Andean Skiing Attempt

After being in Chile for a third winter, I finally made a ski trip. The scenery, including great clouds and a view through the smog to Santiago down below, made the trip well worth it, even if my attempts at skiing didn’t. Though somehow, video footage of my numerous wipeouts mysteriously disappeared.

Atacama

The Atacama Desert is known, among other things, for having lithium-yielding salt flats, consistently clear skies for astronomers, and the world’s driest climate. What was supposed to be a quick stopover on my way from Santiago, Chile to Salta, Argentina ended up being an extended stay due to the area’s heaviest snowfall in twenty years. The town of San Pedro is not a bad place to be stranded – I enjoyed the expansive views of badlands (including the Valley of Death, where JPL tested Mars rover prototypes), sandboarding, and flamingo tours. As the forecast for the opening of the pass over the Andes kept worsening, I decided to admit defeat and take the 23-hour bus ride back south to Santiago.

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Sights of Ushuaia

Sights from the southernmost city in the world:

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City Night Line

Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t find any direct flights from Panama City to my next destination, Dar es Salaam. Since the cheapest flight to Europe was to Frankfurt, I decided to fly there, take a train down to Italy, and catch a ferry to Africa. My red-eye flight from Panama City was originally scheduled to land in Frankfurt at 7:00 AM, giving me plenty of time to travel by train to Florence, where I would spend the night. I was looking forward to this opportunity to see the Alps by train during the winter. When I arrived at the airport, however, I found out the flight had been “retimed,” departing seven hours late due to winter weather in Europe. When I arrived in Frankfurt, I found out the trains were running late because of weather problems too. There was no way to make it to Munich in time for my train to Florence; luckily, I was able to book a spot on the night train.

After my first train journey of the trip (and my first time on a DeutscheBahn ICE train) from the Frankfurt Flughafen Station to the Munich Hauptbahnhof, I had a couple of hours to pick up some bratwurst and ride around the U-Bahn. I boarded City Night Line Train 485 for the 9:00 PM departure. The ride through Bayern and up into Austria was breathtaking. Though I didn’t get to see the mountains during the day, as I had originally hoped, there was something magical about riding through the night with the snow on the ground and lights sparkling in the distance – this was probably the closest to the Polar Express I’ll ever get. The tracks winding through the mountains south of Innsbruck were especially nice, and I loved watching trucks barreling down the highway that paralleled the tracks into Bressanone. I arrived at Firenze Santa Maria Novella at 6:20 the next morning, exhausted after staying up for most of the night watching the scenery.

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The video below has some Google Earth flyovers of the route.

Snowy Morning

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Snowmelt

Snowy Swarthmore

Snowy Swarthmore

After last week’s snowfall and today’s balmy temperatures (around 50 degrees), there’s quite a bit of gross mud around campus.  Maybe tomorrow will be the first day since I’ve been back from winter break that there won’t be any frozen stuff on the ground.

Snowy Morning

View from my bed.

View from my bed

Our first heavy snow of the year was early this morning.