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Category: Chile Page 1 of 2

San Pedro de Atacama

The bus left La Serena at 4pm and i watched the views on the journey until the sun set. I’m not a great sleeper on overnight busses and I avoid them as much as I can so watched Netflix into the night finishing La Casa del Papel. I awoke early and confused to see the sun rise across the desert.

The bus arrived in San Pedro and my hostel had been kind enough to offer me breakfast. It’s the best one I’ve had in four months with pancakes, fruit, eggs, bread and a whole buffet. I couldn’t check in until 12 so they let me use a shower and I headed into town for the free tour at 10am. This time there were just two English speakers on the tour but it was good to get an understanding of the town and it’s history. It’s now mostly a tourist town but people have lived here for thousands of years before being conquered by the Incas, the Spanish, the Chilean government amber and finally the tourists.

I returned to the hostel and spoke with a few people about hiring a car, which never really go off the ground. I spent the afternoon with Tamasin, who lives down the road from me in London, and was being as indecisive as I was. She had been here a week already and I wanted to do everything but couldn’t work out how. She showed me the amazing French bakery in town and suggested that we hire bikes the following day and see The Devils Gorge. By the end of the day a few others from the hostel had decided to join us and I was happy that one day at least was sorted.

That night we went to the cheapest and arguably best bar in town, it played rock music after all and drank too much ale. Luckily the bars all close at midnight so when I crawled into my top bunk it wasn’t too late!

The next day I had an easy day and started trying to plan my week before the set off on the bike ride in the afternoon. I then received a message from Melodie, from Adela Luna, as she and Romain were in town and they were hiring a car with their friends Lucy and Marine. That worked out really well for me and as I wanted to see everything I tagged along and let them set the agenda.

At midday we went to one of the bike hire places in town, there are many, and hired some really state of the art bikes. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a new bike so for me they were pretty special. I was given a luminous yellow helmet and a yellow jacket and I think I looked amazing.

Quebrada del Diablo (Devil’s Throat Gorge)

Five of us cycled north through the town towards the gorge. It’s not a long ride and you can easily do this yourself in an afternoon. Everything is marked on Maps.Me so you don’t need a tour. I later met another guy who cycled both the Valle de Marte and this valley in one day so if you are a proficient cyclist. Again all the routes are on Maps.Me.

There are a couple of streams to cross , the first had a decent bridge and the second has more stepping stones. We didn’t see them to begin with so I just trundled thought the stream with the bike. Not me in the picture.

The road to the valey is fairly easy but there are a few sandy parts. When you arrive you must pay a 2000 peso entry fee but that buys you a map and a quick explanation as to what you can see. Ignore the times they give you as we cycled slowly and still beat all of the times by a long long way.

Tamsain and her Brazilian friend wanted to see the tunnel as had done this cycle before so we split up at the cross roads and I headed to the gorge with the rest of the party-I’m so bad but I can’t remember their names! Upon reaching the gorge we saw there were lots of people cycling all dressed in red and found out it was some kind of Coca-Cola event which they were filming so I might end up in a Latin American advert one day.

As we cycled through the gorge i felt like i was on an Indiana Jones set.

We soon reached the end of the gorge and ended up having a really interesting conservation about our disposable society and how it’s harming the environment. We all agreed that it was a randomly heavy conservation to have in such a beautiful place. I think the Coca-Cola riders induced this.

We headed back down the gorge as there were some other things in the valley we wanted to see. This time it was much easier as I hadn’t noticed that riding here we were on a steady incline the entire time so now it was all down hill.

When we reached the end of the gorge the American girl had to head back to catch her flight so me and the British girl from Bristol (I’m so embarrassingly bad with names) headed to the next stop an Archeological site. I’m not sure what is was called or what was there but it did offer some beautiful views of the valley. It was a bit of a steep climb to get there but worth it.

I was struggling to take photos so I took off my helmet and in comedy fashion as I put it down on the slope it started to roll down the very steep hill. Both myself and my new friend failed to stop it and everyone found it very funny. I was writing it off when someone suggested it would be easy for me to retrieve it. I want so sure but didn’t want to pay a fine or leave it in the desert so I climbed down some steep slopes. Followed a dry steam bed and retrieved it!

We were told it was only another 1.8k to the little church, that you might be able to see in the back of some of the above photos, so we decided to go as it’s really quick on a bike. There was a really pretty tiny white church in the middle of nowhere which seems typical for this region but sadly as it was closed we were unable to go inside.

As we cycled back and again realised we were cycling downhill that explained why I felt so tired on the way to the church. We reached the turnoff to the tunnel, which forms part of the old road that went to Calama but has not been used since the 50s. We decided to give it a go and started cycling up the hill before realising it was too steep and pushing the bikes up the hill.

The sin was setting and we wanted to get back before it was dark but the scenery was beautiful so we kept pushing on around each corner until we saw the tunnel.

Afterwards it only seemed polite to cycle through. I underestimated how dark it would be especially as I was still wearing my sunglasses. But we made it to the other side and found that we were in the Valle de Marte.

Afterwards we could enjoy the long ride down the steal hill and made it back before the sunset where we saw the moon in all its glory.

I didn’t realise how hot it was that afternoon and how much the sun had taken out of me so I had to lie down with a headache and i had an early night ready for the next day as I was meeting the guys to pick up the car at 8:30.

Valle del Arco铆ris

Our first stop in the car was Valle del Arco铆ris a valley made up of different colour rocks. It’s actually a good thing to do on your second day as at an elevation of 3000 metres it allows you to become acclimatised to the altitude. It’s about an hour drive from San Pedro and when we got out the car I could feel the extra chill in the air and the altitude when walking. On the way we made friends with some llamas.

And the drive through the valleys to get there is also very pretty.

Once we arrived we were in a really dry valley full of different colour rocks jutting our at different angles. There is a dry river bed running along the valley and we went for a short walk.

On the way out of the valley we saw some more llamas in the road.

Afterwards we went to Yerbas Buenas which is a place where there are ancient paintings on the rocks. It’s quite amazing to see how they have been preserved in the desert.

We headed back to San Pedro for a quick break and then to the lakes to visit the sunset. There are three lakes in the area to the south of the town. Laguna Cejar, Ojos de Salar and Laguna Tebinquinche. Laguna Cejar is one that you can swim in for the price of 15000 pesos. It’s really salty so you float but we had been told there were some other less healthy things in the water and opted to skip it.

Ojos de Salar

A little further along the same road are two small pools with beauty blue water and the volcano in the background. A dog was running around and at one moment I thought he would done what any dog does when it sees water and jump in. Luckily this guy had some sense as it wouldn’t be so easy for them to get out again!

Laguna Tebinquinche

Then it was on to the next Laguna to watch the sunset. This will set you back 3000 pesos but it’s worth it to watch the sunset as we did.

There was sadly only one flamingo and you have to stick to the pases so that the landscape is not destroyed by humans but there are some really good viewpoints.

And here are the views from the side of the lake as the sun goes down. The reflections in the water are something else.

Then we settled in to watch the sun set.

And took some pictures of me.

And Melodie and Romain.

And as it became dark we drove back to San Pedro just in time to see the moon rise over the Andes.

