16.12.2009 - 01.02.2010
From Lima we flew down to the very southern tip of Argentina to spend our final 7 weeks travelling through Argentina and Southern Chile to eventually reach Buenos Aires and the flight home. Argentina is a very big country with huge distances between towns in the south.
We started in Ushuaia 'the town at the end of the world' in Tierra Del Fuego, which is the starting point for most Antarctic voyages. So yes it was freezing cold and pretty windy. Would have loved to go to Antarctica but is hugely expensive so will have to save that for another time.... so went for a cruise on the very scenic Beagle channel instead and had fantastic weather, clear blue sky and no wind.... Still had to wear fleece, gortex jacket, woolly hat & gloves though!!
We were surprised to find that Ushuaia is surrounded by mountains and glaciers. We went on a day trek in Tierra Del Fuego national park as we were in training for the Torres Del Paine circuit at this point so needed to start upping the exercise level!
Heading north, on the first of many long bus journeys to come, we crossed the border to Punta Arenas in Chile. There's only really one reason to go here .... 100,000 penguins! Isla Magdalena has one of the largest colonies of penguins in South America. On the island you can walk around completely surrounded by penguins going about the day-to-day business ... Very funny to watch!
After Rona got her penguin fix, we headed north again to Puerto Natales, the service town for our Xmas / New Year special treat... s 10-day trek around the Torres Del Paine circuit in Chile. Yup we really know how to treat ourselves!
So loaded up with tent, sleeping bags, food, the works... we headed off into the wilderness. The trek is one of the most famous in Patagonia, it is a circumnavigation of the Torres 'towers', huge mountains with sheer rock faces at the top. We trekked past huge glaciers, iceberg filled lakes and over a pass with knee deep snow. Beautiful scenery. Weather was ok most of the time but pretty baltic for camping. Woke up on boxing day surrounded by snow. Managed to secure some wine from a refugio for xmas day... but we had a dry hogmanay!!! Made up for it after the trek though, after 10-days of eating pasta and rice we were dying to get back to town for some decent food & wine. We had walked 150kms and its fair to say we were pretty knackered!
Back on the bus again, we headed across the border to El Calafate in Argentina for a bit of R&R. Treated ourselves to a cosy little hostel where we generally lazed around, slept, read and stuffed our faces basically!! So no... we´re not going to come home all fit and trim! In between lazing around, we went to visit the huge and spectacular Perito Moreno glacier. Where you can both walk and take a boat trip very close to the face of the glacier and watch big chunks of ice fall off into the lake.
From El Calafate we headed further north to El Chalten which is next to the Fitzroy and Cerro Torre mountains. So... it was time for trekking again... Can't say we were too excited about this prospect... but these mountains are very famous so we thought we´d better take a look. So off we went loaded up with more pasta.... sneaked in a wine box this time as only 3-day fairly easy trek (it´s all relative when you´ve just walked 150kms). Weather was ok the first day, saw partial views of the mountains for about half an hour before we had to get in the tent as it was so cold. Day 2 freezing, gale force winds, sleet & hailstones.... Stayed in tent and drank wine! Day 3 trekked out... no views! Fair to say we didn't see the area at it's best.
We'd had our quota of mountains and trekking by this point! So we did a long-haul 32hr journey north in search of some sun and sea... This involved 3 consecutive bus trips including 2 overnight buses... Fair to say we got off the other end pretty wiped out.
Got to Puerto Madryn and it was hot... yippee! After sleeping all day... got the shorts out and soaked up some heat. Main reason for coming here was to visit Peninsula Valdes for the wildlife. Unfortunately wrong time of year for the whales but saw loads of big sea lions, elephant seals and more penguins. No walking involved either.
Headed back inland on yet another overnight bus to Bariloche in the Argentinian lakes district. Surrounded by lakes and mountains, this is the outdoor adventure capital of Argentina. Went cycling, took a cable car for views over the mountains and just generally admired the scenery.
We travelled from Bariloche via the seven lakes route staying at Villa La Angostura and San Martin de Los Andes enroute. This is the heart of Argentian summer holiday destinations, went mountain biking, went on a lake cruise and met lots of friendly Argentinians. The Spanish spoken here is very fast with different pronounciation from the rest of South America so communicating was a bit of a challenge at times. Everyone really wanted to chat to us but we just couldn´t understand half of what they said.
Only a week left to go so we had to head north (yes another overnight bus) to San Rafael and then Mendoza in the heart of Argentinian wine country. So naturally had to sample some of the local produce, we went on a bike tour of the vineyards. Then to compensate went whitewater rafting the next day to get some exercise. After whitewater rafting in crazy grade 5 on the Nile this was pretty tame in comparison, lots of fun though... didn´t even come out the raft just got soaked!
We´re now in Buenos Aires for our final few days before heading home. Argentina is a great place, very friendly people, great food and wine, beautiful scenery and lots to do. Even got used to eating at 10pm by the end!
So that's the end of the big trip... back home today to Sydney and reality calls... until the next time!