A Travellerspoint blog

Torres Del PAIN! PAIN! PAIN!

it is quite pretty though...

all seasons in one day

The bus back to Chile and the town of Puerto Natales didn't take too long, and soon enough we had found our way to Hospedaje Maria (Hostel Maria) which was a lovely find. It was a tiny bungalow and had only four rooms. Maria and her daughter run the place and made us feel very welcome. We were shown to our spacious, bright room where we whacked the heater on and relaxed for a little while.

Our purpose for being in this little town in Southern Chile was to go to Torres Del Paine, a national park and apparently a must visit. We had planned to go for the day, do a hike and then come back. Unfortunately once we began to do a bit of research on the internet we realised our plan was perhaps not going to work. For one thing the park is about two and a half hours away from the town, much further than we thought, and secondly we could find almost no information about one day hikes. Everyone who had written about the park described how they had done either the W or Circuit trek, the former taking between 3 and 5 days and the later 5+.

Over the next day and a half we um-ed and ah-ed over what to do. We thought perhaps we would stay in one of the refugios (basic accommodation) that they have at certain points through out the park. Then we could make full use of a day and see a little more. However it was going to cost about £20 per person per night and that didn't include food or bedding, which seemed silly to us. We already had to pay £33 to get to and from the park and a further £33 for the entrance fee. By this point we were getting exasperated, it was so expensive and we just weren't sure what to do. If it hadn't been for people blogging that their days spent in Torres Del Paine were some of their best and that it was life changing (yep they did), then we may not have gone at all.

We decided to take a break from researching and went to get some food. While out and about, still with the trip in mind we both purchased woolie hats. It was on the way back, with his newly purchased hat on that Adam suggested we just bite the bullet, do a full trek and camp. At first, well actually right up until the end of our time at Torres Del Paine I wasn't convinced. Mainly due to the physical fitness required and also whether my knees could hack it. At the same time though it was kind of a relief because once I'd nodded my silent, fearful, agreement, we had made a decision and could start to get things done. We decided we were going to do the W trek, and were hoping to do it in 4 days. For the rest of the day we went in to organisational mode. We bought gloves, scarves, thermals, hired all the camping equipment and stocked up on food. That night while we packed up and checked the tent I was pretty nervous, I could tell Adam was excited though, especially that we would be camping and it rubbed off on me a little bit. Just a bit though.

The following morning the bus came to get us at 7:30am and went round the town picking up fellow trekkers. There was excited chatter on the bus, and I did wonder what there was to be excited about, it all seemed very daunting to me. The weather was not very good as we made our way to the park, and we just hoped it would improve. Which thankfully it did as the sun broke through just as we entered the park. There were gently rolling hills, like the pampa had been jolted into life, even the hardy shrubs had brightened with patches of scarlet and yellow. As we wound our way through these hills we saw unbelievable, viridescent, mirror lakes and lots of Llamas. Finally the bus came to a stop by a small dock. We were catching a catamaran across to were our W trek would begin. We had about an hour to wait though so we did a small walk up a hill to look at a waterfall. DSC00042

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There was quite a group gathered, some of whom seemed very prepared and others not so much. We were probably somewhere in the middle.
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We were a bit mismatched in our outfits, unlike those who clearly had spent some serious money to be colour co-ordinated in a fully waterproof ensemble complete with walking sticks. Still we felt better equipped than an Australian boy who was shivering in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

It was a lovely, sunny journey on the catamaran and the clouds parted to give some spectacular views of the mountains.
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Once we disembarked, the group broke apart, some people trekked on with their backpacks to a camp at the end of one leg of the W. The trek is called the W because the route is shaped like the letter. You therefore have to retrace your stepS at the beginning, the middle and the end. We couldn't see the point in walking with our packs and quickly went about setting up camp where the boat let us off. We then planned to do the first there and back trek that afternoon which would total 22km. Everything we had read about the park had mentioned the weather and how it can quickly change and this really is true. One minute it was sunny and the next it was snowing. Not believing that it could really last we began to do the walk, but as we entered the valley it became a blizzard.
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Everything turned white, the mountains disappeared and although we continued on for a little bit it soon became clear it was a silly idea. On the one hand it could become dangerous and secondly we could not see and therefore appreciate any of the spectacular scenery.
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We decided to turn back.
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After a hot drink, and a little while in the tent the weather changed yet again and the sun returned. It was a bit late to begin the trek again though so we resolved to start early in the morning, and walked up one of the hills which surrounded the camp instead.
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It gave a beautiful view of the lake and with the sunlight streaming down it was the most vivid turquoise I have ever seen. Looking back at photos it is still hard to believe that the colour is real and not in some way enhanced.
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After admiring the view for a little while we headed back down to our little orange tent. We then had a bite to eat and got a very early night, there wasn't much else to do and anyway it had begun to snow again.