Geyser del Tatio

The next morning i had a wake up call of 4am. It was lay as I was so tired I went to bed around 9pm but it’s still an early and cold awakening. The geysers are up at around 4000 metres in altitude and at this time in the day it’s cold. At that altitude it’s always cold. So cold that all the cats windows froze on the 90minute dice there. The reason that it is good to go early is that during the sunrise the geysers are at their most active. There is some science that I am unaware of but all I can say is that it’s one of the coldest places I’ve visited in my entire life. But it was beautiful.

And then here is the gang and some pictures of me.

The others decided to check out the thermal springs but i was too cold and had a little sleep in the car. When I awoke all the other tours had left and we were treated to some wildlife who must have waited until the Valley was empty. It was great as we had the entire pace to ourselves and some four legged friends.

We then set a slow pace back to town stopping at some interesting places. Firstly some mountain shots.

Then we saw an ostrich.

And we passed by a river with lots of wildlife.

And a frozen stream

A small church

And more flamingos at a lake

Some goats

And then the view of the dessert valley from 4000 metres.

After some well deserved rest we headed to a viewpoint over the Valle de la Luna to drink some wine and watch the sun set.

And time for another photo shoot of me.

Laguna Chaxa

We had another 4am start to watch the sunrise over Laguna Chaxa. This is where the flamingos come to feed but they leave as the sun rises so we wanted to get there early. And early we did. Too early in fact as the reserve didn’t open until 7am. It was a simple 1 hour wait in the freezing cold car but it paid off as I got to see so many flamingos in all their glory.

Valle de la Luna

In the afternoon we returned to the Valle de la Luna to see if properly this time. Apparently it’s so like the moon that NASA uses it to test. Our firststop was a set of caves that gets so tight you have to crawl through the spaces. It was really fun and it definitely wouldn’t pass UK health and safety standards.

The next stop was some rocks that look like things. one is the Virgin Mary but I preferred the dinosaur rock.

We drove though the valley to a view point and took some more shots.

And then went to the spot to watch the sun set.

Even all the way up here here there were dogs.

On the Friday i decided to relax ahead of my Red Rocks tour the following day. It was another early start as we have many things to see. First in the agenda was Laguna Chaxa. As I had already seen this I didn’t take any more photos and this time there were very few flamingos so remember if you do go with a tour they arrive later than I did and there will not be so many birds.

Next up we drove to some red mountains situated at 4000 metres next to some salt lakes.

I’m going to have to cut this post short as it’s crashing with all the photos. But we saw some lakes.

And then took photos in the road before returning home. I had a rest day and then I was heading to Bolivia. There is so much more I’d like to write but I’ll have to update another time.

La Serena and Elqui Valley

Patty and I headed back to Santiago via San Antono, where we killed a couple of hours in the mall. I had decided I wanted to buy a laptop as I’m starting to think it would be a good idea to earn some cash whilst I’m here. I rejected that idea when I saw the price of laptops. Also finding shorts here is just as hard as finding them in London in the winter. It makes sense! The third thing on my list was a charger for my head lamp. It uses a weird plug and ideally I need one of these. If anyone has any ideas where I can get one in South America it would be super handy as despite searching in Santiago I still don’t have one to replace the broken wire. Anyways…

Camilo was nice enough to let me crash at his apartment again and greeted us with Completos. Apparently Chileans are mad for hotdogs, someone will correct me on this, and I had not tried any yet. With massive lashings of every sauce, tomatoes, onions, cheese and avocado (apparently they are called Italianos if you have them with avocado). It was delicious and I had more than everyone else.

The next day was a little slow and I wanted to get myself equipped in Santiago before I headed north, as in my head it was a barren wasteland with very few shops, you should have seen my face when I saw the size of the malls in La Serena. But this is jumping ahead. In Santiago I needed to get a haircut, supplies, shorts and the wire mentioned above. The haircut went smoothly, the shorts were a challenge but I found some and the wire was a failure.

So Camilo and I ate some Thai food for lunch and then accidentally brought too much frozen yoghurt. It was help yourself to everything and the tubs were sized big or bigger. I took big and filled it up not really thinking or realising that it’s charged by weight. So I ate half a kilo of ice cream to myself.

That evening the three of us headed out for some Indian food. I had been told there was a good restaurant and wanted to try. After we went for some goodbye drinks before getting up stupidly early in the morning for the bus to La Serena. Camilo and Patty came with to say goodbye which was really sweet and I didn’t know what to do as it’s the first time anyone has come to see me off since I had a last minute encounter with Sharon, my Aunty, at Gatwick. I was appropriately awkward and got on the bus to enjoy the scenery during the six hour trip to La Serena.

I arrived, ignored the people trying to get my attention outside the bus terminal and found the local bus to take me to my hostel just outside of town. It was a nice family run hostel and I booked myself on a tour of the Elqui Valley the next day. I also decided that I had been lacking veg in my diet so took a trip to the supermarket and cooked dinner.

When I arrived the weather in La Serena was cold and overcast. I’m starting to realise that when a place is overcast I seem to like it much less. But the Elqui Valley was the opposite. It’s one of the driest places and has the least amount of clouds anywhere on earth which is why it is home to many observatories, including NASA and the EU. They actually share the same hill. It’s also where most of Chile’s Pisco is grown.

So four of us jumped into the car with the hostel owner and headed into the valley where as predicted the weather was beautiful. Our first stop was Molle Town where we sampled traditional pastries. In the shop we visited the customers all write reviews and then staple them to the walls.

We then visited a dam and artificial lake which is used to stockpile water for the Pisco growers. I was desperate for a wee and I think I’ve found the toilet with the best view in Chile.

We walked along the dam a little and sampled the views.

Next on the agenda was Vicu帽a which is the biggest town in the region. We visited the museum of Gabriela Mistral, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. She鈥檚 a bit of a legend around these pets especially as she helped put education for girls on the map. So check her out on Wikipedia.

After we had a wonder around the town and visited the plaza and church which of course had some dogs chilling outside.

We then had lunch at a traditional Chilean restaurant and sampled a traditional dish of which I can’t remember the name, but it was delicious.

Next up was the big show and we visited the Aba Pisco distillery. Pisco is a big deal in Chile, where they disagree with Peru as to who invented the drink. You have probably heard of a Pisco Sour but you can drink Pisco with anything, coke, sprite etc. They basically treat it as vodka and it’s great. So we had a little tour.

And then we got to sample some of the Pisco. Sadly for me the shots were a little strong and it brought back memories of the day after my birthday so I didn’t try much but everyone assured me it was good.

We then drove to Montegrande which is where Gabriela was born.

Before driving to Pisco Elqui a town full of hippies.

Whist there I had more icecream. Note that mint and toffee don’t really mix.

And then we headed back to the hostel. On the journey I took a lot of photos from the car as I loved the colours of the sunset on the mountains and water.

