Exploring Latin America 🇦🇷 🇧🇴 🇨🇱 🇨🇴 🇪🇨 🇲🇽 🇵🇪 🇺🇾

Category: Argentina Page 1 of 2

Paso Internacional Los Libertadores – A bus journey from Mendoza to Santiago

I woke up to heavy the rain, that as a desert region Mendoza desperately needs, and thought my weather luck had ended. I have been told to make sure I took the bus from Mendoza to Santiago during the day as the journey was beautiful. Here was I with my sixth day of overcast weather and the first day of heavy rain. I really thought my weather luck had deserted me but if there is a lesson to be learnt then it is don’t assume the weather will be the same over the course of a 500km journey especially when traversing one of the biggest mountain ranges in he world. You can see my view from the photos below.

I was sat next to Miri from Germany, who is studying in Mendoza and was visiting her boyfriend in Santiago. She was an avid rock climber and had been in the Andes several times and gave me advice on how to do the hikes as well as asked her boyfriend for advice about hikes in Chile. We bonded over the forever present disused train line. Both of us would rather have taken the train and I get really sad when I see lines are no longer used as they are in much of Argentina. Trains are the perfect transport for a country of this size.

As we approached Potrerillos the weather started clearing and I even began to see some of the huge snow capped mountains in the distance.

There are two mountain ranges that we needed to traverse the Andes and the older Precordillera mountain range that is closer to Mendoza. We stopped in the town of Uspallata that sits on the crossroads and the driver cleaned it the front window before we started through the pass.

All the trees you see in the photos above are not natural to the area, it is a dessert after all. We soon left the town boundaries and approached the Andes.

And then things started to become really beautiful!

As I mentioned above you can still see the old train infer-structure, especially the bridges.

And we passed many of the sites along the road including the biggest mountain outside of Asia, Aconcagua standing at 6900 metres. Miri told be about her trip to the mountain and I regretted not taking the bus due to nerves. It left at 6am and the pickup was a little down the road but I was unsure. If I do get a chance to return anywhere on this journey to view missed opportunities then this will be the first place.

Just an example to show the difficulties of getting good shots from a moving bus, but I think this came out quite well.

Then it was time to cross the border to the Chilean side. It was a quick crossing with no issues but I was sad to not get an exit stamp from Argentina.

I had been told that this journey in winter would be scary due to the snow. I didn’t really understand until I saw this little climb, well descent in my case, on the Chilean side. 27 steep turns and no crash barriers!

But it was fine and the driver reached the bottom like a pro and soon we were checking out the sites on the way to Santigo.

Mendoza

The flight to Mendoza was uneventful and quick. I was excited to be there as I would get to watch the Avengers with Juan and I felt I was loaded up with tips and knew what I was going to do. Although the whole experience was completely different to what I expected it was enjoyable and painful none the less. Mendoza was my last stop in Argentina and I was sad to leave. It’s actually crazy to think that I’d already coved more distance in Argentina than I will on the rest of the trip if you draw a straight line between Salta and Ushuaia and then north.

When I arrived at the airport I realised I hadn’t researched how to get a bus properly so after a quick Google I opted to take a taxi. It hardly broke the bank but this is the first time I have been scared in a cab. The second would happen in a few days. I think the drivers are just crazy in Mendoza. There were no seatbelts and at one point the driver ran out of fuel and limped into the gas station. It was so close he didn’t quite get to the pump. It was here I wondered if I’d make it but to his credit I received a discount and he helped me with my bags to the hostel.

The hostel staff were really friendly on arrival and couldn’t be more helpful but I took an instant dislike to the room. I went cheap in Mendoza to save cash but also because the hostel had a good raining but I’m a little old for the complete backpacker vibe, everyone seemed so young, the room was cramped and the beds terrible. I even met my first gap year kids. Everyone in the hostel seemed to be English and actually everyone was really nice but I booked a new hostel that night out of town on Juan’s advice.

I arrived late so sorted myself with food and settled down to plan all the things that I wanted to do and ran into problems. In Patagonia all the trees are well walked, marked on maps and blogged about by many people. I knew that the biggest mountain outside of Asia was here and wanted to see it and I was desperate to see the mountains again. The weather would help to conspire against me. I went to bed late confused and tired. I had done a lot that week and hadn’t caught up with the partying in Uruguay, which wasn’t helped by the worlds loudest snorer, did I mention her, int the hostel in Montivideo. I awoke tired and confused and knowing I had to get to the bus station fairly early to achieve and hikes I decided to have a rest day.

After around 11am after speaking to the hostel staff I decided to do the Cerró Arco which is a short hike and once you get to the top of the mountain you are rewarded with views of Mendoza. I was told exactly what bus to get but was still a little nervous. I had a road on the map to follow and when I got off the bus two Argentinians left ahead of me. The driver pointed them in the direction of an unmarked trail and I followed at a safe distance but was glad to have them especially as the not entirely friendly pack of dogs decided to say hello.

After around 1km the road passed through a cat park and there was a cafe so I knew I was on a well walked party. I overtook the couple and saw other hikers. Soon the path tool a steep turn uphill and would remain going uphill for the duration of the trek.

Halfway up the hill the guy from the couple caught up with me and I discovered they were friends. I stopped to take pictures and he carried on. As I stated to reach the top it became more obvious that there was not going to be much of a view today as I hiked into a cloud.

So this is the view from the top. I caught up with my new friend and he shared some food with me. We chatted for a while but it stared to rain so my gutted came in handy again and I headed back down.

I caught the bus fairly easily but for some reason when I got to the hostel I felt really lonely and pretty anxious. I know it takes time to meet people and my rational self told me this but I think the tiredness had me feeling overwhelmed and I missed the new friends I had just made-it is hard moving on all the time. I decided to go have an ice cream to calm down and signed up to the Asado in the hostel that night.

There was a big group of Brits who all seemed to lone each other and I was anxious to join them but was saved when Laura, from my room came down, and took us over to join everyone. She is the the first Spanish person I have meg here and set about teaching me done new things. I know have one Spanish joke that I do not understand. But it’s not rude.

The asado was good fun and I met lots of people, sadly they were all moving on the next day. After the BBQ the raggaton came on and we danced with the hostel staff into the night. I decided to go to bed at 2am because I wanted to be alive for Jaun the next day but I was happy to stay up.

Checkout was at 10 so I met a lot tired and hungover people at breakfast. I was invited on one of the hikes I wanted to do but had to decline. I was really reluctant to go to the next hostel. It was 17km our if town and I thought a taxi would be expensive but Google told me I’d need to get two busses and it would take two hours. Again I was still tired and if lost my confidence and I really didn’t want to go. Mostly because I didn’t want to spend hours on a bus only to end up in the outskirts of Mendoza with no real way of asking anyone where to go. But I forced myself to go and get on the bus. It went smoothly and my second bus shows up but stared taking a different route to what I had been shown so I got off and walked the final 3km to the hostel. I soon found out there was a direct bus that stopped right outside.

There was no one to greet me at the hostel and luckily one of the guests, Camilla spotted me. She is travelling with her friend Line and it turns out I had been on the same boat trip as them in Ushuaia. It also turned out that there was a party in the hostel that night but we will come to that later.

Before the party I was meeting up with Juan to watch the Avengers. We went to a brand new cinema and had the most expensive seats in the house which had electronic foot rests. Luckily for me thy show English films in Argentina with subtitles. It’s kinda funny to think that many countries only see the the dubbed versions as back home if I see a non English language movie it always has subtitles. I won’t go into a massive review of the film but it was enjoyable and afterwards we had icecream.

