The Marble Cathedral

The Carretera Austral in Chile was endlessly magnificent. It seems that every day we traveled on the sporadically paved road linking southern Chile to the rest of the country we found ourselves marveling at yet another natural splendor. Today, I bring you the Marble Cathedral (Catedral de Marmol). Only 4 km south of Puerto Rio Tranquilo is a huge chunk of beautiful marble sitting in the middle of Lake Buenos Aires. Patagonian winds often pick up over the lake, generating strong waves that smash against the marble, carving out exquisite tunnels. Lisa and I rented some kayaks and made our way to the impressive structure…

Take a look after the break to see more photos from inside the marble cathedral.

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Rivers of Ice

Glaciers are beautiful. There is no question about this. People travel far and wide to glimpse the giant masses of ice precariously perched atop high mountains and impossibly steep precipices. The light bouncing off and refracting through the clear ice provides visual delights not often seen. Despite all this, glaciers are nothing new to me. The North Cascades, where I like to climb, has plenty of crevasse-filled hanging glaciers. In Chile and Argentina, however, the glaciers are enormous. Branching off the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, giant rivers of ice literally flow through mountain passes as they terminate in colossal 80 m high walls of sheer glacial ice. These immense frozen structures crack and bellow in the afternoon sun as they slowly move towards the azure waters of the lakes below. It is a slow, centuries long crawl towards an inevitable end as giant towers of ice plummet into the frozen waters with thunderous uproar. Witnessing the calving of a glacier is as breathtaking as it is impressive to watch the newly formed iceberg crash into the water, sending ever growing concentric waves over the otherwise calm surface of the milky-blue lake.

While in Patagonia, we visited two such monstrous glaciers.

O’Higgins Glacier – Chile

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The Petrified Forest

There are several petrified forests in Argentina. As we made our way up the Atlantic coast after visiting Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, we stopped at the one near Sarmiento. Petrified forests are, ancient trees millions of years old that were fossilized in an anaerobic bog or delta. The one near Sarmiento is simply called “El Bosque Petrificado” – The Petrified Forest. Most of the trees we saw were conifers although palms and other species have been found in deeper parts of the desert. Yes, that’s right – the petrified forest, once a delta – is now a desert. The trees were brought to where they are today by the ancient river along with the sediment that covered them for millions of years. This is why we have logs sticking out of the sides of cliffs as we wander through this very windy park.

Look after the break for a gallery of the park. Everything that looks like wood is in fact stone. Even tracheids and xylem vessel structures can be seen in the pieces of petrified wood! Continue reading

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Realm of the Snow Leopard

While on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, we took a couple of days off the main trek to visit Tilicho Lake. This body of fresh glacier melt sits at an elevation of 4,919 m and, by some very particular definition of lake, it is also the highest in the world. The side trip gave us a chance to acclimatize for crossing the Thorong La Pass (5,416 m) but, perhaps more excitingly, a glimmer of hope in seeing the elusive Himalayan snow leopard.

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Contested Peaks

After crossing the Chilean-Argentina border on foot from Villa O’Higgins to El Chaltén over the course of 2 days (read about it here if you missed that post), we found ourselves in a hiker’s paradise. El Chaltén, in the foothills of Monte Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre – two world-famous peaks that are a must-see for anyone visiting the region, caters to the hundreds, if not thousands, of hikers and backpackers traveling through the area every year. The natural beauty of these mountains is enhanced by their reclusive shyness as clouds often cover their summits, adding an air of mystery to the jagged peaks. The allure of seeing the towering mountain tops in all their splendor is why we spent several days in El Chaltén.

Take a look at the photos after the break to catch a glimpse of our time in El Chaltén as we explored these imposing, spectacularly jagged peaks… Continue reading

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Vestiges of Times Long Gone

Traveling the pristine, remote regions of this planet was one of my personal highlights of the past year. Jagged peaks and deep deserts may be inhospitable today but, a long time ago, they might have been lush forests or shallow seas. Evidence of the vast changes our world has undergone over the epochs remains hidden but ready to be discovered by those with a keen eye. Discovering fossil remains millions of years old or seeing artifacts of ancient cultures was as exhilarating as opening any Christmas gift. Below are some of the fossils and ancient artifacts we’ve come across in our travels.

Mongolia

It is said Chinggis Khaan (otherwise known as Genghis Khan) found a golden horse whip atop a hill before he united the Mongol clans and conquered the known world. While the artifact I found on a long evening hike in the Gobi Desert was not golden, it might as well have been for how excited I became upon sighting it.

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The Enchanted Forest

20 km south of Puyuhuapi, Chile, lies a hidden grove the locals call “El Bosque Encantado” – the enchanted forest. Hiking through the moss covered trees in the early morning, before the sun’s rays become too harsh, is quite the magical experience. Have a look at the gallery after the break and see for yourself some of the sights you might come across when walking through this enchanted forest.

EnchantedForest01

Come on in…

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The TransAmerica Trail

Tomorrow I start my 3 month cycling ride across America from Yorktown, VA to Astoria, OR and then Seattle, WA. I have a separate blog for this new adventure since I’m doing it with my brother, Colin, while Lisa chills at home. Head over to bikeamerica2015.wordpress.com if you want to follow this new journey. But stick around here for a new post every Sunday from our backpacking adventures. These have already been scheduled through July.

TransAmericaMap

Sorin

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Diving in Puerto Madryn – Part 2

Well, I’ve been pretty busy getting ready for my bike ride across America so the blog has been neglected… until now! Yes, I’ve written and scheduled several posts over the next few weeks. I’ll start off with a short video to round up the diving we did in Argentina. After that, there will be a new post every Sunday for the next couple of months. And after that, if I have time, I’ll post more.

Diving in Puerto Madryn – Part 1

Here are the highlights from our second dive in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. This time we dove the Foliax, a ship that was scuttled after a fire broke out in the mess hall during a modern-day mutiny about 30 years ago. The wreck lies in shallow water and on its side. The top part of the wreck is visible above water at low tide, making this quite an unusual and interesting dive site. I’ve compiled some highlights from the dive in a short film below.

Check after the break for some photos from our dive trip as well. Continue reading

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Amazing Amazon

The Amazon. A vast rainforest, deep and dark, a mélange of spiky, venomous plants and poisonous animals ready to swallow any who dare approach its impenetrable walls of enduringly green, lush undergrowth; an endless, murky river whose depths conceal man-eating horrors with razor sharp teeth and lumbering giants waiting in ambush to snatch anyone foolish enough to venture near; a place where everything stings, bites, or strangles; a mysterious, isolated expanse of certain malaria and assured abnormally fluid and frequent intestinal evacuations. So, who’s in?

ImOnABoat

Aww yeah! Let’s do this, ladies!

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