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We are doing our best to post a brief summary of our quarterly happenings for those of our friends and family who are interested. Enjoy!

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3/28/15 – Ushuaia

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We debated a bit about what to do today. Our legs are tired.. so we weren’t too excited about another big hike, but we couldn’t really think of anything else to do. The weather wasn’t perfect, so we scratched a few things off the list.

We decided to head up to Laguna de los Témpanos. On our way to the trailhead, we stopped and asked for directions. A man that lives at the bottom of the mountain pointed us in the right direction… and we also got to meet his litter of adorable puppies. They were just over 40 days old… and he was planning to take them into town to sell them soon.

The hike up was just as all of our Patagonian hikes have been – very steep and quite muddy. This time though they actually did a very nice job of placing logs and bridges. This hike isn’t even part of a park, so we were surprised that the trail was that nice. We essentially hiked up into a cloud, and it drizzled a little bit. The fall colors were spectacular. We reached the glacial lagoon and were unfortunately not able to see the majority of the mountain and glacier behind it, but we got a little taste at least.

Last night in Ushuaia tonight. Heading back to Buenos Aires tomorrow for a day before heading home.

3/26-3/27/15 – Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego

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Took the bus in to national park this morning. We set up our tent, and then started on the trail. We did a hike up Cerro Guanaco, but got stuck in the mud… didn’t get to finish the hike after putting in a lot of sweat equity into a very, very steep trail. There was a decent overlook along the way. Did a hike along Lago Roca, a large lake that lies between Argentina and Chile.

Turned in early and finished up a book on cd that we’d been listening to on our drives.

Slept in late so that we could drop our bag off with the campground host and their office didn’t open until 10. Went to the Visitors Center with very low expectations. All of the visitors centers we have visited here have been quite lacking compared to what we are used to in our national parks. This one surprised us with great exhibits, dioramas, and information boards. We spent quite a bit of time here… and all the while we were hoping that the clouds and drizzle would stop (it didn’t). Then, we did a few short trails that turned out to be well worth it! Maybe better than the longer trails we did yesterday! Good views of the bay and nearby islands, a peat bog, and some pretty fall colors. It was so funny to be seeing the trees change… knowing that when we left home, our spring bulbs were coming up.  We walked to the end of Ruta 3, the southernmost highway in the world.

The park reminded us quite a bit of home. West Seattle, San Juan Islands, a little bit of the Olympic National Park. It’s been a good trip, but we’re looking forward to being home in a few days.

3/25/15 – Ushuaia

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Had a relaxing morning. It was grey, rainy morning. Good day for a museum! We headed to the Museo Marítimo y del Presideo de Ushuaia, a large museum housed in the old prison. Each wing had a different theme e.g. maritime history, Antarctica, Ushuaia, and of course, the prison. There were also some art exhibits, but we were pretty exhausted after exploring the rest of the museum. Ushuaia became a prominent town in Argentina with the establishment of the penal colony. There’s also a life-size replica of the lighthouse located at the beginning of the Beagle Channel on Isla de los Estados. The only remaining parts of the original prison railroad and engine  are also here.

In the middle of our museum exploration, we took a break to go eat lunch and do a walking tour of the city. The weather had cleared up a little bit. We went into a couple of smaller museums. One was located in a prominent historic home and housed a modern art exhibit. There was also a nice outdoor memorial to the Guerra de las Malvinas (Falkland Islands war). We ended our city tour with a walk around the harbor watching a few seals and  waterfowl. An Antarctic cruise also set sail.

We finished up at the Prison Museum and then headed to dinner. You guessed it… pizza. But it was actually really good!

Planning to go to Tierra del Fuego National Park tomorrow. Crossing our fingers for good weather!

3/24/15 – Ushuaia

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Nice flight from Calafate to Ushuaia today. It was a perfectly clear day and we could see all the way to Torres del Paine! We could also see Mt Fitz Roy… so at least we got to see it from a far. It was clouded in when we were up close.