Back at the hostel I met the American girls who were staying and treated myself to a pizza which I ate as everyone got ready for the party. So the the owner of the hostel has eccentric taste as you will be able to see in the photos below and the most creepy thing is the horror mannequins that are often in the bathrooms but were moved around the hostel at random. So you would open the door to the toilet and behind it would be a mannequin, but you would jump thinking it was a person-especially in the dark. He was not bear pleased when we moved them into his room at 4am as payback. Some people can’t take their own jokes. Also at the hostel is a pool and a big area for people to socialise. I suspect in high season it is great because it is so far from town and other than a scattering of restaurants along the main road there is really nowhere for people to go. Lastly he has a clutch of animals including a dog, cat, sheep, horse, llama, goose and two rabbits. All of which are chased by the friendly but huge Alsatian.

The party was good fun and I mostly hung out with the English speakers until 5am. Somehow I was awake enough to have breakfast at 10am and so say goodbye to everyone and found myself in the hostel alone. My bed was really comfy and quite private in the dorm so I decided to have a quite day and watch Netflix. I also decided to challenge myself with Spanish so said yes to everyone on Tinder to see what conservations I could have. 14 matches later and a lot of Google translating I ended up having a long conservation with Ximena who suggested meeting up. I agreed as I have to say yes and I met her and a friend in the centre of Mendoza, which meant I had to get a taxi in and out again. I arrived 10minutes early and true to Latin America they arrived around 25 minutes late. The language barrier was difficult at first but we found a happy medium with them mostly speaking English and I had my first Lomo. After dinner they took me on a tour of town which was interesting as it was midnight by this point and everything was dark and closed.

They got me a taxi around 2am and he drove like a crazy man back to the hostel. About halfway along the freeway there was a huge bang. I looked up confused and the car bonnet had flipped up and was now against the windscreen. This was the second time I was scared to be in a taxi but at 2am on a motorway there was little I could do. I watched the driver force it closed and we continued. I went to bed straight away and didn’t think about it again.

I woke up the next day to the worlds worst breakfast and a deserted hostel. I got the sense that they were desperate for me to leave. I had been trying to decide if I should switch hostels back to town or stay here where it was at least quiet and really comfortable but after the state of breakfast I decided to leave. They really couldn’t care less after the girls had left. I asked to leave my bags as I was due to visit Lamadrid which is the winery where Juan’s father worked. I enquiries about a bike and turned it down after the rental price and decided to walk instead.

Promptly I walked the wrong way out of the hostel and only realised after I felt I was marking good progress after I had walked more than a kilometre. After 30minutes I’d walking I was back at my starting point. This time I walked the right way and I was treated to blue skies which allowed me to see the mountains for the first time, but only briefly.

I followed Google’s suggestion alone a small road which is where I took all the photos below. It was a nice picturesque walk until I turned a corner and saw a dog sleeping. The dogs in Mendoza are very barky and had already freaked me out so I took a wide birth hoping he wouldn’t wake up. He did and soon I had three dogs aggressively barking and growling at me. It wasn’t possible to turn around so I avoided looking at them and kept walking slowly. Eventually they retreated and I think I was lucky not to have been bitten. It was now that I realised I was in the middle of. An orchard. I looked at the map and Google confirmed I was off the road. I wondered how I had been so stupid as to leave the road and end up in a farm. No wonder the dogs were aggressive. I didn’t want to walk back past them so I climbed over fences and walked through fields until I found the road again. On the way back I would find out I didn’t make a mistake and that the roads on Google Maps are wrong.

I arrived at lamadrid safe and sound for the wine tour. I asked for Gustavo, Juan’s father, and we Las led into a really grand room. He came to meet me and brought along my guide, I forget his name, and I was given a personal tour of the facility. After I was given the opportunity to taste some wines. It was really nice of them to give me this tour and the wines were delicious but drinking is always more fun with others and I kicked myself for not sorting a proper wine tour-on the way to Santigo and in Santiago I met people who would give me advice on how to do this so maybe I’ll go back and try Mendoza wine again.

I decided to walk back the same way. A few more wineries had been suggested for me to visit but on foot it was a challenge and I wanted to get into town and get some lunch. The dogs barking in the farms did freak me out a little bit other than dark clouds appearing it was uneventful.

I arrived back at the hostel to get my bags and take some photos that I hadn’t had the opportunity to do in previous days but it was obvious they wanted me to leave so I took what I could and headed to the busy stop.

The journey into town was easy and after I had left I had a message from my friend Louise that she had an accident on her bike and was staying in Mendoza for a night. And this is where confidences happen. As soon as I got to the hostel I was trying to set up WIFI and as I was taken to the dorm guess who was sitting on the bed opposite. So it turns out she was leaving town and a woman walked in front of her bike as she was not looking. The back wheel of the bike broke the ladies ankle and Louise, from Scotland, was thrown off the bike. Luckily she was okay but the shock of the incident as well as having to deal with all the witnesses and police speaking Spanish was a challenge. We talked a long time and then asked reception for recommendations so went to a local restaurant and had a bottle of wine for 80pesos. I ordered my first Milanesas.

On the way back to the hostel we decided to stop for ice cream and both went for three scoops over my usual two. It was nearly closing time and guy serving delighted in giving us the biggest ice-cream he could fit on to a cone. There were about as big as our heads, it was ridiculous but we stood up to the challenge and ate the lot!

The following day Louise continued her journey and I had a date with Potrerillos, as suggested by Camila. I arrived at the bus station, brought my ticket. Killed an hour waiting in the wrong place and nearly missed the bus. I was happy to see lots of other tourists on the bus and thought they were all going where I was about to. I was very wrong. Now normally if you are a little unsure what to do the best thing is to follow everyone else. Mum will testify to that won’t you? Anyways I got off the bus 10km early and found myself in the wrong place. I found out later it was a town with hot springs I didn’t know about but unless I was planning on going in naked then it wouldn’t have been any us and I don’t like putting people through that. I very quickly realised it was wrong and I ran back to the bus which had already left. The next bust was another 2 1/2 hours away and I grumpily explores the town, but not enough as again later I found out there were some short hikes I could have tried to kill the time. Instead I decided to hike up the road, getting many strange looks from cars until I hit a point of no return.

You can see in one of the photos below the steep climb and I decided it wasn’t safe to hike that so walked back to town, brought a coke and banged out the Uruguay blog post.

The bus did in fact arrive on time. I got on and somehow explained to The the bus driver my little issue and on I went. The driver then stopped at a place that didn’t look like a bus stop and told me we had arrived. I got out and was in a very small town with no other tourists, or in fact, anything all being open. I headed down to the lake which was beautiful but annoyingly the mountainsides in cloud cover. However as you can see below the colours of the trees made up for this spectacularly.

I wondered around the lake for a few I’m until I realised that there were no other human sounds. I was completely alone, not even any scary dogs. And as this was not a trail that many people seemed to walk at this time of year I was a little concerned. I continued for a while but then for safety’s sake I headed bank into town.

I arrived in the centre of town and found a path on the map that I could do but after yesterday’s adventures I decided that the map might be wrong so decided to explore it form the end. This wouldn’t give me enough time to walk the whole thing but at least I would make the bus. Luckily I couldn’t access the path from the side I tried which means I would have been stuck on the other side and missed the bus back. See kids I am learning! Instead I walked around and read my book.

I asked a man about the bus stop and it turns out he lived in Florida for years so we had a nice conservation. The bus came, I got on and the sun started clearing the cloud. I snapped these in the way back.

It was now time for my final dinner in Argentina and I had 200 pesos to spend. I headed back to the local place from the night before and ordered Lomo but I played around wit the ingredients and had chicken instead of beef. It was massive and delicious and I didn’t need that much food. I went back to the hostel to have an early night as I left for Santigo early the next morning.

Capoeira on my last night in Buenos Aires

Juli invited me to meet up on my last night in Buenos Aires and asked me if I wanted to join her Capoeira class. There was no chance that I was going to say no.

