A Travellerspoint blog

Awesome Argentina (and a bit more of Chile)

The rest of Patagonia; Puerto Natales, El Calefate, El Chalten and everything in-between

sunny 10 °C

We’ve covered quite a bit of ground since returning from the W. We’ve crossed the border back into Argentina for starters, checked out 2 more towns, walked for miles and survived 4 bus trips. The W blog took all the words out of me, so this will be short and full of pictures. The recent highlights:

1. Double capaccino with cream and chocolate in one hand, and a spanish phrase book in the other Puerto Natales, Chile.

1. Double capaccino with cream and chocolate in one hand, and a spanish phrase book in the other Puerto Natales, Chile.


Before we crossed back into Argentina we just HAD to go back to a great little sandwich bar/cafe we had discovered in Puerto Natales. The first time we were there we were discussing the pros and cons of how to do the W trail, and afterwards just how great it was. Our bus out of Chile wasn’t until the afternoon, which left plenty of time for our little indulgence. But not for just any coffee but a “cappacino doble con crema y chocolate”. Delicious! Worth every cent of the 2,200 CLP (£2.90).

2. Sunset 1. Drive from Puerto Natales (Chile) to El Calafate (Argentina). Taken on Argentinan side of border

2. Sunset 1. Drive from Puerto Natales (Chile) to El Calafate (Argentina). Taken on Argentinan side of border

3. Sunset 2. Drive from Puerto Natales (Chile) to El Calafate (Argentina). Taken on Argentinan side of border

3. Sunset 2. Drive from Puerto Natales (Chile) to El Calafate (Argentina). Taken on Argentinan side of border


As you know I can’t resist a good sunrise or sunset photo, but these surely have to be admired simply for how they were taken. Our bus trip from Chile back to Argentina took 5 hours, leaving the Chilean side at 6.30pm. Perfect timing to see an amazing sunset. This was problematic (photographically) for three reasons: 1. the bus was headed directly east, so we were driving away from the sunset – I had to twist around in my seat and attempt to take the photo backwards with the camera at an angle to the window. 2. The windows were filthy from all the dust on the road and 3. Bumpy road = moving bus, need I say more. So pretty chuffed with the results, if I do say so myself. AND they were not taken in automatic mode – I have actually learnt something about ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Result. Although the setting has since been returned to “auto” as it is all a bit too much sometimes.

4. Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calefate, Argentina

4. Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calefate, Argentina


As far as glaciers go – this is the big daddy. One of only a few in the world that is actually advancing; it is indeed a sight to behold. Luckily for us the sun decided to shine for a few minutes reflecting nicely off the water. And even luckier we saw (and definitely heard) a few smallish chucks breaking off and crashing into the water below. Even the smallest pieces make the hugest noises. It’s hard to imagine just how loud a really huge chuck would be; but really bloody loud would be the understatement of the century I think. One massive chunk in particular looked certain to break off at any second but despite spending the best part of 7 hours keeping a close eye on that bit it stayed very securely in place. Viewing the glacier could not be easier – a series of layered walkways in front and on either side of the glacier allow visitors to stroll up and down and view it from all angles. We estimated we did over 2000 stairs in our 7 hour visit so we definitely deserved our cerveza that day.

5. Laguna torre, El Chalten, Argentina

5. Laguna torre, El Chalten, Argentina

6. Laguna de los tres, El Chalten, Argentina

6. Laguna de los tres, El Chalten, Argentina


Our next destination: El Chalten, offered two walks to various glaciers, lagoons, waterfalls and ‘tower’ viewpoints. We were told that if we liked the W in Chile (and we did), then we would definitely like El Chalten. The National Park surrounding El Chalten also has the added advantage of being free of charge, so we liked it immensely even before arrival. We did two 1 day walks, each of about 8 hours each and have to say that the ‘Laguna de los Tres’ is even more spectacular than the torres viewpoint in the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, although getting to it is much much more difficult. Anyone who likes nature and hiking NEEDS to come to Patagonia – it is your Mecca!

7. El Chalten, red rocks at sun-rise, Argentina

7. El Chalten, red rocks at sun-rise, Argentina


The guy at our hostel in El Chalten informed us that checking out the sunrise was worth doing. To use one of Mike’s expressions, getting out of bed at 6.15am was a real ‘ball ache’, but if we didn’t do it would we always regret not seeing the wonderful red colours reflected off the Fitz Roy Mountain? Well we did it, and the colour of the mountain does go from black, to red to white as the sun comes up just like we were told it would – amazing stuff.

