A Travellerspoint blog

Torres Del Paine

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Well, we´ve been away 2 months today........ feels like its going really quickly. We haven´t blogged for a while as we´ve went hiking for 5 days in the national park Torres del paine in Chile. We did the classic ´W´ route which takes you up 3 different valleys to different view points of the park. The night before we made a huge amount of pasta and other foods to take with us on our hike as we didn´t take any cooking stuff with us. On the first day we decided to walk to the torres from the park entrance rather than take the bus as it would save some money but luckily about 5 minutes in some kind Chileans stopped and let us sit in the back of their truck. We went over some pretty dodgy bridges... over a few we all had to get out and walk cos the bridge was too rickety but we got there in one piece. The first day we walked about 5 hours to one of the free camp grounds. We set up camp did a bit of exploring then tucked in to our bag full of pasta.... we took a beer with us too for the first night which was a good move! Our first night there it was very very very cold... at one point in the night i touched my feet and they were like ice cubes. we made it through the night and started our 10 hour hike to our next free camp site.

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The view for most of the second day was a bit boring, lots of scrubland- until the last few hours when we could see ´the horns´, three big mountain peaks that have a black tip, and a light brown bottom, so they were cool to look at.

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We set up camp again tucked in to our second bag of pasta, put three layers of socks on, gloves and hats and had a slightly warmer night.
The third day was by far my favourite, we hiked up the french valley where you´re surrounded by snowy mountains and glaciers. In the night i thought i heard thunder but infact we found out it was the glaciers moving and cracking. The walk through the valley was quite steep and rubbly, but it wasnt too bad cause we had left our packs at the tent. After carrying our heavy pack for so long it was strange getting your balance without them.

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The last two days we stayed at the same camp site and went out for hikes in the day. We hiked about 10 hours to a view point at Glacier Grey and back which was nice, except it was a bit hard for James who had gotten ill the night before, and did the whole day without eating anything. We didn´t get too close to the glacier but it was huge... you couldn´t see the end of it it just seemed to blend in with the sky.

On the 5th day we were both ready for some hot food and a comfy bed so we made our way to the lake and got the catamaran back to the main entrance. We had a really awesome time and the views pretty much the whole way were amazing. The weather was so good for us too, we had heard lots of stories about how bad the weather can get there but the time we were there it was pretty good... it only rained at night time. They say you get 4 seasons in a day at the park and thats definatley true- its snowing one minute and sunny the next.
So after a comfy nights sleep and some delicious homemade burgers, we decided to head up Chile- only to find out it was almost impossible without forking out a few hundred dollars for a boat. We are currently back in Bariloche for the night after 28 hours spent backtracking our whole patagonian route. Heading into Mendoza tomorrow, and then either to Santiago or Buenos Aires depending on how much we want to see more of Chile.

Posted by St Martins 09:04 Archived in Chile Tagged hitchhiking Comments (0)

El Calafate

Who knew that glaciers were cold?

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So after spending a night in the rubbish oil refining town of Rio Gallegos, we got a bus to El Calafate, to see Perito Moreno glacier. The town itself isnt actually as bad as we thought, a bit touristy- but most places around here are. So anyway, we booked ourselves on another bus which took us to the 'Parque Nacional los Glaciers'. When we got off, it was freezing. Really cold- El Calafate is a bit chilly, but nothing like this. I guess its the wind blowing all the chilled air off the ice or something, but I was very unprepared for this level of cold, I didnt even have a hood I could pull up to stop my ears from freezing. Luckily, Sadie had better foresight, and had predicted (silently) that a huge chunk of Ice 5km across would be a bit chilly, and had worn lots of layers- so she let me borrow her coat (complete with hood). Lifesaver. Anyway, Perito Moreno was amazing, we´ve never seen a glacier before and it was just so surreal- spiky towers of blue-tinted ice stretching on for miles.

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Perito Moreno is one of the last advancing glaciers left, and it moves something like 2m a day, so its constantly cracking and creaking, with huge chunks of ice falling off into the water every now and then. It was pretty impressive.

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To give an idea of how big it is, Perito Moreno is the world´s third largest resevoir of fresh water. Huge. So we spent 4ish hours walking along all the balconies that overlook the glacier, waiting for the next big chunk of ice to calve off while all the american tourists clap and cheer. Its pretty funny, but you can see why its a bit touristy, cause its awesome. So after walking around getting chilly for hours (we could have stayed longer), we got the bus back and decided to head to Puerto Natales in Chile next (to do Torres del Paine) instead of going to El Chalten first.

