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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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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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.

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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.

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Bolivia

After more than 4 months in Perú, I crossed the border into Chile. I stayed there, in the city of Arica, long enough to celebrate my birthday and to get ill. It was the worst case of sickness I have had, since I arrived in South America but a trip to a doctor and US$40 soon had me on the mend. I was well enough to travel to San Pedro de Atacama, where I stayed for just one night before embarking on a 4 day trip to Bolivia.

The trip was amazing. The scenery was stunning. The accommodation was basic, particularly on the first night. My travel companions were great fun, as was the driver/guide, Mario. The only downside to the trip was the driver who returned us to the border on the last day. Not only was he surly, unhelpful and uninformative but also a really bad driver. He reinforced that opinion when he took off-road, too literally, failed to make a bend and when he braked too hard too late, managed to unseat everyone except himself.

That incident did nothing to spoil the overall impression of the trip but the tour company, Colque Tours, were not really interested.

The first day started with being collected from the hotel and after passing through customs and immigration at San Pedro de Atacama, being transported by bus to the Chile/Bolivia border. After completing the entry process into Bolivia, we were assigned into groups and to our vehicles complete with drivers.

The vehicle was a Toyota Landcruiser and the driver was Mario. The group was made up of 2 young ladies from Italy, 2 young men and a young lady from Portugal and myself (the not so young man) from England. The others seemed to have no end of languages available to choose from and they all so spoke English except Mario. And so began my sojourn in Bolivia.

From the hot springs, we moved on to the similarly hot and very smelly, geysers.

After the geysers, we made our way to the very basic (not even a shower) accommodation, where we had lunch and a rest before visiting the nearby, Coloured Lagoon. We then spent the night in the basic accommodation, where it was as many as six people in a room.

Leaving the Rainforest

After just 2 nights, it was time to leave the rainforest. It was a fantastic experience and as far as Perú is concerned, I have to put it as the second favourite place I have visited, so far. Machu Picchu being the overall favourite.

I was up well before breakfast, so decided to walk through the grounds, hoping to get a decent picture of one of the yellow tailed birds in flight. They looked great, however, I was too slow.

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