Not much happened over the next two days; a 12 hour bus trip followed by a 13 ½ hour bus trip the next day to get us from El Chalten to Bariloche. I’d love to be able to say the scenery was riveting, diverse and gorgeous but this would be a big fat lie. Nothing but sandy mounds and the occasional llama grazing. The journey was broken up with a rather uncomfortable night at a ‘ho hum’ hostel along the way.

Bariloche though is worth a visit: National Geographic reckons one of the top 10 best views is nearby, plus hundreds of chocolate shops and St. Bernard dogs roaming around town. We’re there!

Adios, Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 16:53 Archived in Argentina Comments (5)

The ‘W’ trail minus a bit at the end

A 3 day hike in beautiful but chilly Chile: Torres del Paine National Park

all seasons in one day

We probably could have stayed in Ushuaia for a week or more but mindful we needed to make some headway north (at some point) we jumped on a 15 hour bus: destination Puerte Natales. One border crossing into chilly Chile and an unexpected look around Porta Arenas and we had arrived at our destination, right on schedule but very late at night. One night at a rather ‘ho hum’ hostel made us ever so eager to find somewhere better the next day so we checked out of one rather dirty unpleasant hostel and into one very nice awesome hostel. Very big plug for Hospedaje Nancy here!

The question of the day was “to do the W or not”? We were very much in two minds. A one day walk to the famous Torres lookout point vs. the full 4 day expedition. Or something in-between? Or something even more ambitious? What to do, what to do? Decisions, decisions! After a bit of research on the internet, a trip to the information centre for maps and a discussion over coffee later we had made our decision.

3 days, 2 nights. Our day of research, decision making and later supply buying was one of the coldest days EVER. Think arctic wind and frostbite. After months in Africa sweating and wearing jandles and shorts here we were wearing long trousers, proper shoes, puffer jackets and beanies. It was a real pain lugging all that warm weather gear around for 4 months in 30 degree sunshine but now we are getting good use out of every layer! So the idea of getting into a tent if it was going to be that cold was totally out of the question – we’re meant to be enjoying this holiday after all. Even though it was ridiculously expensive we “upgraded” and booked proper beds in camp refugios complete with mattresses and pillows. This would also save us (well Mike) from carrying a heavy tent and both sleeping bags etc. To cut the cost down a fraction we therefore decided to do all our own cooking so after renting the gas thing and a few pots and bowls we headed to the supermarket to get some camp food. This proved not to be as easy as we first thought. Back at home (NZ) camp food can be purchased in every outdoors store (or does my memory fail me?). Freeze dried meatballs with rice or freeze dried sausage curry with rice. You know the ones I mean – the sachets that only require boiling water to be poured in and hey presto ‘bon apetite’? Well anyway nothing even remotely like that was possible so we got a collection of soup, noodle, risotto and pasta packets. And some tuna and salami, chocolate, biscuits, ham and cheese rolls, bananas and nuts. How long were we going for again?

Shopping done, then it was time to pack the bags. We squeezed only what was absolutely necessary into my big back-pack (for Mike to carry) and Mike’s small day-pack (for me to carry). Final weigh in was about 13kg and 7kgs respectively so not too bad really.

FYI. The W trail is called the W because its shape resembles the letter, except it’s more like a lower case w with rounded edges. Going up to the points requires some backtracking back down the same paths. We walked from right to left. A refugio is essentially a hostel.

I will also just explain our reasoning for doing a 3 day trip instead of all other possibilities (1 day/2 days/4 days/9 days etc): A few weeks ago some numpty started cooking in a very inappropriate place and who knows what really happened but the result was a bush fire with the most dreadful consequences. All of the left hand side of the W is destroyed as well as a sizable chuck of park further south. The park rangers told us quite plainly that if the wind is blowing (and it is very windy in the western part of the Torre Del Paine Park), then your eyes, nose and mouth MUST be covered to protect against ash. No thank you – so that’s why we didn’t do the 4th day. We saw some of the effects of the fire at the very end of our 3rd day but I’m getting way ahead of myself. Blessedly the rest of the W is completely unaffected and totally magnificent; which is why we wanted to do more than 1 day. As for the full 9 day option - that would definitely require a tent so was quickly dismissed as indeed WAY too ambitious.