I had a fairly uneventful morning as I was just killing time before the bus and ferry back to Buenos Aires. Camila who worked at the hostel began talking to me and I discovered she was from Mendoza, which was where I was headed next. Sadly I had to leave quite soon after but I had been given some more local tips.

The journey back was long and fairly uneventful. I realised at one point that I am perfectly fine not understanding the announcements now. To be honest it’s not much different to being in England where I often miss most of what is said due to daydreaming but at least here I have an excuse but it’s amazing how much to can get by on by watching and following everyone else. I don’t ask unless it’s absolutely necessary.

After docking I got a bus to my new hostel, I was happy that I was completely comfortable with public transport in Buenos Aires now. I still didn’t really know where I was going but I have Google Maps on my side! After checking in and a quick water stop I got on the bus to the gym. I realised it was a long trip as it was reasonable far out of town-Buenos Aires is big but then again so is London and you can’t get far in an hour on a bus in London.

I arrived in a residential area and found the gym in the exact location I was told. I went in and tried to walk up a dark set of stairs until a man stopped me and pointed me in the right direction. I found the class and met Juli who in a large hall and was quickly introduced to her class mates and teacher.

I stood with them and was handed some sticks which I took without really realising what I was doing and tried to copy the basic dance moves. Now, when drinking, I can copy moves to some extent but I lack general timing and the ability to translate the moves of someone standing opposite me. So if the teacher moved his left leg I would move my right. Just before it became complicated Juli said that if I wanted to sit and take photos I could-i was grateful to be saved and just before it became complicated.

I brought my camera along because I thought it would be good to capture the dancing and also because people have been commenting about my photos. I’m actually enjoying the photography but I do wonder if it’s just the outstanding natural breath of the locations that is making it easy. I really wanted to opportunity to shoot people and I’d been thinking about asking people to see if I can shoot some portraits but I’ve not done that yet-however this seemed like the perfect opportunity to test my skills.

Agustina and some others arrived late and I was impressed to see how they could just jump in, watch the moves and start dancing.

I mentioned this on Instagram but what I really like about Capoeira is that it is a dance on equal terms. Watching strictly and other dancing there are always differences between how the men and women dance. In Tango for example the men lead but here in this class it was completely equal and there were just individuals who were extremely talented, but all had their separate skills in different areas and it didn’t matter if men and women danced together or men and men or women and women. It was a breath of fresh air for me especially in today’s climate where it finally feels that the playing field is starting to level in a way it never has before. As an aside I’m reading Catilin Moran at the moment as suggested by my friend Alexa. The dance may be this way as I suspect it was traditionally danced by only men, but then again I’m also told so was Tango, but here in this class at this time it was equal and for me that was a great thing to see.

The dancing became more complicated and they started doing flips and cartwheels-I was really glad that I was only talking photos now.

At the end of the class everyone got in a tight circle and took turns to play percussion whilst there was a dance off in the middle. Think the RUN DMC video but with less bass. I was beckoned over an managed to take some close up photos as well as watch. There were a lot of flips and handstands and I hope the photos capture it. In hindsight the photos make it look as if this is fighting. There is no physical contact and although the moves have a background in fighting arts they are more dance and graceful and everyone is smiling. So don’t think it is aggressive in the slightest.

At the end I took a group photo.

Juli’s partner Alan arrived and we all went to dinner. I got to experience Buenos Aires traffic as a car passenger which was fun and we went to a restaurant which served local food. I was really excited as people here do not just live on a diet of meat, burgers, empanadas and pizza. I had a stew made from chorizo, lentils and more importantly VEGETABLES! Agustina even had roast potatoes which I was immensely jealous.

The next day I met with Amparo and Rita from Adula Lena. We went to a vegetarian restaurant and I ordered a plate of vegetables! It was really nice to see them and we caught up about my time in Buenos Aireos and went to a really trendy coffee shop. I really like this city and I was sad to be leaving, but I need to keep moving and learn Spanish. I feel that I am having a breakthrough starting to understand and be understood even tho I speak with the Argentinian accent which will confuse the rest of the Spanish speaking world…

So I headed back to the hostel and to airport to fly to Mendoza.

Iguazú Falls (Iguaçu)

It was the same price to fly to Iguazú as it was the same price as the 17hours bus ride and for a no brainer. After booking I found out that the airport on the Argentinian side of the falls was closed and my flight redirected to the Brazilian side. This left me in the ridiculous situation of flying to Brazil to see the Brazilian side of the falls, only to take a day trip to Argentina the next day. I then returned to Brazil where I flew back to Argentina and the plan was to head to Uruguay the day after. I’m hoping immigration will not question this and it means I get many more stamps in my passport.

I had an early start and the night before did not help with that. I had planned to take the bus to the airport but after the 5th one drove past too full for me and my bags I took a taxi. It was my first experience of Buenos Aires rush hour and unlike London it didn’t seem to end after 9am. The flight was uneventful, Brazil let me in and I took a bus to Foz do Iguaçu.

I very quickly realised that the Portuguese would mess with my Spanish and the little Spanish I knew was no help to me here so I decided to just speak in English as any decent tourist would. I also took a quick trip to the supermarket and was happy to find my deodorant, thank you globalisation, cheaper prices and a security guard with a shotgun – watch out shoplifters.

The Brazilian Side

It’s recommended that you start with the Brazilian side of the falls as most of the waterfalls are on the Argentinian side. It means you get a more panoramic view of the falls and a better idea of how it all looks. I had been told by people it wasn’t great but i wanted to do both sides.

You can catch a bus from the main bus station, it’s the same one that takes you to the airport and it leaves every 30mins and takes about 40mins to get to the park. I paid 63 real to enter and took the bus to the place where everyone else got off. If in doubt when travelling, follow everyone else! At least that way you are not left alone!

Once off the bus I put my bag down and was mobbed by a Coatis who tried to steal my lunch. He failed and I managed to grab some pics. The last three are form the Argentinian side.

There is one path to follow which everyone else walks along but you do get great views of the falls in the distance. It’s hard for me to explain in detail now but the falls are over 3km with half the river falling off the Devil’s Throat and the rest spread across hundreds of other waterfalls. This is the biggest set of waterfalls in the world and it makes Naigara Falls, which I’ve also visited, look like a hosepipe.

Along the path there were also a tonne of butterflies. When I sat down for lunch they all decided to join me, maybe I was tasty and like me for the duration. I didn’t see the same happening to everyone else so I am definitely special. But I managed to get some shots of their colours.

There are boat rides you can take that get you close to the falls. I spotted one and decided to take one the next day.

There were lots of condors circling as I’m sure dinner was close.

As you walk along the path you start to see the Devil’s Throat and then there are viewing platforms at various stages where you can get good views. It’s nothing short of spectacular.

And then the rainbows. I’m afraid to say I’ve now seen the end of too many rainbows and there is no gold.

Of course I took the usual condor pics as one flew overhead.

I also said I would be honest in this blog. I’m sure by normal standards the day was not busy but especially at lunch time when the tours were there you had to fight for space with the selfie takers. Also here are all the platforms you walk along. Without them it would be difficult to see anything so I am glad they are there and it didn’t make it less special. I stayed around and after 3pm practically had the place to myself.

There was really good WIFI on this side so I took advantage and sat by the river just enjoying the scenery. This is what it looks like from the top.

And of course the photos of me!

Argentinian side

I was told by the hostel that it would take two hours to get to the Argentine side via public transport. To me that’s a short journey so I took it rather than paying the ridiculous transport fee. A bus showed up at the bus station and drove to the border. It didn’t stop at the Brazilian side on the way our or the way back. No idea why, but I did get another Argentinian exit stamp. I made friends with some Americans/Brazilians in the bus and just after the border it stopped for us to catch the bus to the National Park. We were approached by a man with a car who offered a better price than the bus so we jumped in. It took less than an hour to get to the falls so don’t get a transport. I decided that I would splash out for a boat trip but we will come to that later. First I thought I’d show you a selection of the animals I photographed. Don’t ask any questions as I’m not informed enough to know anything about them. Just think ahhhhh pretty.

