Goodbye South America

Today I started a new adventure. I left South America for a different America. No, not quite the States but I am in Mexico where I will receive a 300 hour yoga training course in a beautiful community and with my lovely friend Carolyn from California.

It makes me sad to leave so soon, even though its been over 15 months. The memories I’ve shared in each country have provided me with enough love, inspiration, hospitality, motivation and respect for a growth and appreciation.

I can’t stress enough how precious life truly is. How important family is and how simple life can be. Somewhere along the way we’ve complicated things by comparing and contrasting, by working too hard or by going to fast. I do it too, thinking I need things when they complicate thins or I don’t need them. There is happiness in simplicity and there is value in being present and being nice to everyone you meet.

The way the people of South America have treated me is as if I was one of their family members. Open arms, open house, and so willing to go out of their way to help me.

Many have taught me that every person matters and every person you meet can be a chance to learn something. You can turn someone’s day around just by asking their name and smiling. It’s incredible how human connection really can connect as one. However we must open our hearts and mind to it.

Thank you South America, this definitely is not the last time I say goodbye! I guess I have to change the address of my blog name huh?

Sailing with “Imvubu”

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I was fortunate enough to sail throughout the Chilean channels for a second time. The sailboat was called “Imvubu” (significance is a hippopotamus in Zulu). It’s a 54 foot South African steel boat that was only launched 5 years ago.

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Owner Ralf Dominick offered my friend Jimmy and I positions to crew in exchange for food and lessons in sailing.

Click Here for more information on Imvubu

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SAM_3552Ocean waves escalate up and repel down…up and down, up and down. 54 ft steel vessel “Imvubu” handles the waters with ease.

Swells swimming in from the open ocean push us to 1.9 knots and gusts of 45 knots against the currents and winds. Up and down. I feel thankful I don’t get seasick.

Patagonia is breathtakingly beautiful, with waters tinted a pale glacier green and mountains soaring and diving into the sea with mossy patches and happy green trees.

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My favourite part of sailing is when we are not moving. Anchored in a  cove. This is the best part.

One can hear all around the nature untouched and vibrant. The thick smell of the trees dancing with the shoreline. The sea mixing with the heavy winds creating a whimsical misty spray that follows the design of the erratic shifting winds.

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The sounds are chilling as birds voices echo throughout the forests and the stillness of the bays and coves consume one with purity of the air and open sky. If your lucky you can see pockets in clouds with striking stars in all their radiance and beauty with sometimes their only chance to say hello.

Weather changes quickly and the cove is alive. Alive with chaotic calmness as this change is frequent and can send the boat dancing with the clanky anchor chain.

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Sailing is not as romantic as one may believe.

Sailing takes a toll on your body as energy used to maintain balance is sucked away and one can feel helpless and useless at times. Sleeping becomes a routine in the daytime and eating becomes a highlight. The romance lies in the seam of the nighttime and the assurance in being sewed back together in the stillness.

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I learned a new language while sailing. New manoeuvres, parts and functions of a sailboat. Not only that but the importance of wind direction, strength, wind angle, and interaction with the boat. Navigation, meteorology, currents, cloud patterns, and air all play a vital role. You must be constantly aware yet the slow pace of the boat makes you want to drift to sleep. It’s quite the difficult balancing act.

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5 am or 6 am we wake up and anywhere from 6 pm to 11 we arrive to a cove to anchor for the night. Dinner, a drink and off to sleep. It’s become routine but almost mundane. No sailing is not as romantic as they say.

45-80 Nautical miles a day, 8, 10 and sometimes 12 hour days.

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Coffee and tea become quite the treat, as it takes time to make such a thing. When you have a warm cup and are in the crispy wet conditions it can warm a heart and body right up!

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Try cooking in conditions with open water swells and strong winds blowing. It takes 3-4 times to make anything.

Overall, I don’t get along with sailing too well. I think I prefer meeting new people, walking and exploring.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a wonderful experience but I think I was made for a different lifestyle.

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Meanwhile feeling grateful and appreciative for the openness and willingness the sailing world provided for me. There are always lessons to be learned in every experience.

