“Too Hot To Handle” – The Untold Modeling and Cooking Story

As I sat in the lukewarm swivel chair getting makeup applied for what I believe to be the first time in my life, the owners of the clothing company walked into the previously inviting fluorescent lit room. (In Spanish, unbeknownst to my ability to roughly translate) “Do you think his hair is too long? I don’t think this is going to work, this isn’t what the photos looked like.” “No it’ll be fine,” said the other, “I think the (dirty) outdoorsy look will play really well.” 

For everyone who asked me why I was in Santiago for so long, I have not been entirely forethcoming. While I love Santiago and what not, if it wasn’t for some exciting sexy employment I don’t think I would have stayed so long. Thanks to a connection from fellow handsome man and recently funemployed bud, Colin Twohig, I was picked up by VIP Modeling Agency in Santiago. Devilishly goodlooking Colin had made the acquantiance of this agency a few years ago when he was wandering Chile and connected us via email a while back after I told him I was thinking about coming down here. I have quietly done some casual gigs in the past for outdoor companies including Mountain Hardwear and Mizu so i guess it wasn’t my first rodeo. Pics or it isn’t real… 

Mizu – Always Moving

Necessary shout out to life long friend Zach Alexander for starting it all with MHWand homie for life Carolyn Wegner for being my partner in crime in front of the camera! 

No backpacking trip would be complete without selling your body in some way or another, so I said fuck it and reached out once I got to Santiago. I guess they liked what they saw because I got signed on. Perfect for my current situation, aka hygiene, an outdoor clothing company called Hi Tec picked me up. What happened next was the full D Zoolander, Hanz and even Franz experience! Indoor studios, outdoor adventures, makeup, lights cameras, action, fake snow BOOM. International model life baby! Pow, kabaam, kickin ass and autographing babies. ​I can literally say I have left my mark on Santiago. They will be reminded of me every time they decide to shop at a few specific retail outlets. I will be memorialized, at least until the new seasonal line comes out. Speaking of which I seem to have a knack for winter gear, i.e. lots of clothes. I guess they just can’t handle what’s underneath the multiple layers of goose down. 

Anyway, maybe I’ll share the final product eventually, but for now here’s some behind the scenes. SUPER EXCLUSIVE LOOKS RIGHT HERE

​​

My agent Fernanda is every models dream. Awake and afraid in the middle of the night? Call Fern. Need directions? Call Fern! Can decide what to make for dinner? Fern! Where’s that other sock? Ferrrnnnnn Existential crisis? Oh hey Fern! What condiment to chose? Ferns got ya. Who’s my favorite agent? Fern is! We were an unstoppable duo and I knew Santiago was where I needed to be. 

I cannot lie, it was pretty friggin fun getting this work. The people in the outdoor industry are great, so you’re not at risk of working with shitty people. I think depending on the brand, you could have a miserable time. People there couldn’t wrap their heads around why I was there. How some dude fresh off the trails ended up in the studio. It was equally strange to me, so I didn’t really have a good answer. Through all of this, I was getting paid, so that’s nice too. Made some true friends and have an open door policy if/when I return. 

Do I feel like I deviated from the purpose of my trip? Not at all. I’m not on a quest to find myself, just trying to have as many awesome and different experiences. Plus I gotta hustle and model life is lucrative. But model life only goes so far and I needed to fill the remaining time chillin in Santiago. So I cooked, and cooked a lot. But before I digress into how dope the empanadas I made were, I want to elaborate on a special someone I mentioned earlier. 

A special and heartfelt shoutout to ma dude Colin Twohig for recently embarking on the first stage of his own world walk about, moving home. Pre first stage was quitting his equally awesome job. While we are friends first and foremost, Colin was also my work wifey. Colin is physically packing, tanning and trimming his bod along with mentally planning and prepping right now for a one way flight to Bali come early July. Colin, a fiery lad not just in personality, but also hair color, is chasing waves out in Bali and Australia before hopefully rendevouzing back in Santiago next year to become … Los Gringos Guapos where we will take Chile by storm as the dynamic Californian modeling duo! The dream is alive as of now. Colin has a taste for adventure and kidney killers and is sure to have an adventure worth following. I wish our trips lined up sooner, but everyone’s got their path. Love you dude and can’t wait to see where you go. 

So as I was saying, model life isn’t everything. While it pays the bills, I needed some more thrills. So #blessed to have a free spot to stay this whole time in Santiago, one of the best ways I could give back was packing the apartment with fresh smells and a fridge full of delish eats. My days consisted of waking up, breakie, maybe a lil reading of Spanish “The Little Prince,” aka “El Principito,” checking in with Fern dawg, picking what to make for dinner, run or climbing gym, hitting up the massive open produce market called La Vega, then returning home and cooking for a few hours. Throw in ransoms coffee shops, hanging with Chilean, Spanish and Gringo friends midday and midnight, dance parties and that was my life. Empanadas were frequent and flavorful. Soups including Brazilian black bean and season squash. Breads were of the banana variety. Plus much more including the dangerous pisco sour and eggs benny combo – made possible by the sours need for egg whites and the bennys need for yolk. 

I want to elaborate on La Vega because it’s the dopest place in Santiago. A double costco size open air produce market where the people of the country come to sell produce and other goods everyday. They essentially cut out the middle man so everything is super cheap. It’s located right in the heart of town and is filled with tasty eye candy if you’re into food. It’s where you go if you want to stay in touch with the real people of Santiago. 

It was super nice to have the time and space to continue my cooking experience from Argentina. There’s nothing better than having the time to cook a full meal for friends and family. It’s a shame that full time jobs make this near impossible. Maybe I’ll have to put off full time work for a bit longer while I master the kitchen. There’s something magical about cooking, music, and a cup of wine. Also, I really don’t like cutting garlic and brussel sprouts. I can live with onions but it doesn’t mean I love it. Currently day dreaming about opening some hip restaurant in SF serving Argentinian asado, empanadas and a side of whatever the hipsters like most. 

With about 6 weeks spent in Santiago, given a few different days and weeks in other spots like Rapa Nui, I can say I feel like I got to know the city and make a foreign home. I really like it there, so much that a possible move back is seemed all too likely. If not now when I guess. I am moving North where I will hopefully be able to finagle a Visa to Bolivia. 

Peace and Love y’all. 

Quick Gut Check

Hi Cutie 😘

I want to begin this post with a quote by me, “there is no greater instantaneous satisfaction in life than eating a cold pickle straight from the jar.” 

May the rest of my sole relatively serious post serve as a medium for crohns awareness, not letting barriers inhibit you from chasing dreams and a not so subtle plea to our congressional leaders to stop fucking us and our nations health care system. 

My preface is that I am super fortunate to be able to write this. I have been healthy for a long time and this is a hinderance, but not an imovable wall. Some circumstances are too severe to overcome and there are not always paths to do exactly what you want. Life isn’t always fair and sometimes you just get screwed, without a greater purpose. Regardless, life goes on. To all the fighters out there, fight on. 

Diagnosed as a young lad at the ripe age of 15, I was faced with a number of questions like, what the fuck is crohns? Why the fuck do I have it? And could I have gotten a more awkward disease? Fortunately at my no longer ripe age of 26 and 5/6ths, I no longer feel so strongly about answering any of those questions, nor am phased by the stigma of an irritable bowel disease (IBD). For some background on what Crohns is – it is in the family of irritable bowel diseases and can affect any to all of the digestive track causing all the symptoms you can guess would be associated with that part of the body. After going through all the shitty (pun intended) tests, to finally determine I had the disease, I began a presicriptive drug treatment that I remain on today. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to remain stable and relatively asymptotic. Yet I will always have Crohns, a pre-existing condition with a looming threat of my circumstances changing any day. Not to mention I am viewed as an expensive liability to insurance companies regardless of my past. In a system where insurance companies rely on healthy youth to pay for our sick elders, I break the algorithms. 

Being outside the age range in which I could be covered by my folks, and without employee benefits, traveling abroad for an extended period of time under our former health care system seemed nearly impossible to do without high costs and high risks. Because I take a prescription everyday, I don’t have a choice but to remain covered if I want to gain access to the drugs I need. The ones I don’t are available sans prescription on the bridge to Bella Vista in Santiago… I mean what? The problem lies with being labeled as a pre-existing condition and insurance companies being allowed to reject me based on this. 