I had been told that it was a good experience to get a boat trip to get up close to the waterfalls and I had little idea of what I was letting myself in for. It’s around £40 and takes around 2hours so just bare that in mind if you want to see all the waterfalls as some can only be accessed by train.

I waked to the meeting point and then boarded the tuck that drove the 5km to the docks.

I boarded the boat and sat next to a lovely American lady of Paraguayan decent who was on holiday with her family. The boat took off at some speed down the river and we soon approached the waterfalls and saw lots of wet people in other boats.

We passed through rapids and were taken to places where it was possible to get good shots of the waterfalls.

although it was hard to take pics when you have to fight for space.

The crew then instructed us to put our cameras away and i became a little concerned when they appeared in full waterproofs. Two minutes later they dove us under the waterfalls you see in the pictures. There was so much water and spray I counted the really see anything. But I was thankful for the waterproof bags provided. If that wasn’t enough this time they hit the rapids at the bottom of the waterfall so the waves went over the boat. When that was finished they took us to the other set of waterfalls and released the process. This was even more powerful and I ended up laughing so hard and holding hands with the lady next to me. After another set of rapids we started heading back. I thought it was all over so put on my sunglasses and they hit another wave which I got the brunt of and it knocked my glasses clean off my face. It took me a second to realise what had happened and people looked around for them. Everyone else still had their glasses and I began to come to terms with losing them as we headed back to the dock. When we got up I realised that they were lodged in the life jacket of my new friend and I counted my luck yet again. The boat ride was a lot of fun but other then a thill ride I don’t think you get a better view of the waterfalls so possibly not worth it if you are sitting on the fence.

When we returned I decided to take the upper waterfall path and here are a selection of pictures from the experience

As you can see there were a lot of rainbows and just to prove there is no gold I was able to walk through one.

The river is so wide, unimaginably so, that you have to walk along kilometres of walkways to see the waterfalls. It’s slightly disconcerting as you can see through and if they broke and you ended up in the river you would be over a water fall pretty quickly. Anyways thank goodness for great engineering. I’d like to know how they were built.

And of course here are a few of my more arty shots.

So now I’d seen everything but the big one. It was time to take the train to the Devil’s Throat. This is the set of waterfalls where half the river falls off so just think big. The photos don’t do it justice and there is so much spray and mist it’s hard to get photos, as the camera became soaked. But again there are more rainbows and a lot of water.

and after that I decided to head back. Two busses took me over the border, again in around an hour, I received an exit stamp from Argentine but again nothing from the Brazilian side. The next days I flew back to Buenos Aires for the second to last time ready to head to Uruguay for six days.

Mar del Plata

The next stop was Mar del Plata, around 5 hours and 400km south of Buenos Aires. I met Camila in Bariloche on the Refugio Frey hike and then kept running into her on busses. As the city is so close to Buenos Aires (in Argentinian terms) and its famous as a summer beach retreat from Buenos Aires. I decided to go and see the beaches, although off season.

The last day in Buenos Aires it was storming and humid. As I went to the bus station I didn’t know whether to wear a coat of TShirt and shorts. On the bus I had the top front seat which was great as it gave me a panoramic view and it actually felt really good to be on the move again and to see more of the north. I managed to snap this as I arrived at Mar del Plata, sadly one of the lights wasn’t working but it’s a nice welcome.

A short taxi ride later and with the help of some Argentinians and WIFI from a bar I made it to Camilas house. She shares it with her sister Sofia, two cats Leo & Eva a dog Vata (pics in order below) and two friends. I got to meet everyone right away and they were really welcoming, speaking as much English as they knew. Camila was the only person who could speak English fluently having learnt at school and being self taught using movies and TV. I even was graced with Eva sitting on my lap which is not something she affords everyone.

The next day Camila have me a tour of the city. It’s big by British standards with over a million people living there. Although it has a very neighbourly feel, with the residential streets quiet and homely. The centre was more bustling and as the weather was great the many sandy beaches were busy.

We walked along the sea front to the Mar Mueso for art. They have three giant spaces to display art and outside is a sea lion which is the symbol of the city.

The first exhibit was a series of colourful portraits. Camila did translate but my memory is hazy and I think it was portraits of local people practicing their hobbies. As I am colour blind I like anything with vivid colours so I really liked this display. Camila even recognised one of the people on the photos.

The next exhibit reminded me of the soldiers in China (when I have time I’ll add some citations here) as it was a room full of fiberglass girls standing on chairs. It was supposed to represent being tranquil but I felt it had a creepy nature that I liked.

The final room was by the same artist and had lots of interesting pieces entered around the same theme.

We had lunch and decided to take a siesta. Camila works long hours in the week, going to university in the morning to study psychology and then working late into the evening at her job. It kinda put me to shame with my last job rocking up at 10am and leaving at 6pm and I always moaned I was tired all the time. Looking at how hard people work here has actually inspired me so let’s see how much I still sit about when I get back!

On the way back to the siesta we visited the cathedral.

It was then time to hit the beach and on the way we went though the main plaza where there was a guy singing.

Camila took me to a beach that was a bus ride out of town. It was really quiet with not many people and I got to see a beautiful sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. It’s one of the best beaches I’ve ever seen with so much sand and the colours were stunning. There were birds feeding and the water and sky changed colours as the sun set.

Camilla did a photo shoot with me which resulted in lots of awkward photos as I can’t pose. But I kept them all anyways. Yes there are actually 8 photos of me coming up. I hope it doesn’t hurt anyone’s eyes too much.

Afterwards we headed back to the house and I had my first Argentinian sushi which was delicious.

Sofia was heading to a Tango night so we joined her. Sadly this time I didn’t get the oportuno tu to dance but I’m glad as those who were dancing had a lot of skill. It was really interesting to see how it works as people of all ages were there dancing together. They play four songs and then have a short break in which time you switch partners or have a rest as it’s tiring. What is nice is that people go there to dance, they make friends and have a great time. It’s not about getting drunk or anything else. The place is open until 4am and I didn’t really see anyone drinking. I didn’t take any photos as it didn’t seem appropriate it was an experience I enjoyed.

The next day brought lots of rain and grey skies so I had a relaxing morning before catching the bus back to Buenos Aires. I had a really great time and was sad to be leaving but I had a plane to catch the next day. Also I think one full day of speaking English was tiring enough for Camila as it’s hard speaking another language. She did mention she was thinking in English by the end of the day so I hope I helped her learn a few words. I’ve added a few words to my limited Spanish diction. Claro and Yo También which has increased my determination to learn!

Back in Buenos Aires I had decided to switch hostels and went for dinner at El Banco Rojo and had a shrimp BBQ pitta, which was so good I’ve vowed to eat every meal I can there.

After I met up with Bonnie and Michael from the previous hostel as they were both in town and we went for cocktails. I had an amazing Pisco Sour and accidentally stayed out until 2am which made the journey to the airport in the morning harder than it should have been. Next Brazil and Iguazú!

Buenos Aires

I was so excited about reaching Buenos Aires. Not simply because I had an an Air B&B booked for some quality alone time but also because the second stage of my journey, the first challenging stage, has been completed. I’d done everything I’d set out to do and more. I’d even been to Argentinian Wales and had Welsh cake.

I stepped out of the plane at 8pm into 30 degree heat. I was on a high and quickly realised all of my cold weather gear was going to be no use to me. I chatted broken Spanish with the taxi driver, was greeted at the flat by the host and by 9:30 I was sat watching Netflix eating a gigantic pizza and snacks.

