to brave the heat in order to visit wineries and stroll through Aconcagua National Park and go rock climbing. It's a hard life I lead.

Yeah, the wine's pretty good here. I tasted a decent Malbec and Syrah and Muscatel. Mmm, Malbec. Perhaps I'll have some wine tonight, now that I'm thinking about it. Aconcagua (the highest mountain in the Americas) was absolutely gorgeous. Only had an hour to hike around, though, which was unfortunate. It would've been nice to have had longer, like a day or three. Haven't done the rock climbing yet -- that's tomorrow. Should be all set for Bariloche. I'll be heading there next, and there's all sorts of outdoor activities to be had there. Just have to survive the 20 hour bus ride. I'm almost out of time at this internet cafe, so only a short post today.

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23 Jan 2009 - 2:52:37 PM

Tonight's my last night in Santiago. I leave for Mendoza, Argentina, tomorrow. It's a little odd because there's a bunch of climbing around here, and I didn't sample any of it. Ah well. Another time, I suppose, another time when it's not so freakin' hot. Spent most of my time here walking around the city, but today I took the Metro as far as it would go, then hopped on a bus to the Concha y Toro Winery. It's one of the biggest wineries in Chile. They gave a nice little tour, and I tasted a couple wines. Bought a bottle of carmenere, too. I'm hoping I can find some folks willing to help me drink it tonight in the hostel -- shouldn't be too hard.

bellas artes
Museo de Bellas Artes, my favorite kind of artes -- Santiago, Chile

money shot
Palacio de la Moneda, the presidential palace -- Santiago, Chile

another big building
Ex-National Congress -- Santiago, Chile

The Concha y Toro vineyard Pirque Añejo, growing cabernet sauvignon grapes -- Pirque, Chile

pouring the wine
There were a lot of people on the English tour. We got to keep the wine glasses, too, but I don't think I'll be stuffing that into my backpack. Pirque, Chile.

the devil's cellar
Slightly blurry photo of Casillero del Diablo, the devil's cellar. So nice and cool down there, and so hot and bright outside... Pirque, Chile.

Well, tomorrow's bus ride is supposedly seven hours long, but that's not including all the border crossing formalities, which can eat up several more hours. Hopefully the Andes won't be too cloudy -- I have a north-facing window seat from which I'll be keeping my eye out for Aconcagua. This isn't really a farewell to Chile, because I'll be crossing back and forth between Argentina and Chile down south in Patagonia, but it kind of feels like one. Hasta pronto, Chile.

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21 Jan 2009 - 12:52:28 PM
Como se dice "inauguration"?

Well, I spent yesterday afternoon in my hostel's lounge, watching the Obama inauguration along with a dozen or so other travelers, some American, some not. The biggest surprise for me, I think, was seeing Dick Cheney in a wheelchair -- his transformation to evil supervillain is now almost complete! All he needs is a furry white cat in his lap to constantly stroke.

So let's see, Santiago so far hasn't been so bad. It's a big city, sure, but there's stuff to do, and good restaurants to eat in, and I'm staying at a convenient, fun hostel. Last night I decided to splurge a little and went to a sushi restaurant, Kintaro, and I have to say it was some of the best sushi I've ever had. Ordered a selection of fish, and it was all excellent, even the piece of saba (mackerel). Well, except for the unagi -- it had a one little chewy section, so that piece was just okay. Miso soup was good, too. It's tempting to go back there tonight.

I'm not sure how much longer I'll be in Santiago, maybe two or three more days. Next up will be Mendoza, I think -- need to look into bus tickets.

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19 Jan 2009 - 7:57:52 AM
I left my socks in Valparaiso

Spent about four days in and around Valparaiso. Interesting city, with all the hills and old funicular elevators and narrow twisty streets and splashes of color all over the place and a bit of a run-down element. Walking around can be quite wonderful -- turn a corner and see something cool. As long as you don't venture too far into the slummier neighborhoods, I suppose. Then you might see something you don't want to see. I also ventured out to La Campana National Park to hike up Cerro La Campana, but got there a little late, not realized that the park closed at 5:30, and the rangers actually want the day trippers out by then, even though sunset is currently around 8:30. So I didn't quite make it to the summit but got some pretty good views nonetheless. Of course, there were still a bunch of people hiking down by the time I left, and the rangers didn't seem to be around and checking to make sure folks actually returned.

funicular tracks
Rode on a few funiculars. This is Ascensor Artilleria, one of the lower angle funiculars. Valparaiso, Chile.

a room with a view
Nicely perched building near the above funicular. Wouldn't want to be in it during an earthquake, though... Valparaiso, Chile.

the streets of Valparaiso
I like the skinny building and the steep, narrow streets -- Valparaiso, Chile

creative parking
With the narrow streets, parking can be a little tight sometimes. Always make sure you match the building you park next to. Valparaiso, Chile.

