Bariloche: Fly Fishin´, Refugio Hoppin´, Rock Climbin´, Glacier Struttin' Fun!


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Published: August 16th 2007
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Mostly Bariloche

Bariloche with just a hint of El Bolson

Lago Nahuel HuapiLago Nahuel HuapiLago Nahuel Huapi

Can you see why we love Bariloche?
Once we arrived in Bariloche, we spent a little time looking around the bus station for Tony and Michelle, who we hadn't met before, but who were gracious enough to house us anyway, and finally found them. We met Paige and Ellie as well, as we went over to the sports club with them to swim!

Then, they dropped us off at the "airosilla" (gondola), where we took the ride up to Cerro Otto (it was a gorgeous day!), and got a chance to admire the gargantuan Nahuel Huapi lake and the surrounding mountains. As big as the lake is, there is an odd lack of boats (we saw three that day, and haven't seen any on the lake ever since). Except for that strange fact, the whole place seems reminiscent of a grandiose version of Lake Tahoe. At the top, we had a delicious (cheap!) lunch in a revolving restaurant that gave us stunning views of the area while we ate. We then took a trail back down to the Hartwell's house (stopping by an old log-cabin like "refugio" for some beers and some advice on where to go around Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi), and went to dinner at
Mexican Food?Mexican Food?Mexican Food?

Displaced Californians attempt to get a taste of home...Muchas gracias to the Hartwells! We can't thank you enough!
a Mexican restaurant, strange in comparison to what I guess would be actual Mexican food!

Aaron on Robyn´s uncanny ability to attract our four-legged feline friends:

While sucking down some of the best beer (stout and pale ale) that I´ve ever indulged upon (this stuff even rivals my college drinking beer of choice...Keystone Light), I suddenly noticed that we were not alone while admiring the spectacular view of Lago Nahuel Huapi from this mid-mountain lodge. The intruder took the form of a prowling cat, who, after making establishing eye-contact with us, scampered by underneath my chair and without hesitating leaped up to Robyn´s perch to nestle in her lap. At this point it came to me that this sort of thing was becoming commonplace whenever I was around Robyn...whether insects, mammals, or reptiles, animals across several continents, both the big and the small, consistently (by-pass me) to seek refuge and repoire with my travel companion, Ms. Saxer. I´m not sure if it´s the fact that animals can sense that Robyn is a vegetarian and, thus, poses no threat to their kind, but regardless, this fact stands clear as day...and to prove it, I have taken the liberty to provide a sort of montage of pics over a several day expanse that reveal Robyn´s interaction with the local fauna.



The next day, Tony took Aaron and I fly fishing, tagging along with some of his friends who owned an outdoor adventure shop in Bariloche (no shortage of those here) who also had a camera crew with them to film us all in action! The three of us seemed starkly green in comparison to these seasoned veterans, us with one fishing pole to share and me catching the lure underneath a rock, and them in full on gear wading into the water doing graceful casts. However, the only things that the "pros" caught were a tree and some weeds, and one of them lost part of his fishing pole! We felt a little better after that. We went over to a much nicer venue to fish at, called the "ampiteatro" because it is literally shaped like an amphitheater, and even though we could see the fish through the water, it was so clear, none of them seemed interested in biting. Ah, well. We ran into some ranchers from Wyoming (the woman
Fly Fishin'Fly Fishin'Fly Fishin'

The fish were probably vegetarian...they wouldn't harm a fly.
owned a fly fishing outfit, we later discovered), and we said proudly that we'd been fly fishing. When they asked us what kind of flies we'd been using, we said, "Oh, you know, green sparkly ones?" I don't think they were too impressed, even though we didn't tell them that Aaron had lost two of the pretty green sparkly flies in the bushes while casting.

