Author Archives: Erin Onsager

About Erin Onsager

Erin tries to escape her corporate confines as often as she can. She loves far-flung destinations, exotic locales, street food, airports, photography, and fun adventures. Please email for any inquiries or just to say hi!

Kilimanjaro – all 19,341 ft of it!

Kilimanjaro. The roof of Africa. The tallest mountain in Africa. One of the seven summits. Standing atop this behemoth of a mountain has been a goal of mine since I first heard the word, “Kilimanjaro”. The cool thing about Kilimanjaro is that at 19,341 feet above sea-level (that’s 5,895 meters), it is one of the tallest free-standing mountains in the world. In hiking this mountain, you experience 7 unique ecosystems, or another way of looking at it is that you would experience the same climatic change climbing Kilimanjaro as you would if you walked from the equator to one of the poles. Kili has been on my life list for so many years that I’m still tickled pink as I write this, still taking it in that I achieved this long-standing dream of mine. Another goal of mine was to go to 6 of the 7 continents by the age of 30. As my plane touched down in Tanzania, I realized that I was visiting my 30thcountry at the age of 30 (if I didn’t forget any countries in my counting).
Arriving in Africa, the plan was to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with my friends Arielle, Becky, and Nate. As Arielle and I tore our neatly packed bags apart and re-assembled piles of clothes the night before our climb, we discussed the possibility that one of us might not summit and what we wanted the other to do. We both agreed that the other should continue. The next morning, packed and nervously excited, I went to make sure Becky and Nate were up. When I went to their room, Becky was as sick as a dog and had unfortunately come down with a terrible bug that morning. She put forth a valiant effort, riding along on the uncomfortable bus journey to the Machame Gate for the start of our hike. As we waited for paperwork and the porters to organize, it poured rain. We were supposed to be hiking during the dry season, but yet, the rains came down. Finally it was time to start and Becky made the wise decision of not hiking due to her inability to keep anything – even water – down. Nate, the ever-doting husband, stayed by his wife’s side.
And with that, Arielle and I bade Nate and Becky well and begin our slow ascent. Arielle and I didn’t know each other that well prior to this trip; we had met while traveling in Patagonia last year and only briefly spent time together – and in a group the entire time, so both were pleasantly surprised that conversation flowed so easily and that we had so much in common. Our trusty Assistant Guide, Marame, kept reminding us to drink water, make sure we were ok, and tell us to go, “Pole, pole” (slowly, slowly). We’re both very fit and athletic and were only hiking to ~9,990 feet, so didn’t feel the need to heed his advice.
The first day was hot and by the time we started hiking, the rain had thankfully stopped. We arrived to our campsite in a few hours and since I had heard that the food on Kili was all fried, I was pleased to be given delicious soup and a curry dish for dinner.
Day 2 started off nicely, but a few sprinkles turned into a down-right downpour and we were soaked before we had time to put on our ski pants. As our fingers turned to prunes, we sang Broadway tunes and in spite of the weather and absolute lack of any view, our spirits remained high. We arrived to Shira Camp (~12,600 ft), andhung our clothing to dry in our tent. When we woke in the night to go to the bathroom (we drank copious amounts of water which resulted in constant bathroom stops, which is a healthy way to deal with altitude, but annoying in the middle of the night), I gasped, as it was the first time I got a good view of Kilimanjaro by moonlight. The sky had finally cleared and the mountain, while imposing, was stunningly beautiful. We snapped some photos and went back to sleep. In the morning, we took advantage of the fortuitous 15 minutes of sunlight to dry the last of our wet clothing before taking off.
