UAE/ Al Ain/ Dubai/ Wave Pool/ Snowboarding/ High Rises/ Where am I?

The title of this post pretty much describes the feeling you have when you’re in the United Arab of Emirates. For those of you who don’t know where that is, it’s probably because everybody usually just says Dubai. And for those of you who still don’t know where that is, the UAE borders Saudi Arabia and Oman. The UAE is roughly the size of the state of Maine in the United States, and if you don’t know where that is, you’re a lost cause and you should find a map. For the UAE being the size it is, it definitely packs a punch. Not to mention a couple world records. Like, the record for the most nationalities washing hands at the same time. That’s for real and the number is 72. I just found that fact and it’s really not important but what I’m really talking about is the worlds tallest man made structure/ building in the world. Or the worlds biggest shopping mall. As of right now they’re claiming to also have the worlds biggest indoor ski resort. (We went there, it’s massive, I believe it) and my personal favorite….some would not say it’s the best but I disagree. The best wave pool in the world!!! They have some other records but I think these are the most appealing to us. We arrived late into Dubai and pretty much went straight to bed. I caught a vicious belly bug in Buenos Aires and was recovering from the 18 hour flight from BA then to Brazil, then Dubai. It may have been the worst flight I’ve ever had. No joke, I spent most of the flight in the bathroom. The next day we checked out the aquarium in the Dubai mall. Then we took a local bus to Al Ain almost 2 hours to stay with Caro’s childhood neighbor from Germany. Britta and Asif and their three boys live near the wadi adventure park which hosts the world renowned wave pool. Staying with them was really a treat for us after traveling so much the 2 days prior, not to mention the last 2 months. The next morning Britta drove us to wadi and we met up with Alice and Daniel from Tasmania. We had met them in santiago, chile and we booked the same surf session together. The park is literally in the middle of the desert. Super nice facility! We checked in and then walked into the wave pool area. Needless to say I felt like a kid. I might have been frothing a little bit and may have been in disbelief I was even there. It’s unreal! Everything I had expected. They can make rights, they can make lefts, walls with sections. You just tell them at the beginning of the session what you want and they pump it out for you. I could go on and on about the wave itself and the dynamics of the pool but I will do everybody a favor and get on with the post. Let me just say though that I want one in my future backyard and I would definitely go back. I’m completely serious too. We spent one more night with Britta and Asif and then headed back to Dubai to snowboard the indoor park. Haha, I realize how crazy this sounds and am still trying to mentally comprehend surfing and snowboarding in the UAE. So, yeah, we went snowboarding at the mall of emirates. How was it might you ask? Absolutely freezing!!! It’s a legit run. Just as we found ourselves a bit in awe surfing the wave pool was about the same feeling we found ourselves in again at the snow park. It’s almost as if you’re not really doing it. Like, it goes against the laws of physics and reality. It’s 85-90 degrees outside and we’re snowboarding. All in all we had a great time in the UAE. It was interesting to see all the money and growth of Dubai. We actually missed out seeing some stuff and maybe have underestimated the country a little bit. We have a chance to go back there in June so we’ll see what happens.

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Buenos Aires

Buenos aires –
Hum, what can I say? This massive city has something but after 4 days there I am still not quite sure what…. Oh wait…. Let me think…Yes I do :

1. Hangovers
2. Amazing Steaks
3. Tango ( only for tourist, it doesn’t seem like any other porteƱos do this regularly)
4. Hangovers
5. Insane nightlife
6. Ice cream
7. Legit classic guitarists
8. One more time for good measure – hangovers

To give you guys a bit of a background- we came from a town that has maybe 1000 people, at the end of the world, in a national park, with maybe, and this is a big maybe, one bar.
We had been in Patagonia for 3 weeks hiking and doing all things outdoors and from here we flew to Buenos Aires (or BA).
We got in fairly late, 11pm and made it to our hostel at 12. As we walk in, we felt we were walking into a club more than a hostel. Strobe/black lights, music thumping so loud you couldn’t help but to start fist pumping, a boat load of sloppy drunk people and huge time table on the wall with every nights weekly activities( by activities I mean pre-party location and the destined club with what kind of music) !
Yes, this was our first true and official party hostel and it was grand!!!
Surprisingly enough our room was amazing and quite. The only problem was (but really wasn’t ), wifi was only available on the ground floor where the party went off every night and where breakfast was served every morning.

We were happy to also find out that two other couples that we met on our way down to Patagonia on the Navimag ferry were also in BA during our stay. We were glad to meet up with them and enjoyed a couple more great experiences. It was so nice to see some familiar faces.
Hopefully we will be meeting up with them again along the way.

We did eat some great food and had some awesome evenings, but all in all I don’t think we really have gotten a good idea of what BA is about. I think we are both still torn if we would return back, I suppose we should give it another go and approach it a bit differently, but for now, we are done with 6am bed times and are looking forward to head back into nature again.

This is Rex now….. I just want to add that the photos are from this super colorful area called boca and that was from our walking tour. The others are from out on the town and pretty much random at best.