Aaron on the fish who played coy:

It´s one thing to cast your line into dark, murky waters and reel it in without a single bit. However, it´s another thing to experience such failure time and time again when you can visually make out the preys´ blatant uninterest of "dining" on the flies we were so graciously handing to them, sometimes inches infront of their face. Now, I´m not sure if these fish were ailing from partial-blindness or lacked that killer-instinct due to dietary reasons, but this sort of coy behavior can make a man result to more desperate measures. It all seemed quite simple to me at that point in time: there were fish, plenty of them, waving there tails and splashing about right below my nose (or pole for that matter) in an apparent taunting manner, almost as if to say, "We are tasty and delicious, but you can´t catch us." Fed up with their cocky display of infallibility, I decided it was time to take to my "God-given-hooks" and take matters into my own "hands". The water stung my flesh (after all, it was glacier run-off) as I plunged head first into the buffet below, hands outstetched, swiping at any darting object that smeared across my periphery. Needless to say, we drove away empty-handed that day, Toyn with a stunned look of utter wonder to how we were unable to get a single bite with such odds in our favor; Robyn with an aura of satisfaction with the knowledge that we left the tranquil eco-system intact and at equilibrium as it had been before we arrived; and I with a perturbed daze frozen across my face, a product resulting partially from frustration, partially from embarassement, and mostly from the unpleasant feeling of wet underpants sandwiched between my flesh and absorptive jeans around my waistline (I felt like I was in kindergarten again...counting the seconds on the clock until I could go home and cover up for mistakes made that day).



We spent the rest of the day relaxing at "home", and played some theatre games with Paige to keep her busy (at 9 years old, she's constantly craving activity!). It was nice to have "a day off" from our crazy traveling routine we had developed.

We woke up early the next day to catch a boat cruise around the lake. The climate (cloudy, windy, and cold), the scenery (huge jagged mountains sporadically sprinkled with snow), and the boat ride itself (enough waves to feel like an ocean) reminded me so much of exploring the fjords in Norway. It was absolutely spectacular. The first stop we made was Parque Nacional Arrayanes, which I guess are these unique trees with a rusty orange bark (we could only gather bits and peices of what the guides were saying in Spanish). I've never seen anything like these trees before; they grew in bunches from the ground, and the orange bark was just stunning (strange how the pathways seemed to be made out of the same color wood--aesthetic, maybe? It sure seemed like they had cut down some of those trees to create the paths around the park).

Aaron on the "natural" wonders of Parque Nacional Arrayanes:

Have you ever been to the Fantasmic show at Disneyland? You know, the one that features a dazzling array of pyrotechnics all cheoreographed to classic Disney songs. Well, if you haven't, then you're missing out on the magical, brainwashing capitalistic enterprise that the Disney Corporation has become. Let me explain. About 5 minutes into the fireworks show, at just about the time where everyone in the park has come to a dead hault in activity to gaze upward at this spectacular display of lights and explosions, a booming voice resonates throughout the park, exclaiming the following: "Welcome to the magical world of Disney...brought to you by Honda!" Although not stated in such a direct manner, we also experienced the "magic" of corporate sponsorship at the gateway of the trail leading into these enchanted woods. Below the entrance sign, highlighted in its familiar bright blue and green bold print, was the logo of the South American mega-giant, "Movistar". I have to admit, it was nice to bask in the warm familiarity of a brand of globalization, if only for a few seconds, before plunging into the forest of individuality.



Our next stop was Isla Victoria, which had Sequoias reminiscent of Northern California, and cliffs reminiscent of those on Lake Superior in Minnesota. We took some short hikes around the island, playing with a random kitten and going down to the beach at one point, and just had a relaxed time.

Aaron on the "muzack" on the boat (enough to make me even more seasick):

Throughout our time spent during transit on the Lake, the main cabin of the boat was filled with a constant stream of music pulsating out of the speakers above, as if to provide a soundtrack to the stunning visuals displayed in the panorama around us. Although the intentions may have been benign, the DJ had an "interesting" taste and collection of music to share with the rest of the passengers on board. We were able to recognize the songs almost instantly, as they unmistakingly belonged to Guns and Roses, however the vocalist was a female lounge musician, Norah Jones-esque, and the pace could set the rhythm to paint drying. It wasn't until several days later, and several other painful encounters of these types of cover songs (it seems like the same singer also did a rendition of a U2 album), that Robyn and I began to notice this aweful pattern under the category of "guilty pleasures" within the Argentinian taste in music (it was also at this point in time that we began to seriously consider the purchase of earplugs...for reasons of sanity).