On our third day of hiking, we started gaining some serious altitude – we were to hike up to ~16,500 ft and then descend to 13,000 ft to sleep that night. Whenever we asked our Guide, Godlisten, for an elevation, he always gave it in meters. On this day, Arielle and I decided to do the math in our head to convert meters to feet. We had both learned this in school, but forgot. Altitude is a funny thing; it certainly isn’t healthy for one’s brain and I find it particularly interesting and perhaps disturbing to witness the effects of it firsthand. It took us about an hour to come up with a math formula and do equations in our head. I don’t remember how we came to this, but at some point, we decided that 16 divided by 60 equaled X (and honestly, who knows if our math was right). All of a sudden, viola, I had a brain-child (so I thought) that I eagerly (as eagerly as one can when all of our energy goes to breathing and walking) exclaimed to Arielle that figuring this out would be simple. All we had to do was say that 16/60 = x/1. If we did that, then 16×1 = 60X. X therefore equaled 16/60, which is right back where we started. Arielle laughed at me as my math skills were horrific in that moment. In fairness, hers were no better. It took us approximately an hour to come up with a conversion from meters to feet that neither of us were sure worked. Though I know it’s really bad for my brain, I do find it fascinating to see the deterioration of basic brain abilities when at altitude.
As we were taking a break from mental math, we were hiking up to Lava Tower (~16,500 ft) and on our way, we passed a seemingly crazy Danish man. He was loud and obnoxious, acting like a drunk. He even admitted to me that it was crazy how drunk he felt. I looked him square in the eye and tried reasoning with him that he was very sick. He got mad at me and ignored his guide’s pleas that he turn around and continued his “drunken” ranting and stormed up the mountain. While we were having our lunch at Lava Tower, we watched as Yen, visibly suffering from HACE (high altitude cerebral edema), tormented his guide, waved his hiking poles at anyone who came near him, and dangerously leaped from rock to rock with a drop of ~50 feet within inches of his hiking boots. We quickly finished our lunches and powered down the trail, aspiring to get as far away from Yen as possible. We learned from other hikers that he fell multiple times and continued to act extremely drunk.
We arrived at Baranco Camp and continued to experience much milder effects of altitude on our brains. We posed for a picture with a sign that had our elevation in both feet and meters. Pointing to the 13,000 ft, Arielle said to me that she would remember that our elevation was 1,300 ft. We laughed because she couldn’t get the elevation right. After relaxing in our tent for a bit, I ran into Yen and the Danish couple that were also in his hiking group. Much calmer, I sat down to talk with Yen about the seriousness of his condition. He didn’t understand why he needed to go down; as he said he felt fine, yes a little drunk, but no headache, otherwise fine. I guess, because I live in Colorado, that my advice actually had an impact. He was told to go down and went down to the bottom of the mountain that night – a decision that undoubtedly saved his life.
Our 4th day of hiking was the most fun! It was New Years Day and Arielle brought noisemakers, which were a huge hit with Godlisten and Marame. As we hiked, we rang in New Years on the east coast, 2 hours later for Denver, and 1 hour after that for San Francisco. We also climbed the Baranco Wall, which was all Class 2 and 3 scrambling, which is my favorite type of hiking to do. How the porters do it with the unwieldy loads upon their heads and sandals (in some cases) on their feet is ridiculously impressive.
We spent the night in the Karanga Valley (as we opted for a 7 day hike as opposed to the “standard” 6 day hike, which is a move I would recommend for anyone). Our guide, Godlisten, was amazing, and always encouraged us to start our days early, which, when the rain poured down as we sat in our dining tent over lunch, we were incredibly indebted to him for his sage advice.
The next day was cold and we felt the altitude as we hiked. Fortunately, our day was short and we arrived at our campsite, Barafu, at 10:30am. As the next day, was our summit day, we were instructed to stay in our tent and rest all day. While in our tent, it started to snow and lightening. We learned that this was the first time in 3 years that the mountain had lightening and the first time in 5 years that there was snow this time of year. Lucky us.
