Posted by: tylereddy | August 5, 2013

A Day in the Big Leagues

I don’t like to run. Never really have, probably never will. I have traumatizing memories about running from my youth. The first was probably the run around the block in grade school. Then little league baseball when coach said to “hurry up waddle ass” (probably a compliment to my full rear) from then it was running ‘the fence’ in high school and god, oh god, the beep test. I hated the beep test. You had to run between two points to the sound of beeps on a cassette and the beeps just kept getting closer together until you were exhausted and had to stop because you couldn’t make it back to the line in time. Misery.

These are my thoughts as my feet heavily pound on the ground. They are clumsy, awkward and don’t spring me up or forward, they just hammer back on the pavement requiring  great effort for the next step. I’m running on the boardwalk in Calafate dodging broken glass, stray dogs and wiping profuse sweat from my brow. So why am I enjoying this run so much? Because there is a purpose, a greater goal, joy waiting on the other end. Hockey. The South American tournaments were only days away and the misery of running was crushed by the excitement of playing hockey on another continent.

I walked through the glass doors of the IceZone in Punta Arenas and flopped my hockey gear on the tiled floor. The rink was small with clear plexiglass boards and netting hanging all around. Workmen on lifts were putting the finishing touches on hanging the netting while several Chilean kids clung to the boards trying to get hold of the concept of ice skating. A couple teenage boys skated around the middle of the ice, quickly, awkwardly and dangerously out of control trying to impress the on looking girls with their haphazard moves. The rafters above the ice surface were constructed of beautiful exposed wood and the ‘smell’ of cold hung in the air.

E1 and E2 take in the action at the 3 on 3 arena with clear plexi boards.

E1 and E2 take in the action at the 3 on 3 arena with exposed woodwork and clear plexi boards.

I glanced around to see if there were any other players about. This was the first night of practice for the Nordicos (the Chilean team from Punta Arenas) and the Ghetto Blasters (the ‘Canadian’ Team made up of two Canadians, two Germans, a Chilean and an Argentine). Not knowing what to expect I trotted around excitedly to check out the facility and to see if I could find anybody. Once I was on the other side of the rink I saw the team enter from a distance. It was undoubtedly a hockey team: travelling in a pack, giant bags in tow and faces that lit up when they saw the ice. I strolled over and introduced myself to my new team of Facebook acquaintances and thus began the beginning of my South American hockey experience.

We dressed in cramped locker room about the size of a kitchen. Guys kept rolling in and it was handshake after handshake, forgotten and mispronounced name after name. But it didn’t matter, we were all there for one purpose and that was to play hockey. The guys joked around in Spanish, teased each other and checked out the beer girl calendar on the wall. I may have been thousands of miles from home, but the atmosphere couldn’t have been more familiar. There was some nervous excitement in the air and I couldn’t wait to get on the ice after not skating for five months. Hockey in July. Awesome.

Night one practice in Punta Arenas, Chile.

Night one practice in Punta Arenas, Chile.

We hit the ice and skated a few laps. A little rusty, but nothing that caused too much embarrassment. The ice was choppy after public skate and there was distinct lack of ice in the corners. Apparently the cooling system didn’t run beyond the boards and thus the corners were too warm to sustain ice. They would later be filled with snow updating their hazard rating from ‘certain death’ to ‘guaranteed injury’. The Chileans held a decent skill set – some were good shooters, others good skaters or puck handlers, but for the most part they were beginners eager to learn the game. Here in Punta Arenas they have only been playing hockey for one and a half seasons, so there is still much work required to learn the game. The guys worked hard, asked lots of questions and made progress on their skills. It was obvious that they were excited to have guests and they were in awe of the Germans shooting and puck handling abilities. Afterwards, beer, a sandwich and bed. It was a great night and for the next two weeks plenty of hockey to come.

Opening Ceremonies were the next night followed by the opening game – Ghetto Blasters vs. CAU from Ushuaia, Argentina. There were 600 people in the stands that first night. I’ve played in front of 600 people before, but that’s from 30 years of hockey at 20 people a year (and most of the time the ‘fans’ were my parents). The opening ceremony spoke to the importance of the tournament for the sport in Chile. The ceremony was complete with introductions, national anthems and speeches from the dignitaries. Adding to the excitement was the television broadcast team, announcers, blaring music and an excited crowd that had no clue about the rules and didn’t quite know when to cheer – but they loved to watch goals and they loved it when people crashed. It was electric.

