A week in Patagonia

Trip Start Mar 17, 2008
1
9
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Trip End Jun 08, 2008


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Where I stayed
Posta Sur, El Calafate

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hola amigos,

Well, we are coming to the end of our week in Patagonia and what an amazing week it has been. After our Punta rant, our trip has really turned back around again. After a very early start from Buenos Aires, we arrived in El Calafate to brilliant sunshine - not a cloud in the sky. The pilot told us it was 10 degrees outside, so we prepared ourselves for the big chill......how wrong he was. It about 20 degrees and felt very warm in the sunshine.
El Calafate is a beautiful town and is the first stop off for most Patagonian tours. Itīs completely geared towards tourists, but this doesnīt take away from its appeal. We were taken to a very nice hotel, complete with flat screen tv, and then had the afternoon to explore the town. After sampling the local eateries and shops we found an amazing nature reserve - Laguna Nimez - you will see some spectacular photos in this blog, including a close up of a harrier hawk taken by Richard "David Attenborough" Parker. The binoculars that Richard slipped into his back pack at the last minute came into their own. Unfortunately we forgot our "I Spy in the Country - Patagonia version" so werenīt sure what all of the birds/ducks were!! Please feel free to blog us if you recognise any species from our photos.

DAY TWO started with a very nice breakfast and we were taken by bus to our first Patagonian Destination with Marcelo, our local guide, Perry, from Australia (on a 6 week tour of South America), Ellen & Rebecca (two sisters from Ireland on a two week tour of Patagonia), Helen & Cathy (friends from Australia on a 6 week tour of Patagonia, Chile & Peru). Perry is 25 and our other tour companions are are in the later stages of their lives (Iīm trying to be very politically correct here....!) so Marcelo was concerned that we might have to take things a bit easy. Let me tell you, these ladies have more stamina than Perry, Richard and I put together and their energy put us "young 'uns" to shame!! Rather than them having to keep up with us, it has been very much us keeping up with them. We should have realised when they arrived at breakfast fully kitted out in professional walking gear, including well worn sticks, that we were in for some serious competition!
Our first stop was the amazing glacier of the Perito Moreno. WOW!! You will see from the photos how intense the blue was in the glacier. This is caused by the refraction of the light from the compactness (is that a word....?) of the ice. Not only did we see it from afar (quite a few stop offs en route to get the best view) but we boarded a boat to cross Lago Argentina, walked a few hundred metres, were fitted with crampons (my crampon man very proudly told me he was Brad Pitt - maybe a very very distant relative....!!)and were then taken by Diego and another guide for a trek across the Glacier after a quick lesson in how to walk on a glacier - ascend like a duck and descend like John Wayne....!! It was an incredible experience - very different from glaciers that you try and find whilst skiing to get the best powder. The glacier rises 60m above the level of Lago Argentina, and reaches a depth of 110m below the water surface. Despite hearing crashes and seeing bits of ice falling off the glacier, as well as seeing crevasses, Diego assured us that it takes about 14 days for a crevasse to appear, so we werenīt in danger of one suddenly opening up in front of us and falling into it.....!! Iīll let the pictures tell you the rest.....

DAY THREE

We were transferred to Marceloīs home town - El Chalten - considered the national capital of trekking in Patagonia. What an interesting ride. The journey took approximately four hours, firstly on tarmac road with a stop at a services where we were greeted by llamas, horses, dogs, cats, chickens (very organic and free range) and a calf!! The tarmac then ran out and we continued along a dirt track for quite a few more kms. Let me tell you, when the tarmac started again we were all very very happy!!
El Chalten is a very small town in the early stages of development - lots of building going on and dirt tracks - well one section of the main road had some tarmac on it...!! Our hotel had a lot less frills than El Calafate and Marcelo advised us that we might want to visit the supermarket as the breakfast "wasnīt that great". He wasnīt wrong - bread, jam of an indisguishable flavour, undiluted orange squash and stewed coffee have been on the menu every day so far....

TREK ONE

Chorillo del Salto - local waterfall - 8km - two hours
A nice gentle start with the most incredible scenery. Patagonia is just entering Autumn and the colours in the forest en route were amazing. We had our first taste of glacial water - absolutely incredibly fresh tasting and crystal clear

DAY FOUR

TREK TWO

Fitzroy - 3,405m (we climbed to 1,200m) - 27km - 9 hours
More stunning scenery, forests, valleys, rivers, turquoise blue lakes, mountain ranges and even more glaciers. A really challenging walk (our running before going definitely helped us keep up with the ladies!!) accompanied by the famous Patagonian wind (no, not from Richard....!!) We definitely earned our dinner!!

DAY FIVE

TREK THREE

Cerro Torre - 3,102m (we climed to about 700m) - 25km - 8 hours
Much milder and much less wind today with a bit of rain so we got to use our rain coats. Luckily we ducked into the forest to avoid getting completely soaked. Followed the Rio Fitz Roy River, more fresh mountain water, but this time from a tap in one of the base camps - didnīt feel quite as spectacular as getting it actually from the river. Yet more incredible sights including lunch overlooking the Cerro Torre from the other side of the Laguna Torre

DAY SIX

TREK FOUR

Didnīt happen as there was lashing rain and even more Patagonian winds. The hard core ladies and Perry braved the elements but as we didnīt have the full wet weather gear we decided that the prospect of six hours getting sopping wet wasnīt for us.
We decided to try a run to the Chorillo del Salto (Waterfall) but after 10 minutes, the rain, that felt like sharp pins on my face, forced me to turn back to the shelter of the hotel. Richard, however valiantly carried on in his shorts (your favourite blue ones Duncan!!) and tshirt. One hour and 8km later Richard "Paula Radcliffe" Parker returned, soaked to the skin, but extremely chuffed with himself and ready for his next alfajor!!

