We started in Chile, where we visited Laurel and Alejandro, friends from grad school. They were amazing hosts! They threw a BBQ in their backyard with some other Domers, toured us around Santiago, took us to their beach house in Valparaiso, and took us on a long weekend trip to Pucon in the south of Chile (not necessarily in that order). All while Laurel was about 8 months pregnant. Here is a picture of the BBQ, where we ate a lot of meat, and had good times with old friends.
After being there about 5 days, we took a mini-excursion to Easter Island. After a 5.5 hour flight, we spent 4 nights and 3 full days touring the island. Highlights of the island were the giant Moai and Mo, who we adopted for an afternoon. You can tell which is which in the pictures below.
From there we traveled to the Lakes district with Laurel and Alejandro. The eight hour drive filled with scarce gas stations, moderately crazy "environmental refugees," and sharkey (aka dried horse meet) was well worth the trip. After a lovely day of hiking through the forest, Mike and Alejandro climbed Villarica, a semi-active volcano, while Laurel and I had a spa day.
Best of all, they got to slide all the way down the mountain on their rear ends, with a pick axe in their hand for a brake! And yes, that steam is actually sulfuric gas from the volcano behind them.
At this point we said goodbye to our friends in Chile and took a flight south to Patagonia. While there, we saw the Magellan penguins in Punta Arena, took a tour of Torres Del Paine National Park (land of the wild Guanacos) and then headed east to Argentina where we saw Perito Moreno Glaciar. One of the coolest sounds in the world is decidedly that of a glaciar calving! We took an afternoon and went for a hike on the glaciar. Crampons and sunglasses were the required tools. We're hard core!
From el Calafate, we went to Buenos Aires to finish up our trip. Buenos Aires is the home of Evita Peron, the tango, and the giant mosquitos, and we saw them all! Okay, only Evita's balcony and tomb, but we saw enough mosquitos to more than make up for it.
We also took a day trip across the river to Uruguay and watched the final championship futbol game. Imagine our surprise when Banfield lost 2-0 to Boca, and then started celebrating with the champion cup. I guess the rules are different in Argentina, where you use the overall standings to determine the champion!
After a wonderful vacation, we came home, ready to begin our next great adventure.
(I know you were wondering why I didn't climb the volcano with the guys :-) )