In-game action.

In-game action.

A few minutes into the first the puck landed on my stick. I was striding toward the net, the goaltender way out of position and not a defender in sight. I gripped the stick and shot the puck into the yawning cage. It is always a great feeling to score a goal. I didn’t really celebrate or do much (when you score as much as I do it kinda becomes old…ha ha). I skated back towards the faceoff and then one of the others players caught up and was really excited saying great goal, great goal. I glanced up and saw the rest of the team hanging over the boards from the bench looking for high fives, giant smiles and fists pumping in the air. At that moment I realized I had just scored the first goal in Chilean international ice hockey history!

After the game there were fans lined up wanting pictures and autographs from the players. At first I stooped to get into the pictures with the short South Americans. For once I was tall, and wearing skates I towered over them. After bending down to get into several photos I paused and thought, ‘when am I ever going to have a chance to feel this tall again?’ I stood there tall and proud having played before a great crowd who loved the hockey game. It felt strange to receive superstar treatment for something that I’m average at in my home country, but I guess in South America I’m a superstar.

Superstar treatment - on tv!

Superstar treatment – on tv!

We went on to win the game handily, and several others after that. As the week wore on the Chilean team built their skills and knowledge. This was important as the next week the Ghetto Blasters and Los Nordicos would combine to represent Chile for the first time ever in International competition. We would play in Ushuaia, Argentina against teams from Brazil, Buenos Aires, and Ushuaia. The competition would be more skilled and playing on Olympic sized ice would be a bigger challenge. The ‘Canadian team’ the Ghetto Blasters went on to win the tournament. As we paraded the giant trophy around the ice passing it back and forth like Lord Stanley’s cup I spied a Canadian flag waving in the crowd and stopped to say hi.  They reached through the mesh to touch my hand like a crazed Michael Jackson fan meeting the King of Pop. At that moment I felt great pride for my country and for the game that we love so much.

The red and white flies in the rafters in Chile

The red and white flies in the rafters in Chile

Team shot with the hardware.

Team shot with the hardware.

The entire week was an incredible event. Alejandro Traba and the guys from Los Nordicos deserve huge credit for putting together such an amazing tournament and being such great hosts. All week long there were stories in the newspapers, on TV, radio and the web talking about the excitement of the tournament. I hope that the event goes a long way in getting the community excited and involved with the game.

A sampling of the media surrounding the tournament

A sampling of the media surrounding the tournament

After that first night we went out with the Chilean team. We talked hockey, swilled beers and relived the game like it was the’72 Summit Series (although few of the Chileans would know the significance of that event). Feeling tired and tipsy after too many Heineken I went back to the place and flipped on the TV. There we were playing hockey.  I watched the whole game over again. I couldn’t stop smiling thinking about my day in the big leagues.

With some of the fans.

With some of the fans.

Random groupie...kidding, my biggest fan!

Random groupie…kidding, my biggest fan!

Posted by: tylereddy | July 21, 2013

Fossil of the Week: Random Marine Fossil

Museo Egidio Feruglio was our primary destination while in South America. It was with the endorsement of Museo Egidio Feruglio (Mef) that we embarked on our trip to Argentina. With their agreement, and the support of the RoyalTyrrellMuseum and its Cooperating Society, we launched to this foreign land. After several months of communication with Mef we had already painted a picture in our minds, but it was finally time to experience Trelew for ourselves.

We hadn’t heard many good reviews of Trelew before we arrived. Most people spoke negatively about the city, but invariably everybody would end their comments with “…but they have a great museum…” and they were right. Mef is the premiere tourist attraction in the city of about 80,000 people and it is located in the heart of the town. The Museum is a colourful and modern building in central Trelew and beckons to visitors from the end of the main street.

Welcome to Mef!

Welcome to Mef!

We were welcomed to the Museum by Ignacio Escapa who has worked at the museum since being a teenager. Now a Ph. D researcher Ignacio studies Jurassic plants and is building his research and collections around the impressive specimens from Patagonia.  The galleries contain many specimens from Patagonia and represent many type specimens from the Jurassic through the Cretaceous. We were lucky enough to visit the nearby Geopark Bryn Gwyn with Pedro who offered to show us some of the fossil riches of the area.

Ready for a hike. Family - check, Sun - check, wind - check.

Ready for a hike. Family – check, Sun – check, wind – check.

