A Northern Patagonian Christmas

When friends come to visit us it’s really special. Chile is a long trek, and coming all this way to see us means a lot. Mostly because Jenine and I finally get a chance to talk with someone besides each other all day long:)

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Cant beat these friends or that view


We’ve always loved our friends for the fun times and laughs we have together. But, now, we need them even more to hash out ideas and talk through the bigger picture aspects of life.

The last two weeks of December made me realize this and how important great friendships are. We were so fortunate that not only did we have our friends Dennis and Namrita visit us for a week, we then had Sanjay and Colleen come and spend 8 days over Christmas with us. It could not have been better and offered so many good conversations and chances for introspection. Jenine has heard all of my theories and rants enough, so I really relished this chance for a fresh perspective, or at least a new set of ears.

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Enjoying a few beers at camp

Being away and doing all these cool things has had a major impact on how we think about our future. We’ve been exposed to so much and we realize the pursuits that we want to continue to make an important part of our lives like surfing, yoga, trekking, travel, spanish, building a home, and especially raising a family. Stepping out to see the world will for sure show you how precious time is to experience life to the fullest. Not only is life short, different phases in our lives are short. You only have certain windows of time to learn new skills and to tackle new projects before major life events start changing your direction.

I was thinking about what was important to me before I left in Aug 2014 versus today. Back then, I thought that as long as I had a good career and making good money, everything everything else just naturally falls into place. But today, I am valuing my time much more than I have ever have. I want to climb more mountains, hike more trails, build my own house, grow my own food, surf, develop my talents and most importantly spend as much time as possible raising a family. Nothing on that list requires a ton of money either, although I think there is a chance to make decent money while still focusing on your priorities.

We really don’t have any time to waste. And the long conversations I’ve had recently have reinforced this for me. I want to thank my friends for spending so much quality time with Jenine and I over this incredible December. And for those conversations that made me think so much. We feel blessed to be here with such great people.

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roadside pit stop

Enough of the emotional intro. Our time with Sanjay and Colleen, wasn’t just about waxing away on the meaning of life. We did so many cool things from wineries, camping along lakes in Patagonia, hiking amongst volcanos and trekking to solitary refugios in the mountains. Sanjay came all this way to hear my witty banter over bottles of wine, and I didn’t disappoint on that front. I can’t believe all we got to do together and all the fun memories we had in just 8 days!

After saying good bye to Dennis and Namrita with an amazing meal at Restuarant 99 in Santiago. We started our journey south together in Titus. Sanjay and Colleen had a flight out of Bariloche Argentina in one week (14 hours and a border crossing to the south-east of Santiago). The drive there takes you through some amazing spots, and our plans was to stop and explore over the course of our time together

Our first order of business was to taste and stock up on great bottles of Chilean wine – especially the Cabernets and Carménère. We accomplished this and a horse drawn carriage ride at Laura Hartwig winery in the Santa Cruz valley.

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A horse drawn ride is mandatory with wine tours in chile

That night, (no surprise here) we also found the casino in the little town of Santa Cruz. Our game was $3 craps, with some classic “house rules” that voided any good roll a shooter had including too much “palming or fingering” the dice before rolling, to my favorite, the dice illegally touching each other as they rolled…. Needless to say we never scored a point and lost 17 consecutive turns. Chilean craps is brutal.

After that we boogied down to the Volcano encompassed, crystal-laked town of Pucón. We showed up and the owner of the cabin we rented was nowhere to be found and the cabin was not on the lake as advertised. Uh-oh, might be Christmas in the van. Luckily, we found a vacant cabin with the owner actually on site right across the street in front of the lake. It was perfect for us and we proceeded to haul in our 50 bags of groceries that we had bought for the feast the next day.

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Our cabin for Christmas Eve - Pucon Chlie

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Our turn for a Volcano pic

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The view from outside our Christmas Cabin

On Christmas day, before cooking, we started the day with a pretty strenuous 6 hour hike to get a view of the 4 amazing volcanos that surround the town of Pucón. This hike winds through a protected sanctuary that is famous for Monkey Puzzle (Auracaria) Trees. These freaky trees have near razor sharp leaves! But that didn’t stop us decorating one on Christmas day…

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Santuario El Cañi

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We did get to decorate a tree on Christmas day! Watch out for those spikes!

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Sanjay and Colleen at the top of our hike on Christmas - Volcano villarrica in the distance

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Trail marker

After the hike, we headed back to the cabin for Christmas dinner! In true Chilean fashion, we didn’t actually serve dinner until 11:30pm, but man was it fantastic. Jenine even broke her months long vegetarian streak to cook a fantastic turkey. Sanjay and I teamed up in the kitchen to over analyze & plan a strategy for baking a blueberry and nectarine cobbler. I think I got a taste of how methodically Sanjay operates at work. Everything was perfect. And after dinner, Sanjay and I stayed up until the wee hours reminiscing and going through my photo albums.