The next day I was pretty grumpy as I had been told that there was no hiking in the Elqui Valley, this was completely wrong so if you do want to hike go there, and I was desperate to hike. I decided not to spend a night in the valley as I felt I had seen everything the day before. It also seemed that I would have to miss the Parque National Nevado Tres Cruses as no tours were going and I was the only one interested. It’s apparently off the beaten track, no idea why as it looks amazing, and it’s not the season. I didn’t want to go as there were only hotels and with no guarantee of a tour I didn’t want to waste money. A little defeated I booked a bus ticket to San Pedro which was overnight, again not to my liking and as I was exhausted I thought I should take a rest day but again felt I was wasting time.

I headed into La Serena with a plan to see the sites and do some research. It was freezing and grey so I skipped the sites, found a cafe, and then found Lemongrass Thai gem for lunch. It’s delicious and you should go if you can. Cheap and lots of food.

I then retreated to the hostel after visiting the biggest supermarket I’ve ever seen and had a Netflix afternoon.

The next day I decided to sample some seafood. Typically the sky had cleared and it was warm but I had a delicious lunch before catching the night bus to San Pedro.

And here is La Serena in the sun.

La Boca

I headed back to Santiago go meet Patty so we could head to La Boca where her uncle had a house. It’s a small seaside town situated on the Pacific coast with sandy beaches and close to the mouth of a river. I was excited to get away from the tourist circuit and see where Chileans go to escape the city for the weekend.

I met Patty at the bus station and we headed out of Santiago for 2 1/2 bus ride to La Boca. Upon arriving we had to go and locate some firewood to keep us warm. There was a log fire in the house, as there seems to be in many of the buildings here. Following her uncles instructions we met a man who sold us a lot of very cheap logs. By this time it was dark so we headed back to the house, getting food and beer supplies on the way, and I started making fire. To my credit I had a roaring fire going very quickly but I think a lot of it was down to be very dry wood I was burning.

The next day we decided to visit the beach.

I was memorised by the waves in the ocean as they were much bigger than I would usually see. I took far too many photos but I liked the way they curled and crashed into the beach.

As we walked along the shore rocks appeared and I was then equally mesmerised by the waves crashing into the rocks and making spray. At this point Patty went to stand close to where the waves were coming in and quickly ran away as the water closed in on her.

There was an abundance of wildlife, especially birds flying over head. This little chap perched on some rocks but soon found out that wasn’t the best idea. I managed to snap a photo before he flew and I ran away from the incoming water.

As usual I did my closeup shots. Crab claw, crab remains, sand and sea shell. There was also an abandoned rusting container so I included that in the shots.

There were lots of birds flying overhead but the most spectacular were Jote Cabrza Colorada’s. A paid flew close overhead and I was able to photograph.

After the beach we took a path up the cliff to see the river from high up. We tried to work our way down but realising the trail was headed in a different direction climbed back up to the top. I had great fun running and jumping up steep banks. Patty had less fun but after a few attempts she made it up.

And then rewarded myself after a short hike with a very similar dish to fish and chips. There was so much that we took the remaining for dinner and it was just as delicious heated up.

I’ve not mentioned this before but in Chile there is a salas called Pebre that is served before any meal. It delicious and served with bread so you can imagine I always eat a tonne and then I’m not really hungry when dinner arrives. We decided to make some more at the house so brought the ingredients.

The second night was very relaxed. I lit another fire and then spent several hours sat in bed researching where I would go next. It was luxury just to sit in a house with no strangers around and relax.

Afterwards we went outside to see the stars but a thick fog had rolled in from the sea which prevented that from happening.

The next day we went down to the river and jumped on the tourist boat. It’s the same boat that takes the fisherman, who catch fish in the river, to their spots and at one point we delivered coke and cigarettes to one of the fisherman.

I was very excited to see the mouth of the river. It’s something I’ve never seen before and you can see the waves crashing into the water from the river in the distance.

We had one final trip back to the beach where I posed for photos before we caught the bus back to Santiago.

Cerr贸 Campana

I was told about this trek on the bus from Mendoza to Santiago by Miri. I was told to get the metro to the end and then a bus to the park, which was enough for me. I did no further research as I figured I’d be able to pick up a trail when I arrived. I asked at the hostel and Juan also confirmed that it was the way to go.

When I mentioned the park to Jasmin she googled straight away and told me we would be walking up to the top of a 2000 metre mountain. Which is famous as you can see Borge the Pacific and the Andes. Now I was excited and she convinced me to leave later than I had planned, which is good as I later found out you really needed to start the trek at 9:30am. We arrived at 10:40. So we work up too early for breakfast and I was lucky that I had prepared food the day before but sadly for Jasmin she hadn’t and despite me trying to share my heavily cantered chicken sandwiches were not that appealing to a vegetarian.

The metro from Valpara铆so to Limache takes around an hour. Immediately outside the station there are busses and you can catch on to La Campa帽a park. It’s the end of the line and I think it’s the number 38 but the busses will say this on the front. I have no idea as to the frequency but it takes around 40mins and they run until 9pm so you have plenty of time to catch one back. After you get off the busses the entrance is another kilometre but there are clear signs to the park.

We paid the 4000 peso entrance fee and registered with the park rangers who told us that it was too late to go all the way to the summer but we decided to go anyway. The map they gave us said it would take 4.5 hours, which I think is slightly overstated but not by much.

We set off and despite me trying to take us on a few wrong turns we quickly found the correct trail and both realised there was going to be a lot of up. I was content with reaching the first main viewpoint. On the way to the first stop we met a cow. It took us an hour to reach the first point I the map which is the exact time specified and we could see a lot of mountain to climb ahead of us. We sped up and reached the main viewpoint with an hour to spare and there was only 2km left. I predicted that we could reach the top on another half an hour. I’m an idiot and I was wrong.

After the second viewpoint the path became en more steep which made the path that we had rushed through look like child’s play. We went slower and eventually reached the Darwin sign. Oh yeah I forgot to mention that Darwin also did this trek back in the day. I expect he didn’t have to worry about the spark closing at 5:30 so it would have been easier for him.

After the Darwin sign there was only about 800 metres left to go and I thought how hard can it really be? The answer. Really hard. I’ve done Torres del Paine and a bunch of other treks in Patagonia and the last part of this is the hardest. At Fitz Roy the last part is just up but there is a path that has been cut, however scary. This was literally scrambling over rocks at more than a 45 degree angle, looking for the red posts. Where there were no rocks there was dust.

However as we approached the summit the views turned to this and I saw the Andes again.

I went in ahead as I’m not a gentleman and also if I stop going up I worry that I won’t be able to regain the momentum. I reached the summit exhausted and a little friend came to try and share my sandwich.

And the hard climb was totally worth it. I think we managed the summit in around 3:30 hours which is still less time than suggested.

And then we sat down for some photos by the flags at the top.

The biggest challenge we faced was going back down and I’d argue that going down is harder. Sadly we did not have long at the top because we started the track late. If Ku can get here for 9am as you can take it slower and appreciate the views. I could have stayed for hours.

Also going down takes time. It is a precarious climb and decent. Go slowly as if you slip in the wrong place you will be getting down a lot quicker than you might like. I realised that for the first time be heights did not really bother me and crossed that off the list of things to be scared of. I’ve been up a fair few trials now I’m used to this. It took a lot longer than I remembered going down and we battled to beat the sunset as I didn’t want to be on the trails in the dark.