The park is thirty-some kilometres from Trelew near the Welsh settlement of Gaiman. It houses a small interpretive centre which leads to an impressive hike up the valley wall. The hike takes you from 40 million years to 10,000 years ago while ascending over a hundred metres. My first though was that I’d been on this hike before…changing environments, fossil deposition, great preservation…yadda yadda yadda but we were about to be pleasantly surprised.

E2 starts out strong.

E2 starts out strong.

It was a windy day in Patagonia (most are) but the beginning of the ascent took us up through a winding tunnel providing much needed relief from the wind. While the landscape was familiar the hike started off immediately with some cool fossils. A preserved hornets nest stuck out of the hillside. It looked exactly like a modern hornets nest and there were even some hornets that had conveniently built a nest nearby as though they had never left that spot. As we ascended through the Sarmiento, Gaiman and Puerto Madryn Formations we came across cases installed by Mef that housed specimens of terrestrial and marine mammals, reptiles, sharks, whales, dolphins and oysters. The diversity of animals discovered in this small areas is impressive. Our guide Pedro told us to keep our eyes open as there are often shark teeth sitting on the soil surface.

Bryn Gwyn scenery

Bryn Gwyn scenery

The “Bryn Gwyn” or “White Hill” for which the park is named, loomed in the distance.  It was named by the Welsh who settled the area, and though the name might lack some creativity, it is really is a white hill. As we fought through the wind to ascend the valley wall there were doubts whether E2 would make the trek, at times the wind would gust and blow him backwards. But with the unbridled enthusiasm of a three year old he would run ahead of us on the trail and run back downhill increasing his travel distance three fold. The last thirty metres of altitude were quite steep and as the trail switch-backed up the valley wall, evidence of clamshells emerged from the hillside. The fossilized beds were metres thick in some spots and millions of clams glistened in the late afternoon sun. We finally reached the summit and while E1 held onto the sign to prevent himself from blowing away, E2 decided to add some weight and fuel with a peanut butter sandwich.

Fossilized clams - lots of them!

Fossilized clams – lots of them!

 

E1 hangs on for dear life at the summit.

E1 hangs on for dear life at the summit…

 

...while E2 displays his new hairdo eating a sandwich.

…while E2 displays his new hairdo eating a sandwich.

 

 

As we descended the hill E1 came across a fossil. It was his first find in South America, probably a random marine mammal as it was discovered in the Gaiman Formation. E1 beamed with excitement as E2 made a few laps around to ensure that no fossils had been missed. The winter sun began to set in the distance and it was time to retreat from the wind with a cup tea and delicious cake. We left the park wind burned and tired, and thankful for another great day in Patagonia. Thanks Pedro!

E1 shows off the fossil find!

E1 shows off the fossil find!

 

Posted by: kellylyneddy | July 13, 2013

50 Shades of Blue

Her tongue pushes forward, caressing the peninsula, slowly climbing it. Glistening, she pushes forward silently, quietly, firmly. Relentless with desire. Growing and feeling the constant pressure, the Perito Moreno Glacier calves and sends large columns of ice crashing like thunder into the cool milky water below……GOTCHA!

Perito Moreno Glacier, Santa Cruz, Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier, Santa Cruz, Argentina

The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is enormous and feeds 48 glaciers which make their homes in both Argentina and Chile.  It is one thing these countries must share. Perito Moreno Glacier is one of very few glaciers that is growing today. It’s blue ice and accessibility draws thousands of visitors each year making, this site one of the major tourist attractions in Southern Patagonia.

Tyler was the “glaciologist” of our group. Having visited a small number of glaciers on two continents, North America and New Zealand, he was eager to visit this South American beauty. Tyler’s experience in interpretation and previous glacial knowledge dusted off his tour guide hat as we rumbled towards Los Glaciers National Park. The drive to the glacier along Lago Argentino is a beautiful one.  A small windy road running along the lake, only allowing for vistas of the glacier from time to time.

“Look MOM! there is a giant piece of ice floating in the water!” Shouted E1.

Glacier hiding in the background, 7 km away (bird's eye view)

Glacier hiding in the background, 7 km away (as the crow flies)

The beauty of travelling during the off season with kids is two fold. Number one, we get up and get going early(especially when granny is around), and number two there are so few visitors that you couldn’t wish for a better view or experience. We arrived early, explored a few of the walkways and landings eventually choosing a spot in the sun.  We waited…and waited….and when the warm sun began to light up the shades of blue within the ice, the glacier began to speak to us.  A crick here, a crack there, like an old man rising from a night’s slumber. A hollow whistling sound as the wind passed over it’s meringue-like top. It was eerily beautiful.