It was a bitterly cold night, despite both of us being completely cocooned in our sleeping bags with only a small hole so we could breath. The wind was ferocious and it howled as it whipped around the tent. Safe to say neither of us got the best nights sleep and we were awake bright and early to begin our first trek.
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Having shared a bowl of tasteless porridge, the consistency of wallpaper paste we set off into the valley. The terrain was quite flat to begin with, the path having been worn down over the years but it was still quite uneven under foot and this would begin to take it's toll on my knees over the coming days.

It didn't stay flat for too long though and soon enough we were heaving ourselves over the rocks as we clambered out of the valley. However there was a beautiful view back towards camp and the lake which offered a moments distraction from my bursting lungs. Next we came to an open area of smooth rock with a grey river flowing below.
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The wind was so strong that we could barely stand up and we had to fight against it to find a place to perch where we inhaled some crackers and water before setting off again. We then entered some woodland which provided shelter from the wind which was appreciated and by now we were both beginning to get into the walk a little more. Our muscles were warmed up and underestimating how far we had to go we were in good spirits.

We were aiming to reach Refugio Grey which sits about an hours walk from Grey Glacier and there is a good place to view the Glacier near the camp. We continued on and on and on. I began to think every time we picked our way down a rocky descent that I would have to ascend it on the way back. The retracing of our steps was the one thing that we found disheartening about the W trek. Although you're seeing things from a different perspective I think it's preferable to simply go from A to B rather than A to B and then back to A again.

When we saw the Grey Glacier we thought we had almost made it to the refugio but we were really wrong. It was a further hour and a half of hard trekking to get there and by now the weather was beginning to turn. The sunshine of the early morning had been engulfed by a gloomy, overcast sky and the clouds hung heavy around the mountains above us. When we finally made it to the look out I quickly slumped down on to the rock and the thought “11km down, 11km to go” was a difficult to ignore, we had to do it all over again and I was pooped.
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It was really a question of mind over matter on the way back. I had a few moments of thinking I couldn't do it, when faced with what seemed like a vertical wall of rock but thankfully Adam was there to coax me along. The weather got worse and unlike in the morning we joined other trekkers, which made things more complicated as people were going at different speeds. There was now a bit more of an added pressure. Towards the end both Adam and I began to get bad back pain which coincided with the weather getting worse. This thankfully is when adrenaline or something kicked in because it didn't hurt when I had to scale some boulders anymore, infact I found I could almost run up them. Adam experienced the same thing, we both knew we wanted to get back as soon as possible and somehow our bodies responded.

It was a glorious feeling getting back to the tent. We peeled off the wet clothes and quickly set about making a hot cup of tea before falling fast asleep. Later we awoke to better weather and were surprisingly not aching from head to toe. Our minds now turned to the next walk and I began to wonder how it would be when I had to carry my pack too.

Another early start; we ate, packed up the tent, sorted out our backpacks and headed towards the middle camp. It was a fairly even walk, a little bit of ascent to begin with which was made harder by the pack but ok. Adam enjoyed having his on as he felt more like he was doing it properly and getting a complete work out. He certainly hadn't found the previous day as tough as me and I think he was beginning to consider trekking a new found hobby.
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The scenery was lovely, the weather was perfect, just the right temperature and at times it reminded me of an English summer as we weaved our way through light woodland with the birds twittering.
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That said by the time we crossed a wooden bridge and reached the second camp I was ready to take my backpack off.
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We were both starving and we devoured a bowl of pasta in seconds.
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However our trekking for the day was not over, we still had to explore the Valle Frances, so after a bit of a rest we set off once more. Very quickly this trek became challenging as we were faced with a sea of large, grey boulders that we had to clamber over. I found it really tough and it never seemed to end, we were continually heading up.
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What made it worse for me was seeing all these fresh faced people coming down with their big smiles and walking sticks. Adam told me again and again that these people would have done similar treks dozens of times unlike him or I but still I felt annoyed about how unfit I was. I did console myself, however wrongly, that if only I had some poles it would all be a lot easier.

