Ari!出發南迴!南田

第一次聽到「南田」這個地名,是接到劉維公的電話,邀請我們參加「出發南迴」計畫。那一天我們正好在屏東開車回台東, 打開Google Map 看地圖,怎麼路過那麼多次都不曉得有南田這個地方?

從達仁鄉的台9線轉進去,是一條沿海的公路,經過一個小社區,從柏油路到泥土路到只有四輪驅動車才開得進去的石頭路。已經開到路的盡頭,前方就是阿朗壹古道的入口。

南田不是每個人會喜歡的地方,但喜歡的人會很喜歡。在荒無人烟的海邊有一個正在釣魚的先生,朱平問他為何而來?他回答:「我想找一個無人的地方待著。」一個人特地從台東縱谷來到南田,目的是尋找孤獨。

很多時候,我們不太有機會獨處,工作、生活總是接觸許多人,周遭的雜音多了,自己的聲音也就小了。南田的海邊,孤寂而荒蕪,最適合需要跟自己獨處的人。多數人害怕跟自己相處,然而,與自己相處是一件很重要的事,當我們認識自己,就能更坦然自在的做自己。

在南田的海邊,漫天蜻蜓飛舞,這些蜻蜓像是漂浮在藝術家游文富的竹編作品「南方向量」之上。這大型作品好像邀請我們跟它互動,在裡面的空間移動,才會感受到創作的本質。

南田是台東境內最南端的部落,也是台九線公路的終點,小鎮裡沒有便利商店,人煙罕至。這次到南迴的旅程,原本預計拜訪南田的石雕師傅,但師傅卻因故無法赴約,我們決定到村裡繞繞。

秋天是原住民的小米豐收祭,和漢人農民曆裡的豐收時節相同。同一片土地上,不同族群間,主要穀物的生養作息卻是相同的。在南田村裡,同樣不只存在一個民族,除了排灣族之外,漢人客家人也居於其中,村落雖小,卻安處不同族群的居民。

南田村是個移居部落,因此有三位頭目,其中入口處是大頭目的家,牆上由部落藝術家畫上大幅壁畫。村落比鄰而居,短短幾步路,60歲的玉秀阿姨正坐在院子裡乘涼,一旁還擺了幾顆火龍果,見到我們,阿姨溫暖地打招呼:「這個火龍果我剛從山上摘下來的,這個沒灑農藥,所以有點醜醜的,但是很好吃,你們一人一顆,不要客氣,我種的東西都可以跟大家分享。」

不久後又有一個打扮入時的年輕阿姨來串門子,加入我們的話題,她喝了點小米酒,話也多了,玉秀阿姨的院子像是部落的客廳,不時有村民來聊天。過了一會,一位男子走進院子,拉著阿姨準備要走,嘴裡還喃喃:「妳不要亂說話啦。」阿姨無辜地說:「我沒有呀,他們在採訪我耶!」

天空開始下起毛毛細雨,男子熱情地想帶著我們認識南田的海。旅途中就是喜歡這樣的偶遇及巧遇。男子名叫李世明,曾經在大陸工作25年,有排灣族和漢人的血統,現在回到南田開民宿,為部落盡份心力。他每週二、五會沿著小徑到阿朗壹古道巡山,沿途經過南田石的海灘,便會靜下心看海。南田石每塊紋路都不同,李世明邀請大家一起堆南田石,我和朱平各自成塔,都堆了八塊,李世明晃悠過來,在朱平的塔上隨意一放,卻平衡了這座塔,簡直是神來之筆。

表面上是堆石頭,實則是讓我們專注在當下,讓心靈獲得平靜。當身邊只剩下一望無際的海,在海浪拍打下,能聽見石頭沉穩的聲音,是海在說話。此時此刻,我們開始聽見自己的聲音。打開五感,用心去感受身邊的事物。眼睛所見反射天空光影的海面,手觸摸風的紋路,光腳感覺冰涼而堅硬的南田石,鼻子聞到海水鹹鹹的味道。

當浪潮打來,石頭發出沉穩的聲音,也就是居民常說的「南田石在歌唱」。南田石是山上的石頭經由溪流沖刷下來,經過洋流不斷地翻滾、琢磨,造成每個石頭都圓潤而無稜角,而原本嵌在石頭內的石英結晶也因此外顯,讓石頭表面呈現出不規則的紋路,是石頭收藏者的愛好。

南田海岸親水公園 Nantian Coast Water Park(露營地)