Day 1:
We got picked up from our hostel at 7.30am for the 2 hour drive into the park. The views out of the window (when we weren’t snoozing) were magnificent so we knew we were in for some pretty good sights once actually in the park. At one point there was even a rainbow. Park entrance fees paid, a final look at the map, and a few last minute questions answered by the park ranger and we were ready to go. Mike had a strange feeling that we had forgotten something! Shit balls! I could only hope it wasn’t something really vital, like clean undies or the camera battery.

Right so there’s a free shuttle to get you from the main gate area to the start of the trails but we (well mostly Mike) decided to flag that and walk the distance instead. A mere 7.5kms or 1.5hrs additional walking. The back-pack started off feeling light and manageable, maybe even comfortable. That nice feeling lasted for about 20 minutes before back ache, shoulder strain and neck pain set in – it was going to be a long 3 days! Only kidding! Having to get the raincoat out of the bag was no laughing matter though as the clouds and mist settled in but thankfully the drizzle was short lived and not too heavy.

The day’s objective was the ‘base de las torres’ viewpoint at the top of the right hand stalk of the W. We were pleased the rain had stopped but we still had all our fingers and toes crossed for blue sky and sunshine. Conditions can change quickly in the park, and as we were going to spend all afternoon hiking uphill to this viewpoint we needed/wanted the cloud to clear off long enough to actually see something once there. Namely the ‘torres’ or towers in English. We would have to walk straight past our refugio for the night: ‘Campamento Chileno’ so we had the brain wave of an idea to leave the big bag at camp and just take up the smaller bag with water and snacks etc. Mike could carry that leaving me with only the camera (three guesses for whose idea that was). But first we had to get to Chileno which was nothing short of a mission – 2 more hours of mostly uphill slog. Stopping often on the pretence of enjoying the view and/or taking photographs was fooling no one. Reassuringly every single other person on the track found it just as tough going as we did. The size of some people’s backpacks was incredible. We met a French guy ‘Clem’ at our hostel in Puerto Natales who planned on spending 9 days in the park – with 9 days’ worth of food he could barely lift his bag. Good luck to him!

When we reached Chileno camp we had a quick scout round the refugio to locate our bunk beds. They stack them 3 high but luckily we were on the bottom and middle bunks so no mountaineering for us then to get into bed. After a quick bit of lunch and a prayer or two for the clouds to clear up we were off on the next stage. 1.5 hours to the base of the tower, then another 1 hour to the view point. I’m pleased to say we made it in less time than predicted (might have something to do with not having heavy bags on our backs). Unfortunately by the time we made it to the top, not only had the cloud not disappeared for us but was in fact even worse than when we had started out. The view was still incredible but the very tops of the towers were shrouded in mist. It definitely added a somewhat mystical and dramatic element to the scene but I think we would have much preferred brilliant sunshine and a perfect view. Who wouldn’t but that’s Mother Nature for you. The wind started to pick and instead of blowing the cloud away just made more roll on over the tops and down towards the lagoon – time to make a hasty retreat before we got too cold.

7.5 hours of walking on the first day was not to be sniffed at, nor was the steaming hot shower and fluffy sleeping bags we climbed into afterwards. Dinner was a low key affair having decided not to bother with the gas thing until lunch the next day. Just before bed time some of our room mates were discussing the pros and cons of heading back up to the torres viewpoint for sunrise but as this involved getting out of bed at 4.15am, although tempting, wasn’t for us.

Day 1a, there's a mountain in there somewhere

Day 1a, there's a mountain in there somewhere

Day 1b, on the way to refugio Chileno

Day 1b, on the way to refugio Chileno

Day 1c, tips of the towers hiding

Day 1c, tips of the towers hiding

Day 2.
We realised at breakfast the next morning what we had forgotten to pack. Powdered milk! Nothing too vital and luckily we had two cartoons of pre-made milo. FYI: muesli with milo is quite good.