Again though as I had read, the park did reward our efforts with its abundance of untouched natural beauty. There was the fast flowing river that Adam filled our water bottle from, the snowy mountain which seemed almost close enough to touch complete with one or two avalanches and the strong, jagged peaks of the Torres Del Paine from behind.
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If you have to be torturing yourself, there are certainly worse places to be doing it!

A little further into the trek we came to realise that we had set off a bit late to make it all the way to the intended turn around point which was a shame because we had both morphed into super human mode and I was finally enjoying the challenge of walk. Not wanting to have to find our way back in the dark though we decided to turn around. The way back was not so pleasant and the precarious footing really began to make my knees angry. They were seriously protesting by the time we made it back to our tent.

With this in mind we decided that we would miss out the final up and down trek and attempt to get the bus the following afternoon. We knew there was a bus back to Puerto Natales from the park entrance at 2:30pm but we would have to catch a mini bus to take us to the entrance from Hosteria Las Torres which marks the official beginning/end of the treks (depending which way round you do it) and we had no idea when this departed. There was just 20km with our packs standing between us and that mini bus and to make matters more complicated my watch had decided to stop working the day before.

Knowing what we had to do, the wind, and the cold all meant that I got almost zero sleep that night. I could not settle at all, I was so conscious that if we did not set off early then chances were we would miss the bus. Adam didn't sleep well either so soon after first light we got up, packed up our camp and began what seemed like a very daunting task.
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It was really quite tough going from the out set, there was a nice moment with some horses grazing in a field but we were so conscious of time we didn't linger too long.
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What made it worse was we really had no idea what time it was.

Focussing my mind on what we had to do made a big difference on the first part of the trek. I was quite surprised at how I quickly found a rhythm and we made really good progress. For once I didn't seem to be holding Adam up, it was a good feeling! Again there was beautiful scenery and part of the walk led us along the shores of the turquoise lake and the hills surrounding it, all of which was bathed in early morning light.
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We had covered about 7km when we reached Refugio Los Cuernos where we stopped for a drink and managed to see what time it was. Going by Adam's camera which was still on Australian time we managed to figure out we'd been going for roughly an hour and a half. It was now 8:30am, so we guessed we had at least 4 hours to complete the last 13km. Unfortunately Adam was not feeling too well but he really wanted to make it to the bus too, so he just pushed the feelings to one side and we began once more.

This last section was the hardest of all. The ascents were unbelievably steep and rocky under foot. There were a number of times when Adam would be ahead of me and I really thought I couldn't do it. Each time though he would tell me I could and somehow I would. In the end he took more weight out of my pack, which definitely made things harder for him. Although I think he enjoyed the full on work out.
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We bumped in to an American couple who told us things would get a bit easier for us, it took time but in the end things did begin to flatten out and then head downhill which was pleasant.
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By now though I was starting to lose my marbles a little bit and my knees were killing me. In a strange attempt to keep my spirits up I began to sing Disney theme tunes and when we correctly established where we were on the map and realised we were closer than we thought I just repeated “mini bus, mini bus” over and over as I trudged along. I'm sure a few people I passed who had ventured out for a stroll from the beautifully appointed Hosteria Las Torres thought I was a little odd but I was definitely beyond caring.

Finally we made it, we went into a little shop to ask when the minibus arrived and we were told 2pm, it was now midday. We had completed the 20km in about 5 hours and we had no energy left. A few other trekkers we recognised from the boat turned up, I think that most people had missed out parts. It would be tough to do the full trek in 3 days with the weather we had experienced. Adam and I bedded down on a grassy bank, elated from having achieved what we had but very ready to return to a town with a supermarket and a proper bed!

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 12:39 Archived in Chile Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

It's icey in Patagonia

Brrrrrrrrrr!!!!

sunny

Our first bus was great, it was a cama one, which meant the seats were massive, two on one side of the aisle and only one of the other. We were given a cup of tea and a biscuit when we boarded, they then showed a reasonable recent film in English and later on we were given a pretty tasty dinner. Unfortunately for Adam the seats don't really allow him to fully stretch out his legs so he didn't get the best nights sleep but it could have been a lot worse. I was getting a little anxious that we were going to miss the connection as we were now over an hour late and still seemed to be driving through mile after mile of nothingness. Thankfully the town sprouted out of nowhere and we arrived with fifteen minutes to spare. While Adam dealt with the bags I went to buy the next ticket.