人文景觀自行車道是一條非常陡的路,應該是從另一端上來,這裡下山,從這裡騎出去就能夠接台九線。

Ari!出發南迴!大鳥

Ari(讀音阿累)是排灣族語走吧!的意思。

南迴, 一個多數台灣人記憶中既陌生又遙遠的一隅。

探訪南迴的這幾天,正巧遇上西南氣流,台灣南方有一團雲始終不散去。南迴公路雲霧繚繞,看不到藍藍的海,天空蒼白,雨一直下,沒有陽光。

朱平開著車,我坐在副駕駛座,放了加拿大民謠歌手Leonard Cohen的音樂。滄桑的嗓音唱著我們最喜歡的Anthem

There is a crack in everything. 萬物都有裂縫

That’s how the light gets in. 那是光照進來的契機

如同這趟南迴的旅行,你無法說這是完美的旅程,但正因如此,南迴的真實與樸實的生命力,才映照出了它的美。

南迴,是一段連台東居民都未必熟悉的地方,因為人煙罕至,所以有好多神秘的故事還藏在這,獵人追蹤師、部落奇女子、排灣族巫師的話、靦腆的植物雕塑家、凌晨時分補著魚的網、荒蕪盡頭的海。南迴處處有詩,安靜地存在著許多純粹的事物。

南迴像是一座有機的森林,沒有刻意的鑿痕,人事物都保持著原始的樣貌。我喜歡這樣的旅遊(Off the beaten track),一種探索及深度的旅行,能深入地方,看見當地人真實的生活。

第一站:大鳥

台東大鳥有個笆札筏布工坊,由部落媽媽所組成,我們來拜訪負責工坊營運的經理王曉彤她希望布工坊能成為部落中心,自給自足。這裏沒有所謂的盈餘,多出來的是給小學、運動會、社區發展用的。

王曉彤做了一件事,讓全校大鳥國小的小孩都背媽媽設計的書包。每一個小朋友的書包上,都有自己媽媽袖的十字繡,小朋友看身邊的人都有了,也會催促自己的媽媽,久而久之,所有大鳥國小的小朋友,都有了來自工坊的包包,建立大家對工坊的認同感。工坊常常都有人在,小孩放學後可以來這找媽媽,寫寫功課。老人家可以教刺繡讓文化傳承下去。媽媽在部落有工作做,拿得出早餐錢,很有成就感。布工坊做出來的包包未必是我喜歡的美感,但它的價值不是產品的銷量和市場,而是成為部落的心臟,聯繫老中青三代。這就是社會企業,真正解決部落生活的問題。

南迴都是山區,即使有 Google Map 也很容易迷路

我們早到,約見的人還沒到,就自己先逛逛。大鳥部落就兩條道路,兩邊都是矮房子,最高兩層樓。這一家最吸睛,外面有隻三條腿的黃狗。主人就是圖中左邊的女士。後來才知道我們要見的人就是她,王曉彤。
大鳥街景,四處都是色彩繽紛的壁畫。
大鳥街景,色彩繽紛的壁畫。是山豬嗎?

大鳥街景,這一條是彩繪街道,難怪到處都有彩繪。
色彩繽紛的街景。
大鳥街景。
布工坊,也是部落的中心。阿嬤們有機會傳承織繡手藝,媽媽們在這裡工作,自己賺錢又有成就感。孩子們下課後家裡沒人過來這裡肯定有人會照顧。
布工坊外面的一架縫衣機,戶外工作涼快視野又寬廣。

排灣族的圖騰與色彩。
布工坊部落的經理,部落熱血媽媽王曉彤。

大鳥部落有兩家名宿。沒機會進去,不曉得裡面的裝潢如何。外面看來挺有味道的。
大鳥部落有兩家名宿。沒機會進去,不曉得裡面的裝潢如何。這家外面有個菜園。

部落唯一的餐廳。

Laksa Kelantan

Laksa Kelantan (Kelate in Kelantanese Malay pronunciation)

Most people have heard of laksa like Singapore laksa. There are so many variety of laksa in Southeast Asia. I believe what makes laksa a laksa is the fish based gravy, like the Kanom Jeen of Thailand and Penang laksa with tamarind.

Kelantanese laksa is a dish I grew up with. Rice-based spaghetti with lots of raw vegetables like snake beans, bean sprout, cucumber, daun kesom (Vietnamese coriander) and torch ginger, drowned in fish and coconut gravy. I love the taste of chopped raw vegetable but it is an acquired taste for those who are not used to it, especially when it is served at room temperature.

