Weeks 3 and 4 of the adventure
31.03.2009 - 14.04.2009 15 °C
Hola and Happy Easter!
Its now been a month since we left London and we're on a 19 hour bus ride, so the perfect opportunity to pen another update on our adventures. It's either that or listen to the person behind us play some irritatingly noisy game on their phone.... A different author this time (Ali) but the same format – several of you seemed to have appreciated the Exec Summary! Length of this update will depend on if/when bus sickness starts to affect the author.
Highlights of Weeks 3 and 4
We left Puerto Natales on the Navimag ferry, spending 4 days sailing through stunning narrow channels up the Chilean coast. We passed a glacier, several dolphins and survived a crossing of the Gulf de Paine (the Gulf of Pain) where we had 17 hours of being tossed about by huge waves. The ferry landed in Puerto Montt from where we crossed back to Bariloche in the Lake District area of Argentina. After some patient(ish) waiting for the weather to clear, we had 6 fantastic days of trekking in stunning mountains with blue skies, lots of beautiful autumnal colours and tracks that tended to favour sending you up or down steep scree slopes (more detail below, after a few photos).
Navimag Ferry, Chile
Laguna Frey, Lake District, Argentina
Refugio Italia, Laguna Negra, at the end of a very very steep climb, Argentina
Finding our sea legs....
To get north from Puerto Natales you can either go south and cross into Argentina or get the weekly cargo and passenger ferry north to Puerto Montt. We chose the 4 day Ferry, and had an extra day waiting in Natales for it to arrive as it had been delayed by bad weather.... The first few days were very calm as the boat wound its way north through some exceptionally narrow channels, some no wider than 80 meters. We got served solid three-course meals throughout the day so spent most of our time relaxing, snoozing off the latest meal or pretending to be Captain of the ship.
Sailing through narrow straights, Navimag ferry
Navimag cap in the control deck!
The last day or so were slightly more exciting with the crossing of the Gulf de Paine bringing with it a good dose of high seas and crashing waves. They announced over the ship's tannoy system that we should take our sea sickness pills and then left us to it! Some of the crossing was done at night which was ok, but during the next day, we sat in the bar and watched as the furniture was thrown from one side of the room to the other. Whilst some of the passengers didn't fare too well, nothing could compare with the experiences of the three lorries full of sheep strapped to the stern deck – they must have been utterly miserable.
Sheep cargo, taken after storm had passed, Navimag ferry
Malteasers vs Revels
We arrived in Puerto Montt at night and left early the next morning to cross back into Argentina and get the bus up to Bariloche, which is the main town in the Argentinian Lake District. We have spent the last week or so based out of there – its a lovely town and rather like a little bit of Switzerland transplanted into South America. Against an impressive backdrop of mountains spilling down into series of lakes, the town is full of lovely wooden buildings, and (more importantly) fantastic chocolate shops.
The weather was distinctly wet when we arrived so we put our faith in the local forecasts and sat it out for 2 days, before a fantastic week of sunshine arrived. Whilst the weather in Torres del Paine could be described as a bag of Revels (some good moments, some really not-so-good moments), the weather in Bariloche was a perfect bag of Malteasers! We have had blue skies and a light breeze every day - we were even so bold as to leave our waterproof trousers behind at the hostel! Rather different to walking in Scotland. Its autumn here so there are beautiful colours in the forests with lots of rusty reds and oranges, and the occasional streak of a banana-yellow tree.
The descent to Refugio San Martin (which you can just see!), Lake District, Argentina
We did two three-day walks in the area, coming back to Bariloche inbetween and staying in Refugios whilst in the mountains. Refugios are mountain huts with a kitchen, and a floor covered in mattresses where you bagsy some space with your sleeping bag. Amazing places considering how far all the building equipment would need to have been carried, and they also meant that we didn't have to carry our tent (yey!). We stayed at 4 Refugios, walking between them on treks which varied from being gentle forest tracks, clear paths up and over the valley and hellish scrambles up scree during which you could only keep your fingers crossed that you were going in the right direction!
Somewhere between Refugio Frey and Refugio San Martin, Lake District, Argentina
Sunrise at Refugio Lopez on our last morning, Lake District, Argentina
Its been fantastic to be outdoors for so long and we have been very lucky with the weather. The only alarming side effect has been on our appetite - I'm not sure that its right that two people can eat a 500g bag of rice in less than 5 minutes....
We had Easter Sunday descending from our last Refugio and guzzled a bag of Cadbury's Mini Eggs to mark the occasion. Bariloche's chocolate shops were full of beautifully decorated Easter egg displays and we spent the afternoon wandering around and sampling these, even meeting the Easter Bunny....
Giant ginger Easter Bunny arrives in Bariloche, Argentina
So, tomorrow we arrive in Mendoza, hopefully in one piece after the bus ride and still with our sense of humour in tact. We plan on some more walking there and a spot of wine tasting. You will be glad to hear that the person with the annoying phone game has just got off the bus... but still 15 hours to go.
Love from seats 48 and 49 on the Transmar service to Mendoza,