Our second day in the park was always going to be our “easy” day – a mere 4.5 hour walk across the bottom right section of the W. As that was only going to take half the day we decided to give the torres viewpoint another chance in the morning. Why not - the day seemed brighter than the previous one, the sun was shining and there was even some patchy blue sky around. From camp you can just see the torres in the distance so we were making this decision on what we thought was pretty sound reasoning. Unfortunately for us by the time we reached the torres this time, not only was the mist at the top of the towers worse than the previous afternoon, but it had started to snow as well. We stayed only for the time it took to take 3 pictures and acknowledge that the weather wasn’t going to change any time soon. About 2 minutes. We made an even more hasty retreat than the previous afternoon hampered by flying snowflakes to the face. They hurt quite a bit actually.

Then it was time to get the gas cooker out and whip up a delicious cheese and salami risotto for lunch and a nice steaming mug of black coffee (as we had forgotten the milk powder remember).

The afternoon was spent first going down what we had slogged up the previous day, and then over mostly flat land or gently rolling land to our second camp site. We walked past small lakes on one side and the almighty torres mountain range on the other. It was sunshine and blue sky the whole way! Typical! Entertaining us on this part of the trip were two Swiss French chaps, Patrick and Olivier, both of whom were quite funny. (Patrick we had met with Clem at our hostel in Puerto Natales). Added to this we were further entertained by a couple of other young trekkers who were obviously struggling, not really enjoying themselves and carrying way too stuff. Between them they had a very mysterious heavy looking briefcase. Too big to fit in either of their back packs they were carrying it by hand, by turns sharing the burden. Multiple suggestions were put forth: a weapon, a star gazing telescope or a defibrillator were some. Olivier tried to ask them but got a cagey and non-conclusive reply. His suggestion of a petanque set won the day. We never did find out what it was. Very strange indeed.

We were too busy at camp that night to do any more investigating; not only did we have dinner to cook, but lunch for the next day also. Dinner consisted of vegetable and salami curry rice. Lunch being a tuna and mixed bean pasta salad (something that had gone down a treat several times in Africa). Not a quick process when you only have one small gas burner thing. We also had to sort our dorm beds out; the refugio having booked 7 people into a 6 bed dorm and us being the last to arrive. All worked out in the end, although we were in a semi-permanent “tent” structure outside of the main refugio which was unfortunately VERY cold. We were supplied with a nice duvet and pillow but they were inadequate for the overnight temperatures. I slept in two jumpers and my puffer jacket and was still cold; Mike went to bed with no socks on and ended up wrapping his feet in his fleece and was also cold. So our “easy” day did turn into rather a “busy” day. 8 hours of walking, 1 ½ hours of cooking and no sleep.

Day 2a, on the way to refugio Cuernos

Day 2a, on the way to refugio Cuernos

Day 2b, still trying to convince Mike to go horseriding with me

Day 2b, still trying to convince Mike to go horseriding with me

Day 2c, just so you know Mike doesn't do all the cooking

Day 2c, just so you know Mike doesn't do all the cooking

Day 3
We always knew that day 3 would be both the most enduring and the most rewarding. 10 hours of walking (a lot of which would be uphill) but the objective being the Frances Valley (a place we had heard nothing but great things about). And time would be critical; we had a boat to catch in the afternoon to make our transfer back to Puerto Natales. To make sure we reached the final viewpoint with some time to spare and to make sure we wouldn’t have to leg it to catch that boat we set out before dawn. One more excellent bowl of milo and muesli, eaten in the dark, and we were off. All the camp was quiet, not another soul was up yet. Finding out where the path was the day before might have been an excellent idea but it only took one wrong turn and a small amount of backtracking to get it right. Looking back towards camp as we headed off into the darkness and seeing the sun rise over the mountains was worth the early start. The head torches and puffer jackets were only worn for about half an hour before the sun’s appearance made both un-necessary. The first part of the day was nice and easy with mostly flat walking and we didn’t cross paths with anybody coming the other way until we were almost at the next camp-site (about 2 hours). People hiking in Patagonia are very friendly and very polite. No-one goes past without saying “hola” or perhaps a “hola, que tal?” That morning I was glad there was no-one to greet – it was way too early and I didn’t have the energy. Lol.

Once again we dumped the big bag at the next camp site before embarking on the hike up the Frances valley. This was the “grand finale”, the main event. The view at the end made us wish we had mastered the panoramic setting on the camera – maybe it have done it justice. Mountains, glaciers, blue sky, trees, sheer rock faces – this view had it all! We were surprised how quickly we had made it up to the final viewpoint, over an hour quicker than predicted. Out came our tuna pasta salad (to a few envious glances from other trekkers to be sure) and some time to enjoy the view and take the obligatory self-portrait/posed picture.

