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.

Click on any photo for slide show.

 

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.

Click on any photo for a slide show.

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.

Click on photos for slideshow.

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.

Click on photos for slide show.

Chiloé

The Chiloé Archipelago is a large group of islands in the Patagonia area of South America. I decided to spend a couple of nights in Castro, a small town on the island of Grand Chiloé. It is a beautiful island with lots of green vegetation and a national park.

However, I was really only interested in one thing, sea kayaking. Ever since I arrived in South America, I have been trying to get in a kayak. Finally, I had the opportunity and did not waste it. I quickly located a company specialising in kayaking and made arrangements to go on a 3 hour trip the following day.

The weather was not great, it rained at times. The experience was terrific, though and I look forward to the next time. My thanks to Claudio of Chiloexpediciones for a great day.

La Serena

Arriving back in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, after visiting the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, I only had a short time to feed myself and repack my hunchback before catching an overnight bus to La Serena. I did make time to have an argument with the tour operator about the driver who accidentally took us off road on the way back to the border but I was wasting my time.

I arrived early the next day at my hostel in La Serena and was pleasantly surprised by both the city and the accommodation, BleuBlanc Hostal. Very pleasant after roughing it for the previous week. My main objective was to relax for a couple of days but it did not quite work out. On my second evening there, I went on a trip to the observatory at Mamalluca, which was fascinating. Unfortunately, this meant not returning to the hotel until after midnight.

I had to check out by midday the following day but my bus, for Santiago, was not leaving until midnight. I decided to visit the neighbouring town of Coquimbo, which has a large cross celebrating the third millenium. I walked there and back which was a total of more than 25kms. I did manage to sleep well on the bus journey to Santiago, though.

Click on a pic for a slide show.

 

Bolivia – Day 3

Up at 4.30 AM to make an early departure for the salt flats of Uyuni, in Bolivia. The largest in the world, apparently. Our vehicle was the last to leave and Mario, the driver, did his best to get us into a good position to watch the sunrise. He made it with seconds to spare.

After watching the sunrise, we made our way to the “island” of Incahuasi situated in the salt flats. There was not much to see except lots of cacti and the surrounding salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni.

After Incahuasi, we had a little time to think of things to do on the salt flats while waiting for other things to do.

The last part of the tour was a visit to the train cemetery.

Click on pictures for a slide show.