Rafting near Bariloche

San Carlos de Bariloche in Patagonia,(in the Argentina part), is a great place for rafting, kayaking, skiing, depending on the season. Having previously tried rafting when I was in Cusco, and, having to cancel a trip in Arequipa after being delayed on my journey, I was keen to have another go, before returning home.

The Cusco rafting was quite tame, levels 2 and 3, although a great experience. Bariloche was said to be mainly rapids of levels 3 and 4. That sounded good. Within my insurance cover. The site was located over 100kms from Bariloche and was close to the border with Chile.

There were 2 rafts with 8 of us in each and I was with a very friendly family group who came from Buenos Aires. I volunteered to go in the front and my new friend Tito, was opposite me. All went well, until the most demanding of the rapids. We got a bit out of shape and seemed to be stuck, just being spun around. We lost one person and then Tito became dislodged and was sat on my leg, the raft tipped over and we were all thrown into the water.

Leaving a boat and entering cold water is not a new experience for me. Having said that, when entering the water, I usually have a moment to adjust, as the cold water on my face usually makes me feel nauseous. On this occasion, whilst feeling the nausea, I also felt a sickening blow as I was hit full in the face by someone’s  safety helmet, with all of their body weight plus acceleration, behind it.

I was stunned and sank like a stone. I have to say, I thought that this could be it. I have had a few underwater moments previously but on this occasion was not even able to take a deep breath before going under. The water was deep and cold and I was being spun around. We had been well equipped, with wet suits and life preservers and I was able to suppress the urge to take a breath long enough to get to the surface. My nose was bleeding and I was still a bit stunned but the water temperature helped to keep me focused. It was bloody cold.

The other raft also had problems so there was quite a bit of recovery work to do. I was towed towards the river bank by Martin who was in the recovery kayak and left there while he was busy chasing others. Eventually we were all picked up and the story had a happy ending. We all posed for photos on the Argentina/Chile border. I had thought until now that it was Tito who had crashed into me but after reviewing the photos, it is inconclusive. However, I am looking forward to meeting Tito for a drink in Buenos Aires before I return to the UK.

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Cerro Campanario and Bariloche

After making a difficult decision about where to go next in Argentina, from El Chaltén, I decided on San Carlos de Bariloche. The deciding factor being, if/when I return to complete my tour of South America, Puerto Madryn, Cordoba, Mendoza etc., are closer to Buenos Aires.

I seem to have a habit of turning up at places when they are closed. This was the case again, in Bariloche. Cerro Catedral, which is said to have a view among the top ten in the world, was shut. On the advice of Jorge, my taxi driver, Andrea at the Adventure Centre and Martin at Hosteria Guemes, where I was staying, I took a trip up to the mirador of Cerro Campanario and I was not disappointed.

After descending via the chairlift, I went off searching for more natural beauty. It was not hard to find. El Trébol was a mere 15 minutes away.

I caught the bus back to the centre of town but before returning to my hotel, I went down to the lakeside and then walked through the plaza, where some musicians were entertaining the public.

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Lago Viedma and Glacier

As well as visiting as many places as possible during my visit to south America, I am also enjoying new experiences. Whilst in El Chaltén in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina, I managed to go ice trekking on the biggest glacier in Patagonia. I have now seen a few glaciers close up but the experience of trekking across one is something not to be missed.

First we had a close look at the glacier from the boat.

Then we disembarked and made our way across the worn rock which used to be covered by the glacier. We were put into groups and assigned to guides and continued to the edge of the glacier, where we put on crampons and had a briefing, before making our way on to the ice.

Juan, our group leader, was pathfinder and checked each part of the route before showing us how to proceed.

After a well conducted tour we had a celebratory drink of Tia Maria with fresh, glacier ice, followed by a walk through an ice cave before doffing our crampons and making our way back to the boat.

A great experience!

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Lago Capri and Fitz Roy

After visiting the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina, I thought I was going to be just marking time as I made my way northwards to Iguazu Falls. The next stop on the journey was El Chaltén in Los Glaciares National Park. Until recently, I have to confess, I had not heard of El Chaltén, even though it is famous for various reasons.