We arrived exhausted, took the long journey back to the hostel and pretty much went straight to bed. But this is one of my favourite things I’ve done for a while.

Valpara铆so

The day after Sewell I headed to the bus station in Santiago a little later than usual and managed to get a ticket for a bus leaving 15mins later. After 2 1/2 hours I had arrived and had checked into the hostel which was stupidly close to the bus terminal and is one of my favourites of the trip so far.

I messaged Joselyn, who took the picture I’m using at the top of this post and I included it because it’s so beautiful, and she came and me at the hostel. We jumped on a local bus and headed into the centre and started walking up one of the hills. Valpara铆so is the arty town of Chile. Think Brighton/Bristol. It’s such a hub that the department for culture is based in the city. As a result the buildings and streets are covered in grafiti. There are lots of bars, coffee shops, universities, musicians and street performances. It’s a really fun place to be. You can also get the metro to some of the towns to the north, all of which have great beaches. Valpo, as it is called by the locals, is spread over many hills so if you want to walk around it’s a good place to get fit.

i tried to visit one of the cafes that had been recommended but it was closed so we went somewhere nearby and I had a local type sandwich.

Halfway up a hill we found a playground so I jumped in as that’s what all respectable adults would do.

We kept walking up the hill and reached a viewpoint which overlooked the whole of the town. The Sun was setting at this time and it cast the town in beautiful colours.

A little bit was walking a puppy so we stopped to say hello. The problem was that he wouldn’t stop moving but this photos came out okay.

After we jumped on another bus for a scenic tour of the hills. The busses drive really fast and the turns are right so it’s a bit of a ride in itself. The bus took us back to the bottom and we headed to the market but I spotted some more graffiti first.

We took a short trip through the local market where I brought some delicious cheap grapes. As usual in Chile there were cats sleeping on everything and I saw this little guy curled up in a box.

After we walked up another hill behind my hostel to watch the sunset.i didn’t take any photos as we weren’t 100% sure how safe it was to take out the camera.

I returned to the Hostel and then took a quick trip to the supermarket next door where I ended up buying a whole cooked chicken. To be honest I’d been thinking about getting one since the O Trek. It was going to be my first treat when I hit civilisation and of course there were none left. So With it being my birthday eve and all I decided to treat myself along with a 6 pack of beer.

On returning to the Hostel I met Kathi and Lucas. I ate a good proportion of my chicken and retreated to my room for Netflix. I was determined that for one year I would not be ridiculously hungover on my birthday!

I woke up early the next day for the free walking tour and was happy not to be hungover. My first win at being 37! Ouch… Kathi joined me and we walked to the meeting place where there were a lot of dog. And I mean a lot. There were loads for South America where there seems to be a stray dog for each person in every town. One to follow you around all day. This bunch were particularly vocal. The tour started and as there were only eight of us one guide took us all in English and about 10 dogs started following us, whilst simultaneously chasing bikes, barking at other dogs, cars and pretty much anything that did and didn’t move. Our guide Juan did a really good job of being heard over the noise. At one point I bend down to take the photo below and as I did my face was locked, yes by a dog, which is why it has that rustic blurry effect.

The tour encompasses lots of graffiti and views as we traversed the two main tourist hills of the town and were told a lot about the history, current events, places to visit eat and drink at. Far much more than I could ever do in the time I had in the city.

Then of course there was the slide, which I had seen the day before but this time I was determined to use. There was a whole school group that had just gone down and when I sat at the top they were all delighted and started chanting encouraging me to slide down. So I did!

After the tour a few of us decided to visit Pablo Neruda house on the hill. Pablo Neruda is a famous poet who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971 he had three houses, one in Santiago, one on the Isla Negra and one here in Valparaiso. It’s an interesting house full of artefacts that show off the poets eccentric lifestyle. The house also has great views over the city.

We headed back to my hostel and Kathi and Cecilia kindly decided to join me to celebrate with some birthday drinks. We headed to a bar and ordered some Pisco Sours before heading to Ecuador Street, which is known as the street with the cheap student bars and ordered a Pisco and Sprite.

Juan form the walking tour joined us and took us to an even cheaper bar where I tried several shots and some Terremotos, which is earthquakes in Spanish because the drinks are so strong that when you stand up it feels as if there is an earthquake going on. After we headed to a club which played a mix of punk and indie music and I made my way back to the hostel at around 4am.

Let’s just say that I had a much less productive day on the day after my birthday and I managed to get out of my room at around 6pm to hunt for some pizza, which turned out to be not so great so I won’t mention the restaurant.

The next day I had arranged to meet Karla as she promised to show me some beaches that were in some of the towns to the north of Valparaiso. It was slightly daunting as she spoke no English and me very little Spanish. I went to meet her in Vi帽a del Mar and despite the limited conversation had a really fun day.

She drove me to several beaches and we had a hot chocolate and ate some shrimp and queso empanadas. It was a good test of my Spanish and proved I knew at least something but Google Translator did get a lot of action.

I arrived back to the hostel and had a delicious burger, the restaurant attached to the hostel was actually pretty good and I had seen the food the night before. After I headed to my room and met my new room mates Sam and Jasmin who invited me out for drinks. I was hesitant to say yes after the day before but I did and we met up with some friends they had made during the day front he walking tour. There I ran into a girl I had climbed Fitz Roy with and had a good catchup. I mentioned to Jasmin about my planned hike tomorrow at La Campana and she wanted to come along. As a cat had decided to make my lap its bed we waited a while and then headed back to the hostel for an earliest night for the big hike which I’ll serial in the next post.

Sewell

Typically Santiago was covered in cloud when I awoke early to catch the tourist bus to Sewell. After Mendoza i was desperate to see more of the Andes and I was torn between going to Cajon del Maipo, which looked beautiful but difficult to get to and Sewell. I opted for Sewell because it was a ghost town and I wanted to see ghosts.

So I jumped in an uber which arrived quickly despite my worries of not having an uber available at that time on a Sunday morning and i waited outside of the Starbucks as instructed. It was cold and there were a couple of other tourist busses, none of whom wanted me to join their tour. Soon a man came and found me and he did want me on his tour, at least I think as the conservation was in Spanish and i didn’t really know what was happening. He addressed everyone in Spanish and soon we were off. I was a little disconcerted as I was promised and English speaking guide but I thought I would role with it.

The bus journey to the site was about three hours. We travelled to a town called Rancagua. Where a bunch more people got on the bus and also did our actual guide who did speak English. It was only when we arrived at the town that I realised I was the only person speaking English so she said everything twice just for the benefit of me.

There was another hour to travel to the town and this is where it started to get beautiful. As we climbed the most started to clear and blue skies appeared. The mountains for higher and we drove along the private road into the mine. This is exclusively used by mining traffic.

It was at this point that I realised Sewell is actually above a working mine, El Teniente. It is the worlds largest underground copper mine with over 3000 kilometres of underground tunnels. The whole operation is huge and it makes for an interesting setting with the industry set against the natural beauty of the mountains.