For me this time was largely about research and sorting myself out although with my procrastination skills I didn’t do either. I set out to explore the city for the first real time at 5pm the next day, having shaved I needed a hair cut and wanted to find some fruit and veg. I ended up in the Argentinian equivalent of Whole Foods, not the best shout and had my hair cut at The Barber Job… I’m sure iits not the cheapest place but at $350 it’s still cheaper than where I go in London and it’s worth it for the experience. There is a bar, a piano and the whole place is based on barber shop quartets. It’s probably the best haircut I’ve had in a long time so was good.

I walked back in the dark and started to feel a little lonely on the second night. I mention this as I found Bueno Aires hard to begin with. It was only after I decided to book my ticket to Mendoza to leave (I am visiting a few places and had thought I would use BA as a hub but I won’t be now) that my London clicked in, meaning I remember how to be rude to everyone, and I started to enjoy the city. For a while With no obvious mountains to climb I was a little out of place, lonely and confused at what to do. But it all worked out and now I love it just as I am leaving!

The next day I met up with Melodie, Romain and Amparo who I met at Adela Luna. They made me lunch and we had a fun afternoon together. I even got to meet Amparo’s dog. I don’t have any photos as I kept being told Buenos Aires was a dangerous city and I was likely to get mugged. I was really wary of that to begin with and that might have affected my mood but after time I felt it was safer than London.

The next day I switched to a hostel. The first thing I did was lock myself in the toilet. Bonnie, came snd rescued me and i was happy to see about 5 people behind her. Still a good way to make an impression.

I realised that I needed to buy new clothes. I think that my trainers had been contributing to my feet problems so I set out to buy a new pair after I arrived at the hostel. There is a Street right in the centre of town called Florida (most streets here are named after countries and cities) which is paved and has many many shops. I ventured out and was shocked to see the prices were more expensive than back home. Also there seems to be a fashion for holes in jeans here which I hate. Even Zara was expensive so I gave up but spend £50 on some trainers I needed and headed back to the hostel.

Tinder is actually a good resource for travellers, more than for dating, as it actually puts you in contact with local people who have good advice and you can practice speaking the language. One girl I’d been speaking too told me about an area with discount stores so I headed out to find them. I misjudged the discount but I had a new pair of jeans and a shirt, which I’ve decided to leave out of my budget for this section of the trip…

When I reached the hostel I met a girl called Shalini who invited me out with a group who were going to a tango class at La Catedral de Tango. I couldn’t say no so I tagged along. If you are here it’s really worth going as it’s set in an old church. It has rustic wooden floors, great lighting and looks like a movie set. We had a few drinks before the lesson started. Sadly no pictures exist of me dancing but I paired up with Trixie, a German girl, who helped me to relax by saying she participated in roller derby. Initially I was too stiff for it to work but by the end of the class we were gliding a little and to some extent had mastered the twirl. After the class we were treated to a couple of dances by some professionals.

The following day I had arranged to meet Rita, another friend from Adlea Luna, and she was kind enough to buy me lunch at a tasty vegetarian restaurant. She even told me my Spanish had improved.

Later that day I decided to do my first tourist thing and headed out on one of the free walks (do check the link as I’ve been on a couple) that started at 3pm to get myself acquainted with the city. I had now been in the city four days and hardly taken a photo. The tour started outside the parliament building and told us a lot about the buildings and more recent history. Annoyingly I forgot to bring my camera but I did have my phone but it was nice to start getting to know the city and it’s history.

We then saw Evita for the first time.

That night I went to the Buenos Aires Film festival, which has an amazing lineup of films. Some of the guys I had met at the hostel invited me to see a British Documentary about The Slits. It started at midnight, so we got back late and chatted at the hostel until abut 3am.

I was a little tired the next day and it took me a while to get moving. I had heard and seen pictures of colourful buildings and desperate to get my camera out I headed to Caminito in La Boca. It’s basically a big tourist trap but a fun one with lots of restaurants, market stalls and tango dancers. It’s definitely worth going there for a few hours and the buildings are colourful.

We stopped and had lunch in a BBQ place which was delicious. I particularly liked the bbq and the meat.

Whist we were there we met an Argentinian lady who recommended an art museum and told me where to get socks-I’d brought mostly hiking socks but again these were not needed. I was still tired so returned to the hostel to relax and buy socks.

It was a slow Saturday night to begin with until Michael, who was in my dorm, invited me to Palermo, basically the Shoredirch of Buenos Aires. We left around 11pm and the bars were fairly quiet. He was meeting some Argentinian friends who were watching Radiohead. I tried to score tickets but it’s Radiohead and it seemed everyone I spoke to was going. The bars were fairly quiet, this is Buenos Aires after all and most don’t close until 7am. We had to wait a while for the friends to arrive and Bar hopped a little getting the flavour of the neighbourhood! They arrived at 2am and we continued to Bar hop into the early hours. The bars are spread over a wide area so at times it does get quiet then you will turn a corner and there will be lots of people again. It’s fascinating to see a city this vibrant so late at night. Around 5am the bar we were in closed and we decided to call it a night.

I was even worse for wear the next day which was a real shame as I wanted to go to the San Telmo market. I missed breakfast but Bonnie who worked at the hostel got me cake and some coffee. I managed to leave the hostel at 2pm and had a very spaced out walk to the street which was transformed and closed to traffic. There are stalls selling everything you can think of, lots of pop up food stalls and tonnes and tonnes of people.

I managed to find my way into the proper market where there are even more delicious stalls. These are open all week so if you are staying close by it is worth coming back.

Once I made it to the main square I treated myself to an ice cream. It was great.

Having had cake for breakfast, ice cream for lunch I decided to go for the hat trick and have McDonald’s for dinner. In hindsight this was not a good idea, I won’t tell you why, but I now understand this is not recommended by doctors.

On the Friday night I’d been invited to the football by some Germans but I had to turn it down as I had the film festival ticket already. I was delighted to find out that Boca Juniors were playing away at Independencia as it’s the two top league teams playing. I had thought it would be a dead cert that other people would be going but for a variation of reasons no one else could make it. So I was left in the weird position of trying to go to a game by myself, not really knowing where it was and not having a ticket.

Lucas on reception helped me plan out the route and I got on the number 17 bus heading south not really knowing what I was doing. I kinda hoped that it would be sold out so it would be less scary but as more and more friendly looking fans got on the bus I wanted to see the game more and more. I got off at the stop everyone else wearing a football shirt did and followed the throngs through the busier and busier streets until we were kettled briefly by the riot police doing crowd control. I reached a point where it was obvious I needed a ticket and couldn’t pass so I asked a steward where I could by a ticket. The answer was a resounding no so I walked back the way I had came, slightly annoyed. I crossed a road that was full of people and coaches at the other end of the stadium and decided to take a look for some weird reason and found a queue and a ticket office. It was here that I met Hermanitos and his brother Andres, who invited me to sit with them.

I’m so glad they did as the stadium was a daunting experience with thousands of people everywhere. They found us a good spot to sit and even let me wear the team colours. The stadium was great and the supporters in Argentina are something else.

I was told it was a quiet night as some fans had been banned but it was full of atmosphere in my eyes. The best part was when the goal was scored and the celebrations with everyone hugging and crying. I even picked up a few swear words that I won’t repeat here. But I had a really great time, the home team won and I am now an Indepedencia fan. After the game they changed their route and took the bus with me to make sure I got back okay. They kept saying that I was really brave and it was only later I found out that I went to one of the most violent districts of the city. But it was fine.

I felt much better the next day, maybe due to not drinking and decided to start planning the next section of my journey. I headed to Recoleta (think Fulham/Chelsea) found a cafe and then had a little walk around the park where the film festival offices are located.