This is a proper home-cook version, with chopped torch ginger (the red stuff) and lemon grass. The gravy is made from fish meat which is boiled, pureed, and later mixed with coconut milk. My friend serves both laksa (spaghetti-liked rice noodles) and laksam (rolled up rice sheets).

吉蘭丹食物的特色是香草和蔬菜。我們喜歡生吃蔬菜。Laksa的配料是黃瓜,豆芽,長豆,叻沙葉(Daun Kesum),薑花和檸檬香茅。湯底用鯖魚肉、黑胡椒等各種香料熬煮,最後加入椰漿,因為沒加上紅辣椒或薑黃,因此呈現奶白色,且較為濃稠。米粉條有兩種:一種是粗的圓條,另一種叫Laksam “叻參”類似腸粉,是一種將米漿倒入盤上蒸熟,再捲成腸狀,吃時再切成塊狀麵條。

Store-bought version, the gravy is kept separated.
Lots of raw vegetables like snake beans, bean sprout, cucumber, daun kesom (Vietnamese coriander) and torch ginger.
Laksam (left) and Laksa (right)
The vegetables (anti-clockwise from top right: snake beans, beansprout, cucumber, daun kesom, torch ginger and lemon grass.

工作與生活的整合 Work-Life Integration

(文章來源魅麗雜誌漣漪人專欄)

工作與生活如何平衡(Work-life balance)是很多職業女性關注的焦點,而男人也開始越來越關心這個話題,我服務的許多跨國企業也很重視它。從個人的角度來看,平衡(balance)是一種以時間為衡量單位的方法,讓我們能夠顧及生活角色的各個層面。然而時間是有限資源,一個領域得到多一些,代表另一個領域須犧牲,所以時時刻刻都處於零和遊戲中。

整合(Integration)則是一種把人生的各個角色,和諧地串聯起來,是一種非零和遊戲的做法。我認為只談平衡是不夠的,更透徹的做法是如何將工作和生活的融合。從我親身的教練個案,很多人談平衡,但真正有勇氣追尋融合是極少數,如果這個階段你只能夠做到平衡,也別氣餒,這已經是一個很好的開始。

尋求整合而非撕裂

當我開始創業,經營自己的教練服務,同時間也做了許多新嘗試,創造不同的可能,例如,我創作了漣漪卡,也寫了《漣漪詞》這本書,因為漣漪卡背後有一套個人成長的深入旅程,很多人不知道背後的意思,所以我透過寫書的方式,與漣漪卡的使用者能直接接觸,這是企業與消費者(B to C)的通路模式。而教練服務的工作都是跟跨國企業合作,是企業與企業(B to B)模式。

國際企業高階主管的需求都是提升績效,以領導力、個人效力、管理能力為主。我很努力地把兩個面向區隔開來,做企業教練時,會非常小心地避免談到生活,也不會引用漣漪卡、《漣漪詞》。我也經營「更快樂體驗營」;這是來自我在台東都蘭生活的啟發,希望在都蘭創造更多有意義的工作機會。「更快樂體驗營」推廣的是結合生活態度、社會責任,以及對大自然環境的友善保護。我過去很刻意把這一塊跟其他工作隔絕起來。我還有另一個身分是「非零餐廳」經營者,希望用這個餐廳嘗試創造讓年輕人有一個正向的工作環境。我和夥伴朱平先生創立了「漣漪人基金會」,幫助有心人創業,讓他們創造自己的生活與事業。

除了事業經營的不同面向,我也擁有每個人都有的身分:我是一個女兒,父母在馬來西亞;我是我愛人的伴侶;我同時是很多人的教練;也是台東這個社區的一分子。太多東西將我撕裂在不同的領域,此刻「平衡」已經無法解決不同角色的要求,因為一天就只有二十四小時的時間,當我們必須扮演那麼多角色與身分,卻沒有很好的結合時,就會產生一種撕裂的感覺。當我把每塊分隔清楚,反而形成了資源鬥爭,這資源,指的就是時間。

於是我發現用「整合」的方式可以帶來更多嶄新的可能性。整合,讓我看到每個身分其實有很多共同點。例如,餐廳提倡的理念與都蘭生活有很大的關係;我在都蘭跟土地的相處,同時幫助我強化了經營餐廳的理念。在都蘭時,我是個業餘有機農夫,更能理解小農面對的挑戰及跟大自然相處的重要。

以全面和整合的方式來經營人生,除了讓我活得更自在,也幫助我更有效地做教練的工作。我以前只關注客戶在工作上的角色,不關心他在生活上的角色。然而他可能正需要漣漪卡、《漣漪詞》和「更快樂體驗營」所提供的放空,以及深入認識自己的機會,了解到注重自我身心健康是一切事物的先決條件。如果想真正對別人產生幫助,我必須用一種全面的(Holistic)角度先整合自己的生活;當我們最基本的價值觀、最基本的角色,能很和諧地融合在一起,我們對真實的自己才能感到自在。整合的過程有很多不確定性,就像是一個旅行,一步步邁上自己想像的生活。所以,這正是我決定寫專欄的原因,把自我實踐的整合過程和大家分享。

剛收到我很喜愛的一位客戶MC的離職信,寫得很真實,非常感人。他過去五年是美國財富雜誌五百大公司的大中國區總經理。謝謝他許可我把這封信分享給《魅麗》讀者。不管是男性或女性,我們都有這種「把生活中所有重要組成部分融為一體」的欲望。差別是有沒有勇氣踏上這條探險的旅途。

也許大家還記得,我的個人夢想是「瞭解、發現併發掘自己內在無限的潛能,並幫助別人達到這一點」。 現在,相信各位都知道我已經決定辭去公司的職務,提前退休,全身心去追尋我的這個夢想。我知道這是一個異常的舉動,在此讓我盡力向大家解釋吧。 過去二十多年的職業生涯,我在兩家公司和八個國家追尋我的夢想。這個旅程充滿了喜悅,收獲了成功,更重要的是,我學習到的東西比我能想象的更多。 

十二年前,我成為了一名父親,我開始意識到,「無限的潛能」並不侷限於工作,我需要「想辦法」把我生活的所有重要組成部分融為一體:我的工作、我自己、我的家庭還有我的個人興趣。在過去幾年中,我有一種越來越強烈的欲望要在這些方面找到一種和諧。我熱愛我的工作,我愛這家公司。然而,工作消耗了我太多的精力,再沒有精力去做「其它」對我來說很重要的事情。所以,現在,我決定簡化我的生活,把我的精力更集中在「其它」事情上。 我知道這對大家來說可能有點震驚、很難理解,因為這是一個不常見的舉動。然而,這就是我的選擇,這就是我想做的事情。

事實上,這甚至不是一個選擇。我清楚知道這是我心裡想做,而且一定會付之行動的事情。過去十多年我一直渴望做這件事,可是一直都沒有足夠的勇氣。如今終於作了這個決定,我感到非常興奮和高興。 現在,最大的問題是,我雖知道自己將要做甚麼,可是完全沒有概念應該如何定義或解釋這個決定。「年輕退休」可能是最貼切的描述。

我是一個精力充沛的人,知道自己決不會「什麼都不做」。可是,目前在沒有找到「其它」讓我全身心投入的事情前,「什麼都不做」就是我想做的。未來要做什麼,暫且先放一放。如果有一天我又投入職場,可能會選擇一些能和我個人興趣緊密相連的工作,我可能不會選傳統的企業工作,可是,未來的事情,誰能說得準?這是在我目前所處的人生階段中一個正確的決定。同時請大家記住,每個人的人生旅途都是獨特的,有的人的確可以做到工作的同時釋放自己無限的潛能,因此這並不意味著其他人也要像我這樣做才能實現他們的夢想。

你目前採用何種模式來達到工作和生活的平衡?

快樂就是愛 Happiness is love

George Valiant

這一期我們談愛情,不過,是從幸福快樂的角度來談。最近看了一篇文章《快樂人生的祕密》,作者是哈佛大學醫學院著名的精神病學教授,喬治‧瓦利恩特(George Vaillant)。

文章內容敘述美國近代科學史上,持續時間最長的一個縱貫性研究。自一九三七年起,兩百六十八名哈佛學生參加了一個名為「葛蘭特研究 the Grant Study」的計畫,主要問題是:「美好生活」有沒有公式可套用?是什麼使人們覺得快樂?就這個問題開始長程蒐集所有參予者的資料。

