Exploring Latin America 馃嚘馃嚪 馃嚙馃嚧 馃嚚馃嚤 馃嚚馃嚧 馃嚜馃嚚 馃嚥馃嚱 馃嚨馃嚜 馃嚭馃嚲

Category: Patagonia Page 1 of 2

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 Cerr贸 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.

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.

El Calefate

After seven days in El Chalt茅n 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 Chalt茅n 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 Chait茅n – Fitz Roy, Cerr贸 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鈥檝e 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鈥檝e finally been able to experience some of that for myself.

The bus from Los Antiguas arrived on El Chalt茅n at 6am. I鈥檝e never slept well on coaches and it wasn鈥檛 helped when we hit the gravel road. I didn鈥檛 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鈥檇 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, Cerr茅 Torr贸 and Fitz Roy.

Cerr贸 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鈥檛 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 Cerr贸 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 Cerr贸 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 Chalt茅n – 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 Chalt茅n 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 C贸ndor 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 Chalt茅n 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 Chalt茅n trekking trip.

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

Puerto R铆o Tranquilo, Exploradores Glacier and Catedral de Marmol

I left for Puerto Rio Tranquilo on the 9:30 bus. I had decided not to do the hike at Villa Cerro Castillo, partly to save time and also I was exhausted – this decision would pay off in the next few days. I did feel a pang of regret as we drove through the village as the views were beautiful. The whole journey was a feast for the eyes but sadly this time the busses windows were misted and I was stuck on the wrong side. I did manage to get some shots.

I arrived in a windswept Puerto Rio Tranquilo five hours later and headed to the hostel. The plan was to camp but after walking into the wood fired heated reception area and finding out I could have a private room to myself for 12000 a night I ditched the camping idea. It was the first time I’d had a room to myself in nearly two months. It’s not much but to me it was bliss.

I dumped my things and headed out to book my tours. I asked about a bus ticket at what counted for the bus station, then went to look for the tours. I had met a Chilean lady on a bus that said her daughter ran one of the tours, the office was closed and I couldn’t find the office for the company I had researched so I went with 99% Aventura. I tried to book a boat to the marble caves but as one was leaving at the time and I didn’t have my camera I was told to come back later. I went back to buy my bus ticket but the place was locked up at the crack of 4pm. I went for a walk around town and took some shots.

Exploradores Glacier

I was told to get to the office for 7am. I’m still learning that time works differently here and arrived at 6:40am to a dark and empty town. Maria and Jacob from Chicago arrived ten minutes later and at 7am everyone else magically appeared. We were handed some equipment and jumped on the bus to the glacier. We stopped at a waterfall to get some snaps.

We arrived at the National Park and changed into our hiking gear. The trek was 4.8k each way and would take around 6 hours. We started off through the forest and very quickly were jumping across boulders with mountains and rainbows as our backdrop.

When we reached the valley the landscape changed completely to just rocks, which had been pushed by the glacier. There was no vegetation as under the rocks was ice, which you can see in some of the closeup pics. I felt as if I was on Mars, it’s the weirdest landscape I’ve ever been on and one of the most beautiful. The glacier was in the distance, we could see multiple rainbows and there were lush green mountains with waterfalls in the background.

As we got closer to the glacier the ice was more on the surface so we stopped to put on crampons.

After wearing these I felt as if I could run up walls! I need to get myself some of these.

And then I got to walk on my first glacier, the second one is seen in my life about two days apart. I didn’t expect it to be so beautifully messy, but this is how nature is in general. There were cracks and holes and streams and rocks. When we got to the glacier the weather changed considerably, becoming much colder and raining.

On the way back we went to look at some of the caves in the glacier in more detail.

We returned the same way that we had arrived and I was tried after 6 hours of trekking but the sun was out and the day was beautiful.

Catedral de M谩rmol

The weather held up when I returned to Puerto Rio Tranquilo so knowing it was due to rain the next day I fought my exhaustion and booked myself on a marble cave tour. Initially it was just me but seven others soon arrived, some like me fresh from the glacier tour, and headed out to the boat.