As we enjoyed the warmth of the Patagonian sun…and wind… the glacier came to life.  Large columns of ice came crashing down into the water below, followed by a thunderous crash.  We could not have found a better picnic spot that day.

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FYI…for the glaciologist in all of us!

Perito Moreno Glacier is advancing at a rate of about two meters a day.  As a result, sometimes the glacier’s ice tounge meets the peninsula and creates a dam between two arms of Lago Argentino.  The natural ice dam causes the water to rise in one arm of the lake and, seeking escape, the water takes the path of least resistance.  Eventually the water carves out a small cave or tunnel underneath the ice, equalizing the water level. When the hole is large enough the two arms of the lake join again and the glacier is quiet, but only for a moment.

The tunnel will become too large and the ice too heavy to support.  The glacier will fracture like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mavy4kH1Utw

And of course, E2 fell asleep.

And of course, E2 fell asleep.

Posted by: kellylyneddy | July 7, 2013

High Six!!!!!!

There are places in Patagonia that are difficult to get to. Cueva de las Manos is one of those place, especially in winter.  After a beautiful stay at a small sheep farm, we were too close to resist, and hit the road towards this unique UNESCO world heritage site.  Our camp was Perito Moreno, town sign seen below.  I am positive the “O” was blown away by the wind.  If Sarmiento is the “birthplace of wind”, the Perito Moreno is where wind hits it’s adolescence.  It was relentless.  ALL trees in this town grew at a 45 degree angle and only had branches on one side. Viento, Mucho Viento!

Notice the missing "O"!

Notice the missing “O”!

After our worst sleep in Argentina we set out with our guide Harry on the 1.5 hour road trip to the caves. The drive was scenic, and windy, but we were protected by the shell of Harry’s truck. Along the way we spotted many Guanacos, a wild llama that grazes in the Argentinean Stepps.  Soon out of the pampas small hills began to emerge, vividly red, brown, and black rich with pigments.

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Pretty pigments

During the summer months Cueva de las Manos receives about 500 visitors per day. On June 29th, 2013 there were only 5 visitors, us. A small unimposing visitor’s centre greeted us and we began to walk along the edge of tall cliffs making our way to the legendary caves.  Argentines have a lot of pride about the unique and special places within their own country.  During one homestay we asked about the” cave of hands” and our host, could not express how enchanted she was by them.

The paintings themselves were stunning.  The paintings are 9300 years old with some as recent as 1300 years old. Typically when looking at something of this age, one has to strain their imagination to envision what people say is there. This is not true at Cueva de las Manos, the colours are very vivid.  Red, black, white, purple, yellow and even green decorate the cave walls. The nomadic people which made these paintings followed their food source, and made camp at the bottom of the huge river valley that the caves overlook.  Some people say that when the weather was cold, or more likely the wind intolerable, they sought sanctuary within the caves.  There is one spot where the roof is very high and there are a few red dots on the roof. Some people like to think that is it s map or a constellation, but if I was stuck in a small cave for a few days I think it would be out of boredom that I would throw a rock wrapped in hide dripping with paint at the roof. But who knows, there is no one left to tell us why the paintings are there or what they really mean, we can only guess.

Rio PInturas

Rio Pinturas

There were a few scenes of typical “cave art” one might see at many archeology sites, guanacos, lizards, pumas, maps, mountains…but the hands were different.  So many hands, each belonging to someone, someone like me.  A kind of signature or self portrait left behind of the people who came before. There are over 800 individual hands at this particular site painted in a striking way. Most are negatives or silhouettes. To leave their hand, a person would gather a special pigment which could be found on many of the surrounding hills. Once back at the caves they would place this pigment into their mouth making it into a paint (no one is sure what binding agent was used). In a carefully chosen spot, usually with some cover, they would place their hand and blow the pigment through the hollow bone of a Nandu (a giant ostrich-like bird E2 likes to refer to as a running bush) leaving the outline of their hand. Most hands are left hands, only a small number are right, some are in pairs and believed to be the right and left hands of the same person, there is one of a foot too!

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Some hand paintings believed to be pairs

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The camera does not do the colours justice

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Tyler’s favourite

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Humans hunting guanacos

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The route

I will be the first to admit that I am a huge fan of the high five.  It is a small gesture that brings so much joy. So naturally this attraction spoke to me. There was even a silhouette with six fingers. It was a little tough to see, but I imagine back then if you had six fingers you had a few other things hampering your creative abilities.  This is a beautiful site, if you ever get the chance to see it first hand, take it! HIGH SIX!!!!!!

