Chile – Pt 1.

In which I ramble on about the holiday I took last year…
I left Norway as the first snows of winter finally arrived after a long, miserable, and very wet autumn, and oh boy, was I ever ready for a holiday. Landing in Santiago to dry heat in which the distant mountains shimmered was just the tonic my weary soul needed. Sunshine, warmth, all the hustle and bustle of a big city.
Now a confession: I don’t speak Spanish. Not one word. I took two years of Spanish in secondary school, umpteen years ago, no chance of remembering that now! Armed with only a phrase book, the city map on my phone (thanks openstreetmap!) and a really good line in meaningful gestures and miming stuff, I set out to find my hostel.

The hostel turned out to be gorgeous. Big backyard, pool, the works. It was too early to check in, so I left my luggage and went exploring. I just walked aimlessly that first day. I didn’t know where I was or what i should try to see, I just tried to get a feel for the place.

Confession nr 2: Of course I got a really bad sunburn, jet lagged me didn’t think to get the sunscreen out of my bag before I went walkabout. That was stupid. I know better!

I only had a couple of days in Santiago. One of them I booked onto an organised tour of a winery, which was really nice, we biked around in the sunshine between the vines & tried some very fine wine.
The other I tried to see some of the museums and a bit of the city. I also took the funicular railway up Cerro San Christobal to admire the view of the city and the distant mountains (and in the hope of finding some breeze to dispel the heat – no such luck!) then walked down through the forest.

Confession nr 3: I didn’t eat out at all in Santiago, I know, i know, terrible missed opportunity. But the shyness that stemmed from my total language useless got the better of me here. I also wasted a lot of mental energy worry about whether I would be able to buy a bus ticket to Pucon; of course that worked out fine, lots of nodding & smiling & pointing at the computer screen. At least bus-ticket-selling dude thought my lack of Spanish was hilarious rather than insulting!

The overnight bus was about as horrible as one might expect, but dawn came with the promise of a release from sweaty bus hell into fresh air, lush green landscape passing outside the windows. Pucon was nice and cool at 8am. Again I planned to leave my bag at the hostel and go walk around… slightly confused when the hostel owner greeted me with a huge hug… all becomes clear when it transpires that its his birthday & he’s already on the sauce! He decides that we must be cousins (both our surnames mean the same thing in our respective languages), I am plied with coffee (declining to have it adulterated with whiskey) and introduced to a revolving cast of guests, friends and employees. Somehow I am so happy to be among talkative people that I am still on the terrace there at lunch time, listening to the traveling tales of others who are on far greater adventures than my own, having taken years off to ‘do’ South America and what-not. Sometimes its the people that make a place, and Pucon was definitely like that for me, I walked right into a party that went on all week and it was just what I needed!
Pucon is also a totally gorgeous place, with a volcano visible from the main street, and every possible adventure sport on offer. I decided not to sign up to climb the volcano on this trip – he had his head in the clouds until my last day and reports from those who did sign up to go were of cancelled trips or turning back due to bad weather, so it just didn’t seem like the right time. I did visit the national park Huerquehue, and hike the peak San Sebastian, getting a wonderful view of the famous lakes and encountering only one other couple, despite how jam packed the bus was to get up there! I also went for an afternoons riding (thought I better remind myself how that felt before getting on a horse for 10 days!) which was lovely.

From Pucon I took the bus to Puerto Varas, another town where you can see volcanoes from the end of the street.
Again I took a small, overcrowded bus to a national park – Vicente Perez Rosales national park, the oldest in Chile. Here I took a hot hot walk from Petrohue through the sand to a viewpoint in the foothills of Volcan Osorno (if a volcano can be said to have foothills!). I met some more nice people on this hike, so had someone to have dinner with that evening, including my first Pisco Sours (the classic drink of Chile).IMG_2987

The next day saw me at the airport in Puerto Montt, waiting for my plane south to Punta Arenas and the next stage of my adventure…

A tale of two summers…

Well, it seems I’ve not felt much like blogging recently! This is certainly not for lack of interesting things happening to me in the past year or so; f.ex, last spring I spent 3 months on fieldwork in the Arctic Ocean, during which time I had dinner with Norwegian royalty, was featured in a BBC documentary, and encountered a couple of Polar Bears rather more closely than I would like!
Actually, its not so much that I’ve not felt like blogging, but rather that I fell into a horrible rut of thinking that I should post things in chronological order. So I have a lot of half written blog posts and needing-to-be-edited photographs, and the more ‘old’ news piled up the more I felt paralysed by this feeling that I couldn’t skip over stuff and just start in with the most recent thing! A kind of extremely neurotic form of writers block. I get this in my working life too, that feeling that I can’t start writing until a long long list of other stuff is done, and then of course the urgent gets in the way of the important & I end up with no papers published. Which is bad.