There are lots of murals here. This is a part of one. Valparaiso, Chile.

La Sebastiana
Pablo Neruda had a house here, and is well worth checking out -- Valparaiso, Chile

Cerro La Campana
This is the mountain I didn't summit. Oh well. Maybe next time. Granizo, Chile.

Oh yeah. I gave a bag of filthy laundry to a little laundromat the other day, and it came back two pairs of socks lighter. I asked them about it, and they looked around but didn't find them. Ah well. Maybe next time I'll end up with someone else's socks. Hopefully they'll be cleaner than mine were.

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15 Jan 2009 - 11:08:36 AM
La Serena

Well, I'm in La Serena for the remainder of the day. I was thinking about spending one more night here, but my guesthouse is all full tonight with reservations, and so instead I'll be doing yet another night bus, this time to Valparaiso. I should probably read up on that city in the guidebook soon. Supposedly there's some bouldering just north of there, according to this Chilean climbing site. Probably won't do any of that, but I did do a long day of climbing in Coquimbo yesterday, a town very close to La Serena. Big chunks of rock near the sea with holds that seemed to be either slopy or sharp. Very picturesque. There was even a little lighthouse just south of the climbing area. Got a couple easy-ish leads in, a not-so-easy-ish top-rope, and a bit of bouldering time. A fun day.

cleaning the anchor
Me in the top right cleaning the anchors to a 5.8 I'd led earlier that had a couple tricky moves. The grades here seemed a little sandbagged to me, but oh well. Coquimbo, Chile.

clipping the anchor
Getting to the top of another 5.8, this one called Ron Ramon. Also felt a little stiff for a 5.8, but maybe I'm just getting out of shape -- I've only climbed 3 or 4 times in the past month. Coquimbo, Chile.

bouldering with a top-rope
Pretty cool boulder problem that is popular enough that someone's added a couple anchor bolts on top so that gringos can flail around on it safely. A couple long throws, a couple knee bars, and even a double knee bar/hands-free rest at a spot I didn't get to. Maybe next time I'm in town I'll send it. Coquimbo, Chile.

faro punta de la tortuga
Here's the pretty little lighthouse you can see from the top of the climbing routes or from several other spots you can scramble to. I believe it's called Faro Punta de la Tortuga (Turtle Point Lighthouse). Coquimbo, Chile.

Okay, enough with the climbing jargon! Only eight more hours until my night bus. Maybe I'll be able to make a dent in the bottle of Pisco I bought the other day during a tour of the Elqui Valley. That ought to help me get some sleep on the bus.

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11 Jan 2009 - 9:08:05 AM
Last Day in San Pedro de Atacama

I have five or so hours before I leave on a bus for La Serena -- seems like a good time to write up a little roblog post. The past week has been very busy, and not having an agenda today, except for getting on a bus, is quite nice. Spent yesterday climbing around the town of Toconao, about 30km from San Pedro. Toconao has a very pretty canyon or two, the main one called Quebrada de Jere, and I climbed in two spots, all top-rope. The canyon management doesn't like bolts, so it's either trad or top-rope. Started off with a couple routes a short walk from the bridge into town, a stiff warm-up (vertical to overhanging route with a bunch of fingertip pockets), a varied but tricky route (awkward bulge to more fingertip pockets), and an easy crack-like route back to the top. We then moved to Jere Canyon for lunch and an easy route, a hard route, and a "satánico" route. I made it through the hard crack route with a little ratcheting help through the crux (where the crack peters out at a puzzling bulge) from my guide, Marcelo. Made it about half way up the satanic route, where it got all dirty, and the barely positive fingertip pockets just went away. Interesting route that, from what I understood from the guide (he spoke only Spanish), nobody's finished.

5.11 warm-up
My guide said this route, Alemania, was less difficult than the one on left, and so I climbed it first, only later finding out it's 5.11. Nice flash pump warm-up. Apparently "less difficult" means less technique -- all arms. Toconao, Chile.

easier route?
Supposedly this route, Pablito, is easier than the first, but I fell a bunch of times. The sun was in my eyes. Yeah, that's it -- the sun was in my eyes. Toconao, Chile

Quebrada de Jere
Jere Canyon, where I had lunch and climbed another 2.5 routes -- Toconao, Chile

The day before climbing I was planning to take it easy, but ended up going on a bike ride to a pre-Inca fortress and a really cool mountain biking spot called Quebrada del Diablo, the Devil's Canyon. The Quitor Fortress was interesting to walk around, but it was hot and hard to get good pictures of the low stone walls. Walked up to a viewpoint, and that was about it. The view was nice (see below), but if you enjoy mountain biking, I'd recommend just going to the Devil's Canyon.

arches and volcano
View from not quite the top, but good enough for me. The volcano in the arch is Licancabur, which I didn't climb. Maybe next time. Pukará de Quitor, Chile.

shady spot
There are several curvy little caves you bike through in the Devil's Canyon. The shade was very welcome. Quebrada del Diablo, Chile.

bike trail
Part of the trail through the canyon. Quebrada del Diablo, Chile.

end of the trail
The main bike trail ends at this spot, and then you can walk up to the viewpoint. There are also several side trails you can take, but I didn't check those out because it was getting a little late, and I'd just run out of water. Quebrada del Diablo, Chile.

