No blogging for over a week as the wifi in Patagonia is limited- to say the least! But i’m back! And loving Patagonia! It truly is so stunning – every corner you turn has another beautiful view that sadly you start to become a bit blase about it all…. however hard you try!
Last post I think i’d arrived in Punta Arena after the long travel day to get there. As we were there on a Sunday there wasn’t much going on, so a lie in was in order first – which i didn’t complain about!
We’d heard that there was a tax-free zone (called Zona Franca) so we headed there for a spot of shopping in the morning. Sadly, almost 90% of the shops were closed! And the one i ended up buying a few bits from was – i was informed – in Zona Austral, and therefore not tax free!! (I only bought some gloves and a tshirt, but still!)
On the way back we stopped off at the cemetery- which had been recommended by a few people. It was interesting to walk around – so many different types of plots or tombs – from tiny boxes for those who couldn’t afford more to mini houses dedicated to loved ones. A well tended cemetery and actually as good a resting place as any!
In the afternoon we headed out to see the Magellan penguins. We came across a colony so watched them go about their life – they’re cute to watch as they waddle around!
Next day we drove to Puerto Natales – a small town which is largely used as a pre-base for Torres del Paine national park. There wasn’t much to see or do in the town, so we had a wander, visited a supermarket (ooh – exciting!) and had dinner. Oh – there was a fire station to see – though it had burned down – the irony!!
Up early the next day to get to Torres del Paine where we’d be for the next 3 days. We arrived there around 10am and started hiking straight away. There’s a famous trek people do called the ‘W’ trek as it is shaped in this way. It usually takes 4-5 days, so we were only doing one part – the main part- which gets you to the towers and a lake. It’s not the easiest of walks BUT after my hike in Ecuador at altitude, i did find this one a bit easier – in that i could breathe!
Stunning scenery along the way – the whole hike took us around 8 hours (average time) and takes you up hills, along rivers, through a crazy wind tunnel and a forest and eventually up over some boulders to the top where you come across the lake and the view. It was well worth while when we got up there!
Then you have to sadly hike back down the way you came which is less fun! But fine! We finally got back, headed to our campsite – had some dinner and went to bed exhausted. We had some new South African canvas tents that were awesome, and some really nice sleeping bags so i slept like a baby that night!
Next day we had a relaxing morning and then some of us headed to Lago Grey to do a boat tour up to the glaciers. We saw the Grey Glaciers which were ironically very blue in colour – though i later learnt that the Grey name was in honour of someone – not for the colour! the scenery reminded me of when i was in Alaska.
Final day had another hike and a boat ride, but with all the travelling i’d done to date, i’d had enough so opted for a day at the campsite with Toni. And it was well needed! We slept until 10, had breakfast and then went back to sleep until around 2ish! A little walk to the gate (all of 2km away!) was our exercise for the day and then we had some wine as we awaited the others! We were so lucky with the weather for our camping days. Quite windy but no rain, and when the sun came out it was delightful! Not sunbathing weather, but nice and warm – appreciated after the 6 degrees we’d had previously!
We left Torres del Paine and made our way to El Calafate – back on the Argentinian side of Patagonia. It was a long drive again (made worse by a ridiculously incompetent border crossing!) but all was made better by a Patagonian lamb dish which was delicious! Next day we headed for the Perito Moreno Glacier for the day. It was a bigger tour we joined where i befriended Anton from Copenhagen for the day. First stop was a little estanica and the only reason i mention it is because i got to feed a baby guanaco which was the cutest thing ever. She was only 2 weeks old and gorgeous so that was fun!
Anyway – back to the ice! The glacier is ENORMOUS – like 30km long and over 50m high. And its growing by 2 metres every DAY… which is crazy! But makes for a great visit as it means that it’s constantly creaking and groaning and eventually it ‘calves’ – ie some ice falls off. You need to have beady eyes as if you hear it then you’ve missed seeing it. Luckily we saw some great chunks fall off which was impressive to see and hear.
Back into town to visit the little stores and wander around. Then Stu, Em and I walked to a great restaurant we’d read about online which served proper homemade food. I had a veggie lasagna which was delicious which Em had a beef stew cooked inside a pumpkin which was pretty cool!
Next day – and we’re off to El Chalten – a little town which is the base for seeing Mount Fitzroy – another mountain to climb! The weather was beautiful this day so Toni and I went for a 2hr easy walk to a waterfall which we enjoyed
Next day we tackled the mountains themselves! The city is often known as the windy city (another one!) and rightly so as the winds are crazy! We were due to do the ‘Tres Lagos’ hike up and round, but one part of it is steep and high, and the guides were advising not to do that part as it was quite dangerous due to the winds. So instead we did an 18km hike up and around. Still saw great views of the mountains and the glaciers and snow. Really enjoyed the hike actually as it wasn’t as hard as Torres del Paine (OR i’ve become an expert hiker, but i somehow think not!!)
The next couple days were LONG bus days. First day we drove 10 hours to get to a tiny town (if you can call it that!) called Perito Moreno – though it was nothing like the glacier. It had nothing there so we walked around (took about 15 minutes!) had dinner in an average place we found and went to bed – sadly in a not great hotel! But a bed is a bed! Next morning and up early to continue the travel. This was a 13 hour day to get us to our eventual destination of Bariloche. About 4 hours in we picked up a couple of hitchikers who needed a bit of help – they were 2 israeli guys who were lovely and broke up the journey a bit as they were new people to chat to! But eventually we rolled into Bariloche and first impressions and very positive! It has a very different feel to the rest of Patagonia
Interestingly there’s no official ‘end’ to Patagonia so depending what map you use Bariloche is or isn’t part of Patagonia! It’s swiss in feel with lots of chalets and apparently the chocolate here is pretty good!
So we have a full day to explore tomorrow, so i’ll report back on what this city is like soon!
As ever, this trip is flying!
Next to look forward to: Pucon (where i will also have my secret santa dinner with the girls via skype 🙂 ), Santiago and then making my way to Buenos Aires where Nat (my sis) will meet me! Exciting times still to come!!!