Now you may be saying “well so what? That just means you have to work and don’t get to travel like a hippy bum!” So I happen to strongly believe that everyone should be entitled to the same opportunities in the pursuit of happiness regardless of health or socioeconomic background. Furthermore, while my struggle is to find a means to travel outside of the states, what about those who find themselves out of work for any other reason and cannot afford quality healthcare. Those who may not be offered quality healthcare and cannot afford otherwise. I am a white dude from a relatively affluent family, and this is hard for me. I pretty much lack any socioeconomic disadvantages in life and this is still difficult to navigate. Imagine being on the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum AND being diagnosed with Crohns. Crohnies, cancer survivors, diabetes, whatever – your access to quality health care should not be denied based on something out of your control. Premium costs and eligibility should not be affected by a pre existing condition. Health care is a human right and should never stand in the way of personal progress. Wealth can isolate one from having to worry about this, but it is our duty to ensure that greed does not stand in the way of creating an equitable society. 

Anyway, thanks to ma dude Obama, we made some progress a few years ago under the affordable care act. Because of the ACÁ I am able to apply for affordable health coverage on Covered CA and am free to pursue what I chose without the confines of a full-time job that offers health benefits. The ACA is imperfect but a step towards socioeconomic equality. I plea to our leaders to not take steps away from an equitable society in the name of tax breaks for the 1%. 

I don’t know if I explained this very well, but to summarize without ACA I have to remain gainfully employed to avoid being denied by insurance companies or risk being priced out. Without ACA if I was to lose my job and become sick, I could not afford to pay for my medical bills. Without ACA I could not do this trip, albeit a luxury I agree, but the best decision I have ever made. 

With the ACA, love u Barack, I can. I have coverage and can get my meds, consult my doc and not fear from getting sick while abroad or backhome and not be able to see my doctor. 

To do this I also enlisted the help of great friend/drug mule Nicolette to being a resupply on her visit. Love you chica! Everything else required was just navigating the Covered CA webpage, not without its headaches along the way, and coordinating with docs. I have been dropped twice from Covered CA for no apparent reasons and thus have had some late nights brainstorming how to navigate the spiderweb that is our health care system. Owe huge thanks to my dad for being my messenger when I cannot call back home. Additional thanks to Kyle Valenzuela for being a partner in crime in figuring out how to be covered while abroad. It’s not always easy, but I never had a choice. 

Now I just have to worry about shitty water and montezumas revenge. I have to be a bit smarter than my peers about partying, lack of sleeping and healthy foods, but otherwise can travel in normal circumstances. 

Once again, I’m a lucky dude on a ridiculous trip. While things are a bit more conplicated and risk can loom, I am just grateful to have the opportunity. Plus, maybe a little extra risk pushes you to be a bit more, how you say, YOLO. 

Lomo del Torro! (The Easter Island Experience)

I am back in Santiago in the midst of a two-week nonstop experimental cooking, market exploring, smoggy air running, climbing gym chillin, night life going, new friend making sort of vacay in an attempt to get to know Santiago more in depth and furthermore convince myself that leaving Easter Island was not the dumbest decision of my life. During this time I am the luckiest dude because I get to stay with old sport James Woeller. I promised James a shoutout because he would like to get insta-social media-blogger-world famous. So for all the famous people reading this, he’s your man. Clearly it wasn’t me as you’ve been sitting idly by as I practically beg for your attention. 

In all seriousness getting to stay in a spare bedroom for these two weeks has been heaven sent. The highlights only begin with a clean shower, laundry, kitchen and knowledge of the past tenants of your bed. Or so I think… But for real, James is pretty much totes the nicest, greatest dude for hooking me up with this accommodation! Also he’s Canadian, so even if he didn’t want me here, he wouldn’t be able to tell me so. Sorry for all my hosts in the future, because James has redefined the standards of playing host. I hope coming home to the smells of  me attempting to learn South American cuisine have been the highlight of your life. I’m pretty much a dream ‘stay at home’ spouse. All I ask is for a full-hearted response when I ask how your day was. If you’re not careful bud, you’re gonna lose me one of these days.

But let’s get to the point and stop tooting James’s horn, HELLOOO. I want to talk about my week in paradise on Easter Island (in Easter Island?). You know the island with the massive stone heads that look like this?

Easter Island, aka Rapa Nui, aka Isla de Pascua, is a roughly 20 some mile circumference sized island located in the middle of the Pacific. It is a territory of Chile, because at one point when countries were staking claim to dots on the map, Chile showed up and said “This shit is ours.” That’s imperialism for you. The history of the island is a bit more complex. I am going to attemp to paraphrase a mixture of Jared Diamond and some locals explanation of what went down on Rapa Nui. Let’s be real though, there was some serious alien involvement in those massive heads there, so who really knows what the fuck went down. Anyway, at some point in history, early days post Christ, an island ruler was under pressure to find a new island to rule, because his was running out of resources. So he did what any smart man would do, he sent 15 warriors out in boats in different directions into the Pacific Ocean. 1 of these 15 scallywags found what is now Easter Island. Fast forward a number of years and what do you do on a small isolated island like this, besides build massive heads, or Moai, out of volcanic rock. Whichever tribe builds the biggest head wins. It’s clearly a game of a literal oversized egos. 

Unfortunately for these tribes and island, it requires an enourmous amount of resources to build and transport them, not to mention an extraordinary amount of slaves. Who by the way, totally loved carving these fuckers. Especially the party when they put multi-ton hats on top of them at the end just for show. (This is the alien part, because no one really knows how they got the hats on them. My theory is lots of time, energy and slaves.) Once it became clear that building these heads brought no real benefit and the island was running out of resources – trees, food and such – war ensued amongst the tribes and slaves began rebelling. The island population was rapidly decimated from about 10,000 to just over 100. These 100 learned from their ancestors mistakes and haunted construction of the Moai. Instead they briefly continued another traditions such as the Birdman Competion. The annual Birdman Comp is a mighty display of Rapa Nui men’s strength in which a man from each tribe hikes to the top of the local volcano, climbs down the 300 m cliff, swims a mile or so, swims back, climbs back up, and then waits in these awesome looking shelters for the first seagullish bird to land on the island and lay the first egg. The man who gets the egg first, becomes the leader of the island, and his family’s emblem is emblazoned on a big rock.

Please note, all of this is a lose reconstruction of the history and I am almost certainly fumbling it a bit. Real respect is due to the Rapa Nuins. They are a beautiful people with a rich history and pride for their culture. The way I would describe Easter Island is like Hawaii, but with something very mysterious in the air. If you haven’t been to Hawaii, then picture a tiny tropical, mysterious island in the middle of the Pacific, with extra-mysterious stone heads scattered throughout amongst the rocky coasts and volcanic hills.

So as described in the last post, Nicolette and I fortuitously ended up with plane tickets to Rapa Nui after a series of unfortunate events. Nicolette arrived on Saturday and I arrived on Monday night. Late Monday night, because our flight was delayed due to fire fighter strikes in Haiti, the final destination of my plane. But that plane could’ve been delayed as long as they wanted because I was chillin VIP thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and it’s access to airport lounges. I was in open bar chicken nuggets heaven for about 4 hours, with solid wifi and an opportunity to catch up with friends back home. 

Finally touched down in Rapa Nui around 2am, after a 5-hour flight consisting of Hacksaw Ridge, 20th Century Women (great film, totally misjudged the title, sorry) and a meal I was too full to eat, I was greeted by Nicolette and a cold Escudo brew. We strolled through the warm humid night to a hostel located in what appeared to be the middle of the jungle. Sleep came amidst the sounds of roosters that never got the memo that they were only supposed to roost at dawn. We woke the next morning and made a non-tropical breakfast of the usual, oatmeal and French pressed coffee. My mobile French press coffee is my most prized possession. If I ever get robbed, please take my phone, wallet and passport, but for gods sake, leave the press!!

Next we located the campsite I had heard about, packed up our gear and moved locations. All of this was done in shorts and a t-shirt, the first time since New Zealand I could truly wear shorts in comfort. Island Life Brah. The campsite was this little plot of fenced in land next to an oceanside cliff. There was a small bathroom with solar hot water showers and a little hut for cooking. It was freakin purrrfect. This island itself has one small town called Hanga Roa when you can get pretty much anything you might need, which really isn’t much. I did all my food shopping on the mainland because everything is quite expensive on the island. My budget was solely for tropical beverages.

I would be hard pressed to detail each day, aside from two specific days. Also the moment when Nicolette road off on a big jet plane, miss ya friend!! The trip was a blur of waking up to the sound of the ocean, sunny breakfasts, island hiking and exploring, ocean swimming, sunset watching, stargazing and late guitar filled nights with fellow campers.

The first highlight day was one of the raddest days of the whole trip. Nicolette and I attained a couple of hogs, aka scooters, for a full day of adventure. There is one main road that loops the island, which can be completed in about 1.5 hours. But along the way are heaps of notable Moai sites and remote chill spots. We packed our hogs with high spirits and salami sandys ready for a day of thrills and chills. Topping out at around 60 kmh, this was not for the faint of hearts. Some real Top Gun stuff.​​​​

We hit all the spots, but not without a few gnarly spills and close calls either. Someone was a little cocky after a couple Scoot seshes back home in SF I guess. No pain, no gain though, scoot lyfe! The final site was a set of Moai located on the kind of beach you’d expect to find on a tiny tropical island. Perfect location for some much needed tanning of my Victorian era complexion. We returned to Hanga Roa along 18 km of unreal rolling, tropical, warm, sun setting pavement. We rolled right into a set of hammocks to watch the grand crescendo of the sun melting into the expansive Pacific. After roaring back into the campsite, announcing the presence of a couple of badasses, we parking the hogs and located the perfect spot for a final ceviche meal and Nicolette sendoff. Sun spent and dazed from the danger zone, we crawled into our respective tents soon after to the soundtrack of crashing salty water. It ’twas the dopest of dope days.

The other notable day was my last day. Having spent most of my Island budget on scooters and pina coladas at this point, I was left to walk or hitchhike my way around the island. I linked up with a new pair of French swashbucklers that morning who were also seeking the safe haven of that forementioned white sand beach. We set off from the campsite around 11 am towards the main road. Along the way we stopped for a classic Chilean pino empanada. Immediately after we stumbled upon a small parade which seemed to be showing off the small, yet mighty military prowess of the island. It also featured an classic dance routine of the island natives, punctuated by the women in palm skirts dragging clearly uncomfortable fully dressed soldiers to awkwardly dance. 
We caught our first ride in the back of a pick up for a mere 3 min, but as we hopped out, another pickup following us offered a ride. Our second pickup truck was driven by two women, a mother and daughter, (technically only the daughter was driving) who were showing two of their cabana guests around the island. I quote in Spanish to English translation, “we were all too handsome to leave on the side of the road.”​

The deal was, we had to go along for the ride while they stopped at the two famous Moai sites. Because we had already been in the sites, the national park pass only allows you in the big sites once to manage traffic, we stayed outside and chatted it up with our new guides. They were a mother daughter duo originally from Chile who run a set of cabanas on the island. The nicest and funniest people on the island! 
Back of pickup truck is definitely the best way to travel in Rapa Nui. Our phrase of the day was “Lomo del Toro,” or back of the bull, which is used to describe Spanish hilly or windy roads. LOMO DEL TORRO!! We spent the late afternoon at the beach and cherishing the likely last remaining warm beach, water and sun of my trip. We picked up another set of local hitchhikers for the glorious last 18 km stretch. I think they were offering us a hallucinagenic trip for that evening, but I’m not quite sure. To put the proverbial cherry on top of the day, our guides, Maria and Mother, offered to make us dinner. We spent the evening with fresh food, boxed wine and awesome company. 

This kind of hospitality seems to happen too often on this trip. Too often being more than zero. I’m traveling, having the trip of my life, so I feel kinda guilty getting anything at all from people. Each time is equally undeserved and beyond appreciated. With that said, it goes a long ways in making this trip last longer and filling it with memories. I will undoubtably return the favors whenever possible. Not because I necessarily feel like I will directly owe anyone anything, but because it’s awesome to be a part of someone else’s adventure. 

I would like to end with a couple haikus to summarize one of the best weeks ever on/in Rapa Nui. 

Cous cous with tuna

Oh how delicious you are

Until the next day


Cous cous I love you

What I just said is not true 

Sorry but it fit


Please forgive me cous

You are the best camping meal

Pairs well with cheap wine


No, you are not cheap

You know that’s not what I meant

Please come back to plate 


Ugh, so sensitive

You’re not even healthy

Just tiny pasta 

.

Cous cous and I have since made up. Just going through a rough patch. Seriously I thought it was a grain though. Wtf.

Snoochies,

Joe

More pics!

This One’s For You Goose!

Let’s all take a moment to reflect on the friendships in our life. Deep breath, I promise the introspection will only be momentary. The friends who you’ve know your whole life. The silly Frenchman who you became best friends with instantly. The friend who flies down to Chile to adventure together. The friend who is the wisest person you know … 

The friend who is an awesome host and lets you crash at their spot in Santiago. Thanks dude! The friends you probably didn’t ever expect to see again until you are reunited in South America. The friends who text to much in group texts. And of course, the friends who just coincidentally have the same butt tattoo. 

Each brings something unique to the table, that otherwise wouldn’t be there. A quote from Into The Wild frequently pops in my head when traveling solo “Happiness is only real when shared.” Now I’m not getting all soft, but it is often true. 

Ive been a bit preachy on solo adventure, so now let’s reflect on the pros of travel companions. 

  1. When you think of something funny but can’t share it with the people around you, so instead you awkwardly laugh to yourself
  2. Having someone to patiently wait for you while you “try” all the ice cream flavors. You’re welcome Frenchies
  3. Not being alone at 8am in a bus terminal when your bus is cancelled and you haven’t slept 
  4. Scooter buds on a remote island
  5. Singing partners for Ja Rule while cooking
  6. Not having to ask strangers to take touristy photos
  7. Frenchies to make dinner on alternating evenings while the Americans poo poo on their cooking
  8. People who have soap you can borrow
  9. Not feeling as bad when the bunk bed creaks because you know the person below you
  10. Not feeling as bad when you throw a pillow at someone snoring, because you know them
  11. Coffee dates
  12. Drink dates
  13. Dinner dates
  14. Dance partners
  15. Cheaper entry because you’re in a group
  16. Someone to eat late night food with and support poor decisions
  17. Someone who makes poorer decions than you and makes you feel better
  18. Feeling comfortable in silence when speaking is just too much effort
  19. Chess adversaries
  20. Someone to bring you toilet paper in your most vulnerable moments 
  21. In general just having people to share everything awesome that happens everyday

Upon arrival to Santiago I was #blessed to have not just any travel companions, but the dopest/illest travel companions possible. Squad name is “So Close,” for so many reasons you’ll have to ask me about another time. The team was as followed:

Manouel 

A man I have already given too damn much praise to. So I will give him no more and only complain about how indecisive the French can be, how crap of a chess player he is and how is cooking is garbage. Unfortunately all of that is untrue, except for the indecision. Obviously when you’re traveling your always pressed for time, so every moment of indecision counts. 

After a week in Buenos Aires together, manouel and I were ripped apart like twins separated at birth for over a month. Fate put us back in loving arms in Santiago after he travelled with fam and I went down to Patagonia. Our day of reunitition when spent in parks of Santiago, under perfect weather conditions for chess. He won. 

The second Frenchie of this Motley Crue is no other than… Mathieu

Mathieu, taking a lengthy work sabbatical to bike South America is clearly the better half of the croissant couple. He hails from Paris and grew up with Manouel. Like most people on the road, he was fed up with his work-life balance and sought a more laissez-faire lifestyle. He is appreciatiave of street art and a great running companion in the hills of Valparaiso. Mathieu arrived in Santiago on a fair tempered Friday afternoon ready for anything. His chess abilities far exceed that of Manouel and I, and he was humble yet unrelenting in demonstrating this. A man with a quick knife in the kitchen and a quicker wit on the street, he was an essential component of So Close. 

The last and pretty much most important member of So Close is the one an only Nicolette

Nicolette, former colleague, lasagna extraordinaire and first and foremost friend, came down to South America on a vacation from the greatest company on the planet, stok. On a two week vacay, she was here for “a good time, not a long time.” She arrived with clear eyes, full hearts and definitely not ready to lose. In reality it was red eyes after a long day of flying, a full single heart and not hearts, but definitely not ready to lose! The main objective of her two weeks was to live the South America life and pack as much adventure into two weeks. My main objective was to make sure she didn’t quit and went back to SF because her bosses would not have forgiven me. My secret objective was to actually convince her to quit and live the dream. Nicolette is the funny bone and liver of So Close, with her incessant upbeat attitude and ability to process whatever challenges we may face. 

Together we became So Close

I meant to just add the group pic, but we’ll leave Ricky Martin impersonator as well. 

Together we set off on a week of ruckus beginning in Santiago. Energy was high on the Friday our two new amigos arrived. After strolls through town to get the foreigners adjusted, we embarked on a weekend of non stop fun. Myself after a month in the wildnerness of Patagonia was equally ready for some city thrills. During the day we roamed the city streets and our evening stomping ground was the notorious Bella Vista. Fortunate to have these friends, because Bella Vista is not for the faint or solo travelers.

The highlights of the evenings was probably the first at Chocolate, a place we might as well be regulars at. If you want to go someplace you are guaranteed to get your dance on, go there. You will be joined by Ricky Martin or Enrique Iglesias. The highlight of the days in Santiago was definitely our first sat in which we spent 4-5 hours in a 3 block radius. We were self described not feeling very smart that day, and we’re up for any self indulgence. Time was passed with ice cream, art stands, bookstores, waffle sandwiches and slacklining. Probably one of the silliest days in recent memory. 

Our home base in Santiago was Hostel Ventana Sur. A quiet but warm little spot in quaint Barrio Italia. Breakfast was breakfast and beds were beds there. But the atmosphere of the people there made it what it was. A perfect place to cook nightly dinners and hang out with fellow travellers. Damn the dog next door though who has an innate ability to bark 24 hours a day. 

Monday brought the end of the weekend and a bus ride to Valparaiso. Valaparaiso is a artsy hip bohemian little coastal town about an hour west of Santiago. There we spent our days roaming the street art covered roads, talking life and admiring the work. 

Our hostel in Valparaiso, Casa Volante, was one of the coolest I’ve stayed in thus far. Decked out in the local artsy flavor, it’s located at the base of one of the hills, and just a few blocks from the water. It is deceivingly big with more people staying there than we were able to meet. Only thing missing was a good spice assortment for cooking, but this proved to be kind of and upside as we were forever to be creative with dinner. Hand ground pepper wasssup Massimo Botura! Also the creakiest beds and floors I have ever seen! 

The company of awesome people there per usual made the place what is was. When you travel for long enough you begin to see the same people everywhere you go. There are only a few routes in South American backpackers take, and at this time of the year everyone is heading north. WINTER IS COMING. this hostel featured a healthy number of rad French folks as well. Mathieu and Manouel were in heaven. Nicolette and I were in a French immersion program. So many French in Chile! Not many Americans… but I like that. I didn’t come here to learn English, nor French for that matter, but I know you’re picking up what I’m putting down. After hours, everyone congregates in an outside veranda for socializing till the wee hours. mon-wed are not big going out nights for Valparaiso, but that just means more space on the dance floor. 

We returned to Santiago after a few days of bohemian chillin. At the point we reach the part of the plot where everything goes wrong before a final resolution. The drama before the climax, the crux of the story where the protagonists feel almost certain defeat. 

Nicolette and I had purchased bus tickets to Mendoza after Valaparaiso. This was going to be a main feature of her trip – wine country cruisin and living the good life. So on our supposed last night with the Frenchies, we went out with a bang, assuming this would be the last we would see of each other. Sleep would come on our 10 hour bus ride to Mendoza through the Andes. Well we underestimated the Andes, for when we arrived at the bus terminal 8 am the next morning we were greeted with an unfortunate truth that the pass through the mountains was closed because of storms. The words that fit this situation are “you’ve got to be kidding me,” “no fucking way,” “wtf,” “shut the front door,” “yea right dude,” “holy hell,” “god must have a plan for us,” “why does he hate us?,” “I’m so tired,” “this isn’t happening,” “I would kill for dennys breakfast right now.” So we found wifi and went into the situation room, aka in front of a McDonalds. Try as we might to find a new destination, there was no where to go. Ultimately it was time to cut our loses and head back to the hostel in which we technically still had a few hours until check out. To make matters worse it was rush hour and impossible to get on trains, let alone with giant backpacks. Alas, we persevered and made it back to Ventana Sur just as breakfast was going. As we were going inside, our true fate hit us like a brick wall of puppies and kittens. We should go to Easter Island! Why not?? High off our newfound purpose in this trip, we tried to find flights. Unfortunately our dreams were crushed by $1000 price tags. Ok, fuck it, let’s just get some sleep and figure it out later. 

After a day of mindlessly wandering Barrio Italia with the sillies, it was time for another nap. As I was waking up from the nap and snuggling with good ol Manouel, just happy to see him again, I decided to give the flights another look. To my half awake surprise the price had dropped to below $350. BUY BUY BUY! Pounding on the bathroom door I notified nicolette that our dreams have come true. There was a reason the bus was cancelled. Now I’m not a god fearing man, but this did feel like fate! With a little finagling, Nicolette also found an itinerary that worked for her. She would head over a few days before me and return a few days before. Boom baby! 

We proceeded to enjoy house money now having a few more days with our homies. More of the same. Including going to a house party hosted by the lovely San Franciscan’s Courtney and Eric, where we learned the greatest game ever! You put an alcohol bottle box in the center of a circle of people. Each person has to attempt to pick it up with just their mouth. If you succeed you rip a piece off, if not, ‘al seco’ or ‘bottoms up!’ This continues until there is either no box or no people. Ours turned into an Olympic showdown with one representative from each country. Nicolette (USA), Mathieu (France), and someone name I’m forgetting (Chile). Well call it a tie between the US and Chile. A very good showing by the viajaros considering how outnumbered we were. As long as France didn’t win everyone was happy.​

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​I will leave this off here to focus on Easter Island next time. Friends are just the best aren’t they? Hey, why don’t cha go give a friend a hug or a smooch right now! Snoochies,

Joe

Shaken Not Purred

As I sit here watching Lord of the Rings in Spanish, I can’t help but wonder how long it must’ve taken the entire cast to learn Spanish and record a full additional version. Perfect accents and all. Furthermore, it is astounding how their lips appear to be prouncing totally different words in totally different voices. Peter Jackson you cease to amaze me. 

Other notable recent thoughts include:

“Kill me now” at 8am when we arrived at the Bus Terminal to find out our ride to Mendoza was cancelled because they closed the pass. Good thing we didn’t think it was a good idea to not sleep because we had 9 hours on a bus to sleep. Also good thing it was rush hour and we didn’t have enormous backpacks. Additional good thing that they so easily refund your ticket in person and not through endless emails. Furthermore good thing that it’s super easy to speak in Spanish when you’re sleep deprived. 

“Why is the club closing so early? Oh shit it’s 5am.”

“I really wish this bathroom had toilet paper right now.”

“Holy crap hot showers are amazing.”

“This grass is definitely wet, but I really don’t want to move.”

“I think Ja Rule is the perfect soundtrack for cooking. Pairs well with Ashanti.”

“$3 bottles of good wine are a slippery slope.” 

“Is it wrong to eat ice cream 2 times today?” 

“3 times is probably the limit.”

“Let’s just not put a limit on the simple pleasures in life.”

“I wonder how many holes can I repair in my pants before it’s time to move on?”

“No shirt, no shoes, no man bun, no service.”

“Can you play an inspirational song like Keisha or something?” – Courtney

In other news, I am back in Santiago for the second time in a week. My Wolfpack has grown to 4, but will shrink to 2 tomorrow. I am joined by fellow San Franciscan and former colleague, Nicolette, along with two annoyingly awesome Frenchmen, Manouel and Mathew. Manouel was the featured Frenchman from Buenos Aires. He and I finally rendezvoused again in Santiago last week for a final tour. Our totally non-proverbial, totally literal, bags are packed (as per every freakin day it seems) for tomorrows journey to Mendoza. By journey, I mean a 9 hour trip in a pretty accommodating coach bus. Unfortunately, the Frenchies will be left behind to prep for their Bolivia/Peru bicycle adventure. So long Frenchies, I will seriously, literally miss you both!! You came very close to convincing me to join, but alas I think I should make my own adventure. UPDATE to this: our bus was cancelled and we found cheap flights to Easter Island. Nicolette is already there and is staying Sun – Thur before returning to the USA. I will be there Mon – Mon. The dream trip of a lifetime really. Just watch 180 Degrees South if you don’t already know. 

Highlights of the last couple weeks are neither few nor insignificant. Post week of “meat sweats” – literally sweating while preparing meat – the obvious next stop was to unintentionally end up in a vegan hostel in Bariloche, Argentina. Couldn’t dream up a better detox, although I don’t think the vegans appreciated my experience as much as I did. Good thing they were also just temporary vegans. If you ever find yourself in Bariloche, you must stay at Hostel 41 Below. Ironically I stayed my first couple nights at Hostelworld’s supposedly “Best Hostel in Latin America.” But I’ve come to notice, I’ve stayed at the “Best Hostel in South America” a few times. I think they just reprint Hostelworld Awards for themselves. It’s like going to New York and stumbling upon the “Worlds Best Slice of Pizza” sign and wondering how you came to be so lucky to find this gem on Broadway. Then you take 5 steps and find another “Worlds Best” slice. Maybe it was just voted by the owners mother. 

Bariloche is a picture perfect spot to slow things down. Situated next to a ridiculously stunning lake, you have a perfect backdrop to sit yourself down and try the absurd amount of chocolate the city has to offer. Highly recommend forgoing a day of hiking to have a Tour de Chocolate, where you sample each stores same same, but different chocolates. Choose a few bites, take to the lake to taste and debate each pieces merits. Truthfully we only made it to 3 stores before hitting a cacao wall.

Taste and discuss, rinse and repeat!

 

When you’re not indulging in chocolate, there’s an endless amounting of hiking to, uh, hike. The bus system puts SF Muni to shame. You can hop on a bus to get to just about every trailhead. There’s also opportunities to camp or stay at various refugios located on the top of the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately it was ankle deep snow and I was tired of freezing my ass off, so I politely declined a night of hielo. Because why would you camp, when you can cuddle with this little dude!

This was another perk of 41 Below. However if you visit next year, no guarantee the kitten won’t age a bit. Other perks of 41 Below are nightly vegan meals for an affordable price. Seriously you sign up for 2 nights and stay a week. They suck you in, and you become family. 

But alas, todo lo bueno se acaba, (all good things must end) and it was time to move on. I decided to chase a good weather window in Pucon in hopes of getting to summit the local volcano. To get there I travelled for 2 days by bus with some fellow Berkeley hippy ass gringos with a strong green thumb. Wassup Jess and Jorel! Supposedly the bus ride is stunning, but I pretty much slept the whole time, except when the mouth breather behind me would Jet Li my seat. God dammit, sometimes people need to learn just the slightest bit of awareness. 

The weather window in Pucon worked out absolutely perfectly. I snuck a run in the first afternoon to shake off two days of bus travel. I inherited a pair of really short running shorts before I left that seems perfect for travel size excercise. Unfortunately I didn’t realize exactly how short they were though. Every run is accompanied by the constant glances of locals at my miles of legs. Free show for them – you’re welcome. 

The two highlights were the Volcan Villaricca climb and subsequent Termas Geometricas the following day. Villaricca was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. The skill level to get to the top isn’t super technical, so it’s more just about endurance. If you go to Pucon, it’s worth it to shell out the cash for a guide. You can’t climb it without one. The climb starts pre dawn and is rock for the first 2 hours before transitioning to snow and ice. Throughout the climb we were entertained to a soundtrack of climbers yelling “hielo” to warn others of falling ice above. I pushed for the summit with a lively group of Brits and Nordic fellows who helped set a speedy pace to beat the other groups to the peak. The views as the sun began to rise are indescribable. Especially as you huff and puff up a volcano alternating between steps and ice axe placement. Combining these two is an unforgettably unique experience. A few hours later you reach the summit and are greeted by the coolest sight ever. Literal friggin lava billowing and shooting out of a hole in the top of a mountain. It’s exactly what you would expect a volcano to look like, but cooler. I’m talking lava boiling, building and bursting into the sky. The fumes are so intense that you have to wear gas masks at times to keep breathing. After taking in the sites of the magma, you get a moment to eat your lunch on the side and bask in the accomplishment. Best day old empanadas of my life. If all of this isn’t great enough you then get to descend, not by foot, but by these mini butt sleds that we carried up in our packs. Heading down a less steep face, you fly by the seat of your pants using the ice axe as a brake. Literally couldn’t make up a more awesome day. 

Riding the high of the day we all went out in town for some good old dancing the night away. Truly wonderful filled with new friends from all over the world. After a late wake up, a few of us from the hostel piled into a van heading straight for heaven. Heaven goes by the name of Termas Geometricas, and it is nothing short of the most heavenly experience of my life. An amalgamation of about 15 differently heated natural hot springs located in a rain forrest esq valley. Seriously, my god. 

Other highlights since last posts include helping a cool friend of a friend work on his cabin in the hills of Bariloche. Hanging with the local skaters of Bariloche one afternoon. Lots of crazy beautiful hikes. Especially Refugio Frey. Dancing in empty bars. Dancing in crowded bars. Watching Top Gun. Making wonderful dinners with wonderful people. Sunrises and sunsets and all that other basic crap. 

I’ve said it before, but it’s becoming impossible to cover all I have done in my travels. I never intended to, and I know now I can’t. The best part is sharing highlights here and the details in person. I can honestly say I have not had a boring moment in the past 2 and a half months. Now enjoy some more photos. Love y’all. ​

Will Work for Food

Before leaving Calafate for Chalten, I struck a deal with a local asador, aka Argentinian grill master. The agreement was, he would take me under his wing for a week and I would stop pestering him to take me under his wing for a week. Cue the Chefs Table episode in Patagonia with Frances Mallmann – rural edition. Chefs Table – Patagonia

My local asador, aka meat maestro, goes by the name of Chacho and he embodies everything you expect a Chacho to be. I believe his real name is Matias, but it would be disrespectful to use this in public. He has been grilling all his life and is a true reflection of authentic Argentinian asado. For Argentinians, asado is an integral part of their culture. There is immense pride in the process of asado – it’s an art form as much as a food group. What’s more, the act of cooking the food, which can take anywhere from minutes to an entire day, is inherently fun. It’s social, exciting, physical and often accompanied by drinks. 

As American’s I think we struggle to identify with a single food group and thus have adopted many other culture’s cuisines, melding and mending based on each chefs desires. Furthermore, for many of us, food becomes secondary to everything else we try to accomplish each day – work, work out, friends, Friends the show, etc. For many Argentinian’s, life is the same as American’s, with a heavy emphasis on work, in the work-life balance. But when the work slows, food takes over and can consume entire days. 

When I first approached Chacho, I was mainly just interested in just learning more about asado. He came by every night to cook proper asado in a restaurant connected with the hostel. After treated myself to a real meal at the restaurant post Torres del Paine, I realized it was the real deal. Everyday around midday he would show up to prep for that evening. For a couple days, I would hang around him and shoot the shit. Aside from being a good cook, he was a cool dude. His English left something to be desired, but so did my Spanish. He is the kind of guy that people are drawn to. 