Afterwards I went on the Cementerio de la Recoleta which is now used only by the super rich and is the resting place for Evita. It’s really worth coming to visit here even if you don’t go on a tour and entry is free. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

And then Evitas final resting place.

In the evening I went to La Bomba de Tiempo with some new people I met at the hostel.

It’s a drumming band and is set outside with a stage. It’s mostly tourists and afterwards there is a street party which takes everyone into one of the worlds worst clubs. It was another late night but I managed to make it to the graffiti tour in Palermo the next day.

Before I started the tour I found a great little lunch time place and took their last hot food pot which had Asian shrimp, rice and vegetables inside. This is my favourite food and I’d missed it. Although I’m not sure how well it came out on camera.

The graffiti tour was also fun. I’ve been trying to learn how to take photos of things that are not mountains. I won’t retell the stories behind the art but long story short grafiti was brought to Buenos Aires by the rich kids and is now an excepted art form. Many residents and companies commission artists, if only as this is one way to stop the tagging but many of these could easily be in a museum.

One interesting thing that I did learn is that when an artist does their work they often leave their contact details including phone numbers in the hope of more commissions.

And we also saw some photo shoots going on. Apparently it’s a right of passage for 15 year old girls. I think similar to sweet 16 in the US.

Later that night I met up with Beth and Kate that I had met the previous night and was asked to leave their hostel after a cheese dinner. I didn’t realise there was a no guest policy. A group of us went to another hostel bar for karaoke. I told everyone I sing all the time and then a German guy said “If you sing karaoke then we sing Wonderful”. After our names were added to the list I was dared to do a slut drop as part of the performance. I had a cocktail to loosen up for the singing and completed my challenge, winning a free drink as part of the bet! There is a video that exists somewhere but sadly I do not have the evidence. Such a shame.

The next day feeling a little rough again, no idea why this kept happening as I felt great in the country, i took up Bonnies suggestion of going to sit in cafes and using their internet. I headed back to San Telmo and ended up having lunch in the market. I was able to get some better pictures as there were much less people there.

I had a BBQ hot dog for lunch and the sauce especially was delicious!

I then headed for an ice cream and back to the hostel. Wednesday night at the hostel as everyone knows is Asado night! Which is basically 7 courses of meat. Rhys the hostel manager and the staff cooked all the food which was delicious. I swear there were about 40 bottles of wine for about 20 people, so it was pretty much all you can drink as well as all you can eat. For 300 pesos probably the best deal in town. Here is a pic of the pork ribs.

I even got to try the veggie food which was actually much tastier, although that might be because it can be hard to get veg here. After the remaining wine was placed in the living room i went to bed at a respectable 2am, others were still going at breakfast.

The next day was my last full day in Buenos Aires so i decided to take advantage of it. After checking out the port and working out when I would go to Uruguay I went back to Palermo and had lunch in the tea place with the shrimp-I really love shrimp. I also stopped by to purchase a kinder egg flavoured ice lolly. It was good!

I then walked around some of the parks north of this area of town and took some photos of the streets to illustrate how wide they can be. It’s one thing I’ve not mentioned yet along with the traffic lights. The lights are fine, it’s just that a red light seems to be more of a suggestion than a rule. In rush hour there are people by the lights to stop the cars when the lights turn red

I then headed to went to visit the MALBA museum recommended by several people. It had some really interesting pieces and I decided to have a little play and take some arty pics myself in the museum.

That night I was meeting Alejandra, who is from Buenos Aires. She had been giving me tips all week and is learning English. We went to an Asian restaurant in Palermo and had a fun evening. She made me speak in Spanish at one point and it’s been a kick up the arse I’ve needed. I keep avoiding speaking saying the little I know but I realised I knew a little more than I thought and I just need to make sure I practice and keep learning.

On my final day I was heading to Mar del Plata in the evening so I headed back to the market in San Telmo to get myself a burger and some admin. The burger you can see was great and after I headed to the bus stop mostly brining my time in Buenos Aires to a close.

Ushuaia, Beagle Channel boat tour, Laguna Esmeralda and Parque National Tierra del Fuego

After completing the O Trek I opted to have a rest day in Puerto Natales, which worked out perfect as I needed to clean laundry and pretty much everything I’d taken to Torres del Paine. I was eventually able to relax and ran into Imi, Simon and Louie so joined them for dinner. I had a quiet night as the bus to Ushuaia was at 7am the following morning.

I had opted to skip the King Penguins that you can see from Punta Arenas, and in hindsight this was a good choice as I was tired to say the least. The bus journey was a long one and I had to make two connections. The first being dropped off on the side of the road, literally in the middle of nowhere, and the second when we reached Rio Grande. There was a ferry that took us across a hideously windy channel to the island of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire).

The border crossing gave me two more stamps and does take time and then I was back in Argentina. Those of us that were heading to Ushuaia jumped in a minibus at Rio Grande. The landscape had been flat stepp but started to change as we headed further south along with the Sunset and i had one of the most beautiful journeys I’ve seen.

Ushuaia is on the coast of the Beagle Channel nestled amounts a range of beautiful mountains and valleys of peat bogs. The mountains are small in comparison to their Anides cousins (around 1500 metres) but due to the location they are snow capped all year round.

Other than the cold I think this is my favourite place after El Chalten. There are many hikes in the area and museums but I only had three days and opted to do those listed in the title. Be warned it is not cheap, but then what is the point of coming all this way to the end of the world and sitting in a hostel?

I stayed at the Antartica hostel and within 10 minutes of arriving I met Aline, who was going to Torres del Paine. I mentioned I was thinking about selling my tent and 24 hours later she took my tent and lots of my camping gear-I hope it is a good to her as it was to me. I was a little sad to see it go but felt there was little point in carrying it around when I don’t think I will use it much and let’s be honest I’ve not really used it a tonne in Patagonia. My bag does feel weirdly light but I have plans to rectify that!

I went out for drinks that night with Tyson and Zita who were in my dorm and stayed up until 12:30 which is the latest I’ve been up for a while!

Patagonia Adventure Explorer – Beagle Channel Boat tour

My foot was still hurting from the O Trek so I decided to have an easy day and take the boat tour. It was raining in the morning and the receptionist assured me that the afternoon would be better so I opted for a 3:30pm sailing.

Patagonia Adventure Explorer was the tour recommended by the hostel and i brought the ticket through them so no doubt they get commission. That said I checked it out and it had 5* reviews everywhere and I didn’t have the time/energy to research much. The tour does not include a visit to the penguins island but others do so if that’s what you want then go to the docks and check the other tours. I had already had my fill of penguins and to be honest I was still a little upset to have missed the King Penguins so the less i saw of them the better. The tour was really great and it’s one of my favourite things I’ve done in Patagonia.

I arrived at the offices at 3pm, paid the fee, was handed a lanyard to put around my neck, then paid the 20peso dock fee and waited in the tourist information as instructed. There I ran into Janine and Po, who I had met in Puerto Natales before the trek but had forgotten. The guide arrived and we headed to the boat just as the clouds started clearing. I loved the Beagle Channel so much as it’s surrounded by mountains and these are the views.

The first stop was an island with sea lions and birds. It took me a while to spot the sea lions and as there were only around 15 people on my small boat we could get really close, and I’m taking touching distance. There were a lot of birds throughout the tour which I love as it meant I can get my classic birds in Flights pics. Brace yourselves!

We then visited another island full of sealife.

Before heading to the lighthouse which is the famous sight associated with Ushuaia. To be honest I wasn’t really listening as I was just taking in the views, it’s so beautiful here, but this isn’t the lighthouse it pretends to be or something along those lines. It does stop the big ships getting caught up in all the seaweed. Anyways I took photos so that’s what really counts.

Next we went to an island of birds.