By around 5:30, the boat headed back to the port, which was right nearby Hotel Llao Llao ("shao shao" of course, with the Argentine accent), and I cannot understand why one of the fanciest hotels I've ever seen is named after a fungus that the indigenous people used to eat. We
Our first taste of the AndesOur first taste of the AndesOur first taste of the Andes

...and we're not referring to the chocolate mints...
wanted to catch the end of afternoon tea up there, so we started hiking up the hill to the hotel (by the way, NO one hikes this--they all come in their private cars or buses) with an Israeli couple...when we reached the gate, the guard asked us if we had reservations. Then he said that if one didn't have a reservation, one couldn't have tea. He said this all in Spanish, so we just stared at him blankly and pretended like we didn't understand, and kept walking up to the hotel (it probably was just a power trip on his part).

The hotel was like a log cabin gone Hearst Castle, and just as we were wondering about how we were going to partake in the famed tea, one of the "servers" asked us if we were there to do so, and led us to a table right next to a window with an incredible view overlooking the lake. Soft classical string music played as we ordered the buffet: tea, juice, and endless sandwiches, scones, pastries, and cakes...for $13. With the quality of food and of the surrounding ambience, if we'd been in the U.S. and had tea like that, it probably would have cost around $60-80. While Aaron and I tried not to freak out about how excited we were, attempting to be poised and quiet like the rest of the patrons around us, the servers catered to our every need, including Aaron's need to constantly ask random questions and make comments in Spanish. I hope they found us charming...

Aaron on his "random question asking in Spanish":

What Robyn is referring to is when, in my most honest attempt, I asked the waiter if a certain pastry (very much resembling the popular Turkish pastry Baklava) was indeed a form of the Middle Eastern delicasy. However, he interpreted my broken Spanish to mean that I thought the pastry drew close resemblance to the Middle East region...as a whole (I'm assuming in topography, not in politics...as although I may call Middle Eastern politics "flaky", I would definitely not call them "sweet"). Anyway, after much deliberation, we cleared up the matter, and I finally was able to sit down to indulge upon the much-discussed-over desert...realizing it was definitely not Baklava, and I definitely needed to work on my Spanish.



So much for living that kind of lifestyle...the next day we took off to hike up near Cerro Tronador (translates to "Mt. Thunder", so named because of the falling chunks off the glacier that make thunderous noises every time). Believe it or not, we yet again barely made it onto the bus out there, which we thought left at 9 but really left at 8:30 (you can trust websites around here about 10%!o(MISSING)f the time). But we made it, and after a jolting ride along the dirt roads next to crystal clear turquoise lakes and talking to an Irishman (Jim) next to me who was a rancher/builder/mime/circus performer/traveler, we arrived at Pampa Linda, the valley below the mountain. I could barely believe that we were going
Serenity at its finestSerenity at its finestSerenity at its finest

Muy tranquillo.
to hike up to the enormous glacier that we saw from the bottom, taking up nearly the top third of the mountain (which is over 10,000 ft., I believe, I think 4,000 meters--it's the only one that has snow on it year round, at least). We met up with a British guy (Gregory--probably named after the backpacks, we joked), who ended up hiking up with us.

The trail started off easily enough, going across a river, but then came the deadly switchbacks. This whole hike was a test of endurance, defiantly constantly going uphill. Let's just say I wasn't enjoying life too much, and I made plenty of opportunities to "take in the scenery" (while chugging down lots of water). There was plenty of scenery to look at, though, especially when Aaron and I diverted from the trail unintentionally and got a fantastic view of the glacier, and even were so lucky as to see a peice of it breaking off in action. I've never seen a glacier before, and it was a magical experience.

Aaron on randomly encountering a fellow UCSB student on the trail:

When people tell you that the world is a small place, that concept often doesn't hit you until you actually experience it first hand (and find yourself uttering the cheasy line you promised yourself that you´d never say outloud, "What a small world!"). This phenomenon happened to me about 2/3 the way up Mt. Tronador, when, upon taking a small break from hiking to admire the amazing view of the valley below, I ran into a guy whom my only other previous encounter with him had been in a study group at UCSB for a political science final during my last quarter of senior year. Who would have ever thought at the time that the next time we would meet again would be ontop of a mountain in Patagonia in the midst of scaling a glacier.



We got past tree line, and continued hiking over a
This national park brought to you by Movistar!This national park brought to you by Movistar!This national park brought to you by Movistar!