We ate our dinner early and went to bed around 5pm and were awoken at 10:30pm. We started hiking at 11:30pm as snow came down. After about 2 hours of hiking, the snow ceased, the clouds parted and we could see city lights from the town of Moshi, thousands of feet below. For two hours, we enjoyed good weather. Hiking was, of course, laborious. I tried drinking a lot of water, but that in and of itself was an exhausting exercise. It went something like this. Ok, I want water. Breathe. Breathe. Suck air out of water line. Breath. Breath. Take a sip and swallow. Breath. Take a sip and swallow. Breathe. Breathe. Blow air back into water tube (to prevent freezing). Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Every single breath took effort. Getting water was exhausting as it diverted energy I needed for walking to another task. After 2 hours of clear skies, the snow re-commenced and our slow caravan continued. About 45 minutes from the summit rim, our guide, Godlisten, felt dizzy and contemplated turning around. We tried encouraging him to do so, but he rested for a few minutes and continued. Only when we were 15 minutes from the summit rim, did we learn that once on the summit, we had to walk for another 45 minutes to get to the actual summit – another 200 meters in elevation gain. When you’re at 18,000 something feet, the thought of having to walk an extra 45 minutes, no matter how “flat” it is is incredibly disheartening and demotivating. As I wondered to myself if Stella Point (at 5700-something meters) was good enough for me, day began to break. We finished our short break and robotically continued on our quest for the summit.
The temperature was freezing, the snow was blinding, and my mind was completely void of thoughts and focused solely and entirely on my only two tasks at hand – sluggishly putting one foot in front of the other and breathing. Within minutes of our trek across the mountain’s rim, Arielle and I both donned the weather’s defacto mascara: freezing white snow. Five minutes from the proper summit, Arielle turned to me and said, “I need some encouragement.” I lamely squeaked out, “you can do it; we’re almost there.” It’s hard to describe how utterly gassed we were, but I remember it vividly. Two minutes later, and through the sideways snow, clouds, and wind, I saw a cluster of people gathered. Tears welled up in my eyes as we approached the sign that advertised the summit. Even though the sign wasn’t the one I had recognized from so many other’s summit photos, I believed Godlisten when he told us we did it. Godlisten and Marame hugged us and we smiled. I grabbed my camera and we impatiently waited for our turn to take our photos with the sign at the summit.
I feel like every photo I’ve ever seen from someone at the summit of Kilimanjaro is on a beautiful sunny morning, whereas our view (and photos) give no indication that we’re on the top of Africa’s tallest mountain. We stayed at the summit for precisely 5 minutes, and elated because of our accomplishment, our feet felt lighter and we eagerly began the long descent. Our 6thday of hiking totaled about 4,000 feet of elevation gain and 9,000 feet of descending. We returned to our campsite from the day before with pounding headaches, and for me, a queasy stomach. I hadn’t had enough food or water and got a bit sick. Because of that and our nagging headaches, our guide let us rest for an hour and a half before he prodded us to continue down the mountain. A bit of sleep cured our ailments as my stomach recovered and our headaches had disappeared. Hiking down to Mweka Camp was downright miserable. As we descended, snow turned into a wet, cold, miserable rain. We were exhausted, our knees hurt, and we were cold and wet. We slept well that night and finished our hike by 9am the next morning. Happy to be done, we celebrated with an aptly named Kilimanjaro beer and dried our wet belongings in the sun as we waited for our mini-van to pick us up.
In sum, Kilimanjaro was awesome! Even though the summit was exhausting, it was amazing. This was definitely the hardest physical challenge I’ve ever undertaken in my life, despite my thinking that Kili would be “easy”. It was hard, but I’m so happy that I did it as I loved nearly every moment of it (many moments on summit day notwithstanding). For anyone who is in reasonably good shape, this mountain is totally do-able. For the climb, I can’t recommend Good Earth, and in particular, Godlisten and Marame enough.