These buses are double deckers and if you get the front seats on the top then you get amazing panoramic views. We wanted those front seats but they had thus far eluded us. Our next bus seemed pretty empty and we were very hopeful as we climbed the stairs that they might finally be ours. Luck however was not on our side and the front seats were cornered off and the curtains were firmly closed. This wasn't the most enjoyable bus ride. No food was offered, there was no film, we were tired and the scenery was not that inspiring. Fillippe had spoken of the pampa which cover a large part of Southern Argentina, he said when you first see it it is interesting but after that it is boring. I can see what he meant. The pampa is fairly flat, baron land which stretches on for miles. The predominant colour is the brown of the earth and it is heavily dotted with clumps of hardy plants, a little like heather but unfortunately without the vibrancy. There are a few distractions from the endless void, for example a Llamas here and there and the odd Ostrich.

We arrived in Rio Gallegos and had a couple of hours to kill until our final bus journey began. We ate dinner and sat outside in the freezing conditions breathing in the undoubtedly clean air. Adam then pointed out that we were sitting at a bus station which might mean it was slightly contaminated, this and the fact that we were shivering led us back inside the terminal. No front seats for us yet again, we cursed the tourists who'd got them and willed it to get dark as quickly as possible. Yes we were tired and bitter. The journey was slow and we both attempted to get some sleep but all our efforts were scuppered by the fog horn of a man sitting on the other side of the aisle. We both clocked him to be a snorer as soon as he boarded, the three chins gave it away a little but I don't think either of us could have imagined just how extraordinary he was going to be.

When we disembarked we were met by a guy from the hostel we'd booked in to, he was going to be giving us a very welcomed lift. The front seat tourists came up to join us, they were staying at the same place. On the way the guy mentioned that they could organise a trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier for the following morning at 9am but we both knew neither of us would be sparky enough to enjoy it. After being shown to our room we turned up the radiator and fell asleep.

The following morning we had breakfast and then began a day of too-ing and fro-ing. We had a few things to consider, the first being that we wanted to go on a boat trip to see the glaciers and secondly that we wanted to see the Perito Moreno Glacier that would not be included on the boat trip. After a visit to tourist information at the bus station we went in search of the boat company's office which led us up and down the high street a couple of times. Finally we found it and the lady explained to us that when you enter Parque Nacional los Glaciares you have to pay £10 each and to go on the boat we would have to pay this, the boat ticket, and the bus transfers from our hostel. Then if we went by public transport we would have to go the next day to the Perito Moreno Glacier and pay for the bus and the entrance fee again as it is only valid for one day. This seemed so silly to us and was really going to add up, it consolidated something we had been considering early which the lady also suggested, we would rent a car for the day. It would definitely work out cheaper, we could go on the boat and see the other glacier all in one day and we'd have a bit of the freedom we like so much.

It was now early afternoon and therefore everything shuts down til about 4pm so we went back to the hostel for a bit. El Calafate is a nice place, very touristy though and for that reason pretty pricey. There are lots of shops selling high quality souvenirs and some nice clothes shops too, we didn't look. Finally at 4pm we went up to the rental car office we'd seen earlier but there was no one there. The only other place we knew which was cheap was right at the other end of town and so we fought against the biting wind. He quoted us a pretty reasonable price but we were wondering if the other place may be open now and might be cheaper so we walked back, it was still shut. Finally about 2 hours after leaving the hostel we had rented the car, booked the boat, been to the supermarket and booked our bus to Puerto Natales for two days time. We made dinner and then walked back at 8pm to pick up the car as we had to leave early the following morning. Adam had to quickly get to grips with driving on the wrong side of the road in the dark and thankfully it was a short and uneventful journey.