A wonderful day trip!

A wonderful day trip!

 
 
 
Posted by: tylereddy | July 3, 2013

Fossil of the Week: Sarmiento’s Petrified Forest

We first learned about Bosque Petrificado Sarmiento while at Museo Egidio Feruglio. We remarked on the amazing fossilized trees in the museum and were told that they were small in comparison to the trees in a nearby petrified forest. A quick glance at the map to confirm location and Sarmiento turned into our next destination.

Sarmiento is a small agricultural town located in the south of Chubut province Patagonia (the birthplace of wind). Three buses later we arrived at our Hosteria Labrador, a working sheep and cherry farm. Everything about the place was regal – antique furniture, great beds and a lovely breakfast at a giant dining room table was a treat that I laid in bed and anticipated each night. We leisurely walked the grounds with our host Nicholas, studying the cherry trees, watching the dogs herd the sheep, and inspecting the sheep rams. Our hosts Nicholas and Analyse took great pride in their work and the farm was spotless and the rooms even more so. It was like home, well home if we lived in a beautiful English countryside cottage with sheep, gauchos and our grandparents.

Nicholas was an interesting character. He wore fine clothing, smoked Cuban cigars and was a clever entrepreneur, parlaying a thriving tourist business out of the already successful ranch. He held an heir of royalty with the comfort and wisdom of a grandfather. We were confirtable with him and enjoyed his company very much. When Kelly and I would steal a moment together she would say repeatedly “I love this place.” And the best was waiting for us the next day.

As Nicholas’ diesel SUV fought through the wind toward the park he explained that the rocks of the area were mostly Cretaceous in age, between 23 an 90 million years old. We stopped on the roadside and Nicholas explained the geology of the area. It looked like the Horseshoe Canyon Formation of Drumheller, except for a broad streak of salmon coloured rock looming in the distance. As we drove into the park Kelly whispered for the first time in over two months that she longed for Drumheller.

Drumheller is that you?

Drumheller is that you?

Strolling through the hills we encountered massive trees that look like they were abducted from the rainforest and plopped into the alien desert landscape. They we perfectly preserved, the rock easily mistaken for modern wood. Huge trunks, crowns, pieces still encased in the preservational stone, each piece slowly eroding away in the Patagonian wind. Some were horizontal sentinels of hollowed trees, the insides rotted before being preserved, while other areas looked like the area around a chopping block – shards of wood spewed everywhere. It’s not hard to envision a huge forest standing in the area during the Cretaceous.

Trees litter the desert landscape.

Trees litter the desert landscape.

E1 hot dog in one of the smaller trees

E1 hot dog in one of the smaller trees

The woodshed effect.

The woodshed effect.

Blown away by the scenery...and wind

Blown away by the scenery…and wind

Good thing that the large stumps weighed several tonnes each as we needed them for anchors to ensure we didn’t blow across the entire steppe. Some people might be most impressed by the scientific significance of the site, for me it was the beauty of the rock that truly makes Sarmiento’s Petrified Forest a memorable experience. Truly a taste of Drumheller (with petrified stumps, the English countryside, a friendly host, and a whole bunch of wind…but you get the idea!)

Team photo

Team photo to end a great day.

Posted by: kellylyneddy | June 27, 2013

Hooray for ALFAJORES!!!!

I am almost certain that Tyler’s version of heaven will include Argentina’s favourite treat, alfajores. In Argentina there are bakeries on every corner. The most popular bakeries are difficult to pass up. There are people walking out with dozens of fresh buns, crowds eyeing the treats through the window, and a line up of people waiting with their number in hand to be served. I am certain that these PANADERIAS have their kitchen fan output purposefully directed to their storefront sidewalk, making their bakery irresistible to pass by.

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So far our favourite treats are ALFAJORES. The best way to explain them would be that they are the “oreo” of Argentina, filled not with white cream, but instead DULCE DE LECHE. There are as many different varieties of alfajores as there are regions in Argentina, and of course each region thinks theirs is the best! We cannot say which is best, we have not tried them all yet (we are still working on that).