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Here is a look inside of the boat!

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Sailing around Cabo de Hornos, Cape Horn.

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Rivers of ink tell the tale of Cabo de hornos, Cape Horn with silent witness of tragedies, victories and illusions. Modern boats, strong tides and weather forecast help present day sailors to round the infamous rock in relative tranquility. The way there can be long and tough with thousands of miles of rough waters and shifting winds, faraway harbors and far from the trades with easy routes. The barren and windswept rock is one of the highest symbols of mans challenge to the unknown.

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Here is the city of Ushuaia, Argentina from the sailboat.

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Again I found myself on yacht Northanger, about to embark on a 7 day sailing adventure with the goal of sailing around Cape Horn, the most Southern tip of South America and known to many as the true “the end of the world”. Many explorers and adventurers have died while trying to round it throughout the last and now boats have more technology and weather knowledge to be able to easier predict the forecast.

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On January 22 Captain Greg and I met up with clients at 8:00am at the docks with luggage. We proceeded to check out of Ushuaia, Argentina to head to Puerto Williams, Chile. This requires a bit of paperwork and passports. Five hours worth of sailing through the Beagle Canal and we reaches Puerto Williams and had to check the Chilean Armada.

This took a little while so we decided to stay in Puerto Williams for the night.

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On January 23 we left early at 5:30 am into the Beagle Canal and sailed till 8 pm. This was the first time I felt sick but when you are heading into fierce winds only moving sometimes 2 or 3 knots against huge swells I’ve never experienced before. Didn’t ever get sick but definitely the pounding pressure hour after hour made me feel crazy. You literally always have to keep a hand on something otherwise you can really hurt yourself. On deck we had a harness and were clipped onto a line because the deck is slippery and the weather unpredictable.

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This part also had a passage with no land. I prefer the coast but this sailing day was different than all I knew.

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We eventually anchored in Caleta Martial, which was the most strong I have ever experienced wind in my life. Apparently in the cove it got up to 60 mph and around the horn the same day to 80 mph. The wind was so strong it was creating whitecaps only 100 meters off shore where the wind was blowing from behind the mountains. The boat next to us in the cove “commitment” actually has their anchor drag about midnight and were sent into a 5-6 mayhem trying to keep the boat safe in unbelievable winds. If the anchor drags you could potentially be thrown into rocks or roll. It’s also hard to navigate as the wind makes it hard to breathe and the winds create a white mist making it hard to see. Boy was the wind impressive that night and made me really respect it. Northanger was on a night watch in case the anchor was to drag. Scary stuff you have to be super careful.

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The wind has a fierce potent punch with unbelievable noises. However the energy I found to be cleansing and healing the land. This is a different world here.

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The next day, January 25 I felt a little seasick over the big swells that later much longer than the waves I was used to. We went around the horn this day and it was rather calm wind-wise with huge swells from the wind the night before. Rounding the horn was a great experience but not as incredible for me as some thee places in the channel. The clients we were with enjoyed it and was essentially why some of them came to Patagonia. But for me, they were rather barren, sharp rocks, and not a lot d beauty. Nonetheless I feel super grateful for the experience. We found a different cove to anchor that night.

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The next day January 26 we took it easy and went for a hike and met the little armada post which had a Chilean family and a pet king penguin. The children were super cute and it was good for me to speak Spanish again after two weeks of English. The hike was gorgeous and the cove made for a great place to relax.

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The next morning January 27 we left on a 50 km sail for Puerto Williams. Had some wind against us and we had to stop in a cove for lunch and wait for it to die down a bit. We made it to Puerto Williams about 7 at night.

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January 28
We headed for Ushuaia Argentina with a 5 hour sail and competed the full circle.

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In Patagonia for the most part there are charter boats which offer tourists and visitors a chance to experience the area and they get paid for taking them. Then there are private boats that typically are travellers themselves maybe making a first time trip to Antarctica or sailing around the world. It makes for lovely conversations on the docks and you meet about every type of person. This is one if my favourite parts of sailing, making these relationships.