El Chalten

The town of Chalten was very sleepy. You can walk through it in ten minutes. When you go grocery shopping, you end up going to 5 different stores to get what you need. This is where we booked our ice climbing tour through. We did a couple day hikes and rode mountain bikes up to a waterfall. It’s basically the hub for rock climbers to gear up before hiking the Fitz Roy or the other vertical mountains around there. There isn’t really much to this little town. It has that feeling like one day it may see some massive growth. We really appreciated it for it’s laid back feeling. For climbing, hiking, camping, outdoors stuff, it’s perfect.

Ice Climbing in Patagonia

There are only a couple things that I honestly could never see myself doing. For example…race car driving, hucking myself off a huge ledge and flying down a mountain in a squirrel suit, parkour, etc. Things like that. It’s not that I wouldn’t try these things, there’s just a disconnect. it’s just the idea of finding the resources to make these far fetched ideas come to reality. Or maybe I’m just not very interested. Sometimes you see these things on TV and say to yourself, “I could that” but at the same that little voice in your head will tell you it’s probably never going to happen.

This is my view towards ice climbing. It looks cool, it is great to watch people get themselves into tricky situations, and they’re usually climbing high above rocks and ice which I don’t do well with. I’d like to imagine climbing being similar to surfing. Both sports are very independent and I’ve always felt climbers have grown up with the outdoor lifestyle, like surfers do. I grew up in the ocean. Climbers grow up on mountains. Either way I have a huge respect for them. I just thought I’d never get a chance to ice climb, nor have I ever met any ice climbers.

As long as I’ve known Carolin, when she sees a tree or something to climb she’s all over it like white on rice. In chalten we found a ice climbing ad and naturally she was hooked. It didn’t take long for her to make her mind up about whether or not we should do it. I think she saw a picture of someone in an ice cave and said “I wanna do that”. To make a long story longer, we had the opportunity to ice climb on a glacier yesterday. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. An hour bus ride to a boat, then another hour to a remote glacier called ( the viedma glacier ).

I don’t doubt that if I told an avid climber what we did they’d probably think it was minor, but my response would be that there’s nothing minor about climbing a 50 foot wall of ice next to an ice hole thats pretty much an infinite freezing abyss, and certain death.

Carolin seems to have a different approach then me on this. I’ve never seen her so fearless before. No hesitation at all. Even the guides were asking if she had climbed before. One guide said ” she’s better than me”. The other guys that were climbing next to her were getting mad because it would take Carolin 2.5 minutes to go up and down a 50 foot vertical wall, when it would take them 5 just to make it half way up. I have video proof. I thought it was funny. Ive never been more proud of her. I’d catch myself hooting at her and cheering as she passed one person, then the next, and another. It was awesome! So, after Carolin had crushed everyone’s dream about becoming an ice climber, we hiked through some ice caves and across this massive glacier. We had lunch with a surprise glass of baileys and glacier ice from the guides, and hiked back to the boat.

I’ve never done anything like this before and absolutely had a blast. As far as the trip goes so far, it has been a huge highlight. Such a unique experience that I will remember forever. Even though we made it out safely I might have a legitimate fear of endless ice holes in the middle of a glacier. Or just glaciers in general. Massive, beautiful, freezing, always changing, jagged, rawness!!! Amazing!!! I can’t wait to do it again. I woke up with a buzz this morning and a desire to get back out there. Who would have thought…..

Patagonia and the “W” trek

So we’re back in puerto natales from our 5 day trek through Torres Del Paine national park. Within the park you can pretty much spend as much time as you want exploring the different hiking trails. We took 5 days doing the classic W hike. We packed all of our own food, sleeping bags, and tent into our backpacks and started hiking. Each pack probably weighed about 30 lbs. Caro and I agreed it’s the most we’ve ever hiked with.

Each day we had certain campsites to get to by a certain timeframe. The W is basically just the shape of the hike we did. Up and down 3 different valleys each unique in their own right. The first valley has the famous torres del paine (with the huge granite towers). The second has the French valley, and the third has glacier grey. In between each major stop point there where these towering mountains all around us. They’re so massive that when you look up while you’re walking you almost get vertigo. It feels like they’re all inverted and looming above you. Unbelievable views pretty much everywhere you look!

Hiking with all of our own gear always makes it harder. Going down steep sections is harder on your feet, your back, pretty much everything. The good thing is, is that everyday it gets a little lighter and a little easier.

Everybody told us the weather is sporadic and can change within minutes. They said you can experience all four seasons in one day. Literally. Fortunately for us we only really had sun. I hiked in board shorts most days and couldn’t complain. So all in all I guess we scored. My favorite part of the whole trek by far was the fact that you can fill your water bottle up at any given stream or river with no filter. It might be the best water I’ve ever had.

Extreme mountain terrain, glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, rivers. For hikers and outdoors people in General, Patagonia really has it all.

