mountains

Austria and The Town of Cats

Austria and The Town of Cats

In the fall of 2016 we went to Austria for a conference, and took the opportunity to travel across the country by train, on the way (in a way) tripping into an alternate reality of our own. It’s been almost two years and half a dozen dive trips in between, and as an interlude before the next batch of Bonaire posts, we figured it’s about time to finish those photos…

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Pan-American Roadtrip

Pan-American Roadtrip

That very afternoon, Chewie plowed–in one six-hour-long breath­–a heroic 500km on the Pan-American Highway (Ruta 5) from Santiago to Vicuña. We arrived at Alfa Aldea, a sort of basic but charming hostel in the back of a vineyard, with… a giant telescope. And that’s part of the reason we came here: The Elqui Valley, mostly known for growing Pisco grapes, has for whatever reason also collected a critical mass of entrepreneurial stargazers. Having hardly dropped off our bags, we jumped into a guided, outdoor tour of the Southern Skies. The many, many photos (yet to be deciphered) on Chewie’s camera will be a testament to his newfound enthusiasm for stargazing.

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Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine

It’s still light in the mid-afternoon, so we decided to go up to the Mirador to have a look. The trail, though steep, isn’t very tricky until the last leg. Here the path gave way to a field of enormous boulders that made the trail markers harder to spot, especially since it’s started to hail. (And in typical fashion people gave us very much underestimated traveling times.)

When we finally got over the giant rocky humps, a magnificent view opened before us. We arrived just in time for a small break in the clouds, as the Cordilleras del Paine so very briefly unveiled its famous facade.

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Hitting our stride (sort of)

Hitting our stride (sort of)

Chewie says today is a day characterized by sounds. Rhythmic tapping of trekking poles. Raindrops falling on rocks. The whoosh of swaying trees and grasses, dead branches creaking and humming in the breeze. The wind howling over clearings. Waves breaking and water blown out of Lago Nordenskjöld. Whispering rivulets in the forest gathering into gushing rapids. Waterfall crashing from a mountain. The echoing thunder of avalanches and the terrifying silence before a storm. We could’ve been blind and heard the changing landscape of TdP through the sounds. 

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Northern Ireland in 72 hours or less

Northern Ireland in 72 hours or less

We decided to try to walk some of it off by exploring the Mourne Wall along the nearby mountains, or slieves. Built over eighteen years in the early 1900s, The Wall spans 22 miles and averages about 4ft tall and 2-3ft wide, and was constructed, we were told, for the express purpose of preventing the sheep and cattle from sullying the enclosed water reservoir. The ubiquitous presence of walls in Ireland that demarcated every parcel of land was something that surprised us, especially when compared to Iceland where the concept of common land meant wide open spaces and free-roaming sheep. As Ann pranced up Slieve Binnian, I took a breather and sat on a portion of the Wall, where it became apparent to me that "the grass is always greener on the other side" is most definitely true, especially when there are sheep involved. 

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