It was beautiful on the lake and I had some great views of the mountains.

It took 30mins to get to the caves and we were able to get up close to them.

By the time we headed back the wind had started and the boat had to fight against the waves. I was freezing when I got home but was tempted out later for a beer even though I had gone to bed. The next day was a complete washout and I was glad I took advantage of the weather when I had the chance.

Coyhaique and Parque National Queulat

My next stop was Coyhaique on the Carretera Austral, built in the lasts 80s by Pinochet it鈥檚 the only road that connects this region with the rest of Chile. Previous to this they were only accessible by boat or via Argentina. I鈥檝e read a lot about this area and essentially what you keep reading is that there is very little information. This made it exciting and scary but I really started to feel that I was getting into Patagonia.

The wind hit again during landing at Balmaceda airport, 50km to the south. It was grey and raining and desolate. I hopped in a transit van and was on my way to Coyhaique. Initially I was a little disappointed with the landscape. It was open, green, grey and grassy. Imagine a summer day in South Wales. But as we progressed to Coyhaique it began to change for the better.

There is not much to do in town but I had much admin to complete. Coyhaique is the largest town around, with a supermarket and other facilities. I needed to book a bus for my next destination, one I hadn鈥檛 yet decided upon, sort out my camping gear and a whole heap of travelling admin-if you have not travelled you won鈥檛 believe the amount of admin you have to do. Typically my back pain kicked in, in a big way and the hostel didn鈥檛 know the bus times. They pointed me to tourist information who did know, and I soon had a ticket and a return ticket-you won鈥檛 believe how difficult I found ordering that-to Parque National Queulat.

That evening I set out to find Casa Tropera, which didn鈥檛 seem to have a Google presence, and ended up walking around town for around an hour until I hit some dark roads I know Gary would tell me I was a fool for walking down. So I headed back to a steak restaurant and had my first taste of Patagonia lamb.

Parque National Queulat

At time of writing there is one bus a day which goes to the town of Puyuhuapi, 20k north of the park. It leaves Coyhaique at 2pm and returns from the park at 7am.

I was still fairly unsure about heading out into the middle of nowhere and asked a guy (I do know but I can鈥檛 spell his name) if it was the right bus. Confidentially he was going to the same place so I had someone to stop the bus for me also. He sat in front of me with Praticia (again apologies if I鈥檝e spelt this wrong) and she gave me a fright when she put her seat back.

As we leafy town I started to see mountains, rivers, trees, waterfalls, rocks and beautiful scenery which was soon surrounded in clouds, mist and rain. The Patagonia weather hit hard as we drove north. After about 3 hours the road turned to gravel and I kept thinking the bus would tip over when it went around the corners. It didn鈥檛. Everything was fine. Well except the boy who sat next to me who was sick into a bag three times.

We got there and there was a brief reprieve in the rain, luckily, whist the park ranger explained the camp sites. I opted to walk the 2k from the road to hot showers, that I wouldn鈥檛 end up using, and made friends with Praticia along the way. They ended up saving me by helping to put up my tent as the rain started in earnest. We sheltered in the cooking area and spent the night giving me beer, food and swapping music tips.

Above is where the tent was-i forgot to take a picture.

I ended up going to bed late and could not get warm. In the morning I discovered I was not the only one and in hiendsight it was the wind coming from the glacier.

It was time to start the treck which is only 3km but when you are walking up a steep hill in the Forrest it feels more like 10km. First we had to cross the bridge with the glacier melt water.

And then follow the Forrest path, which is really muddy so think about shoes if you come here.

But when you get to the top you are rewarded with this view.

Again there is no way the camera can really capture the sound and the wind but here is my first glacier.

When I first arrived it was hardly visible but after 10mins started to clear. Some people never get to see it so the weather is still on my side! We also walked around to get a different view from the lake.

