Saturday, July 17, 2010

Week 5 - Gustatory delights of Patagonia

Lake Diserto on a foggy morn...

and when the sun comes out.

With all of last weeks melodrama over metre deep snow drifts, the omnipotent being responsible for allocating crap weather must have taken heed, as this week we were treated to seven days of the sunniest blue-bird days that Patagonia could muster. Nice.

Situated as we are at the base of a valley bounded by towering ridges, we are allowed the luxury of sunshine from about 1 to 3 in the afternoon. Temperatures sky rocket to above zero and we bask in the warming rays, garnering a much needed dose of vitamin D.

Last Sunday, an expedition to our hill side digging site revealed the normally 45 minute stroll had become a waist deep snow trudge which pushed the boundaries of a reasonable commute at almost three hours. Not really an option, and coupled with the ever present risk of snow and rock slides, we made the decision to start work on a new track.

This track began across a swiftly flowing river on the road out. With precious gumboots stashed high up the mountain, the prospect of wading across the icy waters in leather boots was not a welcome one. Years of experience at Playcentre waterplay followed by an illustruious career as a Civil Engineer helped us formulate a crossing to keep toes dry. Stomaching a day of wet boots ‘for the team’, I set about piling rocks a step apart to allow the gumbootly impaired to cross in dry footed comfort.

John, Millsy and Jack do the river crossing dance while Matt look on

While the stack of round boulders were wobbly at best and the morning ice made for some impressive Torvill and Dean impersonations. The crossing ingeniously used a tree that had fallen with the snow loads. Plans are already afoot for a more sophisticated version of the crossing using a bigger stack of rocks supporting slabs of wood from a nearby tree.

Apart from the joyous 2 hours of sunshine, we rely on vigorous snow clearing, picking and shovelling to keep warm, but a recent development for our crew has been a decision to light a fire at lunch and smoko times. Our resident pyromaniac Emil gets a fire cranking in no time, and those willing to take a face full of smoke are rewarded with warmth or at least a flickering glow that awakens a heartening primal instinct within us all. But even more sensational is the roasting abilities the fire provides.

Lunch for our crew typically consists of a packet of biscuits (usually a Chilean oreo called a Triton), a juice box and two bread rolls dubbed pann (Spanish for bread). Some days our pann can be as dry and brittle as one would imagine bread retrieved from Schakleton’s South Georgian stash to be. However armed with a suitable Y-shaped stick the pann can be toasted to crispy perfection. Sometimes inattention or overzealousness can lead to a pann bottom on the black side of crispy, but our crew is in unanimous agreement that the fire has made snack time significantly more bearable.

The crew gathered round the fire

Another culinary delight we are occasionally treated to and reserved for after work snacks is an amazing spread called manjar. This rich, artery-clogging caramel concoction is smothered over fried pann to yield a delicious snack worthy of a second helping.

Manjar being applied in the only way it should be; slathered on!

With the halfway point of my stint here in Patagonia almost upon us, it is the small comforts like manjar and roasted pann that keep spirits high. With a bit of luck and a spell of warm weather, the tracks may even come out from beneath their blanket of snow so we can ride our creations.

Mountain Pedaler out...

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