First Patagonian hike
Trip Start Sep 28, 2007
91Trip End Jun 25, 2008
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Our first impression of Patagonia was a beautiful but overpriced tourist trap. This was due to being charged the same per person to sleep in the campsite as we had been paying to stay in a hostel in Bueno Aires and Córdoba.
We decided to start hiking rather than hang around town shedding pesos.
Day one - Pampa Linda to Otto Meiling Refuge (side trip)
It was after midday by the time the bus from Bariloche dropped us at Pampa Linda and we had decided which of the two side trips to do.
We decided on Otto Meiling
Our first wow moment was at the feet of Glaciar Castaño Overo, from a short side trip. The glacier is one of many that comes down from Monte Tronador. Little did I know that we would be looking down on it and another glacier (Alerce) on the by evening.
To get there involved some climbing, so we spent the next few hours puffed and hot and being bugged by the annoying buzz and painful bite of the numerous horsefly. They can bite through clothing no problem and are not affected by repellent. To avoid being driven mad you have to cover yourself in tightly woven, or baggy clothing that they can't bite through.
Finally we got to the meadow where the road ends and saw the horses that had passed us grazing. They had been carrying supplies for the refuge, but they could go no further. Strapping the crates of coke to their backs, two fit guys raced on ahead of us to the refugio and back past us and past us again with another load as we ambled along the rocky path enjoying the amazing view.
The campsite was incredible. Looking out were uncountable mountains and a gorgeous valley, then glaciers left and right and then a view straight up snow towards Tronador's peak. We had bought an alpine tent but this was its first night up high in the mountains.
Day two - Otto Meiling Refuge to Camp Alerce
What goes up must come down
We increased the difficulty rating of the day by attempting the side trip to Laguna Alerce, but never made it. We scrambled up a very steep cliff and over and along the high valley but the light was fading before we got there, not that we were sure where the lake was, with only the occasional cairn and a pathetic brief description and short time listed in the guidebook.
Day three - Camp Alerce to Upper Rio Frias
Day three was another cruisy one, with a gentle climb to go over the pass surrounded by gentle alpine meadows and then, after viewing Lago Frias from the top we zigzagged down to have lunch on the rocky outcrops before the mighty Frias glacier. It was very impressive and active. We kept hearing rumblings as more ice broke off.
We camped a bit further down the valley and listened for the thunderous sound from the glacier that gave Monte Tronador its name.
Day four - Upper Rio Frias to Puerto Frias
The final day is an easy walk along the valley to reach Lago Frias. Our problem was the boat to pick us up was due at 11, the leaflet said it took five hours, but it didn't get light till seven. So we packed up in the dark and raced it as soon as it was light enough to walk. We actually walked it in three hours, arriving at the picturesque dock with an hour to spend drying socks in the wonderfully heated park office, playing with the resident cat and trying to resist buying hot chocolate made with melted chocolate. I made it till eleven, then twelve, but there was still no sign of the boat, so I caved and the hot chocolate was good. The boat finally arrived at 12.30 but the other passengers arrived by bus from Chile so had to go through immigration. In the end the boat did not leave till after two. The sailing across the lake took less than twenty minutes but then we were bused three kilometres to Puerto Blest where we were dropped for lunch, not to get on a boat again until 4.30. It was another beautiful spot, but we hadn't known it was going to take so long. Clearly this was a scenic day trip rather than a transport line, which helped explain the massive price tag we had had to pay.
Thinking we were leaving for Bariloche at 4.30pm, finally, we were dismayed when we found out we were making a stop right across the lake for another couple of hours
After the walk, we went back over to Puerto Blest to pick up more passengers coming from Chile, and then headed back along Nahuel Huapi lake with amazing peaks and falls everywhere. The rest of the boat were more interested in photographing seagulls taking crackers out of each others hands than look at the view. Each to their own.
We finally made it to land at eight near Llao Llao and caught a bus to what would become our home away from home, Petunia Campsite.
Thirteen kilometres from Bariloche on the main bus route on the branch of the lake, it was a great spot with scalding hot showers 24 hours a day, internet and a handy supermarket. We stayed there before and after our next hike. It was filled with a large number of Argentinians, eating dinner at midnight and sipping mate all day long. I suspect Argentinians are the keenest campers of all.