..."Buenas parques y buenas peliculas!"
landscape of volcanic rocks while wind started whipping our faces. We finally made it up to Refugio Otto Meiling (named after the mountaineer who is basically the John Muir of Patagonia), and made the insightful decision to camp up there, next to the glacier, with wind almost blowing the tent over. Luckily, there was no shortage of rocks, and they came in handy in weighing down the tent.

Aaron on building his wall:

After testing the direction and velocity of the wind by throwing a blade of grass into the air, I realized that although our tent weighed significantly more than this blade of grass (especially with all of our gear and us inside of it), we, tent and all, would probably suffer the same fate as this blade of grass if we didn´t form a barrier between us and the hurricane force threatening to blow us over the edge of the glacier. Thus, Robyn and I went into gender role mode and while she spent the time organizing the refuge inside our tent, meanwhile I labored for the next two hours or so, constructing a wall made of volcanic rocks surrounding the outside of our tent (with my own two bare hands...through eight feet deep of snow...ok, that´s a bit of an exaggeration...in fact, there was no snow at all to trudge through, but it was awefully chilly outside). Luckily, there was another "camp site" close by (basically a three foor high semi-circle of volcanic rock), which provided ample building material for my colossal mound. The result: our wall = 50 (number of total rocks), the other wall = 0 (number of rocks remaining). Now, I don't know how much wind protection the wall actually gave us, but there is one thing for certain, when you're camping on top of a glacier, you don´t care about good neighbors, only good walls.



The refugio didn't look like much from the outside, a weatherbeaten iron shack, but on the inside, it was warm and cosy, with candles lit, music playing, and delicious food. They even had a vegetarian meal (I can't find vegetarian food in some major cities, but apparently it can be found in an isolated shack on top of the Andes)! We also had wine, and found out from one of the workers there that the refugio runs almost entirely off of solar power (the rest is supplied by wind power), and its water supply is completely from glacier runoff. I also had my first chance to see a condor, which are always soaring above the Andes with their enormous wingspan.

Spending the night
These beautiful orange trees...These beautiful orange trees...These beautiful orange trees...

With the railings bearing an uncanny resemblance...
in the tent was far from luxurious, especially with the wind howling outside the entire night, but we had mate the next morning! An Argentine staple, about 92% of the population drinks mate several times a day. It is a tea that has an effect similar to caffeine, but without the jitteriness. Tony had taught us the etiquette of sharing mate with others (very specific), and we learned from the workers at the refugio how to make yerba mate properly (also very specific). It seemed like the perfect place to be drinking mate, up in the Andes in a warm shelter, looking at the cold, cloudy weather outside. Best of all, the woman who showed us how to make it didn't charge us for it, calling it "un regalo", a present--I'd like to think because we were showing interest in the culture.

We were literally in the clouds when we started the hike back down (although our minds certainly weren't, sharpened by the mate), but we made sure to stop at one of the streams trickling down from the snowmelt to pump water. We used Aaron's filter + purifier, and had the most delicious water: cold, fresh, and "bottled at the source". We ran down those blasted switchbacks of doom (revenge), and made great time until we ran into some Argentines next to the river who asked us to share some mate with them. We accepted the offer, of course (any excuse to take off the backpack, anyhow), and carried on Spanish, English, and Spanglish conversations with the couple as we all hiked back to Pampa Linda.

By the time we got there, it was starting to rain, so we set up camp underneath some trees (shelter) and right next to a river (water) in under 15 minutes as rain started to pelt our backs. We met up with the Argentines (plus some more!), had some Quilmes (Argentine beer), and had dinner with Gregory in a restaurant. When we went back to meet up with the Argentines, there were even more, and we passed around some more mate as Aaron and I tried to understand and participate in the conversation, which literally moved too fast for us because they speak so quickly! We talked a little with a mountain guide who was also at the table, and then had to leave to go to sleep. Miraculously, the tent
Tea, anyone?Tea, anyone?Tea, anyone?

Damnit...pinkies out! No wonder they knew we weren't guests of their 5 star hotel frequented as a popular destination by the world's rich and famous
kept us completely dry the entire night!