I'll miss San Pedro, but if I stay here any longer I may never leave. It's the kind of town where I have the feeling that I'll run into someone I know. It's fairly touristy, but there's so much to do around here that I can forgive that. Anyway, La Serena here I come. Serenity now!

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8 Jan 2009 - 2:58:19 PM
Volcan Lascar

So I hemmed and hawed yesterday for a few hours about climbing a 5604m high active volcano because it was kind of an expensive trip and I dehydrate fairly easily when hiking -- couple that with high elevation and I'm asking for trouble. But then I thought: when am I going to have another chance to summit such a tall and non-technical volcano, especially when I'm already acclimatized to higher elevation? So I threw down the credit card and signed up. There were three of us: me, a Swiss guy, and the guide. 4:30 a.m. start, with a three hour drive to the start of the hike at 4800m. For a minute it seemed like we were just going to drive all the way to the top. But then we stopped and started hiking. Very, very slowly. Only 800m elevation gain, but it took three hours to summit. The guide helpfully reminded us to keep drinking water, but I'm never able to drink enough, it seems, and on the push from the crater to the summit I was really slow and a touch unsteady on my feet. No headache or nausea, though. Just dehydration. I guzzled down the water on the way back, which helped. Anyway, it was absolutely gorgeous up there. High altitude plains with tough grassy vegetation covering the ground and gentle slopes to the various volcanos, a lake with flamingos, a few vicuñas and suris (large flightless birds, remind me of emus) roaming around, a brilliant blue sky, snow dusting the tops of the higher peaks. Amazing. I'm incredibly tired now, but wanted to share a few pictures.

Laguna Legia
4000+ m high lake just after sunrise, perfectly still and reflecting (l to r) Lascar, Agua Calientes, Pili, and one I don't know the name of -- Volcan Lascar, Chile

Lascar and Agua Calientes
View up to the summit of Lascar, with Agua Calientes behind -- Volcan Lascar, Chile

Lascar crater rim
Part of the crater rim of Lascar, the wind was fortunately at our back and blowing the smoke coming out of it away from us -- Volcan Lascar, Chile

summit view
One small part of the view from the summit of Lascar -- Volcan Lascar, Chile

me on Lascar
As you can see, I was very happy to reach Lascar's summit at 5604m, the highest elevation I've ever reached -- Volcan Lascar, Chile

I was going to try and arrange some kind of rock climbing trip for tomorrow, but I'm just too tired and want to sleep in tomorrow, take it easy. Maybe Saturday. Some of the best rock climbing in Chile is about 100 km away from San Pedro. It'd be a shame to miss out on it...

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7 Jan 2009 - 12:14:10 PM
I [Heart] Andes

I'm still in San Pedro de Atacama, and I have to say it's a pretty cool place to be. Checked out some high desert scenery, visited a salt flat and a couple high altitude lakes, and this morning I got up way too early to visit the El Tatio geyser field (4300m elevation!). Various snow-topped volcanos were on display on the drive back -- so gorgeous. There's so much to do around here that I could stay for weeks, but Patagonia is calling. Just a few more days in San Pedro, I think.

The Amphitheater at sunset -- Valle de Luna, Chile

pretty rocks
More of the valley at sunset -- Valle de Luna, Chile

pretty in pink
A flamingo strolling through the Chaxa Lagoon -- Atacama Salt Flat, Chile

Pretty bird that wanted our lunch -- Laguna Miñiques, Chile

crazy like a fox
Andean fox that ran by our minibus -- Laguna Miñiques, Chile

Me contemplating the depths of a fumarole -- El Tatio, Chile

The sun finally crept over the Andes and made the geyser steam all bright -- El Tatio, Chile

hot geyser action
A geyser doing its thing -- El Tatio, Chile

steam plume
A lovely plume of steam rising from a geyser -- El Tatio, Chile

It seems like all the peaks around San Pedro are volcanos, and this is one of them -- San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

nature triptych
I liked the mountain-cactus-grass triple whammy in this composition -- San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

So many pictures! Good thing I brought extra memory cards for my camera.