My new Chilean friends all decided to hitch to the next destination and I was left alone again. I opted to camp near the road and this campsite was not as pleasant, compounded with a man walking around with an axe. For the moment I was completely alone with little option but more people showed up and waved. The man was a park ranger. I was also treated to this view of the rain.

The bus arrived at 7am the next day but to be sure to catch it I was up at 5:30 packing up my things in the dark and rain. I found myself in full waterproofs, comply relaxed sitting in the side of the Carretera Austral at 6:30 in the morning. For the first time I didn鈥檛 worry if the bus was going to show up or not. Soon I heard a noise, then saw light, then a lot more light and the bus stopped right in front of me. I was rewarded with the seat next to the diver giving me the best view of the 4 hour journey back.

I went to the same hostel and after another day of admin treated myself to Casa Tropera…and you should too. It鈥檚 great. And you get to cross this fun bridge.

Chilo茅 – Ancud, Ping眉inos de Pu帽ihuil, Castro, Achao, Dalcahue and Cucau (Muelle de las Almas)

I woke up feeling really tired* after two weeks of nonstop travel. This is the first day where I hadn鈥檛 planned how to get to my next destination, Ancud on Chilo茅, which is a huge island with some UNESCO heritage churches and plazas. The people I鈥檝e met on my travels have said it鈥檚 worth visiting but all I wanted to do today was not move or think, I had decided to camp at the next destination to check my gear and I wasn鈥檛 excited about the prospect. Before I knew it I was on a bus to Ancud, which included a short ferry trip. On the way there I kept falling asleep and was desperate not to miss my stop. I had a 2km walk to the hotel, I鈥檝e started carrying my bags to save a little on costs and also get in some exercise, as I鈥檓 going to have to carry everything for 78miles in a month so I need the practice.

I arrived at what appeared to be a deserted hotel, overlooking the sea at the top of a cliff. There was plenty of camping and each parch was surrounded by bushes.

The first challenge was paying as the receptionist did not speak any English and I was having trouble explaining that I didn鈥檛 have anything less than a $20000 peso note. Still tired* I managed to mitigate by asking for the bathroom and when I returned the manager changed my money.

I picked a spot with plenty of shade and after several attempts pitched the tent. Did some washing, yes those are my pants drying and collapsed. I went to town to buy food and accidentally brought raspberry flavoured water so deal with that for the next 24 hours.

Ping眉ineras de Pu帽ihuil

I decided to stay in Ancud because there is another colony of penguins close by but very little information on how to get there. I鈥檓 going to take a little time to relay my experience in case it helps anyone. I found this tourist information website that is in Spanish but it says the busses leave from Colo Colo at 12:00 and 13:00 and return at 16:20 and 17:20. I went to the Calle around 11:30 and found a large bus garage. After asking a lot of people and getting the same answers in Spanish, I deduced, well really after so much pointing it became painfully obvious, that the bus hadn鈥檛 yet arrived. It did leave at 12:00. When you get to the beach the road literally ends and cars have to drive up the beach.

The boat tours leave every 15 minutes. I went to an operator where the boat left in the next half hour and was joined by four Chillians and two Israel铆es, all pensioners. There were other boats that left with many more people and all were much younger. But still I鈥檓 now in the grey vote so it suited me fine. We were given around a 40 minute tour of the islands and I snapped these.

Thinking that the bus was not until 4:20 and I鈥檇 have to wait a long time I headed to read my book. There were a lot of busses on the beach and again I harassed people with my crap Spanish. I was directed to an orange, red and white bus which was run by Mar Brava, which is a company that was supposed to run busses but I couldn鈥檛 find out where from or the times. It left around 14:30 that wasn鈥檛 the advertised time and I tried to ride it as long as I could to find the destination but I was asked if I wanted to get off in centro so I did. I鈥檓 not sure if this is helpful but if you can get to the beach there are definitely busses back.