Most of the time, alfajores are 2 shortbread-like cookies stuck together with a mouth watering filling, often dulce de leche, but not always. Some have coconut, others are covered in chocolate, some have a jam, fruit, or chocolate filling, some have orange rind and cognac flavours, while others have chocolate shortbread -like cookies. Some have nuts or meringue wafers, and the most deadly are triple decker alfajores! Whatever the regional alfajore, we have yet to have a bad one. They are all delicious.

One rainy afternoon we decided to try and make our own. Finding a recipe was not as easy as it sounds. There were so many! Since our ingredients while travelling are limited, we decided to combine two recipes and improvise the rest. With Granny now in Argentina we had plenty of back up while cooking with E1 and E2. As many of you know cooking with kids can be messy and fun. The hardest part was keeping E2 out of the dulche de leche, he was stealing it by the spoonful.

Here is what we did:

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1 ½ cups of cornstarch

1 cup flour

½ cup white sugar*

1 teaspoon of baking powder

125 grams of softened butter

2 eggs

And milk

*I may have added 1 cup of sugar, but none of us can remember!

You will also need Dulce de Leche and unsweetened, shredded coconut.

Mix all dry ingredients well. Add butter and mix until oatmeal-like texture. Add eggs. Add milk until desired consistency is reached. Roll out and cut into small circles. Bake at medium heat* for about 7 minutes. Cool cookies. Glue 2 cookies together with Dulche de Leche and roll the outside with coconut.

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EAT!…*we really have no idea at what temperature we baked them, but they turned out wonderfully. In fact that afternoon we had a friend over from Argentina and she said “These are really good!” in a very delightfully surprised fashion. If an Argentine said they were good, I guess we did okay. These turned out wonderfully despite our recipe alterations, our unknown cooking temperature and the little spoon that kept sneaking into the Dulce de Leche.

Posted by: tylereddy | June 21, 2013

Dinosaur of the Week: Amargasaurus

Admittedly I don’t have a long-standing fascination with dinosaurs. I don’t remember playing with them as a kid, I didn’t collect them and I couldn’t recite their names as a child. My earliest ‘interest’ in dinosaurs was a vain attempt to avoid visiting relatives during road trips as a child. We would drive the eight hours to Calgary and as we neared the Drumheller turnoff I would implore my dad to detour off the highway so we could see the dinosaurs. We had long lost relatives to visit, so we sped past the sign and my interest in dinosaurs floundered around in the ditch somewhere along the Trans Canada highway.

It wasn’t until years later when we visited the RoyalTyrrellMuseum in my college days that I rediscovered dinosaurs. I also relived another era of my childhood that day as I fell in the mud and had to wash my pants in the bathroom like an ashamed four year old that had an accident. No matter, I realized my intrigue with dinosaurs was still alive that day …at the ripe young age of twenty two.

I didn’t have a favourite at that time, but a decade after reviving my dinosaur interest I have a favourite – Styracosaurus. He’s a ceratopsian dinosaur and he’s the perfect mix of good looks and power. He’s got a giant frill like his cousin triceratops, but he has many more spikes radiating off of his frill. The spikes remind me of an awesome hairdo that makes him stand out from other ceratopsians, and we all know that more spikes equals more badass. Now in Argentina I’ve discovered his rebellious long neck cousin: Amargasaurus.

Styracosaurus-1

My favourite Styracosaurus illustration (Copyright JP Institute)

Everybody knows that the mullet is the greatest head decoration of all time, but the Mohawk is a close second. Since science has yet to find a dinosaur with a mullet (soon people, soon) Amargasaurus and his mohawk easily ranks as the best adaptation of a sauropod dinosaur. Amargasaurus was only a quarter of the size of the 40 metre Argentinosaurus, so he needed something to make him stand out. Tool number one: the Mohawk.

Amargasaurus is a famous dinosaur in Argentina, hailing from the Neuquen area. We first met in Buenos Aires. From the other end of the gallery I mused at how cute that miniature sauropod was, but on approach I could tell that the mohawk meant business. The longest spines are over 60 centimeters and with a horse-like head and powerful body, Amargasaurus was a very powerful herbivore. Some think that the dual rows of spines supported two rows of sails like that of Spinosaurus, but I prefer to support the theory that the spines were individual sheathed, doubling the intensity and power of the mohawk.

With Amargasaurus at Museo Egidio Feruglio

With Amargasaurus at Museo Egidio Feruglio

There are many hypotheses around the use of the spines, like defense, communication, species recognition and temperature regulation. But quite obviously it is the ultimate adaptation for mating purposes. Go get ‘em Amargasaurus!

