Two photos from Los Glaciares National Park Patagonia

I just have to include a few more photos taken in Patagonia five years ago.

From a little town called El Chalten we did a four day backpacking walk in the Los Glaciares National Park to see the stunning Mt. Fitz Roy (3405m) and Mt. Torre (3102 m). Thankful for great weather on the first day we felt very lucky with this reflection.

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This next photo was taken from our campsite beside the lake on our last day as the sun rose and lit up the peaks.  Note the icebergs floating in the lake after having broken away from the glacier. It was a very special moment as we stood together and enjoyed incredible peace. Just the four of us, Bogdan & I and my sister Merrilyn and her husband Graeme, were the only ones camping at this site. We realized our time in Patagonia was nearing an end. I can remember feeling very sad to leave such a beautiful wild place.

DSC02600And if you are interested here is the map we had with us of the National Park’s tracks.

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A Memory of Patagonia

This morning I was looking for some of my photos of mountains. I found some which made me drop into tears – tears of awe and gratefulness – as I was swept up in the feel and recollection of five years ago walking in Patagonia.

PATAGONIA is a very spectacular area in the very southern part of South America. One of the treks we did was a NINE day backpack circuit walk in the Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile.

By the seventh day of the walk I wrote in my journal “Cannot wait to have a hot shower to get my filthy hair washed and especially the thermal underwear which hasn’t been off my body the whole time! The Italiano camp shelter is woefully substandard. We saw four condors wheeling above us and a mouse nibbled one of our snaplock bags.”

The next day walking to the next camp called Camp Chileno we entered a valley which I wrote “felt like a wander to Shangri-La with the feeling of isolation and unique steep-sided glacial valley and the rushing river like a ribbon gleaming in the sunlight …”

Here is one of the dramatic photos I took on my iphone.

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We camped on a platform because the valley was so steep.

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we got up early the next morning in the dark to walk up to see the sunrise on the three tall sentinels or towers of the Torres del Paine: Torre Sur, Torre Central and Torre Norco stunningly reflected in the lake below. It was so cold we put on every layer of clothing, rain jacket and overpants and boiled the billy for hot drinks.  And then the sun started to rise and we photographed in total awe – the wildness and rugged beauty transformed in the most amazing yellows and oranges.

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To help indicate the scale here is a photo of Bogdan down beside the lake.

Here is the map I carried and referred to with the camps marked with circles.

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Torres Del Paine National Park Map Patagonia CHILE South America

 

SHORT STORY – Memory of a Summer Day (Imprisoned by a Bra)

(NOTE – While this story describes an actual event – there are NO photo captions provided – or any artwork!)

It was a summer with consecutive days of temperatures above forty degrees. The air-conditioned shopping mall was a cool haven to escape the humid heat. Rebel Sports lured me in with Boxing Day specials promising fifty percent discounts on flamboyant bright sport’s tops and matching tights. I grabbed ten items of various sizes. The fitting rooms were narrow cubbyholes entered directly from the main shop floor, each hardly big enough to fling one’s arms around.

I raised a decent sweat trying on a pair of shorts.

“Holy Moley,” I uttered under my breath. “No air-con in these fitting rooms?”

I squeezed into a pair of tights. Getting them off was an ordeal while balancing on one leg, then the other. My body felt like it was covered with a layer of velcro tenaciously adhering to any material.

I suspiciously eyed the eight remaining items and mentally whittled them down to one.

It was a two-piece sporty thing, the kind I’d admired on younger well-toned females flouncing around in supermarkets. It consisted of a vivid blue sport’s bra visible beneath an attached outer aqua layer. I felt a stirring of hope and excitement, imagined myself looking cool and trendy on my morning walk. Yes – this will make me WANT to go walking! Felt a lift of courage as I peeled off my tired old bra.

It took time and effort just to work out how to get into the new top. I got the four attached shoulder straps with two crossing at the back over my head, but it was a tangle and required a second attempt. Then the bra part got stuck above my boobs.

“Okay, this could be tricky,” I mumbled.

I hauled the edge of the bra down over one boob. The rest got stuck over half the other boob. I couldn’t get my arthritic fingers under it. I battled, grasping, yet unable to drag it further, until I gave up trying to get it ON. So I endeavored to pull it OFF, anything to free myself from the padded material, which wouldn’t stretch or co-operate over my clammy boobs and back.