After driving past all of the mining operation we finally arrived at the town. It was finally abandoned in the 80s. Originally constructed for the minters and their families, and for a long time it had the best facilities in Chile, it became easier for people to live in Rancagua after the construction of the road in the 1960s, especially with the harsh environments at 2000 metres. Now it has been particularly reconstructed by the mining company and doing tours via the company is the only way to visit as it is all private property.

We were treated to a video of old footage of people living in the town and then started the tour.

There were three types of citizens in the town. The US who owned the company initially, it is now in Chillen hands after being nationalised, the engineers and then the Chilean workers. This Pool is in a building that was exclusive to the US workers.

After seeing the main building we were shown around the town. You can see how high up the town is in relation to the mountains. You might also notice a lack of roads and this is because there were none. At time of construction it was not possible to get cars up this high so the town centred around a main set of steps and this is where the population met and interacted.

I also took some more arty photos.

We were invited to look at how the miners would have lived in the 60s.

And walked more around the town. As you can see, much of it is still in ruins.

They also have a bowling alley.

And there is a museum. All is in Spanish so I didn’t really read much about the items. I did take photos of some pretty metals.

After which we headed back to Rancagua to have lunch. A late lunch as it was 4pm by this stage. I did think it was pointless but it gave me the change to talk to some people. I met Joselyn, a Mexican who lived in Valparaiso, and she offered to give me a tour when I arrived there the next day.

So after lunch we headed back to Santiago and I prepared to move on her again.

Santiago

I arrived at the bus terminal in Santiago two weeks ago so I am a little behind with the blogs but will catch up over the next few days. Patty who i met at Queulat in Patagonia met at the station and took me to Camilo’s apartment, who I also met in Patagonia, where I’d be staying during my time in Santiago. I was tired and a little dazed by the big, busy city but I for into the feel of it much quicker than I had before.

We spent the afternoon and evening catching up and the next morning i took some time to relax and but a sim for my phone as I had no way of contacting anyone, which is why I’m faster at messaging now…because obviously that was a big problem for everyone!

I took the photos below are the view from Camilo’s apartment. I’ve been told that in summer you can’t see the mountains through the pollution but I had fairly good views of snow capped peaks.

After buying the SIM card I realised my mistake of not getting the store to ser it up for me. I followed the instructions as best I could but it didn’t work. The Phone number I could call was a menu all in Spanish and I thought I’d have to stay in all afternoon to wait for someone to find me before I realised I could hunt down wifi.

I went to the metro, got off at a random stop in the centre of town and went to look for a WiFi location. After a few minutes I found a mall, made contact, Googled how to get my phone working and met with Patty feeling pretty happy with myself.

I had a tour of centre of the city and we stopped to eat these waffles in the park.

We visited an art museum and annoyingly I didn’t bring my camera so the pictures are lacking for this day.

Patty had to attend a lecture so I wondered off alone in search of a cafe. I found one and had a Nescaf茅 coffee where I helped myself to hit water and started researching what I wanted to do for the next few days. Camilo joined me. Now whereas Patty’s English is good Camilo’s is not so good, I’d argue it’s still better than my Spanish, so we spent a lot of time ponging and using Google Translator.

After the lecture we all went out for dinner and I was delighted to go to a Raman restaurant where I had some of the best Raman I’ve ever had!

The next day I was left to my own devices again. I wanted to book a tour to Sewell, which is a mine with an abandoned town, so for once I decided to book a tour and headed to the offices. Upon arrival I was told that they only operated out of the office part time and I should call them. I hate calling and to my shame I decanted to a nearby Starbucks to use the WIFI. I sent an email and then decided to continue with my day.

I went to the presidential palace and below ground found an exhibition centre. I have no idea what was going on but I managed to get these snaps.

At this point after no reply from the agency I decided to message them. I got an instant reply and over the course of a WhatsApp conversation I booked a tour. I started to realise the power of contacting companies via WhatsApp.

I decided to have lunch at a seafood market that is located in the centre of the city. Unlike Argentina, Chile is known for its seafood and I was despertare to try some. The market was full of fish stores and restaurants with people calling me over for he best deal although all the prices and menus seemed the same. I decided to go for the forth one for no particular reason and had prawns to start and salmon.

This is the salm贸n!

I also managed to find my favourite sweets in Chile which I devoured later when I had post drunken munchies.

At 3pm I joined the free walking tour. It had been good in Buenos Aires and I think they are a good way to find out more and help you get your bareings in a city. This time the square was full of people waiting but as the groups split up into Spanish, Portuguese and English I was left in a group of six people. It was actually really nice and much easier to chat than in a huge group. The tour lasted for around 4 hours and we ended up in the student district where I went for a few drinks with people from the tour before heading back for an esrlyish night.

The next day was even clearer so I took some more photos from the apartment.

In the afternoon i decided to visit Parque San Cristobal, a rare area of tranquillity in the middle of the metropolis. Again without really knowing anything I hiked to the too where I could see there was a cable car. At the very top is a church and monument of the virgin and I took some pictures to show you along the way.

After the short hike I decided to treat myself to a cable car back down. I was joined by a family who I struggled to speak any Spanish to, but I at least tried and their son who played a video game the entire time-oh misspent youth.

At the bottom i decided to put on more weight and brought another giant ice cream.

And I spotted this grafiti on an advert on the way to the metro station. It pleases me that across the world we can all deface things in a childish manor.

After I met Patty and went to her parents house for her brothers birthday party. They were all really friendly and welcomed me into the party. I was able to sample a lot of Chillen wine. Maybe too much wine and discovered that the clocks agent back an hour. At 2 am we decided to leave and I went back ready to get up early for my tour the following day, which I will detail in another post.

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.

Torres del Paine and prepping in Puerto Natales

I鈥檝e just returned from the O trek at Torres del Paine, one of the most beautiful national parks on the planet. Over the past 9 days i walked over 120km, slept in the snow, climbed a 1200 metres over mountain pass, spent 17 hours alone trapped in my tent, camped 200 metres from the worlds largest fresh water reserve, crossed streams, buckets of mud, rope bridges during high winds and was stuck in a tent for 17 hours. It was definitely type 3 fun, I鈥檒l explain this later. I completed my challenge and the next stop is the end of the world but first me talk you through my experience of Torres del Paine.

Puerto Natales

I had m another early rise to catch the 7am bus from El Calafate to Puerto Natales, skipping back across the border to Chile. The bus ride was fairly uneventful and as soon as I arrived I checked into my homely hostel. It is the first that had a living room set up with DVDs to watch so I decided on one of my rest days I鈥檇 have a movie day. I had arrived in town a couple of days early which gave me plenty of time to prepare for the O trek. Much more than people showing up the day before with no reservations and no equipment.

First on the agenda was the Erratic Rock talk at 3pm (Located 2 blocks from erratic rock hostel – at Baquedano 955, Puerto Natales, Chile). Whilst the talk was informative and good I did feel the dangers were overplayed and telling people to walk for hours in the rain without wearing their water proofs is irresponsable in my opinion. I did leave realising I needed a better sleeping bag and that I鈥檇 need to buy some hiking poles. Although I was tired so I decided to leave the shopping for the next day. Relaxed and had some tacos at Cerveza Baguales.