Posted by: kellylyneddy | June 12, 2013

The Warmth of Patagonia

The further south we travel the cooler the temperature becomes.  So far we have not hit any snow, be we know there will a beautiful blanket of white waiting for us in Ushuaia.  All of the people we have met here are excited by our travels and very interested in helping us along our journey.  People have offered us lodging, tea and cake, their personal cell numbers should we run into any difficulty, and even the names and numbers of family and people they know who would be happy to help us.  Tyler thinks it is his dashing smile and beginner Spanish, I think it is our children.

Patagonia is an area in southern Argentina and Chile.  It is an expansive area about the size of Alberta.  Like Alberta is has a wide range of landscapes. The Andes give way to the steppes, a barren landscape full of low brush, wind, wind, and more wind. There are a few welcoming river valleys in the steppes, indicated by a small but lush line of trees surrounding the small veins of water that run through it.

I think you have to be tough to live in Patagonia, but only on the outside.  Tyler and I feel like we have developed a “windshield” already. We are likening it to a tan, however it is more like a layer of skin built to keep the wind from sandblasting your face off everyday. The Gauchos that run sheep on the steppes have a lifetime of windshield that has etched the wrinkles on their faces to the perfect depth and their smile lines are crevassed and bright despite the harsh environment.

2013-06-05 16.43.29

We have been in the Trelew area for just over two weeks now, two more to go. It has proved to be quite a nice spot for a rest stop, despite what travel books say.  I’ll admit that the idea of staying in Trelew was a little daunting:

“Trelew isn’t a postcard city” – Lonely Planet

“Trelew is industrial  and certainly not as charming as it’s neighbor Puerto Madryn. Crime is also a concern here.” – Frommer’s

“The downside is the lack of particularly appealing accommodations” – Rough Guide

“Trelew is a place void of beauty.” – Argentina Resident

In addition, tripadvisor.ca has forums and ratings that say there is not much to see here.  We have not found this to be true, you just need to know where to look. Here is just one story of many that we will come home with from Patagonia.

The boys and I meet Tyler at Museo Egidio Feruglio – MEF (www.mef.org.ar) at the end of each day. Just in front of MEF is a charming local museum, Museo Pueblo Regional de Luis.  It is a small museum housed in the former railway station, which was the first building in Trelew.  One day on our way home we noticed some women weaving on large looms, so we went in to get a closer look.  They were spinning wool, setting up looms, weaving and twirling two pieces of wool together of different colours.  The patterns were traditional and intricate.  It all looked beautifully confusing.  I would not consider weaving a relaxing afternoon activity after watching these women work.

A museum guide offered answers to our many questions and listened patiently to our rudimentary Spanish.  I asked if there was a local shop where I could buy wool made in Argentina – She immediately responded – ” I have been knitting since I was four.  You buy some wool you like and I will make you something.” For real? I thought…

We said our goodbyes, we are getting used to kissing a lot of people, and I thought about her offer.  Once the boys and Tyler were safely tucked in bed, I strolled the streets looking for some wool.  I finally found a small shop.  I entered.  I made a fool of myself.  I think I asked if the man behind the counter was made in Argentina, whatever he said in response, made me blush and the shop security guard laugh.  I tried again and successfully walked away with 2 skeins of wool made in Argentina.

The following day I dropped it off and left a note, as our guide was not there, and tried to have faith that it was not all lost in translation.

A week later, she intercepted us as the boys and I made our way to meet Tyler.  She handed me a small bag. Inside was a beautiful scarf – made with the love and warmth of Patagonia.

The Warmth of Patagonia

The Warmth of Patagonia

Posted by: tylereddy | June 7, 2013

Dinosaur of the Week: Giganotosaurus

We rumbled down the road towards El Chocon, still cautious in the first moments of driving in Argentina, but excited to leave the city in the rear-view. The city had opened up to an expansive desert of scrubby brush dotted with roadside shrines and the occasional dinosaur billboard. Yes we were headed in the right direction. Destination: Museo Ernesto Bachmann, the home of Giganotosaurus.

We crested a hill and the dessert opened up into a sprawling valley with a giant lake which we had stolen occasional glimpses of from a distance. The town of El Chocon was still hidden but a few large dinosaur sculptures peaked out from the hillsides enticing us to explore further. Giant footprints painted on the pavement led us over the bumpy streets right to the doors of Museo Ernesto Bachmann. Park right in front? Yes we will. Being fall in Argentina there are few turistas out and about, especially in a place as remote as this. We had the place to ourselves, just two excited kids, great dinosaurs and a camera, it was setting up to be a perfect introduction to our first giant carnivore in Patagonia.

