blown away

Patagonia Travel Blog

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the magellen penguins

I am down at the end of the earth in Patagonia and it is amazing, magnificent, powerful, astounding, stunning, beautiful, inspiring..... ok, i think i'm gushing. and in need of a thesaurus to go any further there. But the area would be my favourite place so far.

I visited the penguins first of all, to Isla Magallena which has thousands of penguins littering the island. They seem to fly through the water and then are so cute waddling on land or laying in holes. We could get so close to them and they would just stare at us quizzically. A penguin was amused by my camera and everytime i moved it from side to side in from of his face his head would move side to side following it. Or maybe just following his reflection in the silver. Then we took the zodiac and watched the sea lions rolling around in the water, and roaring and yawning on the land.

calafate, dancing with the argentinians
Not quite antartica, but ....

Then across the border and into Argentina and to El Calafate. We arrived at about 8pm walked the streets for 3 hours looking for accommodation, we had been warned about high season, but who really ever believes the lonely planet? First night in Argentina and they really know how to party here. We can here the bands from our hostel a couple of kms away. we head down the road, eating from the chorizo stands and get lost in a moshpit with the argentinians jumping up and down, left right and around in circles. Great chorizo hotdogs and candy floss. Welcome to Argentina!

The following day we explore the touristy and picturesque lakeside town of El Calafate, risking the Cafayate icecream which would mean you are doomed to return to the area one day.

perito morano glacier. The massive front
Not so bad i suppose. We had driven for hours over the flat (who knew patagonia was so flat?) yellow-grass expanse of the pampas to arrive at this little dip in the plain with the only green to be seen til the horizon.  And then a little bit of pink with flamingoes by the lake, and horses wandering around the waters edge. And, somehow, the biggest sky i have seen.

I went with 2 Argentinians and 2 Americans to the Perito Moreno Glacier, which is one of the only stable glaciers (not recceding) left. The front is massive - 5km across and about 60m+ high, and stretching about 30km back - well i did come to see ice, the bigger the better. The glacier is amazing and this huge magnitude of ice just seems to float on the lake.

the 10 tonne chunks sliding into the lake
We wandered through the dozens of other tourists and stared at the glacier. You could not take your eyes from the glacier as you waited for the next huge house-size chunk of ice to fall from the front and crash into the water below. An amazing sight which kept us stuck to the spot despite freezing our butts off.

My favourite place on this trip so far would be Fitzroy National Park in Argentina. We travelled to El Chalten which is a dustly little town-in-progress in a beautiful valley. I stayed here with 2 american girls and 2 irish boys (Caitlan, Katie, Gary and Derek) and we hiked during the day and drank too much beer at night. We did a few great hikes together, one gorgeous one down a valley, always hiking closer to the Torre Mountain range and its glacier, and waiting for that one glimpse of the elusive Cerro Torre peak.

cerro torres
Hiking through tall forests, plains, and stunted trees in a valley carved out centuries ago by the glacier we are hiking towards. Beautiful.

The irish and americans took off and i stayed another day to hike to the Fitzroy. Stunning. I walked down the valley and gasped. Perfect blue-sky day. The valley was beautiful and the path followed a glacial stream towards Fitzroy mountains. Up a steep slope and you are near the base of the peak. With a glacier just across the little lake. Sounds lovely, no? until the wind picks up, literally blows people off their feet and stings everyone with icey water. Funny though as when the strong gusts of winds hit, you can watch everyone out in the open run for cover of the rocks or dive and lay on the ground behind a little 2 foot rock, the only cover close by.

piedras blanca
OK, i am sure it was funny for the people watching me do that too...

I continued hiking to Piedras Blanca glacier which was the bluest glacier i had ever seen. Intense colour with its jagged peaks hugging the steep valley across the lake. I was having a completely "i love my life day" and feeling free to do whatever i want. That when i found myself still alone at this glacier half an hour later, i looked around, thought why the fuck not.... Set up my camera timer, stripped naked and posed with my naked white white butt for the photo. 5th go worked and freezing my tits off the entire time. But why not? And just got the last item of clothes back on before a bunch of guys turned up. Suerte. But i giggled the rest of the day and i am sure people i passed wondered what i was smiling about.

the full moon setting over Fitzroy before the sunrise

The next day i managed to drag my ass out of bed and hike up to the Fitzroy viewpoint for sunrise. OK, this did take my breath away. It was a full moon which sank slowly down next to the peak as the sun rose and lit the peak a bright orange and the sky behind turned purple. I was up there by myself the whole time in the quiet and it was an almost spiritual experience. ¿Can you tell i love this place? 