So; a new beginning. I am going to try and post something on this blog every other day for a while. I’m hoping that regularly writing about something, anything, even complete drivel, will help me get into a writing mindset which in turn will help me make progress with writing those academic papers. I’ll let you know in a month or so if its helping!

Lets start with something easy: a tale of two summers in Tromsø. Summer in Tromsø is a shortish season, it can be snowy in the mountains well into June, and start freezing up or snowing again in late September. I see that my last post here was about Spring, on 8th June 2014. Shortly after that we had some lovely sunshine, deluding us into believing summer had arrived, all our things arrived from the UK in a giant packing crate, and my Aunt arrived for a weeks visit. Since the house was in chaos with boxes everywhere and no furniture; we took her to Senja.

Where it snowed sideways. Some summer holiday! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This was our first trip to Senja, which we found to be absolutely beautiful, if a little plagued by crazy weather! We stayed in Senjabu one night, then rented a cabin at Senja camping for two more nights because the rain put us off actually camping!
In July it was the turn of my folks to visit. They really lucked out with the weather, getting blue skies and over 20 °C for almost all of their 10 day stay. Since then I’ve had to endure endless jokes about the tropical Arctic paradise anytime I dare say anything negative about the weather here. We first took them on a 5 day hike from Kilpisjärvi around the place where the borders of 3 countries meet.

Then we rented a ‘luxury’ holiday apartment in Lyngen for a couple of nights (where we found the only foggy weather in the area) & did some day hiking there.IMG_0917
Then we had a couple of days around Tromsø, where Richard kept suggesting museums and my folks just wanted to go hiking! 

Now he has some idea why I am how I am with regards to wanting to be outdoors all the time! In the middle of all this our furniture delivery arrived from Ikea so we also put our guests to work assembling furniture.

The good weather continued well into August, allowing for mountain trips on weekends and after work in the evenings, a couple of the most noteworthy being Store Blåmann (1044m, a Kvaløya classic), Vengsøy traverse one Sunday with the gang from Fjellsportgruppa,
and Hamperokken (1404m, another classic) on a weekday evening, finishing in a rain storm at 1am.
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Summer 2015 was very different. It rained constantly in June and July, so I had plenty of opportunity to say negative things about the weather. We escaped to the south of France for a little sun as soon as I was done with fieldwork in late May, and I escaped again to join a riding tour on Sicily in mid June. Meanwhile in Tromsø it kept on raining, or being grey and windy. Daniel came to visit. It rained. We went to Senja. It was grey & windy to begin with but did eventually brighten up. Phew! I wouldn’t have wanted to send Daniel home not even having seen the fjords!

Richard wanted to do Tromsdalstinden and Hamperokken, (I’d done both previously) so we did that. Somehow ended up doing Hamperokken on a weekday evening again so I’ve had the dubious honour of being up there in the middle of the night twice! No rainstorm on the descent this time around thank goodness! IMG_2369IMG_2373

I took a week off mid August when it was forecast good weather and went to Senja to hike ‘Senja på langs’, solo, a really relaxing trip. The following week Richards parents arrived in Tromsø, fortunately the weather held for them to see the sights (and unlike my crazy lot Richards folks do like museums). We also took them to Senja for the spectacular scenery (2015 became a bit ‘the summer of Senja!’).

It’ll be interesting to see how summer 2016 turns out. We had a lot of plans to explore the climbing around here that never really came to fruition last year, so it would be nice to do that. We also had plans for a cycle tour in Lofoten that we called off due to the weather. We definitely need to visit Lofoten once before we leave Norway, having heard so much about it!