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Sailing Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams

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Boat rocking cradle-like in sea of tranquility. The sea comes with a switch to an instant storm with gusts of wind and rain. There is a battlefield of albatross attacking seals and wind blowing waves forcing the sailboat dead into the wind at a standstill. Coves, bays, channels and passages lined beautifully with jagged mountains varying in colour, shape and snowfall. As nighttime falls, it gently grips me into a deep healing sleep as the neon black sky light up the stars to shine enough for vision.

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Life is all around and untouched by humans leaving a pure sense of energy and peaceful reflection.

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Stillness, rivers talking, full moon glowing and tiny droplets of aguaditas steaming my face gracefully playing with my sensations. Crispy cold fresh air yet I am warm as I am swarmed with a deep sense of connection. These glimpses of untouched land give me a sense what explorers must have felt when they first chartered these untameable waters. Fierce joy in the wind, music in its touch, twirling, spiralling, and running through my mind and entire body. It is cleansing.

Time lasts for eternity yet creeps into existence as the sky changes from dirty pink electric sherbet to soft jet navy lined with a twist of light blue.

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We sailed from Punta Arenas, Chile to Puerto Williams, Chile, through the stretch of Magellanes and Beagle Canal on the boat called “Northanger“. Northanger is a 54 foot Damien II, lifting keel, steel ketch New Zealand owned.

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The strait of Magallanes is “the stretch links the pacific and Atlantic ocean through an S-Shaped 310 miles cut through the South American continent. It’s waters give access to countless channels, inlets, and bays, a unique feature of the area. The stretch is a feature cut in the Andean Range, the vertebrae backbone of the S.A. Continent. Deep cuts were created by result of the last ice age 20,000 years ago, with effects still lasting another 10,000 years. Before the area was covered a huge ice cap more than 1,000 meters thick in places countered on the cordillera Darwin. From here a long series ice tongues spread in all directions downwards into the ocean giving birth to the wide and deep glacial valleys and rolling hills of Patagonia. The big last change happened 15,000 years ago when the ice caps began to melt, there were tons of sediments, rocks and deposits shifting the land into Tierra del Fuego. As time passed and water eroded the natural forming dams and opened the valley to ocean waters thus creating the large Tierra del Fuego.” (Rolfo and Ardrizzi).

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My journey started before the water, while the boat was still on land in Punta Arenas which is about 116,000 in population, pretty industrial. I worked a couple weeks preparing the boat, cleaning and making the boat come to life after 8 months of sitting in the ship yard. The boat was located 8 km outside of town so we did a lot of hitchhiking back and fourth.

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Here is Duncan and Renee who helped prepare the boat with us. They were visiting form Newfounladn, Canada and had some time to spare to help! We enjoyed making food and drinking coffee together. I am glad they joined the journey.

The Armada or “navy” of Chile is quite controlling and specific about sailing on the waters and makes all boats fill out paper work and check in everyday via radio. You must go to the port captain to get cleared to leave and once stamped you have to wait for approval. This became quite the process.

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Finally on January 11th we moved the boat from from its cradle with the big boat moving machine (never found out the proper name for it) and ready to be moved into the water. We had one more night until it was going to happen.

There I met Eduardo had a tiny machine linked around his neck that he loved being in control of. He was telling me to stay in Chile and work with him at the ship yard, I passed.

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We went “provisioning” which means getting all food and things necessary for sailing a week. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and cans. There is one thing for sure since being on Northanger and its that I had never ever been hungry. We eat delicious vegetarian food and are always trying new recipes and eating together. I’ve really come to appreciate and love the simple act of eating a meal with others. It doesn’t take too much time but the quality of life improves and you are in charge of what is put into your body. I’ve been vegetarian for almost a year now and since then, I love to cook!

On January 12th we launched the boat into the water at night, 10:30 pm from the cradle with a big rope and greased planks as Eduardo and his team pushed it off the stand and shot it into the water as we all stood on deck. Eduardo shouted to me a couple time to stay with him in Punta arenas saying “no te vayas!” Which means, ¨don’t go!¨ Funny. Greg had his friends in the dinghy the whole process ready to dive or help out in case anything happened.

