HIKING IN THE INCREDIBLE PATAGONIA

Don’t worry (dad) this is not a post about an experience with some psychedelic local drug. We went down to Patagonia (and back).

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After some confusion with the taxi driver in Bariloche about where the stop was actually located, we got on yet another long distance bus. Destination: El Chaltén, Patagonia. We chose for the two day journey with a tour operator instead of the 28 hour straight one, because 1: it was cheaper (and included two nights of accommodation, win win win!) and 2: the prospect of sitting on a bus (even the really comfortable ones they have here) for 28 hours without stretching our legs or getting some non pre-breathed air (if that’s a thing) didn’t really appeal to us.

When we got to the hotel in Perito Moreno, frankly a pretty shitty town (not to be confused with the magnificent glaciar), we couldn’t believe our luck when they handed us the key to our double, although admittedly also quite shabby, hotel room. A double room! For (kind of) free! Together with an English couple, another English guy and a Swiss chef we met on the bus we went looking for a place to have dinner, which was a bit of an adventure in itself. We ended up in place that looked like the venue for some tacky sweet sixteen party and the owner served us some interesting pizza creations (as in: with chips and eggs on top).

When we arrived in El Chaltén our new friend, the Swiss chef, cooked us up a great meal, which he did for the rest of the week we travelled together. Let me tell you, it’s easy to get used to being cooked for by a professional every night (thank you Stefan!). The next two days we spent hiking. 50km in total. Not gonna lie, slightly proud of that. The scenery made up for every single drop of sweat and muscle ache though! Patagonia in general is probably the most beautiful place we have visited on our trip so far. What we saw? Snow capped mountains, glaciars, lakes and the because it was the start of autumn, trees in the most amazing shades of red and orange.

El Chaltén

El Chaltén

Laguna Torre

Laguna Torre

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On the end of our second day hike, which we optimistically began in shorts, we got caught off guard by the unpredictable Patagonian weather. On the top of the mountain the icy wind was blowing so hard we could barely stand up straight and on top of that it was snowing. It’s fair to say we got quite cold up there.

A very cold Matthew.

A very cold Matthew.

After El Chaltén we travelled a bit further south to El Calafate, where we visited the Perito Moreno glaciar. We went on a tour where we got to actually walk on the glaciar as well as take countless pictures of it. During our little stroll on the ice (with crampons) we could hear the ice falling of the edge every now and then which made a really loud, gunshot-like, sound. Very impressive indeed.

Whisky with some glaciar ice at the end of the tour. A bit gimmicky, but still cool.

Whisky with some glaciar ice at the end of the tour. A bit gimmicky, but still cool.

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After visiting El Calafate’s main attraction we decided to leave our travelling friends and Argentina behind us and crossed the border over to Chile. We got to fill in the usual administrative forms that no one ever seems to look at (the border control guy was way too busy watching his favourite soap for that anyway) and got sniffed by a very undisciplined drug puppy, which was quite funny. Although he was very cute, I can’t imagine him doing the job very well. We spent our two first Chilean nights in Puerto Natales, where we bought/rented all the food and gear we would need for 3 days of camping and hiking in the Torres del Paine national park.

Now, let’s talk about camping for a minute. Whoever decided that camping is supposed to be fun way to spend your holidays is an idiot. A tent inevevitably gets smelly and humid (you know, you still have to breathe) and it’s always either way too hot or too cold. In our case: fucking freezing.

Boo to camping!

Boo to camping!

The discomforts of camping aside, it was an amazing trip. Again, the landscape was very impressive, and sort of rough in a way. On the first day, apart from bright blue lakes and a glaciar (again, yawn. Only joking of course!), we saw the burnt threes that were the result of a big fire in 2011, which explains the countless ‘DON’T DO FIRE‘ signs that you can see all over the park. The second day was definitely an ups and downs kind of day. My (this is Lore speaking by the way) mood changed from extremely grumpy, hiking with a 15kg backpack on your back isn’t that comfortable apparently, to extremely happy when the low clouds that where ruining the views all day suddenly dissapeared in about 5 minutes.

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On the last morning I hiked up (and you can take up seriously, it was quite steep) to a viewpoint to see the sunrise on the Torres (after which the park is named). Matt stayed behind because he wasn’t feeling well (two days of (not) sleeping in a cold tent didn’t do him much good) so it was just me and a torch. Even though I asked myself ‘what the hell am I doing’ quite a few times one the way, especially when I followed some people in the wrong direction and there were quite big rocks coming down the hill because people kept slipping (I managed to get back on the right path in the end), it was worth it. The peaks went from bright red to orange to yellow and you could see their reflection in the lake in front of them. Beautiful. And hey, I got some extra morning exercise in too. After that it was time to return to our warm beds (and shower!) in the hostel in Puerto Natales.

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