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Patagonia7 Lakes Road Trip

On 14 January 2008 from Bariloche, Argentina | comments closed

Sunday afternoon Joanna, Willie and I picked up our Volkswagen Gol 1.6 to drive the 7 Lakes Route to San Martí­n de los Andes. By the way, Gol is not a typo, that really is the name of the car. When we got the car, the rental agency was not even sure if we could drive the unsealed bit of the road today, because it had rained in the morning. But after a quick telephone call they said it was OK, as long as we would drive carefully.

It basically took us all afternoon and evening to drive the 240km from Bariloche to Juní­n de los Andes, where we would stay overnight. This was mainly caused by many “Sunday drivers” on the road, and the fact that the unsealed bit was pretty rough. It was a very scenic road though, and we stopped at some of the 7 Lakes for photos and lunch. The scenic town of San Martí­n de los Andes was the last stop, and we got to Juní­n de los Andes just before dark.

Monday morning Willie and I left Joanna at the bus station in Juní­n de los Andes (she was travelling on to Mendoza), and we checked out some interesting religious statues and the view of the city and surroundings. Afterwards we took Ruta 40 back to Bariloche, which was sealed all the way, so even with some nice stops for photos and lunch, we got back at the end of the afternoon.

Tomorrow I will be leaving Argentina, and crossing into Chile for the last week of my trip. I updated the Itinerary post to reflect this.

PatagoniaRelaxing, Rafting & Biking in Bariloche

On 12 January 2008 from Bariloche, Argentina | comments closed

The morning before an afternoon flight is an ideal time to explore the little museums and attractions a city has to offer. That’s why I went to the Centro de Interpretación Histórica (museum about Patagonia) and Laguna Nimez in El Calafate on Tuesday morning. In the afternoon I had my flight to San Carlos de Bariloche. Only 2 hours delay.

Wednesday was a rainy day in Bariloche, and since most activities here are outdoors, I spent the day at Hostel 41 Below. They must be doing something right, because I planned to stay 3 nights, and ended up staying 6. The reason might be that Bariloche has it all: beautiful surroundings of lakes and mountains, lots of outdoors activities, good chocolate and ice-cream, and a fun nightlife.

Weather-wise Thursday started off bad as well, but in the afternoon it cleared, and Dan, Abbie and I went up to Mt Campanario to enjoy the views and eat some rich cake. In the evening we visited another local bar.

Friday the weather was good, and it made the rafting much more enjoyable. We rafted for over 2 hours on the Rio Manso, with some really nice class III rapids. One rapid we took head on, diving into the wave. Luckily the wetsuits kept us warm, because the water was ice cold. Just before the border with Chile we got out of the water, and had a nice asado (barbeque) in the mountains.

Saturday Joanna and I rented bikes to do the Circuito Chico, a nice 30km bike ride with some good views of the area around Bariloche.

PatagoniaPetito Moreno Glacier

On 7 January 2008 from El Calafate, Argentina | comments closed

After the 5,5-hour bus trip from Puerto Natales (CH) to El Calafate (AR) on Sunday, I spent the rest of the day relaxing in the hostel, and trying to get my flight to Bariloche. It seems it is almost impossible to get a flight with Aerolineas Argentinas. Making a reservation online works fine, but then no possibility to pay is offered, and the reservation is cancelled when no payment is done within 24 hours. So I lost my first reservation, called their office in Chile, got another reservation, but could not pay by phone because they would have no time to process it. I was told I could pay at the airport in El Calafate, so I went through the hassle of getting to and from the airport, only to find out there was no office at the airport, and I still could not pay. At least they extended my reservation and assigned me my prefered window seat. Today I physically went by their office in the city and was finally able to pay for the flight and get the ticket. On to Bariloche tomorrow.

The rest of the day I visited Petito Moreno, South America´s most famous glacier. I can understand why, it is picture perfect and looks much more blue than the glaciers in Antarctica. I spent 2 hours looking at it, waiting for a piece to break off. Unfortunately only very small pieces broke off, but it sure is an active glacier. After the lookout we took a boat across the lake to the south side of the glacier. When the guide was explaining about glaciers, there were actually 2 decent sized pieces that broke off. Of course all attention diverted immediately. After the explanation, we got crampons on and made a 2-hour walk on the glacier. We could see deep blue crevasses, small streams and sinkholes. It was a lot of fun as well to walk on the glacier. To top it off, we had some scotch whiskey with real glacier ice. No surprise everybody was sleeping in the bus on the way back.

PatagoniaTorres del Paine

On 5 January 2008 from Puerto Natales, Chile | comments closed

Freely translated: “Towers of Pain”, but I will get to that part later on. On Tuesday 1 January in the afternoon I took the bus into Torres del Paine National Park, and the catamaran got me the last bit to the Paine Grande Lodge. Before long I decided that roughing it on this trip would refer to the hiking itself, not to dragging around and putting up a tent, or creating warm evening meals. The accommodation and evening meals were provided by the refugios.

It was a good thing I did not start the hiking on 1 January, because it was raining all day long. On Wednesday there were still some showers, but much less. From Paine Grande I hiked to refugio Grey for some coffee and lunch. Along the way there were some good views of glacier Grey. All in all a good introduction day to the park, ended by a nice hot shower and dinner in the lodge.

Thursday would be the longest day: all the way from Paine Grande to refugio Los Cuernos, including the side trip to the Frances Valley lookout. Luckily the weather cleared up and it was dry all day long. The views from the Frances Valley lookout were amazing: 360 degrees of mountains and turqoise blue lakes. But it was a tough day: hiking from 9.00 to 18.00 with only a few short breaks.

Friday I could still feel Thursday’s hike in my legs, but it would be the shortest day, so that helped a bit. Since there were no lookouts between refugio Los Cuernos and refugio El Chileno, it was not the most interesting hike. Weatherwise it was OK: clear blue skies, but very hard winds. I literally almost got blown off the trail, only by holding on to some brushes I managed to prevent it.

Today all made up for it though. I left at 6.30 and reached the Torres del Paine lookout at 8.10. This is one of those places with a very high probability of bad weather, like Milford Sound in New Zealand. But like Milford Sound I had the luck of being there on a day with clear blue skies. Because I left so early I also got the chance to enjoy in it peace, before all the dayhikers arrived. On the way back I kept singing the few lyrics that I know of the song “Perfect Day”. Beautiful view in the morning, only having to walk downhill to the bus, wind in my back, and saying “hola” to everybody walking uphill: it was a perfect day.