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We anchored in the port Punta Arenas and I have to admit the boat transformed into a different creature as it slide into the water. The waterline surprised me the most, as it was within reach of the deck. I was surrounded by water on all sides and willingly forced into a subtle back and forth motion that gives me sea legs when I go to land. The hatch that we had to go through to get to the galley reminded me of the TV series ¨Lost¨ everytime. Could not get over it. Above was my bunk!

On January 13 there was wind, wind and more wind; I had never seen wind in Punta Arenas like that. We took the dinghy to land and can’t believe how the strong breeze can make one fall over into your Neighbor and not have enough time to say excuse me because you are trying to not be blown away. The navy closed the ports because it was so strong but this didn’t make sense as outside of the ports were much safer for us to be in then in. In this time I learned how to tie some knots- clove hitch, stopper knots and the bowline. We ultimately decided to wait another day before heading south.

 On January 14 at we motored to Cabo Froward against the wind to almost a stand still and had to turn around as it was too rough. We anchored at Sani Ciedro in Aguila Bahia (Eagle bay). The bay was named after Louis Antoine de Bougainville after her ship “L Algile”. We encountered three Israeli guys on the beach who flagged us down. They were on the well known Cabo Froward trek and needed help because own guy was super sick. Wasn’t much we could do but I think they thought we were going to rescue them or something.

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On January 15 what a windy night! We waited till the wind was to doe down by visiting the lighthouse where I had previously been before. There we met the beautiful couple living there that made us coffee and big doughnut type treats. Rosita even put my name in one of them!

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My friend Marcello radioed us to give us a weather report and say hello as he sailed past us in the strait. The boating/sailing world is surprisingly small and can be a comforting place where other boats soon become friends and you look after each one another.

We went for a hike through the muddy forest and onto beaches lines with whale bones showing remnant of a processing plant for whale oil. The plant was open from 1906-1907 and just in that year killed over 449 whales.

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We took off at 5:30 pm and sailed through San Pedro Canal. Mind you here it is summer so the light starts at 4am and lasts till sometimes 11:39 pm. The canal is named after Pedro Sarmientro de gamble who sailed his ship called “our mother of waiting” in 1580. We put out our first shorelines to the beach around trees in the most calm water I have seen yet. We anchored in “Caltea Cluedo¨ a large long bay on Isla Clarence opposite of Isla seabrook and we collected water from a waterfall in the cove via practicing driving the zodiac.

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I practiced driving the zodiac going fast and reversing as a brake when you get to a certain spot and holding it long enough for someone to tie a line. This has become one of my highlights of sailing. I got to take it out to get water from the waterfall near by!

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We went for a hike later that night, it was raining but it was beautiful! Saw the lake where the waterfall came from and this is where I wrote the entry for the blog. If I had to chose a favorite spot this would of been it.

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On  January 16 it was the birthday of one of the woman on the boat, Renee. We made a pancake, plantain and fruit smoothie breakfast while along the way sailing. We did have to motor a bit because there was no wind at all, leaving a reflection of the landscape on the water mirror like. Above is a shot of the sky on the water and below is the panoramic view we had, just like a calm lake.

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Sailing is turning out to be much more tranquil and slow paced than I imagine. The boat only goes 3-7 knots an hour so you’re not flying any means. It forces you to be present and really take in the scenery. Sometimes you can see a mountain and and hour later still be staring at the same range and horizon. I can’t imagine what it’s like to sail in the middle of the ocean without the landscape. The land you greet sailing really for me is one of the best parts. We sailed through San Pedro passage and Canal Acwalisnan (Paso o Ryan).

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On our arrival to the cove where we were to anchor there were. 1, then 2, 4, 6, 8 dolphins that played with us dancing and moving friskily through the jetting water off the boat. They are called ¨Peale¨ Dolphins.

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On January 17 we sailed all day 10am to 10pm.There were dolphins all the day again this type is called a Peale dolphin which are known to be slow and quite playful with the boat. Grey with a white underside. Oh how I love the dolphins! We had dinner late and on the way I made lentil burgers with honey Dijon mustard!

