Tuesday, March 16, 2010


From Bariloche, we set sail for El Chalten stopping overnight at a dusty, threadbare town called Perito Moreno where we met some lovely people; one lady Claire a very interesting Australian from Queensland who has travelled to the remotest parts of the world. There are people you continue to bump into on the Inca trail and it's quite exciting when you see them again by pure luck! The picture on the right is the general view from the bus of the wide flat lands of Patagonia and the Andes in the distance.

This is a pic of me at the cascades just out of El Chalten.

El Chalten is a town set between a mountain range and a huge rock-face, and it is well known for the icy winds and rain which strip any warmth off your skin. Regardless, Case and I went on a 7hr trek through the mountains in order to see our first glacier.

It was an amazing shift of landscape, where you walk for an hour or so in a bare valley, then gradually into a forest of dead trees, a forest of beautiful trees with and earth damp smell, then swamp and then finally a hill made of rock which circles the glacier lake which carves through the mountain in the distance. The walk was stunning.

El Calafate, a tourist hub 80ks west of South America's famous Perito Moreno Glacier, was our next stop. This was the first time we saw Flamingoes! They were in the lagoon just behind town and we watched them whilst standing on some strange floating moss landscape. We had our first paradilla (all you ca eat meat) with the best steaks we'd had in Argentina yet.

Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the only glaciers in the world which is still growing due to the pacific winds which hit the Andes and fall to snow at the it's feet. Here, Case and I decided to go on a ice trek on the glacier; eat it, drink the water and check out ancient water carvings and ice mimicking the land formation below. This was the first time for us to walk and climb on a glacier. We were told so many interesting things about the area, and how the glacier has carved itself into the rock-face of the land. Were were also treated to a delicious glass of aged whisky at the end of the trek, served on ice rocks that were more than 10000 yrs old - pretty cool.

Crossing briefly over into Chile (way too pricey there for us), we stayed in Puerto Natales for a couple of nights where most people start their 5 or 9 day trek around the Torres Del Paine National Park. This is our one regret really. The trek is known as the W trek whereby you trek in the shape of a w around three towers and the mountains surrounding which are completely independent of the Andes Mountain ranges. Your success is totally dependent on weather and how well you prepared for this with clothing, food and equipment. For several reasons in particular lack of time we didn't do the trek :( But we did a day tour around the whole park which was incredible. It is made up of several lakes and forests and we saw every viewpoint imaginable. If we ever come back to Chile, this will be one of our top things to do.

Puerto Natales was cool, and in general we found Chilean people a lot more accommodating and friendly than Argentinian people. Our next stop in Chile was Punta Arenas, where we got off the bus in a hail-storm! We stayed here only one night in order to get to Ushuaia - back to Argentina "Fin Del Mundo" or End of the World.

Ushuaia was a penal colony at one stage and so has a huge prison on the fringe of town. It was interesting to see the way the native lived in the area in such harsh conditions. From here you can catch a ride to Antarctica for little more than $4000US the least its been in years. It goes without saying we saw people off, and stayed put to see the penguins instead!

We took a ride to the oldest Estancia in Ushuaia from which we took a boat out to see the penguins. We chose a tour which allowed us to walk on the island where they were nesting, and got up close to these cute waddling animals. There were two types of penguins on this particular islands. Ones who were meant to be there, and others who got stuck there and so has to wait until they malted before heading off. Penguins mate for life, the female picking a burrow she likes and which then comes with a male hehe. There were thousands on the island and it was freezing! Every tour has a clown, but on our tour he happened to be a Filo from Alaska who broke the two rules - move with the group and don't step into the nesting area, all for a point of view shot! It was pretty funny actually. On the way back to Ushuaia, he showed me every photo on his camera, which made me so nautious! We of course saw him one more time at the pub later that night where the whole bar knew him as "Alaska: come take a photo!".

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