That night I took the guidebooks recommendation to try Curanto, an island delicacy. I went to Kurant贸n around 8:30 and there was one other customer. They took my order and promptly closed sending away a party of four. The shellfish was delicious and you should try if you come to the island-you might be better off finding somewhere in Castro or another town, personally if I were to do it again I鈥檇 give Ancud a miss-which is the advice I ignored.

Castro

The next day I headed to Castro and the walk to the bus station was much easier when I wasn鈥檛 so tired*. I stayed at Palafito Hostel which is famous for being, well a Palafito.

I ran into two American girls I鈥檇 met at a previous hostel and they told me I should visit Museo de Arte Moderno Chilo茅, so i did.

Museo de Arte Moderno Chilo茅

The next morning I headed off on the number 2 bus, you can catch it from the streets not the bus station and there is a stop on the corner of the main plaza. It鈥檚 a local bus and winds it鈥檚 way through the houses. Get off at the last stop and walk into the park, as you get inside there are a number of buildings that looks like private property. It鈥檚 one of those, this one to be exact:

The art is fairy interesting but the building is well worth seeing. It鈥檚 free but give a donation as it鈥檚 only fair.

Achao

I then headed to Achao which is another ferry ride, free if you are a passenger and you can get a bus all the way from Castro terminal. This is the site of the most famous Church on the island. I won鈥檛 go into too many details but Chilo茅 is famous for having sixteen of this style of churches and this is the oldest. It鈥檚 a little seaside town but most things were closed. I assumed that this was due to me being here just out of season, imagine a British seaside town two weeks into September, but was told it was because it鈥檚 a Sunday and Chillians chill on Sundays. Either way I鈥檒l leave it to you to decide when to visit.

I then headed back on the ferry to Dalcahue which has another of the churches.

It also has a lot of artesanal products if that is your thing, but I was more interested in food and headed to blah. Inside is a bustling market with lots of old ladies cooking tasty food. You pick a place pull up a stool and order. I had my first empanadas which were delicious.

Muelle De Las Alma

On my final day I wanted to go to the National Park but the receptionist said I should go to Muelle De Las Almas, which is a beautiful lookout point over the Pacific Ocean just outside Cucao. Go to the central terminal and busses leave every 30mins, and they meet with the busses that take you along a gravel road to the destination. It鈥檚 then a short 2k walk and I saw a lot of wildlife on the way.

It鈥檚 been a great few days relaxing and now time to head to Coyhaique and start the hiking. If anything to work of the calories in this burger and ice cream I鈥檝e just consumed!

*hungover

Puerto Varas, Saltos de Petrohue and Largo Todos los Santos

I woke up early to catch my bus to Chile. I met an Irish guy in the kitchen and we shared a taxi to the bus terminal. On the bus I was lucky to have one of the posh seats-I hadn鈥檛 paid extra this time either.

I was given and exit stamp on the Argentinian side and at the Chile border, which was a good 20km apart, we had to get off the bus and our bags were taken out and inspected by a dog who didn鈥檛 appear to have any qualifications checking for drugs. I realise it鈥檚 a bit difficult to tell just by looking and I didn鈥檛 ask for any formal qualifications but he seemed to be having a great time running about as opposed to sniffing bags. His owner was struggling to control to him and I鈥檓 kinda hoping that the guy just brought in his pet dog and has been blagging his job for years. I was given another stamp and let into Chile.

I got off the bus at Puerto Mott and after a few minutes of searching for a cashpoint, the one in the bus terminal was broken, I was on another bus to Puerto Varas. The bus driver tried to short change me by 9000 pesos but after I spend a minute thinking and challenged him he quickly realised his 鈥渆rror鈥.

Puerto Varas appears to be another tourist town sat on the edge of a Largo Llanquihue with Volc谩n Osorno in the background giving a postcard perfect view. I suppose this is one town where volcano insurance is necessary. At *instert height* it can be seen from miles around. There are a lot of German style houses here and the town itself is very pretty. The good weather seems to have followed me from Argentina as this was the first sunny day again for a while and you can鈥檛 see the volcano when it鈥檚 cloudy.