Aaron on hangin' with the Arge's:

This was the first time that we were in a large group situation where everyone spoke Spanish as a first language...except for us. Needless to say, we finally felt like foreigners in a truly foreign land. However, surprisingly enough, we were able to keep up with the conversation far beyond my expectations (maybe mate does sharpen your mind afterall). You know that you're beginning to feel more comfortable with a language when you are able to joke with others in that language. As we sat around the picnic table, individuals in the group began comparing flashlights. As it came around to my turn to show off the best of my luminescent technology, I hoped my yet-to-be-tested headlamp would put on a light show worthy of gaining respect from the crowd. As brillant white light, white strobe, red led, and, the seldomly seen, red strobe radiated over our companions, Robyn and I instantly found ourselves to be the creators of a spontaneous and well-addressed disco dance party. Although the mate thurmos with the secret appendage that flipped up a florescent light probably was the crowd favorite, I think that our small, but vibrant pocket-disco-ball easily cemented us "inside the the circle of trust" with our new Argentine friends. Thus, an important lesson can be learned from this story: if you can´t communicate that well with others, than you better come up with other means to express yourself.



There was no point in getting up in the rain the next morning (I can't imagine what it was like on top of Tronador), so I slept in for quite a while. We then set out on a mission to find a waterfall which was supposedly nearby on the map, but couldn't find any marked trails. An American from Maryland who we had met on the trail up to Otto Meiling came with us, and we maneuvered our way along the river instead, with the most dangerous part being the huge cow patties that could be mistaken for rocks (it happened). Although rather uneventful, the random exploration offered some great views of the surrounding mountains, and we saw a lot of wildlife--rather, we were almost attacked by it--Aaron nearly got bitten by a small snake (if he hadn't looked down as the snake was about to strike...), and we strolled through a small herd of cows that glared at us menacingly (I think they could sense that there was a vegetarian in their midst, and that we didn't want any trouble--but those are big
The valley below usThe valley below usThe valley below us

...Way, way below us.
animals!!).

We got to our bus with plenty of time to spare (a first), and when we returned, we thankfully stepped into showers and fell into beds.

As a way to break up our backpacking excursions, we had a short stint in El Bolson, a small city of 20,000 about 2 hours south of Bariloche (the bus ride out of Bariloche this way is interesting: passing a landfill and some of the poorest communities on the outskirts of town that we've seen so far on this trip). The community was formed in this microclimate in a valley between Andean mountain ranges in the 70s, and is supposedly a mecca for the free-spirited and anti-nuclear. It was honestly more like a dump--a Berkeley without the diversity and with some beautiful surrounding nature. Our first night there was uneventful, strolling around trying to find something more interesting than the bohemians who were juggling flags next to the man made lake filled with algae and the stray dogs that trailed us for food, and ending our night with a trip to a brewery that served mediocre beer.

However, the next day was Saturday, the best day of the week to
That glacier is close!That glacier is close!That glacier is close!

Thawin' out next to the ice fall
visit the feria artesanal, a huge street fair that occurs several times a week, where artisans sell their various trinkets to tourists and locals. We had the most delicious melt in your mouth waffles as we perused the different kiosks that ranged from beaded jewelry to porcelain gnomes (popular characters in Patagonia), to fruit stands, cheese stands, and beer and liquor stands, to knitted clothing and mate containers...the list goes on. We spent the entire day there easily, eating food from the food kiosks and buying gifts for ourselves and others (Aaron got a mate cup and straw, I got some leaf earrings and a beaded thing braided into my hair, and we bought gifts for the Hartwells). El Bolson redeemed itself after all.

We returned happily to Bariloche, and spent some more relaxation time (filled with our share of chores around the house, of course)--I started this blog then!

Yesterday, a blustery, somewhat ominous day, we decided to hike up to Cerro Catedral, along with Tony, who had tried to make it over to Refugio Frey with his family, but to no avail. We had an early afternoon start, figuring we could take the aerosilla up, but everything was closed for Sunday. So, we walked up the simple trail (which actually turned out to be a much better situation) that traversed around and led through a valley--the last part was the hardest, when we had to climb up some rocks to get to the Refugio (little did we know what was to come), and we met a Canadian couple (Shauna and Eliot) who had a dog that had followed them for a couple days--everyone who worked on the mountain knew this dog, and simply said "he likes to be in the mountains".