Getting back down was easy enough, albeit a bit tough on the knee joints. The final stage, 2.5 hours up and over one more mountain to the boat just about took everything I had left to give. The final half an hour seemed to take FOREVER but we made it in good time: even had time for 40 winks in the sun before the boat turned up.

I think the last part seemed to take longer because gone were the lush green trees, gone were the dense shrubs and gone was the perfect park. The little bit of fire damage we saw coming into the western most part of the W was pretty bad. I’m glad we didn’t venture too far around. It was spooky and a little bit depressing to see nothing but black charcoal tree stumps everywhere. Mike likened it to a ‘Tim Burton’ film, Sleepy Hollow perhaps? I wish them well for the restoration and re-planting project – it will take a lot of time and money but hopefully the park can be restored to its former glory soon. We’ve since heard that the government of the offending person has pledged monitory assistance. A small consolation to the Chilean government I’m sure as it’s the second time this has happened, the first fire being in 2005. (No – it definitely wasn’t a New Zealander, somewhere very far from home in fact).

All in all 3 very awesome days. We were extremely tired, slightly battered by the elements, and had a ton of food left, but we had done the W (or almost all the W). A great sense of achievement was rewarded by a large pat on the back, and an even larger cerveza. If I’m honest I would have to say the hiking was easier than expected and the views better than expected. Finding out our bus out of Puerto Natales left at 6.30pm instead of 8am was like sweet sweet music to the ears.

We may have climbed a mountain or two but that was nothing compared to the mountain of washing we handed in to the Laundromat the next day. Carrying our full back packs to the bus stop in the afternoon was nothing short of painful though. :-)

Day 3a, up early, a long day ahead of us

Day 3a, up early, a long day ahead of us

Day 3b, sunrise shortly after leaving refugio Cuernos

Day 3b, sunrise shortly after leaving refugio Cuernos

Day 3c, on our way up Frances Valley

Day 3c, on our way up Frances Valley

Day 3d, on top of Frances Valley

Day 3d, on top of Frances Valley

Day 3e, final stretch to reach catamaran

Day 3e, final stretch to reach catamaran

Next stop: El Calefate and the famous glacier: Perito Moreno.

Hasta luego, Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 17:32 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

The End of the World: Part 2.

Day 2 in Ushuaia: Not a single beaver to be seen.

all seasons in one day

Before I plough into Day 2: Ushuaia, a quick story from the previous evening at our hostel. We were both in the communal kitchen area; I was on the internet researching various things which meant Mike was doing the cooking. The funny thing is though there were two middle aged Russian women in there also cooking who couldn’t for the life of them figure out why the man was cooking while I was sitting down on the computer drinking beer no less. Their men-folk were doing precisely that at another table. They kept looking at him, at me, but more often at what Mike was doing: checking out his food, what was going into the pan. If we could understand Russian I’m positive we would have heard them discussing how scandalous/unbelievable it was. We thought it was hilarious! And just in case you’re wondering – we had spag boll!

But back to Ushuaia. We had ambitious plans for day 2; La Laguna Esmeralda or emerald lagoon. Not only would we have to catch a regular bus (and therefore purchase tickets with our minimal Spanish) but we would also have to navigate the trail with only a vague sense of where we were going. Both turned out to be easier than expected. The regular bus ended up being our own private minivan transfer to what we thought would be a ski resort/chalet but was really a husky dog training school: awesome. And as for navigating the trail, for 10 pesos we got the kind of map a child might draw when they are 3 years old complete with circular trees, snake like streams, triangle shaped mountains and squiggles for water.

Luckily for us the “map” also came with pretty good verbal instructions, in English, and the trail itself marked thoroughly with yellow and blue markers. Apparently getting lost was common so to compensate/avoid further mishaps they have gone to town with the markers. They could have just improved the map! Lol. Dragging Mike away from 72 Husky dogs was no easy task but we had a hike to do: a lagoon to visit and a glacier to walk on. We needed to get moving as it was a rather fresh day: mist everywhere, rain threatening and bitterly cold.