I spent the afternoon planning my next steps and became a little stuck due to my schedule. I ended up chatting to a British ex-squaddie who was charging his drone and has been biking around the world for 10 years and then thought I鈥檇 treat myself to a nice seafood meal, as there was a recommendation in the guide book.

I arrived in this lovely local looking restaurant with two old ladies serving food. It reminded me of a restaurant in Rome that served up delicious Italian food so I thought I鈥檇 hit the jackpot. I learnt two important lessons on this night:

1. Never trust the English translations

2. Order the food that the guide book suggests

I am a huge fan of shellfish so I was excited to see pan fried shrimp on the menu. I ordered along with a seafood broth. This is what was brought to me:

I like calamari but I鈥檓 not the biggest squid fan, especially when it looks a little too real. I thought I鈥檓 just going to have to get on with this and it was quite tasty, it just was too real for me to eat too much. They then brought out the broth which was piled high with mussels, other shellfish and some randomly boiled pork. It was not what I would call nice.

Camila later told me that squid and shrimp are similar in Spanish

Well I suppose as similar as they are in English. Doh!

I went back to the hostel annoyed I鈥檇 overspent on a not very enjoyable meal. There were 6 other guys in the room that I was staying and I had the top bunk which is never as easy. I was still stuck with what to do next but I got chatting to Amaya who lives locally and said she would take me out the next day. She also suggested looking at flying get to where I wanted.

To explain my predicament I have the choice of getting a 40 hour ferry with no cabins that may leave either every Friday and Sunday or Thursday and Saturday or a 28 hour ferry that leaves every Wednesday and Saturday or Thursday and Sunday and is know for not sailing when it is supposed to, but this one has cabbins for 拢80.

After I had a good nights sleep, found a flight thanks to my new friend and then had the pleasure of meeting Steph, who runs Worldly Adventuter, am to be honest I am a bit of a fan as her blog has given me tonnes of invaluable advice. I鈥檇 actually emailed her that morning. And following her advice I went off to see Saltos de Petrohue, which is some beautiful rapids running through the volcanic rock. I鈥檒l spare you all the details of how to get there as I鈥檝e been going on a little long

And then on to Petrohue which is another tourist destination with great views of Largo Todos los Santos.

From here I was also able to get some more great shots of the volcano. I鈥檓 very excited about the volcano. This is the first time I鈥檝e ever seen one in real life!

I returned to Puerto Varas and went to the viewing point, just because I wanted another shot of the volcano.

Later that evening Amaya picked me up and we went to a local bar where I had my first Pisco Sours, Ceviche and finically got my prawns. It was all delicious.

Amaya runs a consulting company that advises other companies to look at how they operate, is a musician and was able to tell me a lot about the local area.

The next day it was time to move on again. This time to Ancud

Bariloche – Refugio Frey and Refugio L贸pez treks

After returning from Gaiman on Friday I collected my bags and headed to the bus station for my first (16hr) bus journey to Bariloche. I booked the more expensive seats, which meant they nearly reclined fully turning them into beds.

When I awoke the landscape had changed into grassy foothills and quickly turned evergreen and mountainous. Think Switzerland (or that鈥檚 what I imagine as I鈥檝e never been there). I was excited to be on Ruta 40 which is a famous road which runs the length of Argentina. It was beautiful and I spent the next few hours watching the scenery. To be fair everything that I鈥檝e seen in Patagonia has been a treat for the eyes.

The afternoon I arrived in Bariloche I decided to go for a hike. This is after-all why I am here, to build up for the O circuit. I was told it was a little late in the day to start but there was a short hike to a viewpoint. I got on the bus as instructed but quickly realised it was going in the wrong direction. I got off and took a bus going in the other direction. It then dawned on me that I had read the map wrong and now in fact I was going in the wrong direction. I got off at the edge of town and decided to look around Bariloche instead. It鈥檚 a largely tourist town set on the side of a beautiful lake. People come in the summer for the hiking and in winter for the skiing.

