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Patagonia

ARGENTINA | Friday, 7 September 2007 | Views [1514] | Comments [2]

6/9/07

This area needs its own section because it covers 2 counties, Chile and Argentina, but also because it is a very unique area of the world.  We arrived at El Calafate after 30hrs on a bus (bleary eyed and rather scattered).  But woke to a prisine, sunny day over a remarkable landscape.  Wide stretching planes, tall, snowcapped mountains, crystal clear lakes and crisp wind that always reminded you where you were.  Whats more we were going in winter!  Only about 8-9hrs of sun a day and lots of snow!

I will try not to be too poetic in this section because Im not good at it.  I will give a rundown of what we have done, then direct you to the photo page.

In Calafate, lives the famous Glacier Perito Moreno.  The most accessable and impressive of the glaciers in the Southern Patagonian Ice shelf.  It stands 5km wide, 50m tall and 13km long.  Massive! And when chunks of ice the size of buses fall off, like they did the day we saw it, it sounds like an earthquake is taking place.  The Neighbouring Upsula glacier is bigger and covers the land mass the size of Buenos Aires.  Just so much ice!

After two nights in Calafate, we bused to El Chalten, a tiny town that almost shuts down in winter.  Its only here because its at the foot of the amazingly beautiful Fitz Roy Ranges.  We did 2 day walks, both through snow to see the postcard views of Cerro Torres and Cerro Fitz Roy.  The day at Torres was pristine, the day at Fitz Roy was horrid.  A great reminder of the power and fickleness of the weather down here.  After feeling proud of our efforts, we quickly kept quiet after meeting 3 friendly NZ men who had just completed 10 day trekking on the ice self.  Thats impressive!

Back to Calafate for about 8hrs before getting an all day bus to Ushuaia.  Necessary due to 2 boarder crossings, only useful for getting extra passport stamps.  We only went to Ushuaia as an after thought, because of timing as a result of a ferry we were catching later, but we are so glad we did.  Ushuaia is the worlds southern most city, at about 55 degrees (only about 1000km from antartica).  But is more than just a box to tick.  Its a real city, that sits on the Beagle channel.  We spent a week there snow shoeing, huski dog sledding, cruising the channel on a boat looking for sealions, drinking red wine, eating King crab and walking through the national park.  It was fantastic, the weather was fickle but kind when we needed it, and we met some interesting travellers from all over the place.  A fantastic detour.

Another all day bus got us to Puerto Natales, the starting point of Torres del Paine National Park.  We planned to walk for about 6 days then get the ferry from here to Puerto Montt on our route back to Santiago.  Its the countries and possibly the continents most popular national park, with 200,000 visitors annually.  The best part of travelling out of season, we only saw about 10 of them! 

The park is famous for a reason, its beauty is only matched by its diversity.  3000m snow capped peaks, carved by ancient glacial movement, surround by aqua lakes and waterfalls, boarded by numerous glaciers, particularly the massive glacier grey.  Add to this 3m wide condors circling overhead, guanocos (similar to llamas) running wild and the knowledge that pumas werent too far away.  We spent 5 nights under canvas, lugging heavy packs and eating packet rice, but it was all worth every second because it was just stunning.  Again just look at the pictures!  The air seems thinner in patagonia, so the views are even more pristine and clear.  Im babbling now, sorry.  My only disapointment was the privatisation of the refuges in the park.  This led to them being run as businesses more than helpful places for hikers.  Its the way the world is going, i know, but it was a little disapointing to see a 5 star hotel when you clamber out the woods after 6 days.

We returned to Puerto natales, much needing a shower and some real food.  Our first food stop (at a corner store) involved and icecream, packet of chips, 2 beers and a bottle of coke...oh dear.  But we both lost a couple of cm off the waste, as we clocked up well over 100km over the 6 days.

We have cooled our heals here for a couple of days before the ferry leaves on thursday (one a week).  A walk to the top of nearby cerro Dorotea gave more spectacular views of the southern chilian archepallegos.

After 3 weeks, Patagonia has been definate jaw dropping highlight.  A great place for anyone to travel to, with either a suitcase or backpack!

Tags: Mountains

Comments

1

I am traveling to torres del paine next week. Can you tell me what I should expect in the weather? snow? rain? Will all the trails be cleared? Any info would be great. Thanks.

  benjamin Stern Sep 12, 2007 10:03 AM

2

VISIT ARGENTINA!! I'm from argentina and a big fan of our Patagonia, is one of the prieties places on the world!!

  Francisco Sep 14, 2007 1:16 PM

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