Leaving this park I head back to Chile and head to Torres del Paine National Park - or, as i lovingly call them, The Towers of Pain. A german guy, Michael and i organise a heavy bag of treats such as packet soup, packet rice, packet pasta and porridge. And by the end of the 8 days of hiking this actually tasted great! We trekked the "O" or circuit route which also did the backside of the "W" and was a lot less busy with only 8 tents in the campsite instead of 50-100.

the glowing peaks of the torres

Our first day trekking we slogged up a steep valley to be prepared for another amazing sunrise over the Torres. Glowing orange then red peaks lit by the rising sun. but this time with people all around. The terrain constantly changed over the 7 days. From wide valleys with marshland and long grass, to massive boulders to drag your legs up, past waterfalls, through dense forest, below glaciers, tall trees, stunted wind blown trees, picking calafate berries for hours, through ankle deep mud, over hills and through valleys, past large lakes and being mesmerised by more glaciers carving their way through the valleys, and over bare rock hills.... It was a great hike, with huge rock peaks rising above you with glaciers clinging to them or waterfalls coming down their sides.

me and michael. about 4 days after the last shower.
We hiked 120kms in 7 days, through rain and sun and high wind, carried all our gear and food, and all we got as souveniers was some photos and a bunch of blisters. It was amazing.

We hitch hiked out of the park and feasted all day on wine, beer, steak, fresh veggies and desserts (yes people do look weirdly at you when you arder 2 each)

A kayaking trip took me back to the park for another 3 days. It was 2 guides, 2 other aussies and a frenchy. We had the long river kayaks and loaded them with our tents, sleeping bags, food and wine. This trip with Indomita was awesome. We had perfect weather for the first 2 days, blue sky and no winds. We floated and slowly paddled down the river Serreno, the Torres del Paine in the distance, new mountains and glaciers ahead of us.

paddling in patagonia
through some tricky currents but generally a wonderful relaxing time. With great food int he evening, around a huge fire, and not really seeing anyone else on the trip, except an old couple that live out here in the middle of nowhere year round. We saw a seal and massive condors far above. Past plains and dense trees, around waterfalls and below hanging glaciers. Wonderful trip.

We had an afternoon of high winds which gave us a taste of what other groups have the whole time. Where the only thing that kept me going was the chocolate on my kayak skirt that i could have a little of after every 100 strokes, and swearing under my breath the whole time as a i battled against current and wind "f#ik$%g Bçf#ard grrr"

Back again in Puerto Natales, I went to buy a bus ticket but was told the wrong close time so could not buy the ticket and missed the bus.

paddling together
then i thought the world might love me as i found one $50 cheaper - promocion! then found out that the world definitely does love me when i went back to the hostel to get money for the ticket, someone there who works as an glacier guide said "why dont you come for free". so another 3 days in the park !

The Glacier Trek was amazing. It was me, Mickey the guide and another tourist in the group, we put on our crampons picked up our ice picks and walked out onto the crunchy ice. Being on the glacier was like being in another world, and more strange as just a couple of hundred metres away you could see the real world. And my new favourite colour - glacier blue! It is breathtaking how clear and deep and bright the blue gets as soon as the top layer of oxygenated white ice is melted away.

amazing blue. amazing formations. glacier grey
 We walk across the ice past different formations, a shallow creek streaking blue across the white and then falling 30m straight down into a deep blue crevasse, a perfectly round tunnel cut through the ice and ending in a waterfall falling into blue nothing, we walk under a waterfall at the end of a gorge, walk across what looks like sanddunes flowing softly, then jagged caps in the distance  (showing the different speed the glacier flows down the hill), and rocks on the surface that the glacier had actually moved up from the bottom below as it slowly flowed down the hill. Strange scape. The highlight was the ice climbing. Micky set up the ice bolts and we rappelled down into a 15m deep crevasse cut into the ice. The crevasse was narrow and we half climbed the sides to move along and a little further you couldnt even see the sky, the blue ice just falling away - up down and across - from us.
rapelling into the crevase
Then we used the ice picks - 1, 2 - then our feet and crampons - 1, 2 - to climb slowly back up the ice wall. Very cool.

Then i sadly say goodbye and head to northern Patagonia to continue the adventure.






mountaingirl says:
Love this blog! Thanks for all the beautiful picture and information. That helps with my planning of the upcoming adventure :-))
Posted on: Jul 10, 2011
tersia says:
Hi Simone, thanks for a great blog, just HAVE to go after reading it and watching your pics!!!
Posted on: Nov 08, 2010
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the magellen penguins
the magellen penguins
calafate, dancing with the argenti…
calafate, dancing with the argent…
perito morano glacier. The massive…
perito morano glacier. The massiv…
the 10 tonne chunks sliding into t…
the 10 tonne chunks sliding into …
cerro torres
cerro torres
piedras blanca
piedras blanca
the full moon setting over Fitzroy…
the full moon setting over Fitzro…
the glowing peaks of the torres
the glowing peaks of the torres
me and michael. about 4 days after…
me and michael. about 4 days afte…
paddling in patagonia
paddling in patagonia
paddling together
paddling together
amazing blue. amazing formations. …
amazing blue. amazing formations.…
rapelling into the crevase
rapelling into the crevase
sunrise and a little of the moon s…
sunrise and a little of the moon …
camping on the trek
camping on the trek
photo by: jhedwards78