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We anchored at Caltea Laguna (Lake Cove) with again, shorelines. This day I learned how to the steering works on the boat, practicing zig zags and circles getting a feel for it.

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On  January 18 we were in the Beagle Canal, full on 7am-5pm sailing day. The Cordillera Darwin Mountains show signs of the once melting ice cap through fingers of glaciers. The range towers to the North at elevation of 2,000 meters (6,574 ft). Rivers, ice crumbling into the sea and electric neon pastel glaciers named Roncagli, Bove, llaha, and Frances.

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You could see storms roll in far away and when the catch up with you how the energy changes and becomes alive. I learned how to take down the anchor and at night we anchored in Caleta Olla (Wave Cove).

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On January 19th we left at 10am from the cove and came out into the beagle canal. Passes through the town of Ushuaia where we saw cars and planes for the first time in a week. East winds and sails were up. I learned how to drive while putting a sail up, timing it into the wind and holding it while the sail rises. I learned how to make some homemade bread!

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20 miles later and we arrived in Puerto Williams that had a nice yacht club with bar and maybe 20 sailboats. Met lovely people and got to stretch my legs! I never thought I would of made it this far south, let alone in a Sailboat. Its been a special experaince. You can also see the picture above is of a little Seal friend. There were many of them who met the boat along the way, so curious.

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Below you can see the view of Puerto Williams from us pulling in, it is super small. The mountain range is called ¨Navarino de los dientes¨ and is a well known trek you can do for a couple of days.

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What a stunning journey. Couldn’t of asked for a better trip! It was full of beauty, challenges, new experiences, and constant lessons to be learned. I feel super grateful to Greg and Northanger for letting me come along. It created a reality I didn’t know to exist and I feel fortunate.

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I want to give credit to a book I received tons of information from that was on board of Northanger called “Patagonia Tierra del Fuego” by Mariolina Rolfo and Giorgio Ardrizzi. I paraphrase a lot of their information in this post but it’s a phenomenal book about the channels. If it wasn’t for their book I wouldn’t of been able to understand all the history of Tierra del Fuego or the specifics to each anchoring.

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Mural Making in Punta Arenas, Chile

Where: Punta Arenas, a buzzing city that is just four hours south of Puerto Natales on the Magellan Straight in Patagonia, Chile. Filled with cruises, sailboats, murals, sculpture, wildlife and high pitch windy shores.

I found a homey Chilean restaurant called ¨La Marmita¨ which means the cooking pits owned by Lorena and Alfredo.They immediately took warmly to me and this was the first time as well that I was marketing myself in person as opposed to using email.I told them I would be around for two weeks, showed them my images of my work on my phone, and told them for food and money we could do an exchange. 3 days later and I got a call from them saying that they would love me to paint a border around a blackboard for them. I agreed, seemed reasonably small and after I took a look at their vegetarian menu we had a deal.

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The exchange: 10 hours of work for $60USD, and meals from the restaurant (included desserts, juices, and coffee). I ended up taking showers there and using their WIFI as well because I was camping or staying on a sailboat and did not have an access to those luxuries!

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What: A mural border around a ¨to be¨ chalkboard which will showcase the specials for the day. My instructions were limited and the direction was rather free. Lorena said she wanted a colorful border with birds and flowers and that she trusted me. I love when clients trust me, it makes for such better work. She gave me a lot of space, and freedom to do what I needed to do. Very accommodating.

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What I learned: Never take for granted the love and support someone gives you. Accept kindness and let love in. The couple really made me feel at home. They always told me to treat the restaurant like my own house, made me lunches with their 9 year old son an just treated me with love and respect. I learned how to accept all of it and be present with them every time I was at the restaurant. Acceptance.

Psychedelic Car Mural in Puerto Natales, Chile

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A new mural in Puerto Natales, Chile and it is my first piece in this beautiful country. It also marks the start of something special for my mural making path. I tried spray paint for the first time and on a car for my first time as well. I had a lot of chances and time to experiment with the new medium. But first a little about Puerto Natales because the energy of the city really inspired and influenced the way I painted the car.