The walk to the lagoon, and then onwards and upwards to the glacier was an exceptionally pleasant way to spend a day. Once warmed up, helped by the appearance of the sun and with the hope of seeing a beaver we were happy little trekkers indeed. The landscape changed often; one minute we were walking through forested tree areas, then meadow lands, then meandering beside a stream. Even before we reached the lagoon, the water was greenish in colour. The grass was so spongy it was like walking on a trampoline (slight exaggeration allowed here). It was obvious we were in beaver territory though by all the little dams and waterfalls created along the way; it certainly looked as if beavers had been busy and we were certain we would see one! We didn’t, but the lagoon and glacier more than made up for this lack. The lagoon just appeared suddenly without us having seen it in the distance and just prior to that small snowflakes had started to gently float down. Talk about 4 seasons in 1 day. The lagoon itself was indeed green, as its name suggests which you can kind-of see in the pictures below.

Our “map” ended at the lagoon but the nice lady down at the ‘Husky dog training school’ had told us it was possible to go around the right hand side of the lagoon and straight up to the glacier. So that’s exactly what we did. With yesterday’s hike up glacier Martial ending a long way short of the actual glacier we were keen to get to the ice line today. That involved about an hour of walking through what can only be described as a tree cemetery; countless dead trees emerging from the milky white/green water. Beautiful in an eerie kind of way. That was followed by the only tough section – straight up over gravel and rock. The actual ice was a lot further away than it looked (always is) but after some rather strenuous climbing we made it to the ice line. 10 minutes was all it took to get the required photos and then down we went. That part was twice as difficult as going up but nothing ventured nothing gained, right?

Back at the dog school we had just enough time for a quick play with some of the dogs and a beer (justly deserved we felt after all the rock climbing) before our transfer back to town. Strange system they have: you phone the bus driver when you’re ready and he comes and collects you. Awesome!

All in all a 12km walk the day after a 20km walk was hopefully going to be all the preparation we needed for a 3 day trekking expedition in Chile at the end of the week? Bring on the famous ‘W’ trek.

P.S. Guess what the Russians had for dinner that night……….? Spag boll. Hilarious! Mike must have made some impression on those Russian ladies.

Keely

1. Trecherous bridge crossing

1. Trecherous bridge crossing

2. Where are all the beavers .....

2. Where are all the beavers .....

3. Still can't find any beavers .....

3. Still can't find any beavers .....

4. Lagona Esmeralda - emerald lagoon

4. Lagona Esmeralda - emerald lagoon

5. Tree cemetery

5. Tree cemetery

6. Looking back towards the lagoon from the glacier

6. Looking back towards the lagoon from the glacier

7. Fluffy Husky at dog training school

7. Fluffy Husky at dog training school

Posted by Mike.Keely 19:52 Archived in Argentina Comments (3)

The End of the World. Part 1

Day 1 in Ushuaia: It started with a dog, and ended with a horse

On our first full day in Ushuaia I was bursting at the seams to go exploring. I didn’t really care where we went or what we saw – getting outdoors and doing some much anticipated trekking in Patagonia was all that mattered. The closet glacier seemed as good a place as any to start us off; Glacier Martial. A 20km round trip from our hostel door. The only thing to dampen my enthusiasm was Mike announcing the start of some football game that he HAD to watch that morning, apparently “the most important match of the season”. Delaying us only the time it took to establish no-where in Ushuaia was first open at 10am and second playing English football we were off. I did get a lovely coffee out of our walk-about town though.

Most people take a taxi to the base of the mountain, and most people take the chairlift up to the start of the track. We’re not most people so we did neither, walking the entire way. To start with we made our way through the northern streets of Ushuaia before heading up the mountain road. The only noteworthy event on our way out of town was Mike getting bitten by a dog. Not just any wild dog, but someone’s house dog no less. Seems he’s not the dog whisperer any more. To be fair Mike didn’t provoke the dog, didn’t even try to pat him – the dog just didn’t like the look of him and charged right on over. One small but painful nip to the Achilles heel is just the thing to stretch out the muscles before a full day of walking right? Mike being shocked and mildly in pain, me being shocked and mildly amused we gave all animals wild looking or otherwise a wide berth from then on.