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Christmas Cooking

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The guys take over in the kitchen to strategies on dessert

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Christmas dinner, so thankful you guys are here with us!

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Dessert is served with Champagne brought all the way from the states! Thanks guys!

The day after Christmas was no time to rest any hangovers, we had a border crossing into Argentina to do! That border crossing was such a breeze though, and Sanjay and Colleen luckily didn’t get to experience the boredom and the fun of waiting for hours in multiple different lines for passport stamps that generally is the norm in less developed countries.

Immediately upon crossing into the Argentina side, the road turned from smooth and paved to dirt and bumpy. It is funny how you can immediatly tell the places where economy isn’t doing so well. We were in Northern Patagonia, and our mission was to find great camping by the lakes, and we scored. The pictures really speak for themselves. Even the cold water didn’t stop us from swimming and the sunsets and the rainbows were fantastic.

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Welcome to Argentina

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Setting up camp in the lakes region of Argentina Patagonia

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Getting camp set up - glad my cot is actually getting used!

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swimming in glacier water

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camping in Argentina - lakes district

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Breaking down camp at dawn

We soon came to Bariloche Argentina, a famous and beautiful swiss mountain town surrounded by fantastic mountains and hiking. It has a very european feel and in the mountains there are refugios or places where you can hike and then sleep and get food and drink. We planned a two day hike to one of these refugios called Jakob. The hike was stunning along beautiful rivers and mirror lakes. Additionally, we got introduced to our friends the buzzing swarming Horse Fly (Tábano). These thing are more like migdet birds than flies and the sound of their wings buzzing drives you insane as they swarm and try to bite you. Most of the hike was peaceful, but we definitely had our moments sprinting through the trail being chased by these beasts. The payoff was worth it though. Refugio Jakob sits next to a gorgeous lake in a mountain valley. Inside the refugio, we slept in the top level of a three story bunk accompanied by 20 other trekkers in the room. It was funny being huddled up there so far off the ground and of course there were 3 people who snored (not us) so loud you really couldn’t sleep. Luckily, the Refugio also served wine, and we were the last people to leave the dinning area for our beds. “Take it easy” our Argentinian teenage waiter jokingly said as I ordered our third bottle of wine at 11pm. These were the only english words I heard him say all night.

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We made it to Refugio Jakob , everyone in down jackets from REI

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Morning at Refugio Jakob

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Refugio Jakob

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Heading back down to Bariloche

After hiking out the next morning, we had one day and night together in Bariloche. We quickly descended on the amazing chocolate shops, breweries and even did our first Argentinian steak house together, Jenine breaking her veggie streak for the second time (Jenine wants me to note here that when she decided to go veggie mid-way through our trip, she made this exception in advance, “we didn’t drive all this way for me NOT to try an Argentinean steak!” she says). Bariloche was touristy, but the beauty of the place can’t be denied especially from atop one of the chairlift accessed look-outs.

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The land of lakes

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Sanjay and Colleen are going to miss the bumpy ride back there

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An awesome week comes to a close with one last beer

It was sad to say goodbye as we took Sanjay and Colleen to the airport. I wasn’t ready to see them go yet. Sanjay even left his brand new Patagonia down jacket in our van to say thanks (ok, not really, it was an accident and he wanted me to send it back to him. that guy…). You guys are fantastic, the memories of this trip will not be forgotten! Until next time!

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Thanks for coming guys! Great week

More pictures here:

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Biking to lunch, Casa Colchaga Santa Cruz Wine Region outside of Santiago

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Dinner with great views and wine at Casa Colchaga - Santa Cruz, Chile

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Sanjay and Colleen enjoying the horse drawn carriage wine tour @ Laura Hartwig Winery

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The vineyards at Laura Hartwig Winery - lots of Carmenere and Cabernet

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A horse drawn ride is mandatory with wine tours in chile

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The cellar at Laura Hartwig

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Tasting time

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Villarrica Volcano near Pucon, Chile

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Awesome couple!

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Our turn for a Volcano pic

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Our cabin for Christmas Eve - Pucon Chlie

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The view from outside our Christmas Cabin

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Christmas day hike in Santuario El Cañi in Pucon, Chile

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Amongst the trees in Santuario El Cañi

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Santuario El Cañi

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Sanjay taking a lake rest stop (Santuario El Cañi)

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Christmas day hike

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The very sharp branches of the Auracaria Tree (Money Puzzle Tree)

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We did get to decorate a tree on Christmas day!