When we set off the following morning it was a straight road to the port at Punta Bandera where the boat departed from.
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El Calafate sits on Lago Argentino and it was the first time we'd had an uninterrupted view of the milky turquoise glacial lake. We were now entering the National Park which is the second largest in Argentina, 40% of which is covered by ice fields from which thirteen glaciers descend into two great lakes. Lago Argentino being one and Lago Viedma, further North, being the other. As we drove along a very straight road the vast scenery opened up in front of us.
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The foreground still dominated by the scruffy pampa was now accompanied by snow capped peaks and broken up by lakes of varying sizes.
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We found the port with no problems and parked up, as I was part of this expedition we were a little early and we sat in the car for a bit until I had to go see what was going on. I thought travelling might mellow me in this department, but I just can't help myself! I bought our park entrance tickets and soon bus load after bus load of people began to arrive. It was now as we stood in a ever expanding queue that we wondered how many boats there were and if we were in the right place. The lady had never told us there was more than one and so we just waited to see what would happen. When it was our turn to hand our ticket over to be checked we were told that we were in fact in the wrong place and we had to dash over to the other side of the port and join the end of a long line. For this reason, despite being early we were last to board our boat and could not find seats next to each other. We would have been able to sit across the aisle from one another but there was a bag placed on one of the seats and the woman sitting next to it indicated through hand gestures that she wouldn't move it, and we presumed she was saving the seat for someone. I sat down and Adam went in search of another seat, a little annoyed by this as no friend seemed to be appearing I tried to question her again. Now she seemed to be suggesting she didn't know who it belonged to. I just hoped we didn't have to stay seated for too long.

Thankfully we didn't and soon we were outside looking at the minty green water being frothed up by the propellers.
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We saw our first iceberg, which looked as light as a piece of polystyrene as it floated gracefully in the water.
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We were informed that the ice is obviously see through but it appears to be blue-ish as this is the only colour which does not pass through it. Soon the ice bergs began to get bigger and this was because we were coming up to a wall of ice. Beyond it were the Upsala and Spegazzini Glaciers. Unfortunately about a month ago they had become inaccessible as huge chunks of ice had fallen off the front of Upsala and come to rest at the mouth of this junction of the lake.
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We stayed in amongst the icebergs for a while and they were truly breathtaking. These great, irregularly shaped, giants, almost close enough to touch didn't seem real. They had a kind of otherworldly presence about them.
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Leaving the maze of ice behind we ventured on to a glacier that we could see up close, the Onelli Glacier and as we approached we were confronted with a wall of ice over 100m high.
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It cut through the mountains so decisively but it seemed hard to imagine how it ever happened and how ice could really have that power. It extended up the side of the mountain and again just seemed unreal, like someone had gone overboard with their artistic license.
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Every now and then there was the rumble and sounds like gun fire as lumps of ice broke away and fell into the lake below. Everyone cheered and the will for it to happen again, this time when the cameras were ready, was almost palpable. Adam pointed out that it seemed a little off that we were all here cheering on global warming in action.
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Back inside we munched down the packed lunch we had been advised to bring and some of the oldies on one of the many tours drifted to sleep while we moved on to the next glacier. As the other two glaciers had been removed from the itinerary we did go over to look at one side of Perito Moreno. It is one of the few glaciers in the world which is actually moving, it descends into the lake over a 5km frontage and a height of over 60m.
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Again we marvelled at nature and the sheer size of what was in front of us. It really is difficult to explain in words, but if you get the chance I strongly recommend you go see for yourself.

We then made our way back to the port, quickly jumped back in the car and made our way over to the viewing platforms where you can see Perito Moreno from above. On route we stopped and walked down to a lake, after spending theday on a very crowded boat it was nice to be on our own.
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Adam skimmed rocks and I attempted to but I was frustratingly bad at it, so I went and sat on a big rock.
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Back in the car we drove along the winding roads which were being worked on by men without any warning, thankfully we weren't going fast.

We parked up and walked along the wooden walkways and came to one of many viewing platforms. Seeing the glacier from above was definitely worth the effort.
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The different perspective changes everything and the true vastness of the ice field is revealed.
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The vivid blue hues and dull roars just add to the drama. The top of it is riddled with deep, uninviting, crevasses and Adam joked that this is where Superman lived before he died.
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We then walked to down to see the other side of the glacier before calling it a day and heading back to the car.
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Having safely returned the rental we trudged back to the hostel via the supermarket. It had been an incredibly long but exciting day and we had an early bus in the morning. We both looked forward to bed.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 12:27 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

A Ski Resort + Snow - A Snowboard

= a frustrated Adam

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The wet weather that Fillippe had predicted arrived but it didn't ease at all as we headed towards Argentina, if anything it seemed to get worse. Still there wasn't a lot we could do about it now and we passed through immigration without a hitch and were soon winding our way through the Andes. Unfortunately due to the bad weather we could not see much, I'm guessing it would have been a very attractive journey. Although we did see the first snow of our journey which was pretty.