Posted by St Martins 10:04 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Puerto Madryn

Smelly Sea Lions

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So Puerto Madryn is famous for whale watching mainly- but its not whale season at the moment, theyre all off somewhere else. We knew that though, we were passing en-route to El Calafate and El Chaltan, so thought it would be a good idea to stop off and see some of the wildlife thats here all year round. After settling down, and resting our aching limbs (after the hike in El Bolson) for a day or two, we booked a tour to Penninsula Valdes- a dusty desert sticking out of the coast. Apparently the sea bed is the flattest terrain in the world (it stays at 100m for miles and miles) or near enough, which is why the whales come here because they need flat shallow water to mate in or something like that. I think theres also loads of fish and plankton because the shallow water is good for photosynthesis. Which is why all the sea lions come here- to eat. And then the Orcas come to eat them. How interesting. So our tour took us along the desert in a bus where we spied some Guanacas, and Rheas, then stuck us on a boat to see some sea lions. It was pretty cool, although the sea lions stink cause the males just stay on land the whole time so they dont lose their females. There were loads of baby sea lions as well that were like a week old and they were pretty sweet.

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Then the boat took us to some place where we could snorkel in freezing cold water- there was nothing to see at all except a few crabs, but it was a bit of fun cause we had wet suits and flippers on and that.

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After the boat trip, we got back on a coach to Punta Norte, which is where the killer whales come up on the beach to eat all the sea lions in February. We didnt see any Orcas, but in the carpark we did see some friendly Armadillos, and some grumpy old sea lions having a fight.

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After that we were taken to a spot where some penguins were just chilling out on the cliffs which was pretty awesome because they were so funny. Not all of them were chilling though, I saw one man-penguin take a fancy to a lady penguin and mount her- which was also very amusing because they are quite clumsy and flap their little wings.

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Then we went to a spot where we could see elephant seals which was cool. They feed way out at sea though and are only on the beaches to molt their skin- so they were just vegging out to save energy. Saw one scratch his face though.

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So that was that, getting a bus to Rio Gallegos tonight where we need to change to get to El Calafate.

Posted by St Martins 05:06 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

El Bolson

Hikes Hikes and more Hikes!!!

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We have had an amazing time in a small town called El Bolson. We done alot of walking and hiking and our legs are definately paying for it now. Our hostel was 2 km out of town but it was a really nice place, like staying in someones house. We wandered round town the first day and had a look at what sort of things we could do. We heard about a thing called Cabeza del Indio, which is a bunch of rocks that look like mans face so we hiked up there to see it, when we got there we saw a sign for a waterfall (thinking that it wouldn´t be far), so we went to find it.... an hour later we did and it was lovely- but we had to walk all the way back to see the face of rocks. The view from there were pretty good and the rocks did look like a mans face!

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We also heard about a market that happened in the town every week so we went to check it out. Its a really lovely market and it sold lots of organic food, nice gifts and music going on. The town was originally a sort of hippy settlement up in the moutains and it still has that feel. There are also alot of Refugios up in the mountains that you can hike to and stay so we decided to do just that. We hiked uphill to Refugio Piltriquitron which was 1500m up. There we set up our tent and ate dinner and took in the amazing views. It was pretty chilly that high up but luckily we had prepared for that with some extra layers. The next day we went to see some startues that had been carved into trees by local artists which was interesting. Then we saw a huge Andean Condor which was nearly as big as us- not sure how rare they are, but Ive heard they are!

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We then started the hike to the summit..... it was a very steep walk up to the peak, and the loose terrain didnt help- we kept slipping back down every few steps. When we did finally get to the top, THERE WAS SNOW!!!! It was very exciting! We made a snow man, took some pictures of the view, which was stunning! I can´t even explain how good it looked!

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All the surrounding moutains ranges looked just... wow! Getting down the hill was possibly harder than getting up! I fell down.... alot! When we got back we went to the refugio and had a big pizza and a litre of home brewed beer for our hard work. The sun set that night was also great and as the sky was clear so got up in the cold to have a look at the starts..... Because there was no light pollution we saw thousands of stars... i´ve never seen so many! It was amazing, we sat on the edge of cliff and watched the stars then went back to our little tent. The next day we walked down hill for 4 hours to get back to town to get our bus to Puerto Madryn (on the bus some police dogs were checking the luggage, and they must have smelled our rotten socks or something cause we got called off the bus to be searched- obviously they didn´t find anything... funny stuff) Now our legs are aching so badly from the down hill walks, we´re walking round like old crones!

Posted by St Martins 16:42 Archived in Argentina Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Biking in Bariloche

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So we had heard that Bariloche is quite popular for its 'Chico Circuit' which takes you all around the mountains, through llao llao forest, and past lots of lakes. So we decided to hire a bike and cycle the whole way. It was a lot of fun, although there was a lot of steep upward hills (probably equally as many downhill ones, but you tend to focus on your hardships) which made it pretty tiring. It was ok though cause I wa a lot faster than Sadie, so I got loads of breaks while I waited for her. About halfway along we did a bit of walking along a trail to a lake, that took us through these cool arches of bamboo which was cool.

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The journey was very nice, did the whole 30km in about 5 hours, but we did stop off in places to chill, so wasnt too bad. We later read in lonely planet that the circuit can be cycled by "hardcore cyclists", which made us feel a bit better about being pansies about the uphill bits. The views at the top were well worth it though.

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Another top day. Today we were too lazy to do the hike we had planned to do, so we went into town and got our bus tickets for tomorrow to El Bolson.

Posted by St Martins 17:29 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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