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Sanjay and Colleen at the top of our hike on Christmas - Volcano villarrica in the distance

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Volcanos of love

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Volcanos of love - take 2

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Post hike dip to cool off - that kid in the corner is fleeing our path

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Pano from the top of Santuario El Cañi

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Trail marker

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Sanjay debating a dip

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The guys take over in the kitchen to strategies on dessert

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We decided on a nectarine and blueberry combo

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The crumble looks good!

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Cutting up the Christmas bird

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Christmas dinner, so thankful you guys are here with us!

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Dessert is served with Champagne. looks good!

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Luna dog trying to join us for Christmas dinner

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Christmas Cooking

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Post champagne bottle pop

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Merry Christmas fake bottle pop

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Sanjay and Colleen's get to experience a drive through border crossing into Argentina in our van

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Welcome to Argentina

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Setting up camp in the lakes region of Argentina Patagonia

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the lakes region of Patagonia

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the start of Northern Patagonia in Argentina

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roadside pit stop

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Lunch time - road side

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Getting camp set up - glad my cot is actually getting used!

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Seems pretty cold guy!

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Diving into the crystal clear waters

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swimming in glacier water

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camping in Argentina - lakes district

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Why aren't you girls jumping in?

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Enjoying a few beers camp

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A rainbow appeared at dawn

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Breaking down camp at dawn

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Start of our 2 day hike to Refugio Jakob in Bariloche

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Hiking along the rio

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Hiking near Bariloche

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Off to explore the mountians

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On our way to the Refugio

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The bridge to the refugio

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Climbing in the hills Bariloche

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We made it to Refugio Jakob , everyone in down jackets from REI

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The lake by refugio Jakob

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Morning at Refugio Jakob

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Refugio Jakob

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Heading back down to Bariloche

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Jenine having a rough time on the trail

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After two days of hiking, it was time to hit the chocolate shops, famous in Bariloche

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On our last day together, we headed up to a view point near Bariloche

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The beautiful scenery of Bariloche in the background

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The land of lakes

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High above Bariloche

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Cant beat that view

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Sanjay and Colleen are going to miss the bumpy ride back there

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Beer gardens

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An awesome week comes to a close with one last beer

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Thanks for coming guys! Great week

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Posted in Argentina, Chile Tagged with: , , , , , ,
12 comments on “A Northern Patagonian Christmas
  1. Jon Alferness says:

    George and Jenine — you guys are inspiring. I don’t always get a chance to read your updates, but when I do I am blown away by all that you are doing. I found this intro especially relevant — time is very short, and it is way too easy to get caught up in the usual rat race of places like Silicon Valley. I’m proud and humbled to know you guys — keep this up and keep spreading the news that life is wonderful if you live it to its fullest!

    • George says:

      Hi Jon! So great to hear from you and get these kind words! We appreciate it. Taking a step back from our lives in San Francisco has done wonders in helping us figure out and focus on what we think is important. I feel so excited and energized now, and I hope we can hang on to this perspective in the future. I hope all is well! George

  2. Joe and Pam Lara says:

    Hi Jenine and George, WOW wonderful pictures! Yes, life can be very short and with all you have learned and experienced you will be able to apply it to your new family life waiting in the wings.
    The countdown begins…we can’t wait to see you both very soon. I can see my daughter and son in-law’s light becoming brighter and brighter from their dream journey.
    Love
    Mom and Dad 🙂

  3. paula says:

    Great post guys! Time does feel to go so much faster for us now too. And yet, life has slowed to a more content pace. We also have frequent conversations on what’s next. One thing for sure…we will all never forget this time in our lives. safe travels!

    • George says:

      Hi Paula! I totally agree, everyday I think that these days living in our van and traveling so freely will be some of the most fondest memories of my life. I know I am going to constantly think back to my van life days and long for them 🙂

  4. Mom says:

    I miss you.

  5. Aunt Patty says:

    George and Jenine, you are amazing human beings. You are mindful with all you do. You are in the moment, finding beauty in all things. I am looking forward to spending time with you two. We love you!

    • George says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words Aunt Patty! We are looking forward to spending time with you when we are back in the states around May

  6. Jacqui says:

    Hi you guys! Lovely photos. Throughout our time on the road (and under a van or RV!) we’ve had the same discussions about priorities shifting. Thinking about going back to how life was “before” seems crazy! We’re working to find the balance between making enough and living healthy (fitness, diet, reduced stress, making time for relationships, etc) so your intro definitely hit it on the head for us. We should be up near Hood River for most of this year, if you’re up that way come say hi, we’d love to catch up!