Guatemala and Belize

My friend Jon and I had talked about going to a coveted country in the Caribbean, so we flew to Cancun with hopes of spontaneity. Unfortunately, getting last minute flights proved impossible, so we immediately hopped on a bus south to the city of Chetumal on the Mexico/Belize border. We spent an uninspiring night by the bus station with two Norweigian guys who were in their early twenties and doing their first major backpacking trip. Daniel, one of the guys, told us he brought 6 t-shirts and planned on wearing 1 shirt per week. I think he was befuddled when we told him that he could do laundry while abroad. Shortly after that conversation, he was sporting a new shirt.

We decided to head straight to Flores, Guatemala so that the majority of our distance would be covered in the first part of our trip. We got off the bus and nearly immediately jumped in the fresh water lake that surrounds the tiny island town. We jumped off the dock and watched the sun set over the lake. The next day, we went to Tikal, which is one of the largest pre-Columbian urban centers of the Mayan civilization. We sweated our way through the jungle to climb what structures we could. That evening, we happily swam in the lake again. For dinner, we ate tostadas that local women had made and were selling along the water.

The next day, we woke up early and caught a bus to the border where we transferred to a taxi and drove to the town of San Ignacio, Belize. We immediately made plans to see the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) cave, which was about three hours long and involved swimming and walking in a river, maneuvering through various openings and most importantly, checking out Mayan remains (both pottery and skeletons!).

The next day, we headed to Belize City to catch a water taxi to Caye Caulker. Madonna wrote the song “La Isla Bonita” about Amerbgis Caye, the island just north of Caye Caulker. This place was awesome! It reminded me a bit of Gili T, one of my favorite Indonesian islands (although more touristy and less beach areas), but the concept was the same. We managed to find accommodation with an ocean view. Towards the north end of the island, where we stayed, the island is one block wide. We watched the sun set over the ocean every night from near our lodging and sunrise could be seen over the ocean one block away. We relaxed: got massages, swam, walked around, ate ice cream, etc.

The next day, we went on a full day sailing/snorkeling trip. The highlight was swimming with (and petting) both nurse sharks and stingrays. We also saw a giant sea turtle. I always enjoy snorkeling and watching the life in the ocean and this time was no different. After another relaxing day on Caye Caulker of swimming, renting bikes, walking around, etc, we left on a ferry to Chetumal, Mexico and worked our way up to Tulum.

We spent the night in Tulum and chanced upon a Cancun-esque beach party (replete with stage and music and expensive beer), although, the crowd was 99.9% Mexicans and had 0% drunk and obnoxious American college students, so that made it more bearable. The next day, we woke up and walked down the street to roam the Mayan ruins in Tulum and then made it back to Cancun to catch our flight home.

This was my first time in Central America proper (not including Mexico) and I already can’t wait to go back! It shocked me how close it is to Denver – the flight to Cancun is the same distance as a flight home to see my parents. I want to explore more of Guatemala – the region around Antigua and am looking forward to checking out the countries further south. It is a really logical place to fly for a week or even a few days!

Perito Moreno

After Mt. Fitzroy, we headed south to El Calafate to view the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the view stable glaciers in the world. Though I’ve seen other glaciers on this trip, I was really eager to see this behemoth ice field and I’m so glad we did! We had wanted to book a trek while in El Calafate a few days ago, but our hostel assured us we could book the day before and be fine. Well, our bus arrived at 9:45pm and by the time we actually got to the hostel to inquire, the agency was closed and we were told their were no more trips.

The next day, we woke early and found that if we got our own transportation to the park, we could join the boat ride, as there is more room on the boat than the bus. After a busy morning of errands, we rented a car and headed towards the glacier. Along the way, we picked up two hitchikers looking to see the glacier as well. We got to the park, dropped our European friends off and had lunch by the boat. The next thing we notice is a boat full of people pulling away from the dock, with us still on shore. After running and waving arms wildly, the boat turned around for us and we were off! We put on crampons and walked on the glacier, taking joy in drinking straight from the glacier, being amazed at the beautiful blue-hued ice, and enjoying the enormity of the glacier.

We then went to the main viewpoint and were greeted with empty viewpoints and a stunning display of light on the massive glacier field. It was really impressive and I’m glad to have seen it. Unfortunately, we didn’t experience a big chunk of ice falling off and crashing into the water, but we did hear one piece, but missed the visual part as we were walking in the woods.

We’re now in transit back to Buenos Aires for the last part of my trip – New Years Eve in Buenos Aires, some really good steak and wine shopping! Happy New Year!