Again we had booked our hostel so all we had to do when we arrived at the bus station in Bariloche was get there. We had no Argentinian Pesos and there was no cashpoint at the terminal so Adam managed to communicate to the taxi driver that we would need to stop at an ATM on route. Like Puerto Varas, Bariloche is like a ski resort, well actually it is one, in fact it is one of the main resorts in South America. It is up in the mountains, with lots of the cosy looking wooden buildings that have a warm, rustic appeal.

We pulled up outside the hostel, paid the cabby and rung the doorbell. No answer. We rang it again, and again. Then knocked, and knocked again. We could hear a dog barking inside but aside from that, nothing. It was bucketing down and there was no protection so we were getting soaked. Just as we were considering looking for somewhere else, another couple pulled up in a taxi. They started speaking to us in Spanish, to which we repsonded “no hablas Espanol” and then the lady swapped to English with a London accent. After all searching the outside for some alternative entrance for a few more minutes the front door swung open and a slightly surprised guy stood in the doorway. It turned out he was a guest and he had no idea where the owner was. We hurried in to the kitchen and now out of the rain we all introduced ourselves. The couple were Emily and Jordi. Emily was originally from London but had been living in Barcelona for five years which I'm guessing is where she met Jordi who described himself as Catalan rather than Spanish. The guy who let us in was from Colombia and he was staying in a little outhouse, so it was quite lucky that he'd come in to the main building and heard us knocking.

As the place was pretty much deserted and we didn't know which rooms we were staying in we set about making a cup of tea. Then the phone rang and it was the owner Augustina. She spoke to Jordi first, then to me and explained she'd had a family emergency and had to leave town. There was going to be a girl called Lucia arriving soon but in the meantime she told us which room was ours. It was a sweet little room, in the eves once more with a mountain lodge feel. Soon after Lucia arrived and introduced herself. She gave us a map and pointed out the main things in the town and were would be good to eat. By now it was about 8pm and we were both hungry so we ventured down the hill in search of food.

Bearing in mind the standard of the restaurant, dinner was really good value, although perhaps a little more than we should have been spending. The restaurant wasn't really fancy but it would have been considered a nice place at home and they gave us bread to start, I don't think we've had that since we've been away. Afterwards I felt a little guilty because it was more my idea but then it had been very tasty, there was no denying that. It was freezing cold outside as we walked back up the hill and we were both pleased Lucia had given us an electric radiator.

When we woke up the following morning Adam walked over to the window and said 'it's snowing!' I went over to have a look and sure enough everything was dusted white.
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It hadn't stuck to the roads so it hadn't been too heavy a downfall, but all the roofs and gardens had been covered with a pristine blanket of pure, glistening snow. After breakfast we wrapped up as much as we could, which wasn't a lot really because most of our clothes were purchased with hotter climates in mind. Then we wandered down in to town to have a look around and also to try and get some information about where to go next.
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Our next move was proving to be a complicated business. Emily and Jordi had flown up from El Calafate the previous day and they advised that this would be the most efficient way of getting there. This is because there is no direct road, well there is, the Ruta 40 but it would not be open for another month. It is closed over the winter as it is unsealed so conditions can become very unfavourable. Having looked on the net it seemed like it would be cheaper to fly from Buenos Aires and so we were considering catching a bus there and booking a return flight. In town though we were told the price of the bus to the capital and soon ruled this out as an idea.

The snow was still coming down and we walked down to the lake to have a look at the mountains and their freshly covered peaks. However as we were no closer to knowing what we should do next we walked back up to the hostel, via the supermarket and spent a good portion of the day trawling the internet for information. This is always a frustrating way to spend a day but unfortunately it is often necessary, especially when you're watching the pennies. In the end it became clear that the only viable option was for us to take three buses back to back which would total about thirty hours. The first from Bariloche to Commodoro, then on to Rio Gallegos and finally to El Calafate. The first connection would be really tight and if we were delayed we could end up sitting around for about seven hours. It was a pretty unappealing prospect but having read all that we had about Patagonia, with the glaciers, lakes and mountains it really sounded like a now or never situation. We both knew if we didn't make the effort we would really regret it later. It wasn't going to be cheap either but we had to push the budget from our minds and concentrate on the experiences we would have.

