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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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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Santiago

From La Serena in Chile, I travelled to the capital, Santiago. I had been told by Rodrigo, one of my Portuguese travelling companions in Bolivia, not to expect much and that it was not really worth a visit. Well, as I was travelling south and it was on the way, I decided to spend a couple of nights there anyway. Rodrigo was right, however, and I was quite disappointed.

Santiago is a big, modern city. Wide, tree lined streets. Nice modern architecture was in abundance. A modern metro transport system. It just did not fire me up. Nothing to get excited about. I did the  city, hop on – hop off tour and the only place I thought would be worth a visit, the funicular railway, was shut due to a strike by local workers. I went to a big shopping mall instead, which turned out to be the highlight of my visit.

 

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 2

On the second day in Bolivia, I was glad to get an early start and get away from the fumes in the “hostal”, which came from the dining room floor which seemed to have been washed with diesel.

The first stop was an incredible display of natural stone “art”.

From the rocks, we continued through the mountains and volcanoes to another lagoon.

On then to a stunning display from nature. A volcano had blown its top and deposited it over a vast area. Some of the lumps of lava having been shaped by nature and interpreted by the natives. You can use your own imagination.

Click on photos for a slide show.