Hiking the Mt. Fitzroy Range

Niki and I eventually met up with Jason and Mary Kay. We spent a day running errands in El Chalten. El Chalten is a really cute, but touristy mountain frontier town. From what I understand, the town has only really been around for 16 years, as Chile and Argentina have on-going disputes for the land here in Patagonia. Argentina simply beat Chile to the race to lay claim to Mt. Fitzroy and quickly built up El Chalten. We ate good food and prepped for our camping trip. The plan was to hike 3 hours each day, making our second day very relaxing. We started hiking late (7:40pm) our first day and intended to arrive to our first campsite while it was still daylight, before 11pm. Well, we meant to do a loop, in the shape of a triangle. Instead of going along the “hypotenuse” of our trek’s triangle, we walked the wrong way out of town. By 11:20pm, we had our headlamps on and couldn’t figure out why we were walking along two lakes, so decided to just turn around and camp for the night by the lake, despite the park ranger telling us to only camp in designated campgrounds. It turns out we had a beautiful setting for our first night and I’m glad we went off course!

The next day, we back-tracked and went to a viewpoint of Cerro Torre, even though the needle tops were enshrouded in clouds. Then, we retraced our steps to our campsite, had lunch and went to our next proper campsite, which was our intended location for our first night. I had wanted to get up at 3:30am to view the alpenglow on Mt. Fitzroy, but had a cold, which unfortunately encouraged me to ignore my wake up call and sleep a few more hours. At 9, we hiked up to the Mt. Fitzroy viewpoint, which, if lacking in early morning light, was made up for by a crisply blue sky that provided a stricking contrast to the rocky spire of Mt. Fitzroy. It was stunningly beautiful.

The only thing that detracted from the experience was the constant slew of horseflies that buzzed incessantly in our ears. And so it was that hiking the Fitzroy range turned me into a villainous murderer. I felt like a 7 year old boy, taking pleasure in killing fly after fly, if only for reciprocity for the extreme annoyance that they provided all the hikers.

Torres del Paine

I arrived in Punta Arenas Chile very early in the morning and waited for my friend, Niki to arrive. Once she arrived, we took the bus to Puerto Natales, which is the base for trekking in the nearby Torres del Paine National Park. Niki had suggested that we do this hike shortly after we completed the Annapurna Circuit a few years ago and I’m glad she recommended it! We spent the day renting gear, figuring out logistics and buying food.

We had wanted to hike the full circuit, but due to time constraints, we opted just to do the more crowded, and more popular ‘W’ trek. We hiked west to east. Our first day, we took a catamaran across a beautiful turquoise lake, which we later learned would be dotted throughout the park. It was somewhat of a contrast – riding on a boat on waters that reminded me of the ocean around Indonesian islands, and yet, there were massive, glacier- covered peaks looming in the background. We met up with a really sweet Dutch girl, Moniek, and after lunch, hiked up to Glacier Grey. The hike was beautiful and the moment I enjoyed most was coming to the crest of a hill, looking out, seeing a beautiful turquoise lake with a massive glacier field at the far end of it. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before and I thought it to be quite stunning.

Winds were intense. In fact, the wind is quite brutal in all of Patagonia. Trees grow looking wind-blown, that is how fierce the wind can be. At one mirador (viewpoint), we stopped to take pictures of the glacier and each other. I was wearing a backpack and probably all-in, weighed maybe 165 or so pounds. At one point, I jumped straight up and landed about 6 inches in front of where I had lifted off. That is how intense and strong the wind was. Our hike continued until we reached a nice viewpoint where we were able to see the glacier even closer. We hiked back and returned to camp at 9:20pm. The cool thing is that this is the further south I have ever been during the month of December and the sky is still a bit light at midnight. So, returning to camp at 9:20pm meant that the sun was still up, which is a little trippy.

The next day, we hiked up the middle section of the ‘W’ into an area called the French Valley. It was a cloudier day, but the coolest part of this day’s hike was that we saw a peak with large glaciers on it. You could hear the glacier moving and cracking. We were lucky enough to watch a section of the glacier crack and fall off the mountain. I was able to catch part of this quasi-avalanche on video. This glacier fed into a river that we walked along. Oh, that’s the other really neat thing. Water around here is pure as glacier melt – literally. I haven’t bought water in well over a week, as when I’m low on water, I just dip my Nalgene in the river. I love being able to do that!