The next day I had to get organised. So firstly the food. The Erratic Rock talk said that if you don鈥檛 like porridge then you won鈥檛 like it on the trail. The speaker said she had a snickers for breakfast which delighted me. I went to Frutos Secos and brought 1kg of trail mix (i opted for the cheapest so it was mostly nuts and chocolate and sugar coated nuts). Then the supermarket for the rest. Here was my food for the week.

Breakfast – 2 x snickers

Lunch – trail mix

Snack – Haribo style sweets

Dinner – Couscous, packet soup, parmizan, chorizo and peas.

I decantad everything from its original packaging and made up little bags for each day. Note on day 5 & 8 I had a Refugio booked with food included. I also took sandwiches for lunch on day 1 as I had food left over.

The rest of the day was spent trying to find equipment which I eventually did. My advise, especially if you do the O trek is to buy your own and bring it with you. Nothing is cheap on Puerto Natales. If you are doing the W and are sharing then it is not too bad to rent but I head Loya of stories about leaky tents etc. If you rent make sure you check it!

I had an early night, and spent Sunday packing. Note if you do arrive on a Sunday most of the shops are closed so it鈥檚 really not a good day to prep. Then I did some more life admin, planning the next stages and watched Demolition Man and No Country for Old Men for which half the hostel joined me.

Torres del Paine – The O Circuit

I woke around 6am, grabbed breakfast, checked my pack and headed to the bus station for the 7:20 bus. Most leave at 7:30 but if you can get this one (Bus Gomez) as it will get you there ahead of the queues. I was really nervous but I felt that this was actually happening now. One of the American guys I鈥檇 briefly met in the Hostel was on the bus. Sadly he was only day tripping but it was good to have company.

We soon arrived at Torres del Paine. It looked grey and was windy but so far the bad weather predicted by everyone at the hostel failed to materialise. I payed he 21000 extortion fee, got my stamps and watched the welcome video. Soon I was on my way to the welcoming centre in a Ford minibus with some serious suspension. There was a British family who live in Hong Kong on the bus, Imi, Simon and Louie, and they were also doing the O. I was happy not to be doing it alone. I had a quick chat with them as we got our bags and then headed off to where I thought the circuit started. As I鈥檇 been warned there were not many signs and it was a little confusing even using maps.me. I took a wrong trail and asked the person behind me, Lindsey, who was also hiking the O. She said she had been following me as I looked like I knew what I was doing, This couldn鈥檛 be further from the truth, but I had a hiking buddy and that was a good start.

Camp Seron 13k (3 1/2 hours)

I wasn鈥檛 too worried about the fist day. I鈥檇 hiked this far with a bag before, although my bag was massively heavier, and I knew the terrain was fairly flat. If I couldn鈥檛 hike this far then there is no way that I should be doing the circuit. As we started out the clouds tried to rain but couldn鈥檛 quite make it work. The path largely follows a jeep track, which is how I assume supplies are delivered to Camp Ser贸n. It was a good track to follow, mostly dry following the valley around the mountains. It鈥檚 mostly grassy inter dispersed with trees. We followed the river for most of the way and had to cross a couple of streams-not all have bridges but there was nothing to soak our boots as had been suggested as the Erratic Rock talk.

About halfway I felt fine, but soon after my shoulders really started to hurt. Lindsay helped by showing me how to correctly tighten my pack. After that each kilometre was painful. We stopped to have lunch and I was thankful. I was carrying two heavy sandwiches which I though I鈥檇 eat at the beginning of the trek-most blogs told me I鈥檇 start around 11:30 but I鈥檇 beaten the queues by accidentally getting the early bus.

Soon after that I realised there were two kilometres to go. I knew I could do that easily so I pushed forward and soon arrived at Ser贸n. We had been beaten by the British family who had overtaken us on the trail and they grabbed the best spot, so I chose somewhere sheltered and set up my tent.

The camp was emptying out as it鈥檚 due to close in the next few days so they had no wine or beer. They did have a delicious hot chocolate. The rain finally hit at 4pm and it was a huge storm. Luckily I was inside the Refugio making new friends. People do say that you bond on the O trek and it鈥檚 really true. We didn鈥檛 all hike together but by the end of the night I had met about 10 people I鈥檇 spend a lot of time with over the next few days. Although I was sad to discover most of them were skipping the free camp at Paso so they would then all be a day ahead.

Camp Dickson 18k (6 hours)

This is the day I was worried about. It鈥檚 the longest distance I would cover on the trail and my bag was still heavy with food. I felt that if I could do this then I鈥檇 be fine the rest of the way. I鈥檇 later find out that distance is not everything when trekking.

Lindsay and I headed out at 9am continuing the hiking partnership from the day before. The sky was clear and i was hoping for a good day. We wouldn鈥檛 actually see a single cloud all day and the wind had dried my tent overnight.

As the set off the scenery was similar although the path a little muddy. We were still following the river and ran into a little bird.

The path started heading uphill and there is one steep rise near the beginning of the day. Once you get to the top of this you have some beautiful views and you can see the rest of he valley which you spend the rest of the day traversing.

The path remains hilly as you walk around the lake, and another condor flew over head You then start heading down to the valley floor and about halfway through the day come to the ranger station where you have to register. The rest of the day is spent walking along the valley towards to the mountains in the distance.

There is one more short climb and then you are treated to one of the most picturesque views I鈥檝e ever seen. This is Camp Dickson, my favourite for the views.

At each camp you will need to register with the park rangers and once that was done and the tent set up we had a little walk to the lake.

There is nowhere with a roof to cook here so after dinner when it got cold we took over the Refugio again.

Camp Los Perros – 11km (4 hours)

Nobody is quite sure when but after 2am the rain started. It was still storming at 7am. I was cold and with nothing better to do I packed up my bag and then went in the Refugio to get some warmth and see if anyone else was up. Slowly but surely people started arriving, not sure what to do in the rain. I bit the bullet and took down my tent in the downpour. By the time I had finished it was twice the weight and my hands were frozen from the rain. I attached it to my backpack without it鈥檚 bag in the hope it would dry out and headed back into the Refugio. One of the staff noticed that I was freezing so gave me a free coffee.

Once warmed up we were all stood around like lemmings waiting for each other which resulted us leaving one by one. Today I left with Lucy and Danny as hiked through the rain and into the forrest canopy that would cover the hole for the duration of the day. It was all uphill going from an elevation of 400m to 600m which didn鈥檛 sound like much but it felt like it when walking. The water added significant weight to my pack and I certainly felt it.

Luckily the rain levelled off after and hour so I took off my water proofs and my fleece soaked up the drops from the branches. The worst thing today was the amount of mud. There was mud everywhere and it was a choice between marching straight through it or jumping around and over puddles. Neither was particularly appealing and my shoes should be 100% waterproof but if that failed they would never dry for the rest of the trip. Despite testing them in a lake I really didn鈥檛 want wet feet so I took a halfway house.

It was also a slight daunting trek as we could see the snow line of the mountains had rapidly increased overnight. Where we had had buckets of rain at higher elevations there had been tonnes of snow that wasn鈥檛 reassuring for the mountain pass trek tomorrow where we would have to go to 1200metres and back down again. Ignoring this and walking through the grey we carried on and came to this fun bridge near the end of the trek.

