Hello! It's hard to keep this thing updated, especially with the overly slow internet access in the deepest South!
Well, since the last blog we have been pretty busy! We arrived in El Calafate on time at around 2pm on Saturday 9th Feb. This is a town pretty much created for tourists offering easy access to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is the only advancing glacier in the world and hundreds of people flock here to try and capture a glimpse of the ice breaking off it's face. We were amongst these 'hundreds' and waited around for about an hour to see what we had come for! In fact we managed to see (and hear) some amazing collapses of ice into the lake below. We tried to capture these on camera, but timing was tricky. I managed to get some of the splashes but you really have to be there to believe the sound!
As well as the door to the Glaciar, El Calafate is also an option for excursions to Torres del Paine in Chile (one of the most impressive National Parks in South America). After looking into Torres del Paine and figuring out how to tackle it (it's a pretty big park to cover, and impossible to get a real feel for in a day) we decided it was too costly to do with hostels so instead agreed to try our hand at camping!
Now, I consider myself quite an 'outdoorsy' person, coming from Devon and all that, so I was very much looking forward to the challenge of camping and cooking for ourselves along the way. There were four of us now (Jim's 2 mates had met up with us in El Calafate - Toby and Ian) so we all had to hire all the necessary equipment - tents, stove etc. and stock up with easy-to-cook food (mainly pasta, rice and sauce).
We started on Wednesday at 6am with the bus to the park. This took longer than expected (and told by the always glaciers agent) after stopping to look at flamingos and other land marks we arrived around 2pm. This left enough time to set up camp, have a look around and prepare dinner! The weather at this point wasn't great - it was pretty overcast - on the journey to the park we were pointed in the direction of a mountain which we couldn't see through the clouds (apparently only the 2nd time ever this had happened - typical!)
So, we set up the camp, lit a fire to keep us warm (actually Ian did this) and enjoyed some munch - I believe it was some delightful flavoured rice with tuna. After eating we got ourselves tucked up ready for an early start to the Torres the next day! The night was rather cold (or rather my sleeping bag too thin) so I didn't get too much shut eye and was rudely awaken at 7am by the alarm!
On Day 2 we got up and made some porridge to keep us going for our 16km trek to the Torres (towers) and back. This is when my love for porridge was rekindled! :o) After breaky we started to proceed up to our destination. It was a pretty steep climb and the last part was particularly tricky scrambling up over boulders. Once at the top though it was just amazing, and watching how people reacted once they got up there was quite interesting...some would swear in awe, others would show their disbelief and amazement and others were just relieved to have reached their goal! (I was probably the latter;o))
After seeing the Torres we made our way back to camp - the way back was a little easier with more down hill action than the way up. It started to get pretty windy that night and we were a little worried about the tent blowing away. It didn't blow away but while trying to sleep Jim and I were getting a bit of a battering by the tent and by the morning the tent was almost flat on the floor - as you can imagine it was a bit of a sleepless night!
Day 3 we had to make our way to the next campsite, which we found out to be one without the facilities we were used to at the previous one. It had some portaloo toilets which stank and a small sink and that was it. To get to the campsite we had a 6 hour walk and there was a pretty steep incline just before it. It was a tough walk but the views were amazing - clear waters and amazing beaches, small paths through green bushes and mountains all around. We also had to cross a rushing waterfall that looked gorgeous! The night at this campsite was short as we all needed an early night - I made pasta and sauce for everyone and by the time we had finished it was pretty dark but at least we were protected by the weather this time as we were amongst the trees.
Day 4 (the final day) was a little easier, but as soon as we woke up the rain started and made it very difficult to make breakfast and take the tent down - Jim and I got filthy and had quite short fuses too! Once we got going though and focused on the task at hand we were fine. The others had left an hour before us as Toby was suffering with a dodgy knee so our task was to catch them up. The walk was just 2 hours and was across some pretty flat terrain (for a change). We ended up catching the others up about 30 minutes before the end of the trail and completed in within the 2 hours. We were all relieved to finish and the boys proceeded to order a hamburger as their reward. For me it was a slice of chocolate brownie! :o)
Once we finshed we had to get the catamaran across the lake to catch our bus back to El Calafate. This was easy enough but we got quite wet waiting for it to arrive (typical, as the sun was shining the whole time we were inside with our food!) Once we arrived on the other side of the lake we had a bit of a wait and found there wasn't really anywhere to wait inside so had to keep ourselves warm outside (luckily the rain had stopped). Eventually we got our bus and made our way back. The journey back was MUCH longer than expected and we didn't get back until around 12.30am (we left the park at around 4pm and were told we would get back around 8pm!) As you can imagine we were a little p***ed off. It basically meant that we couldn't go back to our previous hostel (where we left our stuff) to then take it to the other hostel and also that we couldn't take back the tent and camping stuff to the hire place. We were worried with it being Sunday the next day and the fact we were leaving in the afternoon for our next destination, that the hire place might be closed and we wouldn't get our deposit back, or indeed return their equipment. Luckily everything came good and we got it back in time and got our bus to Rio Gallegos...