Eventually I finally got up the nerve to ask if he would let me work for a week, and we make this official. At first I think he was reluctant. I was just some dude from California looking to do 3rd world work in his opinion. But the following day he pulled  me aside and asked if I was serious. He made it clear he could not pay me, but he would teach me. I was pretty confident there would likely be some free food as well. That worked for just fine for me. More important than money, I was learning a new skill. With a limited budget during my time in South America, I know I will probably have to work a bit to keep the travels going. I don’t plan on taking any desk jobs, so getting my foot in the proverbial asado door is huge. 

Was I nervous on the first day? No, until I actually stepped into the kitchen and realized I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. I think anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows – the worst thing you can be doing in a kitchen is not doing anything at all. The lack of any formal training and a strong language barrier made everything way more hectic. Fortunately my soon to be new amigo, Marco, was watching out for me. He pulled me outside, put a beer in my hand and told me “tranquilo” (relax). “Tonight you should just enjoy yourself and watch.” (In Spanish) Obviously watch meant, ask questions, help where I could, try some meats and keep drinking. There are certain things that’s I realized quickly about the culture around asado. If you have a beer in your hands, it’s not just yours, but everyone else’s that is working. They’re not much of germaphobes. No one in the restaurant spoke English, so half the experience was continuing to learn Spanish. In return I also taught a bit of English. 

Obviously I didn’t just get to have fun each night. I think the second night was a bit of a backlash and right of passage, as I found myself washing dishes for 7 hours. Chacho you salty dog, I knew at some point you were going to crack the whip on this gringo and put me to work. Graciously at the end of the night, Chacho acknowledged that I had done real work and earned a nights salary. Of which he would later “borrow” half of it to go to the grocery store. Consider it my donation to the cause Chacho, you hairy beast. 

Each night my clothes soaked up more smoke as a testament to the newfound meat knowledge absorbed in my brain. Unfortunately for my hostel mates, our room became a bit of a campfire. It felt nice to settle a bit in one place and be a part of a local business. The kitchen staff recognized my work and opened up to me as a part of their team. When you don’t understand the conversation and people start to laugh, you’re inclined to join in. So I’m pretty sure I spent a good portion of the night unknowingly laughing at myself – cheeky bastards. The kitchen squad of Chacho, Marco, Mancu and all the other mouth breathers were the real homies. It was the first time during traveling where I truly was able to become a part of the local culture. 

I understand that I am just fortunate to be able to choose to have this experience. I understand my place as a traveler through their country with all the privileges associated with it. For them this is what they need to do to put food on a plate. For me, it was an experience and I could leave any time. Nonetheless my gratitude is genuine as hell. 

The absolute highlight of the week was on Easter Sunday. The day before Chacho invited me to his home to join his family for lunch. Not really sure what to expect, but knowing it was going to be awesome, I eagerly accepted. He picked me up late morning from the hostel. After a stop by the grocery store we arrived at his house. One thing to note is, everyone has at least 2 dogs. They had 4. The dogs are allowed to roam the city wherever they want, but they are loved like family when they are home. People really like animals around here. 

Chacho has a beautiful wife, daughter and another child on the way. They live in the hills outside of the center of town in a wonderful house with a large backyard. You don’t have the same city structures around here. It’s dirt roads and families claim plots of land that bleed into their neighbors. Everyone has much more space. 

When we walked into the backyard, I realized I was in for a real meaty treat. One of the most famous Argentinian asados is the crucified lamb. The lamb is flayed out like the House of Bolton flag and slow cooked outside over a dull fire. At the parrilla we had smoked lamb (cordero) every night, but it was in a smoker. This shit was the real deal though. Unfortunately I am sworn to not reveal the secrets, but the process of cooking this bad boy is awesome. We prepped the lamb and fire and got cooking. 

We were joined by two other young families with small children. The children played soccer, obviously, all day, while the adults did adult stuff by the slowly crucifying lamb. Me torn between being a kid and adult, went back and forth between the two squads. I was treated to a full blown Easter Sunday – being Jewish this was a new experience. I admitted this to them at some point. Everything was so much more than I expected and I couldn’t wipe the childish smile off my face all day. 

After about 4 hours it was finally time to eat. We cut up the meat and assembled it on a table amongst some other local dishes and spirits. How was the meat? How do you think it was?? Unbelievable. Post lunch, which was more like dinner,  was the traditional Easter egg hunt. Fortunately for the real kids, I was disqualified from entering as I was not under 5 years old. I was not disqualified from reaping the benefits of the chocolate eggs that were discovered. 

Post egg hunt was a final late afternoon lawn sesh followed by an in house matinee showing of Monsters University in Spanish…. along with a little inadvertent siesta. It all came to an end with a little cafe con leche and some heart to heart with Chacho about how perfect the day was. Goodbyes were said and Chacho and I returned to the parrilla for that evenings crowd.

I can’t understate how amazing this day was. Amongst all the unreal nature and mountainous adventures I’ve had in Patagonia and New Zealand, this was the best day by far. 

Before this week of asador training, I went back and forth about whether I should return to Calafate. I wondered if Chacho was actually serious, would I like it, my friends were asking me to head North with them, it was going to cost more money to head back South. Ultimately I knew I had to try. It was beyond worth it and I would return to Calafate in a heart beat. I learned a handful of different types of meats, cuts, cooking styles and techniques. I learned how to make empanadas, side dishes and sauces. I learned the culture and the lingo. I experienced a brief window into a passion people spend their lifetime’s perfecting. I don’t know why they decided to let this dirty gringo into their world of asado, but they did, and I am eternally grateful. 

Chacho you will probably never read this, nor understand this, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything. 

Meat, meat, meat and meat. 2. 

Solo Uno (a tale of two Jacks)

30 hours on a bus is liable to give you something to write about, yea? Well I downloaded 9/13 episodes of what looked to be a potentially strong binge worth show, Designated Survivor, to my phone. Not 9 consecutive episodes mind you. But unless the 4 I’m missing are profoundly better, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the show. Well, maybe if you find yourself on a bus for more than a day, then it’ll do. In addition, I threw On The Road on the kindle, since I finished Americanah, which was profound and amazing. Similar to Dharma Bums, I can’t honestly say I really like Kerouac. He strikes me as a bit of a ingenuine, arrogant, and a womanizer. I guess you could call my bus ride “The Tale of Two Jacks.” (Jack Bauer and Jack Kerouac). 26 hours into a bus ride and it turns out, between the wild mountains and lakes of Patagonia, is desert. Crazy. 

Post Torres Del Paine – two days of cleaning gear, hot meals and genuine intent of going out on he town only to succumb to going to bed before 11, were great, aka “not lit.” 

No open beds at our hostel in El Calafate forced the issue and it was time to move on. Without any planned busses I decided during breakfast to hitchhike up to El Chalten. Not looking at a map, just knowing it was the next main town north, it seemed easy enough. 2 hours northish, I figured everyone would be heading there and hitching wouldn’t be too difficult. My first ride did come relatively fast and was much nicer than expected. An empty tour bus consisting of the driver and Chilean companion snagged me just as they were exiting town. Misunderstanding them, I interpreted their situation as needing to retune their bus to El Chalten. Perfect, I just scored a ride all the way. Turns out they were just going past the turn off for El Chalten, only about 30km outside of town. Dropped off at an intersection for the notorious Ruta 40 that bisects Chile and Argentina, I was exposed in the Patagonian desert sun with 188 km remaining. I think my optimism lasted for about the first 4 hours and began fading as my water ran out and the sun began to set. Reality of sleeping on the side of the road without water was doable, but not exactly what I had hoped for. I probably saw about 20 cars in 5 hours. Most of which had children sleeping in the back, with parents in the front giving me sympathetic shoulder shrugs. I learned a shoulder shrug gets me about 0 km down the road. With the sun fading I reluctantly returned to the other side of the road to see if it would be easier to get back to El Calafate, my origin. In 5 min I got a fun ride with a couple of fishermen quite buzzed off an unknown drink amongst other things. Where I waited:

Tail between my legs, but happy to be out of the desert I rewarded myself with a brew at the local spot, La Zorra. Found myself a cheap hostel for the night and a bus ticket to El Chalten the next morning. God dammit, that last passage was definitely a crap version of something Kerouac would write. 