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4 Jan 2009 - 3:24:23 PM
Last Night I Dreamt of San Pedro

Okay, I didn't actually get much sleep on the overnight bus from Iquique to Calama, but I did get about an hour on the Calama to San Pedro de Atacama bus. That lyric's been looping around my brain, though, for better or worse -- I'm sure the sleep deprivation has had something to do with that. After a couple days in the beach town of Arica, I spent about a day and a half in the much larger beach town of Iquique. I think I've had my fill of beaches for the time being, but I did find a pretty great restaurant in Iquique -- El Tercer Ojito. If you ever find yourself in Iquique, Chile, make sure you check it out.

A little gem of a place I stumbled into was the Teatro Municipal of Iquique (I like saying Iquique), located right on Plaza Prat. It's been around for some time, and at the moment they're assessing what all needs to be done to restore it. While this is going on, you can go in and roam around to your heart's content, completely unsupervised, for only 1000 pesos (about $1.50). Pretty cool, and I was able to sneak out a vintage wall sconce in my daypack -- awesome souvenir! [Okay, so I didn't actually do that, but there's really nothing stopping you...]

all the world's a stage
Looking down at the Teatro Municipal stage from the top of the main aisle -- Iquique, Chile

balconies and ceiling
Looking out at the balconies and the ceiling.

ceiling detail
I liked the composition of this shot of the top of the stage and the two parts of the ceiling, but it was a hard one for me to get with my little Elph.

painted angel
Close up of an angel painted, with shadow, above the stage.

Different faces from what I assume is Greek mythology lined the ceiling above the balconies. Maybe this is Zeus? Maybe a muse?

wooden stageworks
This one's for the theater geeks -- the wooden stageworks below the stage. Pretty much every area of the theater was open for wandering around.

So now I'm in San Pedro and will be spending the next few days roaming about the altiplano, checking out lakes and volcanos and birds and dunes and cool rock formations and geysers and other fun stuff like that. Maybe even some ruins. But no beaches.

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1 Jan 2009 - 6:44:32 PM
Arica, Chile

¡Feliz año nuevo! I made it to Chile for New Year's, and it was pretty fun. Lots of live music in one of the downtown plazas, and then a splashy fireworks display from the top of El Morro, the town's iconic headland and former Peruvian military fort. Yeah, there's a lot of history between Perú and Chile that I'm only now starting to learn about. Anyway, my first impressions of Chile are a little odd, but it's probably just the transition from Perú to Chile. I'll see how it goes in the coming weeks. But so far, Peruvian food seems better, and there are a lot more overweight Chileans than Peruvians. Chile is much more safe, though. Blah, blah, blah -- enough with the generalizations! Here are a whole lot of pictures from Perú. Sorry about not getting them up earlier, but better late than never, eh? First six are from the three-day Colca Canyon trek. The trek part was actually just two days -- the third day was some condor-watching and a visit to some hot springs.

Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon, Perú

the hike down
The hike down into Colca Canyon

Colca intervillage commerce
Donkey driver, Colca Canyon

Village church, Colca Canyon

The Oasis, a little slice of tourist heaven at the bottom of Colca Canyon with natural spring-fed swimming pools. Note the switchbacks on the left -- that was the start of the hike out.

One of several condors I saw in Colca Canyon

The next batch are from the Santa Catalina convent in Arequipa. It's a lovely complex with all sorts of picture-taking opportunities. Had a hard time picking out the following five. There are still some nuns living in the convent, actually.

A fancy door in the Santa Catalina convent -- Arequipa, Perú

Big ol' pot in a garden in the Santa Catalina convent -- Arequipa, Perú

I loved this little bell -- Arequipa, Perú

red walls
The area between "Cordoba Street" and "Toledo Street" in the Santa Catalina convent -- Arequipa, Perú

more bell
Did I say I loved this little bell? Here's a more general view of it.

And finally we come to the "half-day" rock climbing trip. Supposedly it was to last from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, but we didn't get back until 4:00, which was perfectly fine by me. Climbed a two-pitch 5.8, which seemed a little stiff for the grade, then from the top of that walked over to a dry waterfall/slot canyon -- three falls, each with a rappel anchor. At the bottom of the third rappel were three more climbs, a 6a (10a), a two-pitch 6b/7a (10c/11c or thereabouts), and a new 6b. My favorite was the 6a -- great holds and fun moves.

Here I am, happily rappelling down a dry waterfall. Don't worry, my left hand was my brake hand. Arequipa, Perú.

Choco Loco
Climbing Choco Loco, a very fun 6a (5.10a) -- Arequipa, Perú

La Hierba
Just after making the crux move on the first pitch of La Hierba. First pitch is 6b (5.10c), second pitch is 7a (5.11c or so), which we didn't climb.

La Hierba, again
Approaching the anchors of the first pitch of La Hierba. As you can see, this was a lovely little place to climb.

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