I had visions of being forced to call for help. I cringed at the thought of peeping out the door and begging assistance. Worse I could only recall seeing young guys as shop assistants out there.

I broke out in a further outpouring of perspiration. How to extract myself without creating a public scene? I glanced at myself in the mirror – horror of horrors! The wretched top clung about my damp nakedness like an octopus with suckers.

Enlisting a surge of new energy, I bent over, exhaled, slithered my fingers under the bra and fought it. Inch by inch it was released from my boobs while breaking three of my fingernails. I took a big breath, bent over again and tugged with such anger that it was flung over my head, landed on the floor and lay dead.

I hardly recall escaping the confines of the fitting room and the shop. I remember shaking in the car for five minutes before I drove away, out into the bright hot sunshine of freedom.

PS – I am grateful to my writing group Writers Collective for critiquing this story and providing suggestions. Thankyou.

Antarctic Revisit

Three months ago we boarded the expedition ship ‘Ortelius’ to sail to the Antarctic Peninsula.  Travel to far-flung places such as the Antarctica leaves me with a reverberating hankering to return, to do it again to relive the excitement. But I suspect nothing can replicate that first impression and awe one is overwhelmed with when standing on the ice among hundreds of penguins.

I recall stepping ashore from the zodiac and slowly spinning full 360 degrees to try to gather the total panorama into my memory. Majestic dark, rocky, ice-encrusted peaks surround me. The frozen pack-ice and iridescent blue icebergs jostle in the bay. The foggy mist enshrouding the lofty peaks drift and hover grey and blue.

Back home in random wistful moments I find myself stopping what I am doing and smiling as I recall feeling the Antarctic landscape. I pull up the photos on my phone. The usual size photos just don’t seem to accurately portray it.  The panoramas and videos seem better to capture the scale.

I pick up brush and oil paints and start to scratch the barest outlines on canvas. Swirling clouds and atmosphere take over … and I’m reliving it, creating shifting clouds and slopes of snow, anchoring dark brown umber splotches for the rocky ledges amidst the mist. Using ultramarine blue and titanium white I’m trying to recreate the blue-green iridescence of the ice …

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When something extraordinary comes to life …

I belong to three book clubs. They meet monthly so it means I get through at least three books – and often more each month. Reading a good book provides so much pleasure but reading with a cuppa beside me is one of life’s best joys.

I’ve been into doing some fun artwork lately – as shown with the last post of ‘Otaru’ in Japan.

And of course I adore penguins as anyone who read my blog post about the Antarctic must know.

So I put these interests all together and here is what I came up with yesterday …

I tried to depict when something extraordinary- such as printed penguins in a book burst from the page and share my cuppa.

QUOTE: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me … C.S.Lewis

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Otaru – Japan in January 2018

Just returned from a snow skiing trip to Hokkaido the northern island of Japan. We stayed in Otaru, which is a town famous for it’s beautiful glass ware, exquisite music boxes and seafood – it has more than 70 Sushi restaurants! The town has retained it’s heritage canal area.

Here are three drawings based on some old windows and doors of Otaru. I was inspired by Japanese woodblock prints which simplify the images with clear lines and sections of flat colour. I used sepia ink and watercolour pencils.

The first window is completely shut up and shuttered with rust and signs of age clearly depicted. Tto me it represents the part of history sometimes concealed and locked up from scrutiny.

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The second displays part of a warehouse complex beside the canal, with some of the windows closed and some open. It has modern Japanese signage. It makes me think of how we retain some history and revisit it and even try to bring it into our era.

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The third drawing is of a beautiful leadlight door momentarily open, welcoming people into the warm restaurant.

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A smelly and sweaty NewYear 2000

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MEMORIES OF STEPPING INTO THE YEAR 2000 – Y2K – THE DAWNING OF A NEW CENTURY

As the end of 1999 loomed we gathered stress like putting on layers of thick winter clothes. Our usual business demands of customers was trebled with them demanding their windows before Christmas! Now why would people apply undue pressure to produce aluminuim windows for the festive season? As if that wasn’t enough it was amplified even moreso with the mad hype leading up to Y2K. Everyone seemed to have some level of fear of a possible computer crash. So much time, money and effort was spent adjusting computer systems, downloading and learning new programs.