這個歷經七十五年的時間,投入兩千萬美元經費的研究,依然持續進行中,研究發現:快樂人生的祕密,就是簡單五個字 『快樂就是「愛」』(註一)。美好人生的關鍵,是和他人有良好的關係。何謂良好關係?這裡指的不是因身分地位而形成的角色關係,或是擴大社交網絡,而是一種親密(intimacy)和具有安全感(safety)的連結。它是一種完全被接納(total acceptance)的狀態,雙方都可以真實地做自己。這種真實連結的產生,需要雙方在關係中發揮同理心(empathy)。這兩百六十八位學生,用全部人生為這個實驗提供資料,每五年就得做一次仔細的身體檢查,耐心地回答一大堆心理測驗卷,而且每十五年要忍受詳細的面談,每隔一年要回答一份問卷,他們將自我生命歷程全然敞開,就這樣持續了七十五年!「葛蘭特研究」所提供的資訊,可說是這類研究中最珍貴也最徹底的。

換句話說,我們需要同時擁有「愛」 和「被愛」的能力,才能夠與他人建立如此深層的連結(connect)和投入(engagement)(註二)。這份愛,不是愛情,情欲,親情,承諾或永恆的愛,它是一種與他人有同理共感的關係。喬治‧瓦利恩特從「葛蘭特研究」得出另一個結論:人真的有能力改變。儘管我們無法選擇人生的初始,譬如兒童時期所得到的愛與關懷,會影響成年後的應對模式(coping style) ;有些人年少時期沒有得到愛與關懷,而建立了不成熟或抽離方式(disengage) 去應對他人,無法與人建立連結。但通常會遇到一個慘痛改變人生的經歷,意識到自己必須改變,於是經過後天努力,我們有能力成長,能以更成熟 、更正向的應對方式面對人生。

你可能會好奇,為什麼要說得如此累贅,一個單字「愛」不就夠了嗎?愛和被愛,它是動詞,不是名詞。它不只是付出,也是接收。有些人喜歡說「被愛」比較幸福,我不同意這個說法。愛你的人,如果一直沒有得到你的愛,你只接收而沒有付出,總有一天他會不再愛你,因為他不但會覺得自己的付出沒有回報,更會因為不能得到回報,而找不到自己的真實快樂,累積了許多負面能量,覺得自己是個犧牲者,或是由愛變成恨。如果你不愛他,被愛也可能是個負擔。如果你只要別人愛你,而不知道如何愛別人,你也不可能得到真實的快樂。

我希望把話題從羅曼蒂克的愛,拉到更寬廣的角度來看。它是一種與他人有同理共感的連結。可以是短暫但真實的連結,也可以變成永久的友誼和支援。我的教練工作就是一個好例子,教練和客戶的關係,就是一種深層的連結,教練以好奇心,不批判和同理心的方式和客戶互動,讓客戶感覺到被愛和被接納的安全感,建立在真實「愛」與「被愛」的交流上,我才能幫助客戶突破及追求美好的人生,甚至可以說,教練的基本功力就是愛的能力。

這是許多從事教練工作的人,最難學會的事。因為愛是需要付出,愛是有條件的(我不相信無條件的愛),愛是要花時間陪伴的,愛是讓自己脆弱,愛是要冒險的,愛更是一種被需要的感覺及有能力助人的快樂泉源。

(註一)

『幸福就是愛』是我第一次的標題。但一直覺得把快樂翻譯成幸福又不太貼切。幸福對我來說有幸運,福氣的內涵,比較是讓人羨慕及不要太多自身努力的。英文的Happiness有多重意義,它包括中文的「幸福」的感覺,也包含充滿正向情緒的狀態。所以我決定用「快樂」取代「幸福」。

(註二)

「成長的階段」的第6階段(親密)和第7(繁殖)就是建立愛與被愛的能力的階段。前面5個階段是學習建立成熟的人格,才能夠開始愛別人(接納,關懷,幫助,培育等),也能夠接受被愛。我們才能夠建立美好、深層的連結

Patagonia Trip Plan

Many friends asked about our trip so I thought I would share the details of our trip here.

Day 1

Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, a 3.5 hours flight, and a 3 hours drive to El Chaltén.

Day 2 Cerro Torre Trek

Full day hike to Laguna Torres. This hike ends at Laguna Torres with Glaciar Torre and view of Cerro Torre which we didn’t see as it was shrouded in the low clouds.

Day 3 Monte Fitz Roy Trek

Let me share with you what we actually did and what I recommend you do instead.