Shortly after we left the trees and started hiking across rocks and this is when I saw the first people heading towards me on the path for several days. They briefly told us that the pass had been closed due to the snow and this is where something weird happens. Jamie if you are reading this sit down…I turned into the ultimate optimist. Danny and I declared it would be fine and as we got closer to the camp we saw more people heading down.

When we arrived it turned out that the group had left that morning and been stuck with snow, high winds what had blown them over, and really poor visibility. They had been close to the pass but hadn鈥檛 known and turned back. Most were understandably traumatised, most were heading back and the more people we spoke to the worse the stores got. There were wolves, lions, lightening, gale force winds, yetis etc…okay none of that was actually said but you get the idea.

I was in a stupidly happy mood, despite my tent being drenched, dancing around telling everyone my weather luck would hold and it would be sunny tomorrow. It started to snow which raised everyone鈥檚 spirits a little more. I ran into Mary who I met at the hostel, she left the day before me and I had a feeling I鈥檇 catch up with her and she was pretty down beat. I did my best to say it would all be fine and we were told a ranger would go with us over the pass the next day at 7:30am.

The camp was pretty basic, we had a room we could cook in with no heading. There were two cold showers everyone avoided and some flushing toilets. Lindsay lent me her bottle so I had a hit water bottle for the night and I went to bed in the freezing snow.

Camp Paso 7.6k (5 hours)

Okay so I鈥檒l level with you. In my mind this was an easy day but I hadn鈥檛 factored in elevation. Something I will make sure that I do on any future hike. We still did it under par and it was slow going and i took a lot of photos at the top of the pass. Oh so I made it huh? You know why? Because hey prest贸 the weather was perfect. Okay not perfect but good, no wind, no rain and no snow. The sun even tried its hardest to break though the clouds.

So I awoke at 6am. That鈥檚 a lie as I hardly slept that night due to the cold. I packed up as quickly as possible, which in the dark is hard. Took down my tent and realised I had lost all my tent bags. Lindsay later found hem for me and awaited the ranger. We waited a little longer for the sun to rise and headed upwards through more forrest. The path was saturated and the park ranger seemed to stop at every leaf, tree and vegetation to give a guided tour in Spanish. It was unbelievably slow going and weighted down by the pack made it worse. As we got higher we started seeing snow and ice and we soon left the trees for the first clearing that was covered in snow. After the second lot of trees the snow was getting deep and there was one patch of ice where the ranger stayed to stop people falling into the ravine. After this there was no protection and we were at the mercy of the wind waking up through snow and ice to the top of the pass.

Now I and other had done research about his trek and in all the blogs I had read there were no pictures or reports of snow on this section. We actually had a fairly clear day as we met with people who did the trek the day after and they said visibility was really bad. Now it鈥檚 important to point out that the pass was never closed. The rangers told us that it was fine the day before when the group didn鈥檛 make it over, most of them headed back rather than try again, but in all honesty even in going over on the best day I don鈥檛 think I would have been happy to do it without a ranger.

The streams were covered with snow and at one point I went in deep thinking my gortex luck had ran out. I actually thought it had the day before but turns out the liquid in my boots was my own sweat. Still the boots were being good to me and aside from being cold they didn鈥檛 let in a drop of that stream water either. We battled the wind and snow and arrived at the top to these views.

Then as soon as we were up at the top it was the same elevation to get down. Because I stopped for photos I found myself at the back of the group and all I can say is going down was dangerous. It鈥檚 one thing to be the first person to walk over snow but as one of the last it had turned to ice and there were huge steps down covered with ice, with turns that would send you flying over the cliff edge of you made the wrong turn. Luckily for me I saved my falls for further down the mountain when we were back in the mud. I had a couple of lucky escapes including bending one of my hiking poles really badly. I couldn鈥檛 believe my luck because of that hadn鈥檛 broken my fall I鈥檇 probably be structured off the mountain. In hindsight I think the poles were part of the problem. I鈥檓 not used to using them and with my camera out I had weight on all sides and no arms to counter balance. But I made it exhausted and all on one piece and someone retrieved my had that I鈥檇 left on the path so all was good.

It was here that I said goodbye to most of the group I鈥檇 travelled with as they were all heading on to Camp Grey another 10km away on this day. It鈥檚 probably a god thing as I was exhausted. I hung out with Simon, Louie and Lottie before heading to my tent at 4:30 to warm up my sleeping bag. Camp Paso is about 200 metres from Glacier Grey and it鈥檚 cold. I popped out at 6pm for some food, the rangers gave me some pasta and I went to bed. It rained all night to give me a sticky walk the next day.

BUT today I had walked across my first mountain pass. I was ecstatic by the achievement and in the context of things I鈥檓 not sure there are many people how can say they have done the same.

Refugio Grey 10k (2 1/2 hours)

Okay so some night call this cheating but for my fifth night I had booked a bed in a Refugio. I did this to lighten the food load as I鈥檇 get dinner, breakfast and lunch provided and just to give myself a break. I have to say that I was broken at Paso. I was tired from the walking, lack of sleep and also that most of the friends I had made were now a day ahead and I wouldn鈥檛 see most of them again. To be honest I wasn鈥檛 excited about he bed in the morning but it was another night I could tick off if I made it there.

I crawled out of be with the sunrise around 7:45 and took a long time to get ready. The British family offered for me to walk with them but they were leaving later, I was cold and the only way to get warm is to walk and also I wanted to go at my own pace. I was tired and thought I鈥檇 take it slow with a lot of breaks.

I thought this trek would be fairy easy. I was wrong. The weather was also not perfect. It was a cold Octoberish day with rain not quite taking hold. There were some steep rises and drops out of the camp and then some less than 100% safe paths along cliff edges that required steep climbs. The wind wasn鈥檛 bad but seemed to be getting stronger and then there were the rope bridges. I鈥檇 forgotten about the rope bridges. This is the first one.

I reached it and took photos strapped everything to my pack got up and walked across. Looking down I realised that a fall would be instant death so I egged my self forward as if I was calling an animal to me and soon I had crossed safety. I鈥檓 not good with hikes and the word thing is that I just did it without question. Well I suppose there was no way back but I was proud of myself for the achievement.

The path then turned down into the forrest and was much more sheltered before another climb and I realised the second bridge was coming. I reached the top and could hear the wind blowing. There was a viewpoint to the right which I started to walk towards before realising that I had to cross the bridge now if it was going to happen. I got to the bridge and could feel the wind with the occasional strong gust. I didn鈥檛 want to be in the middle when that hit. I waited a few minutes for it to die down but it didn鈥檛. So I thought now or never and stepped out on to the bridge, hunkering down a little which I hopefully thought would protect me against a sudden gust of wind. It was really scary but i made it to the other side.

Soon after I ran into the Canadian couple who told me I was nearly at the Refugio and that there was one more bridge. They also said the refugio was warm and there was a bar. I nearly cried as at this point I felt like I鈥檇 been in the wilderness for about a month. The final fridge was a doddle, the worst thing were the two girls taking selfies who held me up.

