Published: April 13th 2008April 13th 2008
Torres del Paine
We spent our first adventures in Chile in the Torres Del Paine National Park - a park comprising mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers. The park (Torres del Paine - Towers of Paine) is named after three sheer granite towers. We spent 3 days trekking in the park and stayed in the hostels there rather than camp in tents and brave the cold. Unfortunately due to the hostels remoteness, everything was really expensive so we lived off cheese sandwiches and biscuits during our time in the park.
Day one we walked up to the base of the three towers. The hike was quite strenuous - the first hour of it was a relentless uphill climb but then the trail levelled off and went up and down through thick forest and along a river fed by waterfalls. Day two we got a bus to Pudeto and took a short walk to see Salto Grande - a waterfall on the river linking the two glacial lakes Lago Nordenskjold and Lago Pehoe. From Pudeto here we caught a 1/2 ferry over to Mountain Lodge Paine Grande. We spent the afternoon of day two walking around Lago (lake) Pehoe - taking it
easy to ease out our sore legs. Day three we hiked to Lago Grey and Glacier Grey - a glacier originating in the Continental Ice Cap. It was a beautiful hike with turquoise-coloured icebergs blown to the opposite side of the lake by the strong winds.
My nerves took a battering at the lake, when I came very close to losing my camera. It fell out of my bag and started rolling down towards a steep cliff. Luckily Alan (despite having a fear of heights) ran down and action hero style caught it as it dangled off the edge ready to fall down the cliff and into the lake. We nervously giggled for the next hour as to what might have been. Chilean fiord trip
After all this fresh air and exercise, we boarded the Navimag ship for a 3-day ferry ride from Puerto Natales up through Chilean fiords to Puerto Montt. Navimag is the company that runs ferrys from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt and vice versa through fiords on the west coast of Chile. The Navimag started out as a cargo ship, but caught onto the tourist wave, and has now dedicated a section of their
boats to passenger transportation. This meant that we were herded onto the ship along with cows and horses which were being transported up the coast.
The ferry has it's good points and bad points. The good points were sailing through uninhabited fiords including narrow channels as small as 80metres (which the ship seems to almost touch the banks on either side), and seeing scenes of sunsets, rainbows and snowy mountain peaks. On day two we sailed past a "ghost ship" - the “C Leonidas” vessel, which had gone aground on a rock 2m under the water and is now stuck there. The story goes that this ship was carrying sugar and that the Italian captain sold it all in Uruguay. After the transaction, he headed for these waters and, knowing that the channel was not deep, he run his ship aground. When asked by the authorities about his load, he claimed it had dissolved in the water. But at the moment of searching for the plastic bags in which the sugar was being carried, none of them turned up. After this episode, the Italian captain who wanted to keep the total value of the cargo for himself, was sent
to prison. The ship looked even more like a ghost ship because as we approached it there was a eerie sea mist surrounding it.
The ship also stopped for a short time on day two in the small village of Puerto Eden (on Isla Wellington) - home to the Qawashqar tribe - a 'canoe' people who lived in the channels and subsisted on fishing. The only contact that Puerto Eden has with the outside world is via Navimag which stops there for an hour twice a week to drop off and pick up supplies. There are only 10 full bloodied people remaining in the Qawashqar tribe - all related to each other and all resident in Puerto Eden.
The bad points of the sailing were that is was cold, windy and rainy most of the time - keeping us all indoors for the majority of the time unless there was a photo opportunity. But the staff of Navimag kept us entertained with movies, games, informative slide shows, and music. Saturday night (second night) we hit the Pacific Ocean. This resulted in about 12 hours of relatively rough weather, and rolling seas. A lot of people were seasick (a
combination of the rolling seas, and hangovers from partying the night before) and only about 10% of the passengers fronted up for dinner. By some stroke of luck (and not drinking the night before) I was not seasick at all, and I quite enjoyed the dramatic listing (at times up to 30 degrees). But the trip was well worth it for the randomness of it, and was something a bit different then a few overnight buses to reach the same destination.
On Monday morning we awoke at our final destination in Puerto Montt. With very little to do in this town we hopped on a bus and crossed the border back to Argentina. Bariloche, Argentina
Arrived into Bariloche, with loads of plans for outdoor adventures. But unfortunately it was extremely windy and rainy for the first 2 days. So we spent the free time exploring the town which is situated in the Lakes District, on the foothills of the Andes, ad is surrounded by lakes and mountains. The town has a Swiss feel to it - in the 1930s the centre of the city was built to have the appearance of an alpine town with many buildings made
of wood and stone, and there are Saint Bernard dogs with whiskey barrels who will pose for a photo (for a small fee). Bariloche is also the chocolate capital of Argentina - so we had to try out some of the chocolate on offer. The best shop being Mamushkas which did the best mint chocolate (my favourite).
Finally on Thursday we got some good weather so we hired bicycles and cycled the Circuito Chico - a 33km loop around lakes in the Nahuel Huapi National Park and the Llao Llao Municipal Park. There were gorgeous views of lakes and mountains, making the bike ride all worth while despite there being no flats parts on the circuit. The uphills were challenging, but the downhill parts were a lot of fun. There were also small walks we did just off the circuit to the lake side.
On Friday we got a really good day, so went up the cable car to Cerro Otto for great views of Bariloche. We were also lucky enough to see condors flying overhead at the top.
On Saturday we crossed over the border again to Chile. At the Argentina office it was snowing, which
was very exciting till we learnt that we were going to be delayed until the roads could be cleared. The ploughs finished their job 4 hours later, and we were able to make the crossing which took over an hour to get to the Chile office. It was quite dangerous - trucks were skidding, and a car had overturned, but we made it safely across. It was a beautiful scene though, of snow all over the trees and ground. We missed our connecting bus to Pucón, but the good people at the Jac Bus company put us onto the next bus for no extra cost.
We are now in Pucón, planning to climb an active volcano tomorrow if the weather holds up and the volcano doesn't erupt.
There are more photos below