Arica/ Santiago, Chile

We are about to pass hour 9 of 14 hrs on a bus and I figured it would be a great time to start writing my first blog entry. Rex has been the masta of the blog and has done all the entries so far. Incredible boredom is starting to set in right now and it seems the last 3-4 hrs of a trip always seem like the longest.
To give you guys a little but of a rundown of where we are and how we got here, we left Cusco,Peru on the night of Saturday Feb 2nd, on a overnight bus to Arequipa. After a crazy whirl wind bus ride of 3 different buses, a boarder crossing and being in the driest desert in the world, we were super amped to finally get to Arica, Chile. From there we spent 3 nights there, surfing and planning our next leg. After some weird rash, amazing mahi mahi and fun surf, it was time for us to move on. On Wednesday the 5th we flew out from Arica to Santiago and it was only going to take 4 hrs….what a treat. We were initially debating on busing to Santiago but we decided it was worth the money to avoid 30 hrs of checking out more desert. And by desert I mean not even a damn tree in sight! Nothing! Nada!! Just good old sand and rock and a bunch of it!
Flying was the best decision yet!
We had avoided the reciprocal fee for entering Chile via bus and still got to cover some ground without paying an insane amount of money. To give you a little Insight, flying in South America is not cheap, ESP. From one country to the next. Your best bet is always to try and get into the country and then fly within. You will save up to $500 per person and like I said for Chile, avoid the $160 reciprocity fee for coming via land and not flying. I must say figuring that out is one of my more proud research/creative planning moves. (Yes, I am padding myself on the back)
We got to Santiago at 9 am, got sorted pretty fast and decided to take the Free Walking Tour which conveniently started at our hostel.
We, unexpectedly, ran into another couple that we had travelled with a few days earlier and were excited to see.
The walking tour was a blast. We would highly recommend this tour to anybody. They guy who runs it, is a local but has lived all over the world. He started this tour, after leading his friends from out of town around town and figured, why not do this for other travelers?!
Long story short, he gives you a more cultural, off the beaten path point of view, from a “coffee with legs”, to the oldest bar in Santiago, it was a blast! Oh and all on tip basis, so pay what you want!
I just want to touch base really on two things we saw:
The definite highlight was coffee with legs! In a nutshell: beautiful women, in string bikinis, serving coffee. This only exists in business district of Santiago. And it’s not very well documented. But you feel like you are walking into a strip joint, black lights, pumping techno, striper shoes and almost naked ladies, only to find a barista making one of the better espressos I have had in a while. Pretty genius I think. I guess about 20 years ago there were only 3 of them and now there are 300 within the business district in Santiago . No dancing, no sex, no booze just a good old coffee shop with legs! And this is only in Santiago!!
Second best was the oldest bar in Santiago. We all got a terromoto drink, which is no joke! Let’s talk intense, knock you off your feet intense!! Homemade pineapple sorbet + home made wine + some other alcohol + grenadine = hangover
Somehow we ended up ordering a grande and every other person in the bar stared at us like we were crazy! We drank it between 4 of us and ended up with a pretty solid buzz at 4 in the afternoon.

Santiago was definitely a pleasant surprise for us, besides the above mentioned, it is extremely well put together, with a great public transportation system that is similar to any large european city, nice people, a climate like Southern California, roads without potholes, toilets with toilet seats and tp, proper sparkling water and a lot of history and culture. The mountains with snow are right around the corner and the ocean is at your footsteps littered with beach breaks, in a nutshell : it has the key to our hearts:)

We spent the rest of our night hanging out at the pool at our hostel and drinking with other travelers we met throughout the day. It was a nice evening which we both really enjoyed and next thing you know we were up at 6 am again, getting ready to head to the bus station.

As previously mentioned the roads have been such a great surprise for us. Perus buses are better but the roads just suck! The buses have wifi, toilets, descent food, free movies/entertainment screens. Chilean buses might not be the greatest (a seat, a window, no AC, semi functioning toilet) but man-o-man…the roads are smoother than a babies butt!! (Disclaimer: We have only taken one bus so far in Chile, so there might be some fancy buses out there too, we were just happy we got a bus down to puerto montt, due to it being high season and lack of Spanish skills to ask)
Within the 12 hrs bus ride, we have seen a great change in scenery and we were quite happy to take a day bus instead of another night bus.
Like I mentioned before, Santiago has a similar climate to southern California, desert with some trees and brush, rolling straight from the mountains into the ocean. It’s warm but not too warm and cooler at night.
We have now transitioned into a more Oregon coast like scenery and it seems like we are just driving north along the west coast of the us, except we are in South America and heading south…really far south:)

Tomorrow we hopefully get onto a ferry for 4 days and end up at our destination of Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres del pain national park and the famous “W” hike! It only took us a week to get down the here!

Surfed Chile today

So, we took a 12 hour bus ride towards the coast to Arequipa, then a 7 hour bus ride to Tacna, then a local bus for 2 hours across the border into Chile. Last night we met a local guy here at our hostal who said he’d take us surfing today. A couple Aussies jumped in the van this morning and off we went. We pulled out into the beach and drove around until we found some surf. Not very big, but super fun beach break. Kinda mushy rights and lefts that reform into inside runners. We’ll be here a couple of days surfing and planning the next leg of our trip and then off to santiago.Image