The day was absolutely gorgeous in Ushuaia when we arrived. All of the locals seemed to be buzzing about it. We decided to take advantage of what appeared to be an unseasonably good day, and joined a boat ride of the Beagle Channel for the afternoon. We boarded a small boat with 10 other people and set off for a 4 hour tour through a few of the islands. The water was very still and the scenery was quite stunning! It was interesting to hear a bit more about the development of the channel, the native Yámana who used to live here, and the founding of Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world! We even got our passports stamped at the visitors center with “El Fin del Mundo” or “the end of the world”.

We decided to cook ourselves dinner at our hostel as we are getting a bit tired of pizza, pizza, pizza. Had a great chat with a girl at our hostel from Germany about traveling.

 

3/23/15 – Glaciar Perito Moreno

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Drove out to Lago Roca to do part of a hike to an overlook of the glacier we planned to visit in the afternoon. We only hiked the first portion of Cerro Cristal because we got some good views of the glacier, surrounding mountains and lakes.

Next we headed to Glaciar Perito Moreno. It’s actually still growing in size. It’s expansiveness was quite breathtaking. We walked around the boardwalks and listened to the cracking and calving of ice for several hours. The top of it looks a bit like a blue cream pie with very peaked points. The small pieces of ice falling into the lake sounded like firecrackers or gunshots while the larger ones sounded like thunder. It was really fun to watch!

Dinner was so good last night at Pura Vida that we returned to the same restaurant again tonight. Had a great veggie lasagna and a fun dessert.

Heading off to Ushuaia for the last leg of our trip tomorrow!

3/22 – Back to El Calafate

Our last view of Torres del Paine

Our last view of Torres del Paine

Relaxing morning drive back to El Calafate. Lots faster coming back then it was going. We arrived several hours earlier than we’d expected. We debated about heading onward to our next stop, but decided to just take a day to relax. We found a much better campground than the last one we stayed at here. Enjoying the electricity, wifi, and nice facilities!

Had a nice lunch by the water and are planning to get a bite to eat for dinner.

Have been doing a little bit of trip planning for the last leg of our trip.

Nice quiet day.

3/21/15: Torres del Paine

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We had a slightly warmer night than the prior few… so that was nice.

Woke up quite early to pack up the tent and head down the road. We stopped a few times along the way as it was another beautiful sunrise. We arrived at our next trailhead around 9 or 9:30, set up our tent, and then got started on our hike up to Mirador las Torres. It was a beautiful day, but that made it quite toasty for all of the elevation gain. Not complaining though.. we got down to shorts and t-shirts!

The hike was primarily on ridges that followed a river. The last bit was like hiking through a steep river bed with lots of large rocks. Thankfully not nearly as muddy as our hike yesterday. The trail peaked at a field of large glacial scree that we scrambled through. We finally made it to the top and the towers and glacial lagoon were just gorgeous! We overheard one of the guides say that the towers have been clouded in for the last week… so we felt very lucky! We spent about an hour resting and staring… and then started to head back.

18km and a fair amount of elevation. Pooja got her first foot blister! Our feet are very much looking forward to a driving day tomorrow!

We were starving at the end of our hike and walked into a resort restaurant. It was rather quiet and we asked if we could sit down. We were asked to come back in an hour because they were having an event. We thought that meant it would be mellower in an hour. We went back to our tent and finished setting up.. munched on a few cookies.. and then went back. There were disco lights, loud music, and a packed house and we were scratching our heads about why were asked to come back at this time. We were pretty frustrated! We actually left and then came back to see if we could order food to go. Just after we ordered, a spot on a couch opened up so we snagged it. We ended up getting a bit of free food and drinks that were being offered for the event, and we had a delicious pizza (yes.. another pizza..) and got to watch a cocktail making contest between the different lodging companies. Turned out to be a better night than we’d expected after the run around.

3/20/15: Torres del Paine

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Our hopes came true! John poked his head out of the tent just before sunrise and he said he thought it would be an amazing one… which meant Pooja got ready instead of sleeping in. It really was a beautiful morning with a nearly the entire range in view, and a few pink clouds. John thinks it was one of the most beautiful sunrises he has ever seen.