Ignoring the doomsday prophets and the conspiracy theorists I wrote my usual mass-Christmas letter as if we would go on forever. I spent weeks cooking and preparing dehydrated food for our planned family adventure trip to NZ, for Christmas and New Year.

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Wawrzonek Wanderings Christmas letter for year 1999

At Sydney airport, our youngest, 15 year old ‘Dodgy Dave’, left his passport on a table at McDonalds. He was close to panic as he took off  to retrace his steps. We hurried after him and another layer of stress weighed me down. Relieved that he was lucky to find his passport we scurried aboard our flight. I wondered if it was an omen of things to come. That is how I felt

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The boys (Dodgy Dave, Bogdan and Steven) ready to start the hike to French Ridge hut – the base to start their climb up Mt.Aspiring.

Bogdan, Steve and Dave loaded up their packs with crampons, ice axes and all the paraphernalia to climb Mt Aspiring. They reached the summit on Boxing Day.

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Steven, Bogdan and Dave on the summit of Mt. Aspiring

When Monique and I met the boys at Aspiring Hut on the 30th December they were jubilant, flushed with their success. Dodgy Dave’s face was ‘flushed’ too, very badly sunburnt from the harsh sun and glare when climbing the Bonar Glacier. His skin, previously afflicted with pimples, over the next week it peeled and shed and was remarkably clear from then on. Face-peels evidently work.

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‘Dodgy Dave’ very sunburnt. Steven in the background below

I was just so relieved the boys were triumphant and safe and we were reunited. I was keen to fulfil my New Year plan. We had hiked the Rees-Dart Track at Easter and had stood on Cascade Saddle in brilliant weather when a seed of longing had formed in my mind – I must bring in New Year 2000 with all my family on that high alpine pass.

On December 31st 1999 we donned our backpacks to climb up the steep track to Cascade Saddle and the marker called The Pylon. The route is recommended only for advanced walkers and hikers have died there. The track notes describe it as “difficult, marked by orange snow poles … occasionally on all fours working from pole to pole because the route sidles a few ledges and outcrops and at times becomes very steep … climbing 1335m over 4 km.”

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Thel & Monique on the steep ascent to Cascade Saddle. The Matukituki valley below.

On the top we overlooked the Matukituki valley.

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We found a lovely camp spot up high beside a creek with no one else around. At dusk a mist rolled in and it started to drizzle. Snug in our tents we snoozed, it was a completely quiet night with just the sound of water falling – and Dodgy Dave snoring.

We awoke to a whiteout mist. I have to admit to feeling an anti-climax disappointment as we packed up and hiked across to the Saddle in fog so thick we could hardly see any track. As Monique and I stood in the mist waiting for the boys to come up to us, a little miracle happened. The mist cleared enough to see a hazy outline below us. Soon we could discern the whole spread of the Dart Glacier sprawled down the flank of the mountainside, creased and buckled with crevasses as it bent around a curve.

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The mist starts to dissipate and show the Dart Glacier below.

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I felt overwhelmed with the type of awe when one is confronted with the mighty forces of nature. We were surrounded by the beauty and danger of mountains, landslips and avalanches, of glaciers, slow rivers of ice. The landscape felt volatile, ever changing, constantly realigning; even the Dart track beside the glacier had changed since we’d been there just 8 months before.

Bogdan set up his camera to take photos of us all and capture the special memory.

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The Wawrzonek family together at Cascade Saddle

The magnificence of the wilderness scenery made me think how the previous century had seen man pollute and destroy so much fragile environment all over the world and caused species to become extinct. And yet we were there – just us – sharing an unspoilt place at the dawning of a new millennium. I breathed a prayer of gratefulness. We were all together full of hope on the Cascade Saddle on January 1st 2000.

 

On reaching Queenstown days later, with some trepidation I turned on my Palm Pilot organiser. The screen blinked a message box “Fatal Error”. I sat staring at it, imagining chaos with lost contact lists and calendar events. I reminded myself I’d managed in the wilderness without it for weeks. I pulled out a small notepad and pen from the bottom of my pack and remembered being there beside the Dart Glacier. I smiled and shrugged my shoulders. Life – challenging, ever changing, constantly needing to realign …

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Written by Thel WawrzonekMemoir based on my journal notes from December 1999 to January 2000.

Photography by Bogdan Wawrzonek – scanned colour slides.