Having come to a decision we caught a local bus to the terminal and booked our ticket for the following day at 5:15pm. Then went back to hostel, ate our supermarket bought dinner and hit the hay.

It was still snowing the following day but luckily Lucia didn't kick us out at 12pm.
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Instead we sat around in the lounge area and tried to find a cheap place to stay in El Calafate. Emily and Jordi were booking themselves a bus north, they had another six weeks in Argentina and wanted to find the sun again. I could see their point, although we were both enjoying the full on winter weather. It seemed a bit of a novelty after all the sun we had had in Asia, and we both enjoy the cold as long as it isn't accompanied by rain. Although for Adam it was a little frustrating as it was a bit of glimpse into what it would be like in the middle of winter and he hankered for a snowboard and the steep slopes that would have been available a few weeks earlier.

The day soon sped by and it was time to catch the bus to the bus station. We both crossed our fingers and hoped the next thirty hours would go by without a hitch.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 15:23 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

The Lake District

Chile Style!

rain

We were pleasantly surprised when they gave us food and drink on the bus, we hadn't been expecting that. Although sleeping in a chair cannot compete with a bed the journey wasn't too bad and we weren't completely exhausted when we arrived in Puerto Varas fourteen hours later. Which was a good thing because we had a bit of a walk with our packs to reach Erika's Hostel which was in a residential area on a hill above the town and Lake Llanquihue on which it sits. The town itself has an obvious German influence and feels a lot like a ski resort which is helped by the snow capped mountains and volcanoes which surround the lake.

Erika is a very sweet, little lady who doesn't speak a word of English and with us speaking very little Spanish there was quite a lot of gesticulating and smiling. It all ended with us being shown to an immaculate room in the eves which were clad with highly varnished wood. It was certainly one of the most comfortable and homely rooms we had on the entire trip.

After settling in we walked down in to the town to have a look around and find some lunch. Ever since leaving the Gold Coast the sun had been fairly elusive and we were having to get used to colder weather again. Walking round Puerto Varas was quite chilly although the sun did come out a little and we managed to get some unclouded views of the mountains which framed the deep blue lake.
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We ate pizza for lunch and then hit the supermarket to stock up on supplies for dinner because eating out in Chile is too expensive, well everything is too expensive really so we have tried to minimise costs where possible. We then returned to the hostel as we planned to visit a nearby lake the following day.

We were in for a real treat when we entered Erika's living room the next morning for our breakfast. It was a great spread; tea, coffee, juice, bread, butter, jam, cheese and even some lovely little coconut covered cakes. Between mouthfuls we tried to communicate with Erika about where we planned to go that day, which was Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales and how to get there. It involved pointing at a map quite a bit but we were both getting better at understanding what people were saying, even if we couldn't respond much beyond nodding or shaking our heads depending on what was appropriate. However just as this form of primitive communication had gone about as far is it could, Filippe entered.

We never fully established how Erika and Filippe knew each other, I think maybe he was friends with one of her sons. He lived in Santiago now but was on holiday and had been climbing some mountains which is one of the many things we discussed with him. I think we sat there chatting for over two hours. He tried to teach us some Spanish and gave us advice about where we should and should not visit. One of the places he suggested we didn't bother going to was our planned destination for the day. Apparently it wasn't worth it and within twenty minutes we would have seen all there was to see. This advice did match a review I'd read on the internet and looking outside at the wet, windy weather we decided to listen to him. His next pearls of wisdom, in hindsight, we probably should have disregarded. We had planned to find some way of getting to the south of Chile and in to Patagonia. This would have involved taking a boat as as a large portion of the bottom half of the country is just a collection of islands which make up the fjord lands. Fillippe adviced against this though as he said boats were not frequent at this time of year and the weather was going to be bad for the next few days. Instead he advised that we catch the bus to the Argentinian town of Bariloche, then catch a bus down to El Calafate and then on to Puerto Natales. From there we could visit Torres Del Paine, the national park which was our desired destination. Little did we know how long it was going to take for us to get there.