I was advised to visit El Chaltén, by one of my Portuguese travelling companions on the Bolivian tour in Uyuni. I am glad I followed his advice, thanks Rodrigo!! However, before you are allowed into the park proper, you are taken from the bus into the Park Rangers´HQ and given a briefing on the history of the park and the rules. The town is new and nowadays is virtually all tourist related.

When I got to the bus station I tried to buy a ticket for 2 days later to continue my journey to Bariloche but I was told that the next bus would be 3 days later. So, luckily, I had to stay an extra day. El Chaltén is worth at least a week for those who have the time and money. Unfortunately, I didn´t have the time but was determined to get the best of it. Depositing my hunchback at the hostel, I immediately set off on a 4 hour hike (roundtrip) to Lake Capri and the Mirador for the mountain, Fitz Roy.

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Perito Moreno Glacier

The Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina is just stunning. About 250 square miles of ice, tinted blue and standing proud. It extends from the Andes into Lake Argentina and can be accessed from the town of El Calafate. There is not much else to say about it, except, if you are coming to South America, you have to visit it. It is awesome!

Because the tour was booked in Chile before I left Puerto Natales, Iwas unaware that tickets for the boat trip were not included. The tour guide, Marianna, asked which of us would like to go on the boat. The answer was most of us. However, after visiting the office at the entrance to the park, she told us that there were no spaces left.

I was not happy. I made my feelings known, as did a French couple. The rest of the party just accepted it. Marianna, bless her, when she realised just how disappointed we were to travel all that way and not get what we thought we had already asked for, went off to see if she could get us some places on one of the boats. Fortunately, she was successful. The boat trip was well worth the effort.

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Torres del Paine

The Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is huge and comprises of lakes, glaciers and mountains including the world famous “Torres”. On my visit yesterday, I thought my previous comment about me having become ” a tourist in a hurry”, had come back to bite me. The weather was not great, and I was on a one day tour of the park´s highlights.

It did not look too good when at a viewing point of a lake, with a wonderful backdrop of mountains, I was the only one who wanted to get out and take photos. Majority rule had its way and off we went, without pictures. This was repeated several times and I confess to being close to tears at the thought of missing all these opportunities.

The feeling was compounded when we stopped for people to photograph sheep. I kid you not. The group consisted of Chileños, Brazilians, Germans and me. I would hazard a guess and say that it was not a unique experience for any of us to be seeing sheep. The wonderful combination of rivers, glaciers, lakes etc., for me at least, when this adventure is over, may never be repeated. And, as anyone who likes to get good pictures knows, with variable light and conditions, some photo opportunities are unique.

From 8 in the morning until lunchtime, I guess I took about 2 dozen pictures and had no one to blame except myself. I originally planned to spend up to a week trekking in this area as I had in previous settings. If you come to Torres del Paine, give it some time.

While my travelling companions had lunch and sheltered in the bus from the rain, I decided to go off on my own and search for pictures and was soon rewarded near the Grey Lake and glacier.

When I got back to the vehicle, surprise surprise, the others had ventured out into the elements. Fortunately, in the afternoon, the weather gradually improved and photo ops came with greater frequency.

Overall, I was happy with the result. Ironically, I kept back a free day in case things went wrong and the weather was much worse. My luck continues to hold.

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Puerto Varas and Petrohué

From the lovely island of Grand Chiloé, in the Patagonia area of Southern Chile, I made my way back to Puerto Montt. I was hoping to get a bus to Punta Arenas and from there to Puerto Natales. Unfortunately, I had misjudged the timings of the buses and had to wait almost 2 days for the next bus. I decided to put the time to use and booked on a tour of the local area.

First stop was at Puerto Varas which is very close to Puerto Montt and situated beside Lago Llanquihue.

From Puerto Varas we went to La Poza for a short boat ride in a sheltered lagoon. This was followed by a lunch break and then, another boat trip at Lago Todos Los Santos, which took place in the pouring rain. Up to this point there was nothing really inspirational, in spite of it being in the beautiful region of Los Lagos.

Things took a positive turn when we visited, Saltos del Rio Petrohué, less rain, yet still lots of water. Although, not much still water.

Finally, before returning to Puerto Montt, a brief visit to the Laguna Verde.

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