The road took us on a windy uphill course to the foot of the chairlift, then a pleasant forest path the rest of the way to the top of the chairlift. From then it was straight towards the glacier. The view looking upwards was spectacular; blue sky, a few clouds, sun shining. The view looking backwards of Ushuaia was just as good – we could have been in New Zealand had the signs not been in Spanish. About ¾ of the way up the mountain the path suddenly ended – what was going on here? – I was on a mission to touch the ice. Seems that plan wasn’t to be without “proper equipment” which we definitely didn’t have. Out came our sandwiches and apples before commencing the return journey ever so slightly disappointed. Turning a corner on the road back into town we stumbled upon a horse, seemingly wild but its mane had been groomed so couldn’t have been that wild. Disregarding Mike’s earlier run-in with the dog we first tried to feed it an apple core but after some very vigorous sniffing it declined the offering. I thought horses loved apples? It did allow us to stroke its nose but got a bit skittish when Mike tried to ride it. Only kidding – just a quick pat on the nose and then we left it in peace. All in all a very pleasant day on the mountain – and a superb start to what will hopefully be many more great days walking in Patagonia.

1. Objective in the distance.  Glacier Martial.

1. Objective in the distance. Glacier Martial.

2. Yellow, red and purple flowers dot the landscape.  Glacier Martial.

2. Yellow, red and purple flowers dot the landscape. Glacier Martial.

3. The road to the glacier.  Glacier Martial.

3. The road to the glacier. Glacier Martial.

4. Reading up on glacial facts.  Glacier Martial.

4. Reading up on glacial facts. Glacier Martial.

5. Mike points out the way. Glacier Martial.

5. Mike points out the way. Glacier Martial.

6. Self portrait at 'the top', not as high as we would have liked.  Glacier Martial.

6. Self portrait at 'the top', not as high as we would have liked. Glacier Martial.

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 14:09 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

Hola Buenos Aires, Que tal? Me llamo Keely y este es Mike.

Time to try out the Spanish, and have a steak.

Despite promising to write this in Spanish, I think for everyone’s sake it would be best to stick to English. It would appear that we have quite a lot of learn (I already knew this but Mike thought it would be a bit easier I think). Luckily for us we have the next 5 months in which to get much much better! Me espanol es muy muy mal! – My Spanish is very very bad!

Argentina got off to a fantastic start. Even though 8 person dorm rooms were killing us, we decided to bite the bullet, save money and deal with the lack of sleep with copious amounts of caffeine. By the time we reached the hostel after being up since 3am and after an 11 hour flight plus a stopover in Jo’Berg we thought to hell with that plan – we’re upgrading to a private room. The hostel had the same idea and had already upgraded us for the same price as the 8 person dorm. We both wanted to kiss the receptionist when she told us the good news. And prior to that a very nice taxi driver had literally jumped out of his cab to point us in the right direction of the bus stop at the airport.

It’s amazing what continuously uninterrupted sleep can do for a person. The next day, after 10 hours sleep we were up and ready for anything. So with map in hand we embarked on what would turn out to be a 7 hour walk around Buenos Aires taking in some of the best tourist areas. We started in the San Telmo area because that’s where our hostel was, then moving further east and south through the Centro and ending up past the Recoleta district to where all the gardens are. We took in the cemetery where all the rich and famous are buried, the Japanese gardens, a lovely café for lunch and even sampled an Argentinian cupcake (meringue filling very nice, caramel filling also very nice, chocolate cake not as good as mine!).

Dinner that night was sadly not at La Caberra, apparently THE place to go for a steak because of a small mix-up with the reservations. Never fear though, we will be back in BA soon enough and have pencilled it in the diary for later. Also saved for our next visit to BA are the La Boca and Palemo districts which are to the very west and east respectively in the city. We did have steak for dinner, but at a locally recommended place. Just as well we didn’t go to the fancy restaurant because Mike almost fell asleep at the table. A touch of jet lag perhaps? We made a hasty retreat back to our hostel where we had to pack our bags ready for yet another flight – but the last one for about 5 months so happy days.

Buenos Aires street life

Buenos Aires street life

Recoleta Cemetery 1

Recoleta Cemetery 1

Recoleta Cemetery 2

Recoleta Cemetery 2

Recoleta Cemetery 3

Recoleta Cemetery 3

Red bridge at Japanese Garden

Red bridge at Japanese Garden

Next stop: The end of the World.

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 03:10 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

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