Hired a car to take us to the starting point, El Pillar, 17Km north of El Chaltén. We started at 3am, hiked two hours to Point Poincenot to catch sunrise on Mt Fitz Roy. Instead of hiking up to Laguna de Los Tres at the base of Monte Fitz Roy, we took the easy flat trail to Lago Madre e Hijo then turned back. http://www.tanyeeming.com/the-best-day-hike-in-el-chalten/

In hindsight, I would do the following instead. Start from El Pillar to Campo Poincenot then go all the way to Laguna de Los Tres. On the way back, at Poincenot, take a different route and walk all the way downhill back to El Chalten town.

Tips at El Chaltén

1. The sun doesn’t set until around 9.30 or 10pm. You can still go out and explore El Chaltén after a full day hike. If the weather is good, make sure you go outdoor, walk to the river Rio Fitz Roy (entry to the town) and you get panoramic view of the mountain range with El Chaltén town in the foreground.

2. The best restaurant here is La Tapera. Their Locro, a Argentinian hearty stew and vegetable rice wok, a very wet fried rice with vegetable is surprisingly good.

3. Internet is very slow and no cellular signals.

4. We stayed at the top hotel Los Cerros which is so so and it is at the highest point in town. I would just be happy to stay in the cheaper places below and get a better view of Fitz Roy instead.

Day 4

Transfer from El Chaltén to El Calafate and from there 30 mins drive to our next hotel Eolo Patagonia. Gorgeous little hotel in Estancia Alice with views of Lago Argentina on the north and Torres del Paine mountain range on the south.

Day 5
Glaciar hiking at Perito Moreno, a full day excursion.

Day 6

On the road. Travel by car from El Calafate on Ruta 40, stopped at La Esperanza, crossed the Argentina and Chilean border to arrive at our next hotel Tierra Patagonia. Beautiful five hour drive across Patagonian steppe. We arrived at Tierra in time for lunch and joined the afternoon excursion to Laguna Azul. Saw plenty of wildlife and waterfall on the drive to the lake. A stroll on the shore of Laguna Azul ending with a nice picnic while admiring the view.

Day 7 Paine Tower full day hike 

Read here for details of the hike and pictures. http://www.tanyeeming.com/the-best-day-hike-in-torres-del-paine/

Day 8

Enjoy the day at the hotel. Woke up early to catch the sunrise on Torres del Paine mountain range, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, catch up with emails and reading, hang out with new friends, explore Lake Sarmiento right in front of the hotel and surrounding. A glorious day indeed.

Day 9 French Valley full day hike

A long day. A 45 minutes drive, then an hour or so on the boat and we finally got to Refugio Paine Grande to start the French Valley trail ( the middle leg of W).

Day 10

Depart hotel for Punta Arenas airport, which is 4 hours drive away.

if I were to do this trip again, I would do either of these two things.

1. Spend one full day or stay one night in Punta Arenas. There are several amazing hotels here and visit the penguin colonies here at Isla Magdalena (half day tour).

2. If I have more time, I would tour Antarctica. There is a an 11-day Antarctic fly and sail cruise adventure from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Or fly to Ushuaia then go to Antarctic from there as more cruises leave from Ushuaia.

From Ushuaia which is in Argentina, fly back to Buenos Aires. This will make the international airfare much cheaper as you would fly in and out of Buenos Aires.

The best day hike in Torres del Paine

The W Trek is Patagonia’s most famous hiking route, with the granite towers that give the park its name. In full, it’s a 4 or 5 day hike that can be walked without carrying gear or food, between refugios or campsites. It can also be broken up into day hikes from comfortable hotel bases, or incorporated into longer, wilder treks. To make the four-day trip accessible to all hikers, serviced campsites along the route hire out tents and on-site canteens provide nutritious, three-course meals.

The O or Full Circuit is a 7-9 day route that adds a northern section on to the park’s famous W Trek.  Circling the Paine Massif (the towers) and exploring much more of the national park, this 129 km route, delivers on all of the park’s most celebrated sights. The extra distance and absence of refugios on the northern side, meaning you’ll definitely be doing some camping, make it a tougher trail, as you will be carrying your own camping equipment.

Remember, well-meaning guides will talk you into taking the easier hikes, unless you come prepared knowing specifically what you want to do. This time we insisted that we are ready for the challenge. 

We knew we wanted to walk to the base of the towers(the pink route on the map), about 20km and 9 hours to complete. It is the toughest of all day hikes but is also the iconic trail in Torres del Paine National Park. With its landscape of aquamarine glacial lakes, and the skyrocketing granite torres (towers) from which the park takes its name, Torres del Paine has captured the imagination of trekkers from all around the world.