The third day was the most difficult day of hiking for me, as I woke up in intense pain during the night. I have had a pinched nerve somewhere in the upper left quadrant of my back for months now. Months ago the doctor told me that it resulted from sitting (and let’s be honest, slouching) all day (yay office jobs!). Carrying 2 backpacks for the past two weeks has probably somewhat

exasperated the problem and hiking the ‘W’ was just the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. I woke up in the night in the most intense, piecing pain I have ever felt. I felt paralyzed because I literally couldn’t move. I wanted water and would try to lift my head 3 inches and I would collapse back on my mat in pain. I was really nervous and scared because I really felt paralyzed in that the pain was so intense, I literally couldn’t move. I wanted water and couldn’t drink it ’til the morning when Niki woke and could get it for me. I also was really afraid of my ability to leave and hike. I managed to fall back asleep and when I woke, Niki helped massage my back, which helped enough for me to be able to move. Standing up was better and I was able to walk, gaining mobility as time went on. We packed up and hiked on. On the way, we passed a Korean tour group and stopped them asking if anyone had a painkiller stronger than Ibuprofen. There was a doctor who was able to tell me that my back wasn’t broken (I knew this) and then lifted my bag and said, “too heavy”. Then, EVERY single person in the group lifted my bag and said “ohhh!!”. One man gave me some orange painkillers. I have no clue what they were but definitely needed something strong. They must have helped, as we were able to finish hiking without an issue.

The next night, I was afraid to go to bed, thinking I’d wake up in severe pain again, but all was well. We did the last section of the ‘W’. Niki’s knee was inflamed from an earlier injury, so she ended up having to rest halfway and I continued up to see the towers. It was a stunning backdrop and a beautiful setting. All-in-all, the ‘W’ is a beautiful hike; it’s short, not too difficult. We did hike between 10 and 15 miles each day, but it’s manageable. There were refugios along the way, where people could opt to stay in private rooms or dorm rooms and hot showers and meals were available. We camped (it was MUCH cheaper), but did have 2 meals at the refugios, which made this the most flash-pack-y of a backpacking trip I have ever done.

Then, we made it back to Puerto Natales where we began to realize just how difficult it is traveling in Patagonia around Christmas. We were supposed to meet up with two friends on Christmas Eve, but due to transportation limitations, we had to move on to El Calafate today and will have our friends meet us here in a few days. We were lucky to get on a bus. Buses fill up days in advance here and we were only able to buy bus tickets for both us and our friends because of cancellations. We got lucky in that regard. So, we’ll see what is available to us on Christmas Day, but I think I’ve learned my lesson about traveling on a tight schedule around Christmas in a Catholic country….

Oh, and it is really cool to be so far south and have it be light so late. It’s still somewhat light ’til midnight (barely though), so I took this photo one night before bed when it was still plenty light out. I hope everyone back home is having a good time celebrating Christmas with your families! I am thinking of home and miss my family dearly. Feliz Navidad!

Niagra on Viagra: Iguazu Falls

Ahh, Iguazu Falls. Hands down, the most impressive natural wonder I have ever seen. Yes, it’s touristy, but right or wrong, the most impressive places on earth usually are – and in this case, for good reason.

I flew with Steph, who I met in Punta del Diablo, and we had hoped to go to the Brazilian side on our first day and the Argentinian side on our second day. In the end, we only went to the Argentinian side – both days. We inquired and were told we would have to pay the $150 visa for entering Brazil, and for a few hours, it certainly wasn’t worth it. Later, we talked with a German guy who told us the Brazilian side wasn’t nearly as good. Plus, what we saw on the Argentinian side was breathtaking enough.