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Puerto Natales, Chile is where the sunsets at 11:30pm for the start of summer begins here. The mysterious glimpses of light disappear not too long after 12:30pm. The crisp air looms wisely amongst the mountains that are landscaped over a cold windy lake. Here the tony black and neon birds play and flutter together.

The town is small. The people here know each other and you are never too far away from meeting another adventure seeker. Beyond the super touristy mask of Natales and away from the boardwalk or Main Street is a lifestyle of tranquility, oozing with peace, long gorgeous trekking, rock climbing and a clean energy.

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Where: Erratic Rock Hostel, owned by Bill native of Salem, Oregon who has lived in Natales 15 years. The hostel has simply a wonderful vibe, homey energy as the Erratic family definitely knows how to make a person feel welcomed. With a limitless supply of classic movies on VHS, a cozy gas fireplaces, homemade bread and peanut butter, Sunday brunches and a wonderful network of interns who work and commit to helping out in the hostel for a couple months a year make the place a unique home that just happens to be a hostel. It’s a special place.

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Here is everyone that volunteers and helps out at the hostel, we took a lovely bike ride against the wind near the coast. Just stunning views, good people, and the outdoors. While my stay at Erratic Rock we went biking, I learned how to crochete, and we never went without an empty stomach or cup of black coffee.

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Side note, I was able to paint a guitar while staying the the hostel as well for a friend. Here is a little peek.SAM_2178

The Mural – Progress Shots and Process

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I was super nervous to start painting, more nervous than I have ever been to start a piece just simply because it was a new medium and a new canvas. Here you can see the hesitation, and just me learning how to use a can. But I knew that I had to keep moving with the piece and not think too much! Here above is when I first just started the piece and I washing the car on the side walk. The police were upset and came to tell me to move the car and wash it in the river. Go figure.

The story of how I got the van gig: I was renting gear for the Torres del Pine trek at Base Camp which is a rental store just next to Erratic. It is actually owned by Paul, Bill’s younger brother. So the rental store wast open at 10am on a Saturday so I had to wait for them to open.

I was walking away from the rental shop when I saw a friend I had made in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. He waved and signalled me to come into the hostel. The first thing I was greeted with was the manager Julie, also from Oregon who said “Want a cup of coffee? You can’t have a real Sunday morning without black coffee.” I immediately was intrigued. Well after 1 hour of playing cards and chatting with one of the employees, Ruth, she mentioned that they had just bought a van needed someone to paint it. I volunteered immediately and made plans to stay at Erratic after my 5 day trek into the national park. It was seemingly simple and effortless. !

Accommodation: Mural in exchange for a bed, food and rental gear. I rented quite a few things from the owners brother, Paul, next door called “Base Camp”. It is a great little business: a bar and rental store which is super successful and a nice pairing to his brothers hostel.

What I learned: How to use spray paint, and more importantly how to use it effectively in the Patagonia wind. What an experience. Because the wind was so strong and it rained quite a bit it was quite the challenge or maybe an excuse to stay longer. The first couple of layers were hard as I was experimenting and getting used to the medium. Once I got rolling and more comfortable it was fast, so much faster than painting and in a different. The concepts of color, content and design are the same, but the process is different and there were shortcuts and tricks I learned.

At first, I kept wanting to put my fingers on the car and change the outcome but the paint dries almost immediately and this was hard to get used to. I realized how much I love using my hands. This is why I like painting so much. The paint brushes and the way the bristols move.

Anyways, with spray you just use a finger, nothing more. Maybe some stencils if you want. Literally my pointer finger and my thumb on my right hand were super sore after the third day painting. Pretty crazy to think that’s what created the whole piece. Just my finger!

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Length of time: Almost 2 weeks including 5 days where I went trekking through Patagonia to get experience. I painted maybe 2-3 hours every other day or so. I will return to Erratic for Christmas. My second Christmas away from home and today marks the first day of Sumer here in Southern Patagonia in Chile and Argentina. Pretty crazy how South I am!