And then we visited and island the natives used to live on. We had the opportunity to get out of the boat and it was so cold. I don’t know how they survived here as they didn’t wear clothes due to the constant contact with the water. They used seal fat instead. The Sunset from the island was beautiful so maybe that’s one reason they stayed here so successfully for so long?

Afterwards I went back to the hostel and I was given dinner by my new friends-they gave me the leftovers too as they were leaving the next day which I took as it was delicious, I really need to learn how to cook properly in hostels and we sat around drinking. Before heading out and meeting with the others from the boat tour. It was a fun night.

Laguna Esmeralda

I was a little slow in getting up the next day, no idea why, but was told the bus for Laguna Esmeralda was at 10am. I rushed to the bus station, which is near the docs in a car park next to the petrol station, and as I was the only one who wanted to go I had to wait for others to join. By 11am a French couple had arrived and the three of us left the sunshine behind and drive into the mountains. As we arrived it began to snow and we were told the return bus would be at 4pm, so only 5 1/2 hours to be in the cold. Still snow is better than rain in my book. As we got off the bus this chap came to say hello.

It was cold so I quickly put on my gear and started hiking along the forrest path. It was muddy but luckily due to the temperature a lot was frozen. So I hiked through frozen crunchy mud. The forrest opened up into a clearing with a river and it was possible to see a beber dam. Apparently these creatures escaped from a farm and now play havoc with the local wildlife.

Then the path returns to the forrest and heads steadily uphill. When you next leave the trees you will find yourself having to traverse a prat big. I was told that the mud could go up to your knees but there was nothing that my boots couldn’t handle. I could see how it would get bad in the rain. If you do trek this path the on the way back make sure you don’t miss the route back into the woods as some people do. Look for the posts. Halfway through the big a stream appears by the pathway.

After the big and up one more climb you are rewarded with this.

The walk back is much the same and I had a 45minute wait for the bus. Later that night I decided to treat myself to lamb so I visited Bodgeon Fueguino and had lamb in an orange sauce. Expansive, but delicious.

Parque National Tierra del Fuego

The next day I decided to head to the National Park to visit the Post Office at the end of the world. I was hoping that it was still open, it wasn’t, I also wanted to try my luck on the Cerró Guanaco trek but this was also not possible. I heard there was a bus at 8am so headed to the bus stop and it was deserted. Instead I was the sole occupant is the 9am bus and decided to try trek 2. I didn’t see another person for the next 8km and was happy to have the path to myself.

By the end I realised I was really tired and trekking the O the previous week had beaten me. I wanted to try the trek to the Chilean border but I didn’t have the energy so instead I walked to the lookout point. When I arrived I realised that I had reached one end of the Pan American Highway.

This made me particularly happy as it was looking at that road that started me off on this trip and I realised I really had gone as far south as it was realistically possible. There was no more road to travel on. I waited here for the bus knowing that for now my Patagonia adventure was complete. I’m sure that one day I’ll be back as I’ve left a little of my heart here but I’m safe in the knowledge that I did everything I set out to do. I’d travelled to the most southern city in the world. It was now time to head north.

El Calefate

After seven days in El Chaltén it was time to move on again. This was the longest I’d spent in one place since I’d left Aldea Luna on February 16. The next stop was El Calafate famous for being the stop over for the Puerto Moreno Glacier. El Calefate is primarily a tourist town, and therefore expensive. I noticed when I reached El Chaltén that there were more tourists and this was no exception. That aside the town is really pretty in the hostel I stayed in had beautiful views.

Most the people I’d met stayed in the American del Sur hostel, which was new, clean and had a great, although expensive, BBQ restaurant attached. I took advantage of the steak deal so I could clean out the salad bar-it’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. I was brought three steaks and saved one for the following day.

I booked an afternoon bus ticket to the glacier and rested up in the morning planning my next steps.

The bus takes around 90mins to teach the glacier. The bus travels around the Largo and then across the flat steps with mountains in the background, where you get an idea of how vast this region is.

When you get to the National Park the rangers come on the bus and you pay the entrance fee.

The road then twists and turns along the shore of the glacial melt water and you start getting your first glimpses of the glacier.

When the bus drops you off you get around 4-5 hours to explore. I headed down to the lake to get some shots of icebergs from the glacier.

The glacier stands at 70metres high and 5k wide, stretching across the mountain range. You can hear the ice breaking and hitting the water from a distance. It’s a really loud and exhilarating experience. I wasn’t able to photograph the entire glacier to give any sense of scale. But this is the biggest glacier I’ve seen so far, it’s almost unreal in how large it is. I’ve also heard people talk about the glacial blue and I found it in the cracks of the at the front (see the top pic).

You view the whole glacier from impressive walkways which stretch for kilometres giving unprecedented views.

It started to rain so I headed for cover and caught the 7pm bus. I arrived at the hostel for 9pm. Time for dinner, packing and getting ready for my 8am bus to Puerto Natales the following day. The O trek was getting closer!

El Chaitén – Fitz Roy, Cerró Torre and Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

If you are a fan of mountains and colours then i hope you will enjoy this post. There are many photos…

Since watching the movie Alive I’ve been fascinated by the Anides. Not that I want to crash and eat my friends, but the vastness of them. I remember where they finally manage to ascend to the summit only to see more mountains stretching out into the horizon in every direction. I’ve finally been able to experience some of that for myself.

The bus from Los Antiguas arrived on El Chaltén at 6am. I’ve never slept well on coaches and it wasn’t helped when we hit the gravel road. I didn’t have a hostel booking so luckily we stopped outside of a 24 hour restaurant attached to a hostel and went inside out of the freezing rain. The place I’d been told about was closed. At 9am we went searching for another hostel and found Hostel Del Largo. The rooms were due to be ready at 2pm. So I endured one of the longest waits of my life on the wettest day of my life. At 2:15 I asked if we could get into the rooms and I was told they had been ready for ages. I nearly hit the man. But a sleep and another great steak and I was ready for some hiking.

Roberto and Ricardo had decided to take on the Heumel Circuit, a challenging 4 day hike which I had mentioned to them the day before. They suggested that I do a three day hike covering part of what they had intended to cover, Cerré Torró and Fitz Roy.

Cerró Torre – Day 1

I packed my bag for hiking, hired some hiking poles to practice ahead of the O Circuit, told Alexa where I was going in case I died and found myself at the beginning of a very busy trail. From my understanding it was largely flat, which it was, but it didn’t stop the inlines at the beginning hitting me hard as an inexperienced backpacker. The day was sunny but there was still a lot of cloud cover over the mountains but this dissipated as the day went on.

It was 8km to the campsite, just at the bottom if Laguna Torre. I arrived at by 12:30, so it took me 3 hours with a little rest and a sandwich stop, and promptly put up my tent which had stunning views.

I went to investigate the lake and when I first arrived Cerró Torre was under cloud cover.

I decided to trek up to the viewing point around the side of the lake to get a better view of the glacier. This was much more uphill and I was aching and tired from carrying my back but determined to make it to the top as I scrambled and slid over rocks. When I got there I realised the Sky was clearing and was treated to a great view of the glacier.

I returned to the beach and a guided tour arrived so I seated myself close by to listen in and pretended to read my Kindle. I found out the water was drinkable, which was good as I hadn’t seen another water source close by, and he said the sun would clear the clouds. Which it did.

I left my Kindle on the beach returned to camp. Realised I’d left my Kindle. Ran back to the beach and frantically looked. A man had found it and asked me if it was what I was looking for and I returned to the camp. Had dinner, realised I’d forgotten my toothbrush and went to bed. Then the cold came. It was so cold I couldn’t sleep, or at least I kept waking as i managed to sleep through the sunrise until 8am when I awoke and ran to the lake again and snapped these.

Everyone was already up and at the beach but it was still freezing so I returned for a hazy breakfast and packed up. I got talking to a few of the other campers and Lindsay, Salma and Loren were all going the same way. We packed up and then the sky really cleared so I saw Cerró Torre in all it’s glory.