I got to Chalten about noon the following day, found a bathroom to change into hiking gear, a panaderia for a quick bite and hit the trail for a few days. At that point all I wanted was to get out with everything I needed on my back. No need for finding hostels or rides anymore. To understand Chalten and where I was, I recommend checking out the short climbing film “Line Across the Sky.” Like Across The Sky

The alpine climbing community and evnironment is palpable everywhere here. From chalk lined routes along the cliffs, to the gear shops in town and massive peaks just begging to be climbed by the best mountaineers in the world. It is the center of the alpine climbing world. 

My trail was no first ascent by any means, but it did give me access to the Fitz Roy range and a few days of solitude in Patagonia. I made camping around an hour before sunset and enjoyed my Patagonian staple dinner, ravioli and salami for dinner, under the Fitz Roy. Dessert was week old rum and chocolate. I traded dreams of going out on the town to sleeping in, in a tent the first night. Sleep lasted until about 4 am before it was too damn cold to sleep. I waited until dawn with hourly swigs of rum, strictly for warmth.

The thought of getting out of my sleeping bag into the cold air is always far worse than reality. Had a pretty sweet morning consisting of my breakfast speciality – oatmeal, raisin and a liberal spoonful of dulce de leche. I also put to use one of the tea bags I had smartly snatched in Chalten. 

My time backpacking around here was a repeat of eat, try to sleep, hike and repeat. Making time in the afternoon to read and relax. You are treated to different luxuries when hiking alone. Mainly getting to do whatever you feel, whenever you feel. The solitude definitely helps me feel more present in my surroundings. I originally thought solo camping would lead to profound thoughts throughout my hiking. But ultimately most thoughts fade to the background and I become more present in my surroundings. Oddly enough, this lack of thought ultimately leads me to more clarity. Under thinking is often more beneficial than over thinking. BOOM. 

The last morning I woke early to catch sunrise at the Fitz Roy. About an hour hike up a frozen stream under a full moon. Probably the greatest sunrise I have ever seen. It was fleeting with only about 5 min of sun illuminating the Fitz Roy, before fading behind clouds. 

I returned to town that evening more excited than ever to see friends. Solo backpacking has the profound effect of feeling more comfortable on your own, and more appreciative of time with friends. Standard post backpacking meal of burgers and beer that evening. Spent that night at probably the absolute worst hostel of my life. Mainly due to the weirdo running the shop. It was 120 pesos, or about $7, so I guess you can’t expect too much. But is a toilet seat and toilet paper really too much?? 

I returned back to El Calafate a day later to start my week of Asado training with El Chacho. (Read next blog). In avoidance of some really introspective shit about things I have learned about myself through solo adventure, I think I will end this post now. But if you wanna get deep sometime when I’m back and hear about the often more interesting stories in between the lines I write, let’s do it. Remind me to tell you more about the ride with the fishermen too. 

Foregoing this posts featured person, because it would most definitely be me. No need to ramble on any more about me. Food lately has consisted mainly of empanadas and more empanadas. Breakfast has been delightful at hostels with breads, cereal and coffee. Dinner has been lots of meat or cheap pasta. 

Alfajores, empanadas, super pancho and 0 (going on the bus was not an option) More pics below!

Welcome to Patagucci

A couple astute observations from Patagonia thus far: 

  1. They have switched all the hot and cold water knobs. Probably a practical joke on los gringos. 
  2. It is quite a challenge to pee standing up as most toilet seats do not stay up on their own. 

El Calafate has provided a respite from the harsh, but fun climate of Buenos Aires in preparation for Torres del Paine. The biggest challenge here is waking up by 9:30 for the free breakfast. A welcoming assortment of bread, cereal, coffee, juice and raw eggs available to cook. It is easy to get sucked into endlessly refilling your coffee cup and turning paperback pages. El Calafate is a wonderful place to rest and utilize as a jumping pad to other spots, but does not necessarily provide a plethora of daily activities. Fine by me for a couple days. The peak of each day is sunset…

And sunset sessions on the deck lead to many new buds…

The views outside of sunset leave little to be desired as well…

Everything is quite charming other than a rabies scare when a shit little dog bites you. Probably because he knows you hate shit little dogs. I hate shit little dogs. If I had a picture of this dog I wouldn’t post it because he deserves no fame or further recognition. Where ma big dogs at?? This punk was domestic, but there could be an entire blog about the Dogs of Calafate. They are in better health than the gutter punks of haight st, and appear to wash their fur more than Blake Cole. (Shampood today for the first time this trip and feel pretty good about it) Every dog has their day I guess 😉 Also sincere congrats to you Blake on MIT, you smarty pants! If you don’t know what to do with your life just go back to school, or travel.

Y’all probably want to hear about Torres del Paine, or you didn’t, but now you do. It feels a bit contrived to provide a description of each day, or at least it does the park an injustice to reveal all it’s secrets. I think half the fun of a trip like this is, as much as you look at iconic photos beforehand, it provides you with maybe 1% of the actual views and 0% of the emotions. As much as you mentally and physically prepare, it is never what you imagine. 

In regards to preparation, I did very little other than show up with the right gear. Websites will tell you to reserve campsites and permits. Upon arrival, hostels and fellow travelers will exhaust you with their detailed plans and printed reservations. At least during the fringe or off-season, like now, I wouldn’t worry. Just get there and figure it out. Don’t quote me however if you somehow get turned around. Just bring a warm sleeping bag and clothes because it’s cold as tits at night. 

The park reminds me a lot of Yosemite in regards to the traffic it sees. But like Yosemite, if you venture into the wild for a few days, you will find the solitude you seek. Don’t look at weather reports. They will tell you “It’s Patagonia, don’t ask about the weather,” and they are right. A sunny forecast can mean rain and winds, but a rainy forecast can also mean bluebird skies.  Be prepared for anything, and definitely cold nights. 

The only way to describe the park is extreme. From tame bright torquiose lakes to thundering glaciers and jagged mountains. Clouds move faster than you and swarm to the mountain peaks. My fortunate timing during falls revealed wonderful fall colors that painted the hillsides in earthy tones. Rivers flow throughout valleys and provide ample drinking water. Supposedly you an just bring a cup in lieu of water bottles. Glaciers and snow cover the mountains year round and provide constant warning of the constantly changing conditions and harsh environment you at hiking in. Every mountain has its own character and looms over you each day. The intensity of the environment really sets in slowly as it feels impossible to recognize the magnitude of where you are. Just looking back on photos now helps the enormity of Patagonia’s beauty sink in. 

The hiking itself is long, but not terribly difficult. Remember to look up as much as possible without tripping. The only word you need to know is ‘hola’ for the passing hikers. Camping is provided in designated sites. I really don’t think it’s a good idea to camp outside of these areas. Part of the park was burnt down by some dummy who camped out of boundaries and tried burning his toilet paper. Don’t be that dude. The one rule I would break, but again don’t quote me, is camping at Campamento Torres if they say it’s full. You want to be there to catch sunrise at Las Torres. Find a bush to camp behind if you have to. They won’t kick you out if you show up at sunset. Likely there will be open spots anyway. Do this for your last night and walk back to the park entrance with the biggest grin, mainly in anticipation of a shower and dreamy dinner. 

Go for as long as you can and don’t let the weather deter you. Four to eight days is what’s up. Then go back in for another week like many do! Maybe a bit earlier than April would be recommended though, to gain access to all the park before seasonal closures. It’s pretty much winter here now. 

So much of this trip is finding peace and stokedness in being solo. I think I found much more in my time in the park. However, if you show up alone, don’t expect to be alone for too long if you don’t want to. This brings me to my People from around the Globe highlight of the week and the two unlucky travelers who I have been sharing much of my Patagonia experience with so far. 

I met Dan and Leila at the grocery store in Puerto Natales on the Sunday night before heading into the park the next morning. Word of wisdom is to not go to Puerto Natales on a Sunday. Everything is closed and you will be forced to forage through the grocery store for what little options remain for backpacking food. The only sure bet was alcohol. Of which I bought a bottle of rum, and they purchased the same… in addition to three boxes of wine. I complemented them on their purchase in line not expecting to see them again. The next morning on the boat ride into the park we found ourselves once again next to each other. Similar to encounters with all other awesome people I have met, it was quickly easy to recognize that we would continue hanging. Grateful to have met these two as we shared much of the hiking together and a couple nights swapped spirits and stories. Ultimately we watched sunrise at Las Torres under the warmth of sleeping bags and coffee. I think my time hiking and camping solo was that much better because it was complimented by the time I also got to share with these two. Yin yang or something. 