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After I painted the van, and ironically on my last night we got to take the van out (me and some of the volunteers) to go camping. We ended up driving to Lake Sofia, about 45 minutes out of town and I got to sleep in the car. I was so happy that I was able to get into the car, and experaince the van outside of Puerto Natales and on the road. What a gift!

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I feel super fortunate for the experiance. I love all the people that I have met from Erratic and feel super special to be apart of the family there in Puerto and for those friends who live all over the world. Thank you Erratic and watch out for more spray painting murals coming soon! I even went back to Erratic Rock for Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone!

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The ¨W¨ Trek, Patagonia Chile

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The ¨W Trek¨ of Patagonia in Chile is home to the most special landscape that I have ever experienced in my life.

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This trip to the National Park of Torres del Paine was full of growing glowing blue glaciers, wise tall majestical mountains, roaring snowy peaks, tiny crunchy pebbles, rocky paths, crisp fresh stream drinking water, granite climbing, rock diving, 70 mile an hour winds knocking you off your feet blowing, sleeping on bare cold earth dreamy, pasta with soup and squished bread eating, awe inspiring energy filled 5 day trek. The trip gave me a new backdrop for my dreams.

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The Cordillera del Paine mountains soar above 3,050 meters above sea level and you can feel how large they are because the paths are at the base of these massive mountains. You can literally understand what a mountain that large feels like. These mountains also join with the Curenos del Paine and well known lakes – Grey Lake, Pehoe Lake, Sarimiento Lake and Nordenskiold Lake. The colors of these lakes ranging from deep dark blue to grey silvery turquoise.

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The park in total is 181,000 hectares and is located about 112 kilometers from Puerto Natales. It was easy for me to get to the park by hitch hiking and avoiding the $30 USD bus that takes twice as long. Only 3 Chileans cars picked me up but I met a farmer, a dentist and a park ranger who were able to drive me. I never waited more than 5 minutes for a ride in the blistering wind. It was absolutely worth it.

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The park rangers dropped us off at the pay station where we discovered was the eastern side (the side less travelled to start the trek) and we were off to start trekking. $36 USD for the park entrance fee and we headed into the Mountains towards the first free campsite which was 6 hours up hill.

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Day 1: When you start off trekking your backpack is super heavy and you think that you cannot even hike up a steep in grade. However, after an hour or two you get warmed up and it gets easier. Really you start to think about the things you have on your back and what you really need versus what you really want. It puts things into a healthy perspective. That same day we found the free campsite, went to bed early.

Day 2: We woke up at 4:00 am the next day for the famous ¨Tower Sunrise¨ where you can see the Towers of the park. They are three pillars that stand high on the mountainside overlooking a blue and green lake. It’s a 1 hour morning climb straight up to the highest part of the whole circuit.

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It was well worth it as until 7 am we watched the sunrise and then the sunlight hit the towers.  We got super lucky as they say, there are four seasons in one day in Patagonia so we were expecting the worse, and head there was a lot of rain and wine. We had no rain and no wind; it was perfectly sunny, a little chilly but so still that the water made a reflection of the towers perfectly for us, just unbelievably beautiful.

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One of my favorite parts about this trek is that you can drink the water from the streams that you stumble upon at least every 30 minutes. You don’t need to have the heaviness of water because you can just fill up as your go and the water tastes so refreshing and wonderfully amazing.

That same day we continued to trek 13 hours in the hot hot heat, which is unusual to have such good weather in the park. I got sun burnt and we had a fabulous lucky day for the long way.

SAM_1810 SAM_1815

We trekked to the next free park. We passed through fields of singing birds, wild flowers I’ve never seen, and gigantic mountains with wise and enormous energy just radiating intensity. This part of the trek was not so famous but one of my favorite parts because it has 360 views of lakes and the 3 mountains at once. It was so peaceful and not so many people were on this path.

Later that day, again we called It an early night and cooked some pasta, drank more stream water and slept tightly in the tent with rough sleeping in the grueling wind.