I arrived at the Refugio and it was warm. I had a hot shower, sat in the warm all afternoon. The sin came out so I decided to go to the view point to get a look at the icebergs.

I had dinner at the Refugio and the food was extra delicious and the bed was comfy and warm. I awoke the following noting realising I had broken the back of the trek and feeling like i could complete it. Two more nights of camping and one more Refugio and these camping nights should not be at high altitude, in freezing temperatures and snow….

Paine Grande 11km (3.5 hours)

Today was a fairly short walk, many people go on to the next camp, so I decided to wait for a hot lunch and hike in the afternoon. I didn’t realise I’d get kicked out and have to wait in the hall while the staff cleaned. Still, lunch was great, and I started hiking with the Dutch guy who was also in my room.

The trail largely followed Largo Grey east then skipped across land until you reach Largo Pehoe where the camp is situated on the shore. We had beautiful blue sky but the wind made it cold when we stopped to take photo. Once you get going there are some steep climbs which provide some spectacular views of the lake and glacier.

I became cold so hiked ahead on the second section of the tail. Annoyingly when I was near the camp I twisted my ankle again but managed to finish and i quickly forgot about it when I saw the campsite.

I had been told this camp was windy. As I checked in I was told they lost four tents the night before. I found a secluded place to pitch and settled in for the night. It was blustery when I arrived but the wind hit hard in the night. It was so loud but not loud enough to block out the snoring from the tent next door. Both noises kept me up all night, but the wind was really scary. My tent to it’s credit stood up to the challenge really well. I heard people the next day discussing how they had bent and broken tent poles I felt good that my little tent was in perfect condition.

Camp Italiano 8km (1hour 40mins)

I set off early the next morning, partly so I didn’t kill the snorer in the next tent and alps because the weather reports suggested rain in the afternoon and I wanted to head up to the French Valley.

I set a really fast pace and arrived at he camp before most people had left. I set up my tent in what I thought was a good place as it had drainage and headed up to the valley. I made it to the first viewpoint and hear my weather luck ran out. The mountains were covered in clouds and it was difficult see yet you could still see the beauty. At times there was a roar of an avalanche but I couldn’t locate the snow.

I decided to skip the second viewpoint when the rain started. I put on my waterproofs and headed back down to camp and jumped into my tent for a snooze feeling smug that I hadn’t gotten wet. What started as light rain turned onto a downpour and I realised that water was pooling under my tent and coming through the ground sheet. I jumped out and someone suggested I move all my things out and move my tent. Camp Italiano is a free camp and as a result has very few facilities. There is a small shelter with two picnic tables and it was full of soaking wet people. I decided I had a better idea and so I got to work building new channels for the water to flow that led it around my tent and not under it. There was so much water coming from the sky that the water hitting my tent was also running under so I build a moat, all with my boots to send the water around the tent. This worked and the water stopped pooling but I was now soaked. I got into my tent, changed into my dry clothes and waited for the rain to stop or slow down. The problem is that it didn’t. The wind picked up and there were sting winds in the trees, loud raindrops hit my tent all night and I kept hearing avalanches, thinking I’d be covered in water or something at any time. With my waterproofs soaked both inside and out and no shelter I had no choice but to wait until morning. This was 17 hours after I first got into the tent. It was a long long wait, but i can’t complain, the tent didn’t leak, i was dry, my sleeping bag was dry, my shoes were dry which was much better than most other hikers.

Refugio Chillano 17km (6 hours)

I started packing as soon as it seemed logical to do so. The rain had stopped sometime in the night and the wind had also dropped. I put everything back in my dry bags and swirly other than the ground sheet my tent was mostly dry. There were a lot of clothes hanging in the shelter trying to dry, unsuccessfully. In the night is made a playlist and put my headphones in. To be honest at this point I was tempted to march back to Paine Grande and catch the boat back to the busses but I’d come so far I knew I couldn’t give up now. I walked the first 2km in 25mins listening to metal and arrived at Camp Francis. People were pretty miserable here too due to the rain and I ran into some of the O Trekkers from the day behind me so I hiked with them.

Due to the rain there was a lot of mud, the paths turned into streams and this that we did have to cross were inflated. Today i was mostly walking alongside Lago Nordenskj枚ld. There was lots of ups that gave us some great views and a rainbow popped out.

Once we passed the lake i said goodbye to my new friends and took the shortcut to Chiliano. What I didn’t expect was the extra deep stream to cross and this is where my boots failed me, but only because the water came over the top of them. To be fair the amount of water they let in was minimal but I now had a wet foot. This path was more remote so it went through bogs and many more streams before heading uphill for the final climb to the Refugio.

I made a new friend from Belgium along the way for the final push and with 1km to go a storm hit but i was dry in my waterproofs. I was so glad to arrive i didn’t care that the weather said it would rain all the next day. I told everyone that as long as i was there it would be sunny butte caught up with Lindsay again and we made a pact to have breakfast and set off to the towers at 8am. The storm cleared and We went outside to have a celebration beer.

I found it funny that the tents on this camp site were all on stilts up a steep hill. Also on the way i saw the horses that bring the supplies to the camps.

The Torres and return to Central 12km (5 hours)

Many people got up to see the sunrise at the towers, which as I predicted was perfect (I saw some photos and videos) but as planned I had breakfast and headed up at 8am. It’s a 4km walk through forrest that turns into a steep climb and then is a scramble up rocks to the lake. On the way we saw the sunrise hit the towers.

The day was beautiful and we ran into many of our fellow hikers on the way up. Today was a stressful day as the bus was at 2:30 so we had to make good time. Hiking fast without bugs we made it up in 80mins and I finally saw what i had come here to see. The Towers:

Whilst up there the snow stayed falling so we decided it was time to get to the bus stop and head back. On the way down we saw a woodpecker.

Then it was a largely downhill hike to the busses. I twisted my ankle again with abut 1km left to go but made it in plenty of time. When I got on the bus i nearly cried. I’d achieved the thing that I set out to do. The whole trip up until this point has been based around this trek, the practice hikes and I had done it. I was so excited to get back to town, get clean and have a rest day. Right now I can’t really describe everything I went through but I know it’s changed me. It was Type 1.5 Fun. I do know that I love hiking, I hate carrying the bag and I don’t want to camp more than a few days, although a pub and a bed at the end is more ideal. I do however finally feel alive. And more importantly tomorrow I don鈥檛 have to wake up in the freezing dark to put on the sweaty clothes I鈥檝e been wearing for the past 8 days.

I forgot to take a before photo but here is the after one.

Chile Chico and Los Antiguos border crossing

My next big stop was El Chalt茅n 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鈥檒l 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鈥檛 work for anyone in the town that day.

I bundled on to the 鈥渂us鈥 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鈥檛 cross late or you鈥檒l 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鈥檝e 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鈥檚 way along the south of Lago Gral Carrera, mostly along steep cliff tops which are dangerously close to the edge. If it wasn鈥檛 such a grey misty day I鈥檓 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 鈥渕ini bus鈥, 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鈥檚 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 Chalt茅n 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 Chalt茅n.

Currently Reading – Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency

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