Inside the refugio, Aaron and I were immediately beckoned to sit by a friendly guy who turned out to be named Paul (from Holland). Over the course of about 4 hours, we ended up covering topics around traveling, philosophy, science, physics, art, politics, society, etc.etc.etc. It felt like college again!! All the while, a black kitten who lived at the refugio curled up in my lap asleep. Speaking of sleeping, did we do so at all? Not really...

Aaron on the bunks/sleeping situation: "

This morning, we set off with Paul in tow to work our way over the ridge to get
What are we doing?What are we doing?What are we doing?

Camping next to a glacier? On top of the Andes? We must be crazy! Or cheap...
to the aerosilla. This was no easy task. And it was only made harder by Aaron gazing thirstily at the steep crevasses that beckoned "adventure" up the inside of the bowl-like valley that Refugio Frey was located in. While Tony took an easier route (still not on the trail, but simpler), Aaron, Paul and I scrambled up rocks that were not necessarily secure under our feet and that seemed to form never-ending steep inclines.

Aaron on this adventure: "

However, Once we came over the ridge to the other side, we were greeted by dramatic views of dark, snow-covered Andes and Tronador shrouded in clouds, a condor sailing above our heads. While Aaron and Paul celebrated, I was on the lookout for where the trail and Tony could possibly be. We met up with Tony, who had been waiting for more than an hour, and we kept on walking--well, scrambling--over rocks and sand, the randomly sharp and steep rock faces jutting out of the top to our right, the deep valley and snow-capped peaks to our left. We met up with the Canadians once again, and carried on walking with them for a while, and started getting worried that we weren't going to catch the aerosilla in time before it closed (why we were worried, I don't know--the Hartwells had had to climb down the mountains in the dark because the missed it once before, and Tony was bound and determined we weren't going to miss it this time). At one point, we "skied" down an icy snow patch to meet up with the trail, which was kind of fun!

We made it to the aerosilla after filling our quota of experiencing rocks for quite a while, and had some well-deserved snacks in the restaurant. The dog followed Shauna and Eliot up until they were getting on the chair lift, and we had to say goodbye to Paul (who may be reading this--I can't read his travel blog in Dutch, unfortunately!). We caught the very last gondola down (as per usual), carrying the gondola workers themselves down to the bottom.

Michelle came and picked us up (Shauna and Eliot included), and we headed back home for our last night here. We went out to dinner and we gave out our gifts--but even that cannot express how grateful we are to the Hartwells for housing us here for so long and for being so generous.

Tomorrow, we head off to Puerto Montt, Chile. This concludes our 3 weeks in Argentina!


...If you've made it all the way down here, take a breath and give yourself a pat on the back. I know I'm about to!




Additional photos below
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one of many bridges on the hike to Cerro Catedralone of many bridges on the hike to Cerro Catedral
one of many bridges on the hike to Cerro Catedral

This is when having an OCD compulsion to only step "on the cracks" can lead to trouble
Looking upLooking up
Looking up

how far up those peaks seemed then...how far down our measely little vantage point seemed later
Refugio FreyRefugio Frey
Refugio Frey

a chance for a warm meal and a warm bed
While going to the outhouse at 7:15 a.m.While going to the outhouse at 7:15 a.m.
While going to the outhouse at 7:15 a.m.

...We came across this lovely sight.


1st April 2007

mahoffer@hotmail.com
hi...i am argentinian...landed to your page by chance...I was thinking about that ham thing (and yes, it is an obsession...when I was in britain and I was offered sandwhichs of vegetables or even "more strange" things, I simply wondered why not old ham and cheese)...well, i was saying, you do have a point about pigs...i have grown up in a rural town, and I never saw a pig. I remember my grandparents (spaniards) used to go to same friends in te countryside (also spaniards) and got back with ham, chorizo, and so on (it is a spanish tradition called matanza: they killed the pig "on spot" and do things from it). They came back with lot of ham and chorizos, so pigs must exist somewhere, but they are not to be seen except to some people (maybe you have to be a spaniard). I will ask my father one of these days if he knows anything about pigs in the pampas.... Martin

Tot: 2.986s; Tpl: 0.095s; cc: 11; qc: 57; dbt: 0.0525s; 2; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 2; ; mem: 1.5mb