Ummm the camera? Do you have the camera? No you have it. No I don’t, you do. It’s okay we’ve got the phone camera. It’s broken and needs restart after every photo. Ummm… Oh. Anyway, so it was us and a non-willing camera.

The star attraction of the display is Giganotosaurus, South America’s slightly larger version of T-rex.   The type specimen (the first of its kind) is displayed in a field simulation complete with a broken down dune buggy and field tools. The display had an elevated walkway that allowed you to circle the specimen and see it from every angle in the room. The formidable beast consumes the entire space. The original specimen is surprisingly complete with over 70 per cent of the bones recovered.

Stubborn camera takes one photo of Giganotosaurus

Stubborn camera takes a single photo of Giganotosaurus

Museo Ernesto Bachmann also has a complete reconstruction in nearby gallery with Giganotosaurus posed alongside Carnotaurus. I preferred this version, but E2 did not. Fast Fact: Royal Tyrrell Museum scientists Francois Therrien and Don Henderson have published research on both Giganotosaurus size and bite force.

E2 not impressed with Giganotosaurus.

E2 not impressed by Giganotosaurus.

Later we wandered through the town of El Chocon and discovered a playground. Teenagers smoked cigarettes and mused as our kids ran about hollering in English. Otherwise, the town was deserted and we soaked up the tranquility. Just us and Giganotosaurus, a perfect introduction to Patagonia.

Posted by: tylereddy | May 29, 2013

Into the Andes

A few kilometres from Plaza Huincul we cruised down the highway with a rotisserie chicken carcass bouncing on the dash like a bobble head. As we munched on sandwiches we crested a hill and captured our first glimpse of the Andes Mountains. For a moment we were awestruck, surrounded by beautiful dessert outcrops with the Andes looming in the distance. For the next hours we pressed towards the mountains eager to see more, and not entirely sure what to expect. We were not disappointed.

Our first glimpse of the Andes - chicken carcas removed for clarity.

Our first glimpse of the Andes – chicken carcas removed for clarity.

The road was paved to the foothills town of Zapala where we fuelled up and engaged in some interesting way-finding as we drove around and around a traffic circle. Each time we circled we read the sign and discussed which road was the proper one. By lap three we finally discovered that the destinations on the sign were both the same, but the routes and distances were different. One final lap to confirm our choosing and we were off. It was an interesting conversation. We chose not to complete a fifth lap to photograph the sign.

“Look kids it’s Big Ben.”

Outside of Zapala we entered the foothills on gravelled, or maybe better described as a bouldered road. One thing lead to another and next thing you know we were in love…with the Andes. Every turn provided another amazing vista, a different rock outcrop, a gaucho on a horse, a sprawling valley, forests of pines, rivers, mesas. It was gorgeous, open, deserted. It seemed that there were fifty different types of rock. One turn would reveal dull sedimentary layers, the next a moonscape, the next a tower of volcanic rock. It was bizarre, and beautiful. Our rented VW golf Moufetta Blanca bounced down the road and clung to the mountansides as it kicked the odd boulder into the giant precipices below. A few times we rounded corners the road disappeared behind a tight turn. Between the distractions of the amazing vistas and the road conditions it was, at times, a white-knuckle drive.  Somehow E2 slept the whole time.

One if the many ever-changing

One of the many ever-changing views.

and another

…and another

...and another.

…and another.

As the windswept grasses gave way to giant pines glowing in the late day sun we finally arrived at the small town of Villa Pehuena on Lago Alumine. After a good nights rest we drove right to the crater lake of an inactive volcano. While it didn’t erupt our minds were blown. The cutting Andean wind tried to blow us off the mountainside but the beauty left us clinging on to enjoy the views for just another moment. It was astounding. The only other life was a curious little fox who stalked us closely hoping for a crust to fall from our backpacks.

View from the volcano.

View from the volcano.

E1 was elated to have collected a rock that floats. A “volcanical rock” which he will long treasure as a souvenir of his first visit to a vlocano. Somehow E2, again, slept through the whole thing.

A volcano has since become active and began spewing ash. We hope that everybody is okay, as our days in Villa Pehuena were the most tranquil of our trip so far. http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2013/05/28/Chile-Argentina-issue-alert-of-possible-volcanic-eruption/UPI-11641369772724/

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