Fitz Roy – Day 2

The trek to Fitz Roy involved retracing our steps for several kilometres and then taking an a joining path which met with the Fitz Roy trail, that leads to El Chaiten. Again it was supposed to be largely flat with a short hill, it wasn’t a short hill, there was a long uphill march. After we had walked across the base of the mountain we were treated to some lakes and started to see sights of Fitz Roy.

I had thought it was going to be an easy day and having left much later than I would have liked I felt under pressure to get to the camp sight so I could get a closer look at Fitz Roy. I knew the weather was due to change the next day so you really have to take advantage of opportunities when you can. I pushed through and made it to the second campsite. Put up the tent and had a little rest.

Looking at the map the view point was only 1.7k away but the guide said it was an hours walk. What followed is one of the toughest hours of my life and I faced nearly a literal vertical climb up the mountain. Yes there were steps on the trail but they were covered with streams at times, slippery rocks and the worst, other rude hikers. We met an eagle on the way up.

When I reached the top the path turned to loose stones and gravel and I got to touch my first snow. The views were amazing and you could see for miles in all directions.

There is a lake at the top and a pathway that you can follow for a little way for a view of a blue lagoon.

The cold soon kicked in and we decided to head down to camp. I’m not sure this was any easier than going up and my knees were hurting by the end. I had dinner and retreated for another cold night. I skipped the sunrise trek back up as I didn’t want to damage my legs any further.

Return to El Chaltén – day 3

Instead of the sunrise walk Lindsay and I did a short 4km walk to see a hanging glacier.

On the way the wind picked up and started blowing really hard. We tracked back to camp and packed up with my tent nearly blowing away in the process. When walking back to town my backpack acted as a sail and I was blown about but soon we reached the other side of th foot hills and the wind died down. We saw the valley where El Chaltén sits on the way back.

I checked into my new hostel, retrieved my bags from the other. Showered, changed and treated myself to a delicious burger at B&B. Not sure the photos do it justice.

The next day I sorted out my gear and was largely a rest day but I couldn’t resist going on a short hike. This was the first time I’d been on the town on a clear day and you can see why people like it here.

I walked up to the Cóndor viewpoint to see the town from above and the lakes in the distance.

On the way back down this little guy ran right past me.

I agreed to go on a sunrise hike to Laguna Capri with Salma and Rich who i met in the hostel the previous night. We set off at 5am, to find out a little later this was an hour early. Standing around int he cold, it was supposed to be -4 we tried to keep warm whist being mesmerised by the starts and slowly watched the colours of the sky change. As the sun hit Fitz Roy we were rewarded as it turned a pinky red.

Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

I arrived back around 9am and decided to go on another trek but not before I spent 3 hours waiting for my apps to update after I accidentally hit update all-never so this if you don’t have decent WIFI.

I had always wondered what it was like to walk up a mountain, each time I passed one in a car or bus. Well on this trek I accidentally found out so I can tick that off my list. I knew this trek was hilly. Actually 8km literally uphill.

It was a lovely sunny day and I set off making good time. The path winds it’s way up meadows before turning into forrest. At the 4K mark the path split into two different destinations. I stopped to eat a sandwich. I continued and promptly left my camera and hat behind only realising when I tried to take a photo of a butterfly.

I raced back down the track and a man told me he had seen the camera where I left it, retreated the camera, but not the hat and continued up the path. When the forrest ends abruptly I walked up the very to top the mountain where it is mostly rock. There are a few streams that cross the landscape and the snow and ice appear. I went to put on my hat and found that I had also left this behind me on the path. Annoyed but determined I’d find it I continued only to realise I’d left my camera behind when I tried to take another picture of a butterfly. Luckily it was not too far behind me. I realised I was exhausted after the early start and was determined to reach the viewpoint, knowing the summit was out of ny reach. I was in quite a lot of pain but pushed on and was rewarded with this view while I ate the rest of my lunch.

As i sat some condors flew overheard. I love watching these birds. They normally fly in pairs at really high altitudes.

My ears were cold because of the lack of hat so I decided to make the return journey and on the way managed to photograph a butterfly and moth.

I ran into an American man and he told me my hat was on the sign where the pasta split. I rushed back and was reunited with my hat. I’m wondering when my luck is going to run out as I’d had the best of the weather in El Chaltén too-it was due to turn tomorrow. I had a very relaxing walk downhill and when I got back to my hostel realised I’d walked 28k and climbed 344 floors. I think this is a record for me and was an appropriate end to my El Chaltén trekking trip.

Chile Chico and Los Antiguos border crossing

My next big stop was El Chaltén to do some proper trekking. To get there I had to cross the border via Chile Chico which was more took longer than I hoped. For those of you attempting it I’ll explain below.

The day after the glacier trek was a complete washout, making me glad I took advantage of the weather for the marble caves when I could. The bus did not leave Puerto Rio Tranquilo until 4pm so I had the whole day to plan. Unfortunately the internet had other ideas and it didn’t work for anyone in the town that day.

I bundled on to the “bus” more of a stretch 4×4. Our bags were strapped to the roof rack and I met my buddies for the next few days. I immediately learnt that the border closes on the Chillan side at 8pm (it closes on the Argentinian side at 9:30 so don’t cross late or you’ll be stuck in no mans land-more below).

There was a 4 hour ride to Chile Chico on the most deserted and perilous roads I’ve seen so far. The Carretera Austral becomes much smaller, bumpier and less maintained the further south. We turned off to a smaller road that wound it’s way along the south of Lago Gral Carrera, mostly along steep cliff tops which are dangerously close to the edge. If it wasn’t such a grey misty day I’m sure the views would have been beautiful and terrifying. We came across a truck stuck in the road. I have no idea how the driver got this far but it was saved by a digger.

Arriving in Chile Chico we were dropped off outside the bus companies offices after the border had closed we managed to find a hostel and I got my second private room. I think the colours are better here.

I met Ricardo and Roberto, from Venezuela who lived in the US and we agreed to cross early. I realised I had left my water bottle on the bus but was reunited at the office due to my Spanish speaking friends and pure coincidence.

The Border Crossing

The crossing to Los Antiguos is not straightforward. The Argentinian side has levelled a heavy fee on busses crossing the border so there is no official public transport that takes you across. On the Chilean side there is an unofficial “mini bus”, so we jumped in the van and were driven the 3km to the border. At this point we had to exit, go through passport control, and then continue waking until the van met us again. We were then driven a further 3km into no mans land and he had to stop before he reached Argentina. It was then a further 3k walk to the Argentinian border, but with beautiful views.

We saw few cars and a few people walking but no one was picking up hitchers. We were stamped in at Argentina and then it was another 3k walk to the bus terminal which is handily the opposite side of town. Be warned that if you are taking this route you might have to walk 12k with all your bags. It’s unlikely as you should get picked up on the Chilean side, but this is unofficial.

If you are travelling in the opposite direction you will most likely have to walk from Los Antiguos to the border post, you might be able to grab a taxi, then you will have to walk the 6k through no mans land. You might be lucky and see the van at the 3km mark-look for the Chile/Argentina signs as in the photos above. The bus for Puerto Rio Tranquilo leaves in the morning. I’m afraid I don’t know the time but I think it’s before 10am.

At the bus station we were told the bus left at 8pm to arrive in El Chaltén for 6am so we had a day to kill. Leaving our bags at the offices we wondered around Los Antiguos which seemed deserted, windy and had a lot of cherry trees-but sadly no cherries.

We found a great empanada place and decided to stock up there for the journey ahead.

Arriving back at the bus station we met everyone who has been on the bus the previous day and pretty much had 4 seats each as we headed off to El Chaltén.

Currently Reading – Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency

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