We said goodbye to Fillippe as he had to begin his 10 hour journey back to Santiago and we had a bus ticket to buy. As we trudged in to town we battled against the driving winds, the mountains now completely obscured by cloud. Having purchased our tickets for the following morning we went to have a look at the Catholic Church which was built by the German Jesuits.
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Apart from this and the general prettiness of the town there isn't a lot more to see or do in Puerto Varas itself and with the weather not helping we concluded that we would buy food from the supermarket and then hide indoors. I definitely had some blog writing to catch up on, as always!

The next morning we woke up, enjoyed another lovely breakfast, said goodbye to Erika and made our way to the bus. Today we would be entering our thirteenth country, Argentina and we were both looking forward to it.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 15:00 Archived in Chile Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

A Little Boho

we appreciated the vandalism

sunny

As Valparaiso is only about an hour or so away from Santiago several buses depart for the coastal town each day. We arrived early afternoon and had booked a room in a hostel. This isn't something we ever really did in Asia but it is different in South America. Room prices tend to be set and therefore it is much more worthwhile to search for the best price available on the net and book ahead.

We followed the instructions the hostel had given and took a local bus up one of the hills which surround the town. Valparaiso is sprawled across a number of cerros (hills) with the town centre spread out between their base and the ocean. Our hostel was inoffensively scruffy round the edges, which was masked well by the hippy vibe and laid back, friendly attitude of the young couple that ran it. They provided us with a map and pointed us in the right direction.

The town itself is known for being a bit of a hippy hang out and as with the hostel this seemed to manifest itself in a slightly disorganised way. Everything was a little worn out and thread bare but there was charm and atmosphere at the same time. It was clear that the community were keen on openly expressing themselves and there was lots of graffiti around the place.
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A fair amount was worth a prolonged look and wasn't just the unimaginative vandalism of spray painted tags.
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We walked down to a an area where there were good views out over the city and harbour. There were a few stalls set up selling various tourist items and we decided we'd have a proper look at these later.

Next we took the funicular down the hill, walked through the Plaza Sotomayor which sits at the heart of the city and is dominated by the former Government House, now used as the seat of the admiralty.
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Weekends in South America don't transform the high streets in to my idea of shopping hell, quite to the contrary things were ghostly quiet when we went in search of a late lunch. We ended up in a small cafe where we got a good value set meal. Afterwards we decided to call it a day as things were so quiet and the day was almost over anyway. We caught the bus back up the hill.

The following morning we had breakfast at the hostel, it is standard here for it to be included in the price of the room which is great for us. It's nice to start the day with a full tummy and not have to hunt down a good place to eat. We walked back to the craft stalls and continued the tradition we'd begun in India by purchasing a magnet each. Next we walked down the hill and had a look round the harbour. It isn't exactly attractive, Monaco certainly doesn't have anything to worry about! It is a working port and there were big cargo ships being loaded up with containers. As things stood we were both a little flummoxed as to why Valparaiso had been so highly rated. Although it had a kind of artistic atmosphere, this didn't seem to be preventing it from slowly eroding and some parts which were clearly once pretty now seemed to be the designated local alcoholic zones.

We took a smaller funicular up one of the other hills and leisurely walked through the narrow, steep streets.
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There were some sweet little buildings and more creative wall art to gaze at. We slowly made our way back down and decided to head in the direction of the bus station.
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Our plan was to catch a bus South the next day to Chile's Lake District and the town of Puerto Varas. We had lunch, bought our ticket for the following evening and then caught the bus back up the the hostel.

The next day we packed up and arranged to leave our bags at the hostel until it was time for us to catch our bus. We then walked down in to the centre and slowly made our way to the cinema that we'd clocked the day before. After making sure that the film was in English we settled down to watch District 9 which really wasn't what either of us had been expecting. However after the initial surprise we both really enjoyed this slightly bizarre take on an alien invasion. A large part of our enjoyment coming from the main character sounding more Scouser than South African.

After the film we wandered back to the hostel, picked up our bags and took a bus down to the bus station. A quick bite to eat and it was time to board our bus South. The buses in Chile and Argentina do cost quite a bit but are so much better than the majority of those we travelled on in Asia. Hopefully we would get some rest on the journey towards the lakes.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 14:54 Archived in Chile Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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