The walk started easily enough with a flat stroll across the open grassland from the Eco Camp,  then we began to hike up a steep ascent next to the Ascencio River until reaching the Paso de los Vientos (Pass of the Winds).

After passing through dense forests at Refugio Chileno, we reached the most challenging point of the trail. This last section, a 1.5km moraine section of loose rock and boulders and 500m elevation,  requires total focus and often using our hands as well.  

Having ascended through this difficult terrain and battled against the winds we arrived at the lookout where we were face to face with the classic, breath-taking view of the Torres del Paine. What the pictures cannot show is the biting Patagonian winds of Torres del Paine, so strong that it will knock you off your feet. We all settled down to our well deserved packed lunch. Our guide Thomas whipped out from his heavy backpack tea bags and hot water for a nice cup of tea. Just what i needed after the long hike.

Trail head, near Hosteria Los Torres[/caption]

The last section, approximately 1.5km and 500m elevation,  is the toughest part, a strenuous scramble over the moraine, often using our hands to climb the huge boulders. 

A steep climb up the valley[/caption]

Taking a breather

This stretch is a wind tunnel. At one point, a gust of Patagonian wind literally stopped me in my tracks. If it wasn’t for the backpack, I would have been blown over.
Didn’t know what moraine is until I got here. Moraines are accumulations of dirt and rocks that have fallen onto the glacier surface or have been pushed along by the glacier as it moves. The dirt and rocks composing moraines can range in size from powdery silt to large rocks and boulders.
Refugio Chileno camp site, and others in the Park, are serviced camp site. Tents and meals are provided, saving trekkers the hassles of carrying own camping equipment.

When we got to Refugio Chileno, we were told Las Torres Lookout was close due to strong winds. I flew half way around the world for this and it was so disappointing. We were so close already! As luck would have it, the trail miraculously reopened just as we were about to turn back.

Here is another section of moraine, this time with bigger rocks and boulders.
The most grueling part of the trail, about 1.5 hours of navigating through rocks and boulders.
Euphoric moment of blue sky, warm sun and chilling Patagonian wind.
We made it!

Downhill is just as tough as the climb, really tough on the knees.
Hundreds of horses galloping across the creek.
Celebrating a hard day’s work in style, courtesy of Tierra Patagonia. Cold beer, cold cut and fruits!

The best day hike in El Chaltén

If you are in El Chaltén, the Laguna Los Tres trail is a must.

The Laguna Los Tres is often compared to the iconic towers’ base lookout hike in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.  Having hiked both trails, they are comparable in the class of world’s best day hike category. The diversity of landscapes and the numerous surprises along the way make it a great hike.

You have two options. One is to start the hike from El Chaltén, leaving the city in the early morning and going uphill for about 4 hours before reaching the  Laguna Los Tres. The second option is to take a transfer to El Pilar (about 17 kilometers north of the town) and to warm up with a gentle walk through a beautiful lenga forest. No doubt about it, the second option is way better – you’ll see more landscapes, and you’ll be less tired.

We took the second option, hired a car to take us to Hostería El Pilar, where we started walking along the Rio Blanco river. Did I mention that we hiked in the dark? Having done a night hike at Mt Yushan in Taiwan, we thought it might be good to catch sunrise on Mt Fitz Roy. We started hiking at 3am and walked in the dark for 2 hours till we got to Poincenot Lookout , then a bit further through Camp Poincenot to Lago Madre e Hijo (the mother and daughter lakes)

Here is the actual route we took (distance is approximate):

Route I: El Pilar to Camp Poinsenot, 2.5 hours, 6km one way
Route G: Camp Poinsenot to Lago Madre y Hija, 1 hour, 3km one way (walked half way only).

We waited at a point (half way between the Mirador Piers Blancas and Camp Poincenot) for the first light and another 15 minutes or so the whole mountain range turned fiery orange. It was terribly cold due to wind chill, a sheltered spot really made a difference.

Mt. FitzRoy is famous for being hidden in clouds. In fact, its former name, Chaltén, means “smoking mountain” so-named because most of the time it was covered in smoke (but really, in clouds).

We should have done more homework (who would have known that the internet at El Calafate would be so slow that it was impossible to google anything) as we could have had an even better view if we had walked a kilometer further to Campamento Poincenot. This stretch of the hike is breathtakingly beautiful. Instead of the steep climb to Lago de los Tres, the guide talked us into walking to Lago Madre e Hijo which was really not that impressive but offers a great view of not just Fitz Roy but the entire range of peaks. The hike was flat and beautiful, passing through lenge forest and streams.

