It seems like months ago that I wrote the last blog in Santiago and when I think about what I’ve done in that time I can only really say I’ve done two things....sitting on buses and walking. It sounds rubbish and you might think why would anyone spend hundreds of pounds doing that?! The answer is Torres del Paine. It’s a National Park in Chilean Antarctica or Patagonia but we like the first because it has Antarctic in it!! It’s completely untouched and in the surrounding 2000km there are about 4 towns worth mentioning and very little else. The winds here are often 120kph and the temperature is often below freezing but most importantly it’s pretty much the most southerly point in the world and one of the most remote places you can go. From Santiago it’s about 7000km round trip and 100 odd hours on buses that you can only book when you arrive at each place which makes things interesting! So you can imagine when you finally arrive in Puerto Natales, hire your camping gear, pack your rucksacks and head off one freezing cold morning to the place you’ve only heard of that you’ve worked so hard to get to, there’s a strange feeling of excitement, apprehension and anticipation. I’ll let the pictures do the rest!
Going back in time a bit from Santiago we got the bus to Valparaiso, a port town about 2 hours from the capital. It is meant to be the culture capital of Chile and really show the Chilean way of life. In short it’s a bit of a dump! I loved the old corrugated buildings and the maze of houses all built haphazardly on the hills. Mosaics had been crafted onto walls and road signs and somehow there was an even friendlier feel than the rest of Chile. We stayed with a family, there were hundreds of them but they made us feel very welcome and gave us a pen each when we left!! From there we went south to Puerto Montt overnight. We were there 10 minutes in the rain and fog and decided to get out of the place so we got on a bus to Argentina, Bariloche to be precise. Bariloche is a mix between rich ski town in the centre and poor bland Argentina on the outskirts. Bariloche is the place to start from when visiting all the lakes in the Lake District. We didn’t really have time for this so we just ploughed on south to Rio Gallegos. Rio Gallegos is a place I hope I never go back to, not because it’s horrible just because it’s in the middle of absolutely nowhere and the only reason you go is to get to somewhere else on a ridiculously long bus journey! We left asap and headed to Rio Turbio, the border crossing back in to Chile for Torres del Paine. We stayed with a really nice family in Puerto Natales where we relaxed a bit and got ready for our 3 day trek.
Over the 3 days we hiked 60km, climbed 2 mountains and fought with some pretty strong winds all with our backpacks (or at least one of them)! It’s one of my best accomplishments in life and something I would recommend to everyone. There’s nothing better than getting to the top of the Torres climb and sitting by the lake to admire the view and realise we’d actually made it to the place that had previously just been a pinpoint on a map. I had no idea what Patagonia was like before this and I’m so glad we made it down there even though as I write this I’m still sat on a bus after 40 odd hours getting back to where I started!! We went from Puerto Natales back into Argentina to El Calafate to see the Moreno Glacier. The sheer size of it is hard to comprehend but the noise of bits of ice breaking off and smashing into the water is something you won’t get from the photos and really justifies the trek to get here. From there we got the bus back to Rio Gallegos and then the bus I’m on now to Mendoza. Two days on a bus is getting a little tiring and the £100 price tag is very frustrating but on the plus side its free food and accommodation for 2 days! Mendoza is all about chilling out, tasting good wine and experiencing the Argentinean culture which we have no complaints about! From there we head up to Salta and San Pedro de Atacama (back to Chile!) before heading to the Salt Flats in Bolivia. It’s all desert up there and an amazing mountain pass across the Andes, apparently, to San Pedro.
I’m absolutely loving South America, Chile has been much better than I expected, the people are so friendly, the architecture in Santiago is amazing and they know how to enjoy themselves. Argentina so far has been pretty baron and expensive but we’ve only been to the south and I’m expecting Mendoza and Buenos Aires to be much more like Chile. The strangest thing we’ve noticed is how developed and rich Argentina can feel at times and then how run down it can also be. Anyway, my highlight so far has to be reaching the view point on the last day of our trek and looking out over snow capped mountains, rivers, forests, granite peaks and desert and realising it would probably be the only time I ever see all of that. I’m not sure anything else will beat that feeling but we’ve still got some amazing things to come including the Salt Flats at Uyuni, Machu Picchu, the Amazon rainforest, Cartagena’s Caribbean beaches, looking down at Copacabana from Sugar Loaf (Rio) and finally Iguaçu Falls. Look those up if you’ve not seen them before!