We went on the boat ride – which takes you fairly close to the falls and that was an exhilarating, if very wet ride. The rest of the time we were at the park (we went twice, because it’s big enough to warrant about 5-7 hours there and we only had a few hours our first day), we walked on the various “trails” and just stared at the beautiful enormity that is Iguazu Falls. I highly, highly recommend checking this place out.

A video of Devil’s Throat

Uruguayian beaches

Ahh, Punta del Diablo. Everything that La Paloma wasn’t. Sandy roads, a handful of small cafes and restaurants, beautiful beaches with waves for surfing, occupied hostels. I read somewhere that this town is akin to a Thailand beach town from a 1970s Lonely Planet. I wouldn’t know, but it was a great place to relax for a couple of days. Shortly after I arrived, a foursome arrived at the hostel and I started chatting with them and asked the typical traveler questions – “where are you from?” Much to my pleasant surprise, they were from Denver!

The next few days were pleasant – spent with various groups of travelers and consisted of laying on the beach, eating seaside empanadas, drinks in the bar at night. I haven’t exercised on this entire trip, so my 2nd day in Punta del Diablo, I tried renting a surf board with a Canadian that I met. All boards were rented (it’s a small town), so in lieu of surfing, she and I and a British guy did some circuit training on the beach. My time here was mostly uneventful, although two Brits nearly drowned my first day. They were messing around in the water and got caught in a riptide, started panicking and from both their versions of the story, they thought they were nearly on their last breath. Fortunately for them, a surfer swam over to them and was able to rescue them. Then, my last night, one of the servers tripped just outside a glass door and crashed through the glass door and cut herself up.

That night, the Denverites initiated a beach bonfire. 11 bundles of wood, some really, really awful wine (I don’t recommend the “Tannat” variety of grape…), we had a party. A few Uruguaians joined us with a 4 string guitar and we sang the typical songs everyone in the world seems to know – I’m Yours, Hotel California, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Wonderwall, etc.

The next day, I headed to a small place called Cabo Polonio, recommended to me initially by a college classmate. The way others described this place made it seem so unique it couldn’t be missed. To get to Cabo Polonio, we took a bus, which dropped us off on the side of the road, where these large 4×4 trucks were waiting. After a 20 minute ride through sand dunes and along the beach, we arrived in Cabo Polonio. It was pretty cold, the sky was gray and the wind was blowing and it reminded me of a sparsely populated area of Maine or Maritime Canada. We arrived (I was with the 4 Denverites) and decided to rent a shack rather than stay in one of the 3 hostels. The entire town is without electricity and the main attraction is candle-lit dinners, decent surfing and Uruguay’s second largest sea lion colony.

We ambled around town – there are no property lines – houses are seemingly randomly built anywhere. We walked along the shore and spent a long time watching the sea lions, which I found to be incredibly entertaining. Just off the coast of this small seaside village is an island, completely full of sea lions and while walking around town, it sounds like there’s a great party going on – just around the corner, but it’s the sea lions barking up a storm on their own exclusive island. It’s almost hard to describe this place, so I hope the pictures do it justice.

The tricky part was finding our cute rustic little cabin at night. We paid attention to the landmarks that we could on our way into town, but in the darkness of night, we got lost. There are no roads, no street lights, no house lights. After stumbling around for a bit, we eventually found our house.

I had arranged for a 6:45am bus from the road outside of Cabo Polonio to eventually get me back to Montevideo so I could catch the ferry back to Buenos Aires. I was told to simply show up in the sandy “plaza” at about 6am and a dune-buggy truck would arrive. Well, that didn’t happen until 7:30 and I was worried that I would miss my bus to Montevideo. However, I got lucky and my connecting bus was late, so I made it to Montevideo without further ado. I did however, get to watch a stunning sunrise, which was well worth it.

Next up is a couple of days in Iguazu Falls on both the Argentinian and Brazilian side!

Punta del Diablo (the dark clouds are from a nearby fire)

Punta del Diablo beach

Cabo Polonio

Sea lions!!

Our rustic little cabin

Gray sky over the beach at Cabo Polonio

Morning sunrise over Cabo Polonio (you can see the lighthouse to the right)