To the left of Mount Fitzroy are Cerro Poincenot, Aguja AG Rafael, Aguja Saint Exupery. The Fitzroy mountain range is on the boarder between Argentina and Chile. El Chaltén, Argentina.

Because we hiked in the night and couldn’t see anything  beyond the little patch of ground where the headlight shone, we didn’t realize how beautiful the whole trail was. On the way back to El Pilar, the mountain range is to our left the whole time, passing Glaciar Piedras Blancas and along Rio Blanco.

Here is a better map so you can see the trails and its relation to the mountain range. 

Two regrets:

  1. I regret not pushing myself to go all the way to Laguna Los Tres (Route D) since we were told  it was very steep and difficult 1.5 hours climb.  Therefore missed the magnificent view of the turquoise water of Laguna de los Tres at the base of Mt Fitz Roy, the closest one can get to Mt Fitz Roy without getting into technical climbing
  2. Should have walked the Camp Poincenot to El Chalten section of the trail, passing Lake Capri. Again, I chickened out worrying about our knees as the guide told us it would be a two hour steep descent.  

Photo credit: Yee Ming Tan (iPhone 7 and iPhone X)

Classic desserts of Argentina

Are you the kind who must have something sweet at the end of a meal? I am definitely not. I like my coffee or tea black without sugar. I am not keen on most fruit juices as they tend to be too sweet. I don’t like anything sweet. No I lie. There is just one thing sweet, sickeningly sweet actually, that I love and it is called Jalur Emas, a classic dessert made of egg yolk and sugar syrup from my home town Kelantan. I think I love it not because of the sweetness but for my love of egg yolk!

I envy my partner P for it is so easy for him to get his daily dose of joy. The mention of ice-cream, dessert or anything sweet, his gentle eyes would flash a glimmer of delight. As his travel companion, I get to explore the wonders of Argentinian desserts.

You cannot miss Dulce de Leche ( “sweet from milk” in English,焦糖牛奶醬) when you come to Buenos Aires. It is everywhere and used in all types of desserts and sweets. It is made of sweetened milk that is heated and becomes caramelized to create this nice sweet caramel milk paste. It is eaten practically at all meal times, including breakfast where it is spread on bread or toast.

Merengue Dulce (蛋白霜夾焦糖牛奶醬)looks like a giant macaron with dulce de leche filling. I cannot imagine how anyone can finish this one in one sitting. Maybe it is possible for someone with a sweet tooth but definitely not for me. I am happy to taste and sample all kinds of desserts but in general I steer clear of sweet things.

When I said gigantic, I am not exaggerating. This is how big the merengue dulce is. How can one eat this elegantly I wonder.

Flan (like a creme caramel 焦糖布丁) and bread pudding are always served with a dollop of dulce de leche.
Argentinians love their meringue (蛋白霜)and you see it popping up all over the place. This meringue is filled with cream butter (basically butter and sugar whipped together). It is so sweet that you are guaranteed a sugar rush. [/caption]

Rogel (夾層蛋糕)is a unique cake made of several layers of light pastry separated by dulce de leche and topped with meringue. The layers of pastry are thin and make for a crumbly cake. The gooey dulce de leche adds a new level of sweetness. Do you now believe me when I say Argentinians are crazy about meringue and dulce de leche?


Mantecol is basically a solid block of peanut butter, served during Christmas and New Year accompanying champagne toasts. For peanut lover, this is heaven! This piece I bought from the local Carrefour supermarket contains peanuts and almond.

Finally, for something that is not too sweet, queso y dulce (乳酪與甜醬). Cheese with dulce de membrillo (quince paste 海棠醬) or dulce de batata (sweet potato paste 地瓜醬). It is a heavenly match of savory and sweet. This is one dessert I can happily tuck into. [/caption

I know I am missing two on my list, chocotorta and alfajor. Hopefully I will get to try it before the end of our trip here.

Updated 2018-01-12

Found some alfajores at a bakery in El Calafate and they have a pink one which turns out to be a local specialty. The pink colour comes from the Calafate berry (looks like blueberry) of which the town is named. So what is alfajores? Two crumbly cookies held together by, you guessed it, dulce de leche. I read that the cookies are made of cornstarch. I couldn’t tell if the ones I bought were made of corn starch as they tasted just like normal crumbly cookies to me. 

Calafate flavoured alfajor