Then, we hopped in the car and headed toward the catamaran ride which took us across Lake Péhoe. This boat ride circumvents about a day’s worth of hiking which we didn’t have time for in our schedule. We hiked up into Valle del Francés and enjoyed the intimate views of the mountains. The weather was perfect apart from spurts of high winds. We weren’t able to hike the entire valley because of a snow closure, but we put in somewhere around 17 or 18km. Filled up our water bottles from the glacial rivers… which is encouraged in the park. Most of the hike was quite muddy… like 5-6 inches of wet mud. Could have used some gaiters! We did our best to dance around the mud pools. Sort of a bummer… there’s a lot of foot traffic on this particular trail and they could really use some cheap bridges!

Along the way, Pooja stopped dead in her tracks when she came face to face with a coworker! They were allowing each other to pass on the trail… and then realized they knew each other! Pooja had no idea Anne was going to be in Chile with her family, so it was quite the surprise.

With very tired feet, we returned to the catamaran. The whole day had been so wonderful… but we did have one hiccup. We were one of the first ones on the boat, and they load all the backpacks in a stack. Ours was on the very bottom… and somebody’s bag above leaked red wine ALL OVER the bags below. Yuck.

Had a quiet dinner at the small restaurant at our campground. We had the same sweet waiter as our prior meal at the restaurant. He remembered our order from a day ago (there’s basically only one or two veggie options…) which is impressive because he sees a lot of faces in one day with all of the tour groups that come through and have lunch there.

Another long day of hiking ahead tomorrow…

3/19/15: Torres del Paine

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We woke up early to take a shower and enter the park, but we were foiled by the lack of electricity and running water in the bathroom. The annoying generator from last night was conspicuously not grumbling, so we slept in until 8:00. After our warm, cold, boiling, cold shower, we packed up the tent and entered the park.

There were heavy clouds and a slight drizzle as we rolled up to the park entrance. The weather report at the ranger station didn’t provide much hope either.. and the ranger stated that many of the interior hikes were closed due to snow this morning. We decided to do a few shorter hikes to some waterfalls. They were very beautiful even with the hazy mountains. We even saw a 24” trout swim by. We were joined at lunch by bus-loads of hiking tours, but we didn’t pay much attention to them as the clouds were beginning to lift and we could see most of the massif.

We were so excited we spent the rest of the daylight doing a trail out to a wonderful panoramic view of the whole range with a large lake in the foreground. This is probably the most unique aspect of the park. Large, raw granite spires loom over dozens of turquoise glacial lakes in the foreground. We were able to spot every peak except for the Cerro Grande (the highest peak) which was a great deal more than we expected this morning! We also heard a few small avalanches and saw some of the snow powdering into the sky.

Spotted a few condors. That wingspan is just astonishing! Clouds rolled in again around 6pm.

Hoping for a dramatic sunrise…

3/18/15: Laguna Capri back to El Chalten, then to Torres del Paine

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John woke up early to check out sunrise. Better luck than yesterday! It was partly cloudy, but the clouds did catch some light and would occasionally break around the mountains so that the range could be seen with the exception of the top of Fitz Roy. It wasn’t a classic sunrise, but it was still very pretty. By the time the tent was packed up an hour later, clouds had rolled in and no mountains were in sight. Started to spit rain and hail.

We carried on down the trail the last 7km, dropped off our stuff, and had brunch at La Waflería where we had delicious waffles, good coffee (first one on the trip!), and great hot chocolate.

After lunch we jumped in the car to start our 6 hr drive to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. 7 hours later we were at the Argentine border (we had to go through border control to leave) and 8 hours later we were through the Chilean border control (which included a very cute dog jumping into our trunk looking for contraband fruit). 10+ hrs later (10:30pm) we rolled into our campground (after spending an hour looking for a closer poorly signed campground)… sooo moral of the story is that Google and Garmin do not calculate gravel road driving times very well and also does not account for the dozens of bunnies that jumped into the road.

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