Dan, a cheeky bloke hailing from the UK is on a year long walk about through Central and South America. Leila, a damsel from Canada on an adventure through South America before embarking on the adventure of Law School. One of these adventures is arguably more dangerous. The humor between these three different English speaking countries is how you say, humorous. Certainly makes 6 hour bus rides more tolerable. Apologies to the French girl next to us for my attempt to learn French in a single bus ride. 

The three of us are now back in El Calafate nursing sore limbs and dirty clothes. I’m mending my relationship with the pups of this town as well. We’re doing alright now. Day by day my Spanish improves and my black nikes turn less black. It’s fun as hell down here. Some photos from the trekking below-> 

Toast, Jamon y queso, chorizo and grilled veggies. And far too many, I ate something bad last night I think. 😦 

Cómo se Dice… 

I’m not sure what’s more difficult – learning to drive on the left side of the road, or learning Spanish. Apologies to Senor Mason, Ms Monarez and every other Spanish teach I have had. In theory 3 years of high school Spanish should amount to more than this fragmented vocabulary and parsed phrases. But then again, 5 years of piano only left me with the beginning to Fur Elise and the keys to Still Dre. 

International flights are seriously the best. Auckland to Buenos Aires was no LA to Sydney, but still awesome. The assortment of Oscar nominated films, the meals and the free drinks, but really the free drinks. It’s really the only way to survive 12 hours in a tight space. When you wake up in the middle of the flight to use the restroom, treat yoself to a glass of red! ¿¿Porque no??

After about a month in Australia and NZ, mostly NZ, I find myself in quite a new environment. South America. Still not sure how my route makes sense, but I think it’s working out just right. My only goal now that I am here is to spend as much time as possible in Patagonia before winter freezes me out. But first, 5 days in Buenos Aires. 

Buenos Aires is absolutely incredible. Next to Paris, it is my favorite international city. But nobody messes with Paris. The city is vibrant, colorful, always awake, the people are beautiful and the food is amazing. This goes for the more upscale Palermo and Recoleta, but also San Telmo, Montserrat. The only district that felt exploited was La Boca – a historically poor neighborhood where during the day tourists come to take pictures of colorful houses, but at night it returns to its poverty stricken self. Pretty sad, but I would have loved to see a Boca Juniors soccer match there. To be fair we didn’t even see the colorful buildings. As with most of the trip, planning had come s cone to doing. So we walked towards the stadium expecting to find the tourist attraction. Reality put us in the center of the part of the neighborhood where gringos look like they are wearing reflective clothing in the middle of the night, even midday. No harm no foul though. 

Definitely the best parts of BA for me were the people and food. Mainly the food forreal though. Putting my crohns gut to the test I took on everything the city had to offer. My favorite bite being a bife sandwhich at desnival – thanks for the rec Sam! Of course I had to return the next day for a empanada. Followed by some ice cream down the block for that late afternoon sweet craving.  Before and After: 

Less than a week there was not enough, and I definitely would not rule out a return soon. 

This blog’s featured dude/dudette is my new bud for life Manouel. Heralding from the French island of Guadaloupe, Manouel is on a far too similar adventure as another engineer who quite is job in sustainabile energy to venture off into Australia, New Zealand and South America. Fate put the two of us together fresh off a bus to downtown Buenos Aires from the Airport. Unaware that we had both taken the same flight from New Zealand, we both found ourselves in the heart of BA having no idea where to go. Acknowledging that neither of us weren’t complete weirdos we set off in search of shelter. After a quick stop at a hostel I supposedly had a reservation at, but apparently not really, we found a ‘good enough’ situation in the Recoleta district. Quickly becoming buds it was clear we were a travel mates for the week. A man with a good taste for wine at any hour, chess in the park and an up for anything attitude, Manouel was the best dude I could have hoped for upon arrival in South America. 

Manouel is now off in Argentina, following a deviating loss in chess, traveling with family before hitting the road on two wheels for an extended bike trip. Likely, this was not the last he’s seen of me.

Poor tired Manouel 

My time in Buenos Aires was too short, but filled with food, friends, friends of friends, walking everywhere and sitting in as many parks as possible. While I don’t think my immune system was too appreciative of the change between the healthy New Zealand environment and the something quite different environment in Buenos Aires, I had the best of times. Highly recommend visiting if an option. Some pics of people food and places 🙂


I am off to El Calafate before entering Torres del Paine. (Actually I am back from a week down in the park, but am delayed in finishing this post) Expect a very meaty next post. I mean, not like literally meaty because I’ve eaten a lot less meat since BA, but you know, lengthy and obviously really good. 

Mowing Lawns in Your Underwear

Day 23: Oatmeal rations are running low. I don’t know how much longer I can last on my brown sugar flavored breakfast. Morning minutes are counted by small bites of beige flakes. I will likely have to reup on this flavorless grain (it’s a grain right?) soon and continue exploiting it for its low cost and semi-nutritional value. lol I actually don’t really mind oatmeal much. 

In other news I continue to maintain a surplus of chocolate! Quantity over quality these days, and in a variety of  complexions. 

UPDATE: I have left my bag of chocolate on a bus. I’m falling into despair like cacao percentages dropping from dark to milk. 

It’s rather surprising how few other Americans I have met along the way. Maybe most fear the label of being a deserter these days. Side note, I have not applied for any foreign citizenship… yet. Kyle Valenzuela already has 3 Asian applications open however. (Just making sure you’re reading this buddy) On the topic of things with Americana, I highly recommend the book Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Try saying that name with a mouth full of oatmeal! Anyway, Americanah was the 

And I find it to be

And so does my bud D. Egg. To summarize the plot:

Truthfully I find the story to be quite relevant as a foreigner in a new environment. 

Things that New Zealand does better than the US:

  1. A lot of stuff
  2. Cafe’s

Cafes are everywhere and it’s great. I’ll admit to coffee being the one non necessary spending I treat myself to. There is nothing better than plopping yourself down at a foreign cafe with a coffee and possible pastry. This can be accompanied by a book, camera, phone with wifi or just a good view for people watching. The cafe is guaranteed to have drinking water, a clean restroom and an often hospitable staff accommodating to your travel baggage – physical and emotional. For days on the trail I bring a French press, obviously. 


Shout out to my Wellington bro Tate for the hookup on the last two. Go check out Lamason in Wellington if you get the chance and say what’s up to Tate for me. His hospitality at Lamason and again later when I serendipitously ran into Tate and mates at the botanical gardens has earned him this weeks spotlight honors. A true bro with an equal knowledge of coffee brewing and hip hop. Thanks for the authentic Wellington experience ma dude. 

One topic I wish I could better document is the lawn mowing in NZ. What I mean is, everyday seeing men mowing their lawns in short shorts/underwear and colorful T’s/wife-beaters. This grass-cutting ensemble is often accompanied by rain boots. I am convinced that the grass they are cutting may not even be theirs, but just the closest, most publicly viewable, patch of grass – likely not even in need of trimming. While it is often raining in NZ, the sun is always shining on these debonair heroes and their haute couture. Keep fighting the good fight. 

All in all, the past 5 days or so have been pretty sweet

In the last week, I cruised 

up from Picton to Auckland a bit faster than I would have liked. Being on the road so much was no picnic

and at times I felt kinda city 

but as always, I was rewarded with amazing views

Ok I’ll stop horsing around…

One of my favorite nights was when I stumbled on a local food festival. It was music to my ears

I ate so much, by the time I went to bed, I was a happy

Written on multiple bus rides while being wiretapped by the Obama admin through my coffee cup. And to the mouth breather behind me who keeps farting, you’re not as fucking slick as you think you are bud. 

Oatmeal, banana, plum, peach, fried calamari, chips, blueberry & cream crepe, and 1.