We finished our El Chalten experience with a fantastic final dinner in Estepa (definitely the best restaurant in El Chalten!!) after sampling more of the local brewed Pilsner and Bok in the Microbrewery.

DAY SEVEN

Very early start (5.40am!!) to be transferred to El Calafate. Very cold bus journey with stop en route at which point we spotted that there seemed to be some "liquid" pouring out from underneath the front of the bus. We werenīt too concerned until the bus driver rolled up his sleeves, opened up a hatch in the bus and started poking around. 15 minutes later he reappeared with very black hands and we set off again for El Calafate. Who knows if it was fuel, oil, brake fluid.....we arrived in one piece and are now about to head off for our final Patagonian lunch.

Watch out for our next instalment from the Mendoza wine region.......
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Comments

rozberry
rozberry on

Easter Hols in Cumbria.
Your treks and experiences around Patagonia are fabulous. The Glacial pictures are very special - pure and with a feeling of being ' the first who passed this way'. we have enjoyed a great week in the Cumbrian Fell region with the boys. They tumbled out of the car, next to the famous Kennedy Chocolate Factory. Then into Berwyn House for a first meeting with Rosie, the rescue collie dog. Charley scampered up Hard Knot Fell- 1.3 thousand feet- like a mountain goat in his new climbing boots. George and I went exploring in Orton and jumped across some stepping stones in the beck. Only one wet foot! The toads were having a spring extravaganza. Unfortunately, some didn't make it across the road and were the subject of much discussed casualty figures during late night walks with the dogs. Charley found a number of animal and bird skulls which he will be proudly presenting to the class when he returns to school. Hope they all have a strong stomach!. Much love MUM XXX. col

parkerich
parkerich on

Re: Easter Hols in Cumbria.
Hola Mum,

Sounds like you, Dad and the boys had a great time in Cumbria. I´m sure Charley´s friends will be very impressed with the skulls he found on your walks!! Sounds like he´s following in the footsteps of his Aunty Gayle!! Did you get the chance to meet up with Jeremy, Maggie, Ezra & Rueben? I remember how well Ezra and Charley got on at our wedding.

I´m glad you enjoyed the Patagonian pics. It was a truly incredible place and we really enjoyed our first trekking experience. We now feel very ready for our alternative Inca trek in about three weeks. We just need to make sure we drink lots of coca tea, apparently, to help us cope with the altitude.

We´re just back in BA for a night before flying to Santiago tomorrow and then our first foray into long hall South American buses to Mendoza. Richard has just realised that our hotel is in a town that is 2 hours away from Mendoza, so we will have to work out how we get there when we arrive in Mendoza!! I think we´ll be very ready for a nice big glass of Malbec by the time we arrive!!

Well, talking of Malbec, I´d best go and get back to my glass of Malbec.

Un beso muy grande,

Carmen & Pablo xxx

mummikey
mummikey on

Patagonia visit
Sounds and looks fantastic - photos and comments much appreciated -- just to keep you in the picture it's snowing quite hard here at the moment - no gardening today!! Keep smiling - love from us both.

cadey
cadey on

Glaciertastic!
Looks like things have improved slightly from the previous rant in Patagonia :-)
Gayles forays into outdoor 'bogging' will be 'character building'I think? Either that or you need to invest in a shewee! Look it up on google :-)

Anyway, to update from Mums reply, I have a bl#ody great ramshead skull complete with horns that I have to try and accomodate somewhere within my house in order to prevent world war 3 with Charley. I'll let you know how we get on.............!?
E, N, C and G xxx

rozberry
rozberry on

Easter Hols continued.
Have taken another long look at your fabulous trek pictures, what a lifetime memory. Glad you have made some friends and contacts. It was good to hear that the Granny go getters gave you a run for your money! In reply to your blog, Jeremy, Maggie, Ezra and Reuben joined us for the day on Wednesday. Ezra had a rocket for his birthday and so we all went to the top of a Fell where each child took it in turns to press the 'lift off' button. It then whooshed 1000 feet into the air. The sheep were not impressed but the boys were. LOVE XXX MUM

parkerich
parkerich on

Re: Glaciertastic!
Hola,

I bet you´re loving the latest interior design accessory carefully chosenby Charley!! How nice. I hope you don´t have all of the local dogs howling at the door as they can pick up the scent of the skull!! Maybe it could mysteriously disappear overnight, or be given a ceremonial burial in the back garden with a nice home made plaque by Charley....??

We´ve just arrived in a very nice hotel in San Rafael in the Mendoza wine region (two nights free from a B&B we stayed in Buenos Aires - have some of that...!!)

Well, best go, clean my teeth and get ready for some serious chilling in the sunshine.

Lots of love,

Carmen & Pablo xx

parkerich
parkerich on

Re: Easter Hols continued.
Wow, I bet the boys both enjoyed the rockets. Will there be a new launch pad at Emmanuel House? Not sure how Archie would feel about it blasting off....!!
I´m glad you enjoyed the trekking piccies and stories. We´re now in serious training mode to make sure that we are ready for anything on the Inca trek!!
Lots of love,

Carmen & Pablo xx

parkerich
parkerich on

Re: Patagonia visit
Hola,

I can´t believe there´s still snow back home!! What is happening - I´ve never known it to snow so late before.

We´re still having an amazing time and after a short stay in Mendoza (just enough time for a wine tasting!!) we´re now in San Rafael and getting prepared for some serious relaxing and visiting of local bodegas.

Hope Mike´s recovering well and that you and the boys are all okay.

Lots of love,

Carmen & Pablo xx

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