Day 3: The next morning we woke up at 8am and it was raining and hailing. We were going into the French Valley and heard there were some beautiful 360 views. Unfortunately it was raining and then the rain turned into violent windy snow that would burn your face because it was cold. It was an odd balance between being cold and being warm because you have so many layers on and your core is hot because you are working out. There was a lot of exchanging of taking off clothes and putting on clothes.

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In the French valley we saw baby ducks learning how to cross the raging powerful river, fields of trees frozen in a windy blown shape from the wind, electric blue glaciers pouring off the mountains, and foggy views. The birds were still singing and the views were still incredible, even though we were not able to see everything.

SAM_1811 SAM_1855

It was hard to face the cold for a long time so we didn’t enjoy it as much as we wanted to, but well worth it.

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After we got down the 6 hour hike we packed up our stuff which was hard to do as we were cold and freezing and we moved onto another 3 hour hike to the next camp where we were exhausted and called it another early night, but made some delicious hot chocolate from chocolate bars and powdered milk. Some of the camp sites even had free gas stoves and inside areas to cook.

SAM_2029 SAM_2031

Day 4: The next morning we start at 8 am again and headed to the glacier! The glacier was about a 5 hour hike to the view point and then 5 hours back. I never thought I would ever see a glacier in my life. The views were incredible, the sounds were stunning, and the emotions I felt were heart melting and almost overwhelming for me.

The paths passed alongside a river where you could see the wind currents across the top of the water. Pools of mist would gather and spray you as it crossed in circles in all different directions and running off the water onto the land.

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This part of the trek really made me sad as you could tell the effects of a 2011 fire. 3 Israeli men were trekking and lit toilet paper on fire and it got out of control and set 20 percent of the National Park on fire for 3 days just devastating effects. The after effect was horrible as whole mountain sides were burnt to a crisp. However, interestingly enough there were some trees that were able to regenerate and were forming buds at the bottom of their roots, almost giving life to seeds as it was dying. This was pretty impressive.

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Now, the parks require that you only have tiny gas camp stoves and cook in certain areas that are allowed in the park. The rules for camping are quite strict as well, and for this many of the campsites are crowded because you have to park in specific parts. After trekking all day again, my body was getting sore and I was ready for bed. I did the trek in running shoes which, with a pack and extra weight, was super intense. It gave me a lot of blisters and affected my body differently than if I had strong shoes. Not to mention all of the rain, wet, and mud that I had inside my shoes. I loved it because it is what Patagonia is really like and I was enjoying just being in the middle on 70 mile an hour wind. Just beautiful.

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Then we were off to the Glaciers! I had never seen one before in my life, and I was super excited for this part of the trek. I really was not prepared for what we were about to see.

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The glacier in the park was huge named Glacier Grey. There was also Glacier Pingo, Tyndall and Geikie which along belong to the same Southern Patagonia Ice Field. This ¨Field¨ was stunning, with chunks of huge ice bergs falling off the glaciers into the cold blue waters and floating around.

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Also, last but not least, as we walked 5 hours out of the park onto the main road to hitch hike we got saw some pretty amazing animals. A private jet pilot picked us up from the road hitch hiking and we were able to see some animals from the car which was exciting because we found 3 baby foxes. I couldn’t handle all the babies we saw, because it is Spring time in Patagonia. How beautiful!

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This W Trek is really what backpacking is all about! Food for five days, sleeping bag, tent, stove, utensils, clothes for wet and dry, and whatever else you need for 5 days of 8-13 hour days of walking. It is one thing to walk 8-10 hours but with a backpack its another story! I survived and definitely am addicted I would like to do a lot more trekking in California and Washington when I get home. Maybe I will do one more in Patagonia before I leave here. For the next couple of weeks I will be painting in Puerto Natales, a hippy van of the wonderful Oregon family of Erratic Rock (erraticrock.com) and am looking forward to spending more time in Patagonia as the air is clean, the people are friendly, and the scenery is spectacular. Feeling refreshed.

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Here is a look at some of the wild flowers that I could not stop taking pictures of because I had never seen such flowers before in my life. On all the trails they had these flowers, even in the parts of the park that were affected by the forest fires had bright patches of flower life.

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