Back at the hostel I made a few friends, one of whom Monica, wanted to join me for the trek to Refugio Frey.

Refugio Frey

Is a 12km walk to a beautiful lake in the mountains. It鈥檚 well worth the trek and one of Bariloche鈥檚 busiest trails, made worse for us as the day we decided to go there was some kind of race across the mountains where we constantly had to jump out of the way of oncoming runners. You can either opt to camp at the top or walk back to the beginning of the trail. Busses return to the city once and hour at 15 minutes past and at time of writing the last bus back is 9:15pm. It鈥檚 roughly 3 hours to the top and 2 back down again. But it took us 4 to get there and closer to 3 to return.

When I saw Monica in the morning I realised she was not dressed for a hike. I鈥檓 not sure if she understood the distance involved but she had thought I meant something else. She decided to come along anyway and we set off on the trail. It鈥檚 a fairly easy path that rises slowly through some Forrest before working it鈥檚 way around the side of the mountain alongside a lake. The path was dusty and after around an hour there are a few simple rocks to climb over. It became apparent that Monica鈥檚 shoes were not really up to the job and I wanted to set a much faster pace, mainly to challenge myself and to make sure we made it back in time.

Halfway along the trail it heads away from the lake and into a forest. There is a stream at this point if you need water and the path starts to climb more rapidly. Monica was great at chatting to other hikers and we learnt that the last two kilometres of the path was a steep climb-watch out for that!

Just as we hit the steep section we met Camila from Mar del Plata, who was happy to join our slow trek and she was meeting a friend of a friend at the top. The last push was tough and I kept lying to Monica saying it was only another 5mins. But we made it to the top and in the clothes Monica was wearing it鈥檚 something she should be proud of.

If you would like more detailed information about the trek then you can find it here

We made it back in time for a shower, beer, dinner and bed. I probably stayed up a little later than I should but was good to swap tales with other travellers.

Refugio L贸pez

I decided to go for another trek the following day and opted for Refugio Lopez. It鈥檚 a 6km walk all up a steep incline to the Refugio which takes around 2 hours. From there you can climb to the top of the mountain to Pisca Tourista which is another 3 hour round trip. The decent from Refugio Lopez is about 1 1/2 hours. To get there you can take the number 10 bus or a combination of the 21 & 13.

At the bus stop I recognised a few of the hikers from the previous day. Camila was also on the bus, headed to a much more relaxing destination.

I got talking to an American couple from Minnesota, Nathan and Melissa, where were expert climbers. They wanted to do some proper rock climbing but we鈥檙e having problems finding equipment. It was a really enjoyable assent and good to find out much more about a rural part of the US and we made it up in 2 hours.

I decided to continue as Sam who I met in Puerto Madryn had been in contact and I was meeting him later that night so I followed the 鈥減ath鈥 up the mountain, which basically consisted climbing over rocks. The trail signs were marked in red, many of you know it鈥檚 not the best colour for me, and when it turned to rock there were no footprints to follow.

I lost my way and realised it would be very easy to fall down so I stopped for lunch, I then realised I had left my water at the Refugio. Taking this as a sign I decided to head back down and was rewarded with another new friend.

After a rest I decided to head down to the bus stop as I had just enough time to make it back. I lost the trail on the way and soon realised that I was following a dry stream, it was steep but passable and it soon met up with the trail again. I also saw a tiny snake and I鈥檓 not sure who was more scared-I hate snakes.

If you would like more detailed information about the trek then you can find it here

The bus arrived and I ran into Camila again who gave me some more restaurant tips. I made it to the hostel and nearly collapsed, realising I had to pack quickly before heading out to meet Sam.

We went to a steak restaurant and I had my first experience of Argentine steak. It鈥檚 easily the best steak I鈥檝e had in my life and both steaks in the picture below cost around 拢12.

I don鈥檛 even know how to begin to describe it but it was so tender and you didn鈥檛 need to add any flavour. I will be eating more steak here. I called it an early night as I had to leave for Chille in the morning.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén