"We'll work out what we're doing next...

Trip Start Sep 16, 2012
Trip End Mar 03, 2013

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Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, December 17, 2012

...whenever we get to wherever we're going" - Chloe Wilcock, 2nd Jan 2013 ( In a pick up truck somewhere in Argentina!)

It probably wasn't a great idea to watch 4 films and hardly get any sleep on our 11 hour flight to Santiago but we blame it on the uncomfortable seats! We went back in time, crossing the international date line so we were a little bit jet lagged for a few days having not followed the rules of jet lag prevention!

We'd booked ourselves in to a hostel in the Bellavista region of Santiago. A perfect location for us to spend a couple of days exploring the sights of Santiago. Bellavista itself was bohemian with lots of cafes, bars, restaurants and a bustling atmosphere in the evenings. After catching up on some sleep we managed to find our way to the bus terminal (with our limited knowledge of the spanish language!) and book a bus down south to the lake district where we planned to spend Christmas. Once we'd got all our plans sorted we walked around the main parts of the city, dodging rain showers visiting the markets, parks and cafes, sampling the odd empanada along the way! We had a couple of good meals washed down with Chilean red wine in the Bellavista area which was lovely too!

Opting for the night bus to save pennies on accommodation, we travelled for 12 hours by bus to Puerto Varas in the Chilean lakes and got plenty of sleep thankfully! We found a perfect hostel including wood burner and comfy beds to stay for the Christmas period. It was a very relaxed and welcoming place run by a French couple and their three year old daughter. Living up to typical lake district weather, it rained almost all day for at least three days during our stay! Not letting it stop our fun, we decided to go white water rafting as we'd be getting wet anyway! It was great fun zooming down the rapids, at points you'd go to put your paddle in and they'd be nothing there because you were on the crest of the rapid. We also jumped off to boat and held on to the side to go down one of the rapids which was fun!

The Chileans celebrate Christmas on the 24th so on Christmas eve the very kind hostel put on a big meal for everyone staying in the hostel. All we had to do was bring a dish. I opted to make banoffee pie as its normally a crowd pleaser and very quick and easy to make. We also tried lots of traditional drinks such as dark beer, blended with egg whites and also a milky alcoholic drink with Christmas spices like cinnamon and cloves. They were delicious! We had a lovely evening with the 25 other guests from around the world (America, Germany, Belgium, France, Turkey) eating our christmas dinner (turkey for Alasdair and lots of lovely rice salads and potatoes for me) and drinking lots of red wine! We had fun but it was of course not like Christmas at home! On Christmas day, we caught up with family online and had a walk along the lake. We still hadn't seen any of the allusive volcanoes that were meant to be there due to the rainy cloudy weather!

On Boxing day we travelled to the cochamo valley in an ancient and crowded bus to meet a cowboy named Cirro. He was a friend of Pierre's (who owned the hostel) and we'd arranged to go horse riding with him for the day. We hopped off the bus to be greeted by Cirro, he was extremely kind and friendly and welcomed us in to his home for tea and honey biscuits prepared by his wife. The view from their kitchen sink was absolutely stunning; meadows, lakes, snow capped mountains and volcanoes! After tea, we were introduced to our horses and off we set through the valley, passing farms, crossing rivers and climbing high in to the mountains. The horses were fantastic and so well looked after. We rode for around 4 hours, with a picnic stop in between. It was a great way to take in the scenery and definitely a different way to spend boxing day! The Volcanos of Puerto Varas made an appearance on our last day, with a beautiful blue sky as a backdrop. We were lucky to see them before we set off to catch our bus to the island of Chiloe!

After a short ferry ride, seeing a few penguins, seals and pelicans on our way we arrived in the town of Ancud. A small little place known for the seafood dish Curanta. Alasdair sampled it while we were there, the mussels were almost as big as his hands! I tried the local salmon which was very good. I had not realised that salmon is is Chiles third biggest export. The next day we set off to Castro a slightly larger town further south, from here we visited the Chiloe National Park, took in the sights of the famous UNESCO wooden churches and 'Palanfitos' (houses on stilts). The cathedral in Castro looked like something you'd see in Disneyland!

Supplies in hand, on new years eve we travelled down to port of Quellon to catch a cargo ferry to Puerto Chacabuco, a 28 hour journey through the Chilean fjords. The first few hours were in open water so it was pretty rough at points, however as soon as we were in the fjords we were cruising along nicely. We spent most of our time up on the deck, taking in the views and chatting to fellow travellers. We saw lots of penguins and birds and a couple of dolphins...we were hoping to spot a whale or two but we were not as lucky this time! The ship did not serve alcohol however we had brought a couple of beers and some bubbles with to see in the new year. The sunset was beautiful over the open water. In the darkness after sunset, up on the deck, someone said "what's that orange light over there?" we all scratched our heads, maybe it's a lighthouse, or a lantern? No, of course...it was the Moon! It was the most incredible moon we've ever seen! It slowly rose up above the sea, causing orange reflections in the water. The photos don't do it justice but a tripod was no use to me on a boat :-)

At Midnight, the ships horn sounded and we opened our bubbles, wished everybody on the deck a Happy New Year and watched as locals set off emergency flares at a nearby port before heading off to our bunk room...amazing how tired you feel after doing nothing all day, must be the fresh air!
We did not arrive at Puerto Chacabuco until midnight the next day so we ended up spending another night on the boat, which was perfect for us as we didn't fancy trying to find somewhere to stay late at night.
The plan was to catch a bus down to El Calafate in Argentina from Puerto Chacabuco however we soon found out that it wasn't going to be as simple as that! Three days, six towns, five buses, one ferry and two pick up trucks later we made it to El Calafate!
From our ferry, crossing the second largest lake in South America we arrived in Chile Chico, where we spent the night in the hope of catching another bus across the boarder in to Argentina the next day. We made it safely across the boarder arriving at the bus station not long after the bus we wanted to catch had left! (No buses until the next day) There were a few of us in the boat so luckily the bus operator, keen to earn a few more pesos offered to try and catch up with the bus in his pick up truck. Four of us jumped in the lovely chilean mans truck and we set off down Argentinas route 40... This is where the quote that summarises this journey came out.... "We'll work out what we're doing next, whenever we get to wherever we're going!" Thirty minutes later we were on the bus that we'd hoped to catch.

It didn't feel like a nine hour journey from Los Antiqous to El Chalten. The scenery was quite mesmerising, always changing from desert to mountains and lakes to steppes. We also saw lots of wildlife from the window of the bus, Guanacos (like a Llama), Condors, Rheas (Like a mini Ostrich) and a Patagonian Fox (we think!). As we got close to El Chalten the view of Mt Fitzroy was brilliant. At times the view from our window looked a bit like one of those old fashioned moving picture viewers, like the clouds, mountains and grasslands were all on different layers. The foreground moving fast, mountains standing strong and the clouds gently passing by looking like they could be hanging off string! A great journey.

In El Chalten we had a lovely meal out after eating just crackers and marmite (yep... Marmite, I was very excited to find it in New Zealand!) during our 9 hours on the bus. We forgot to get Argentinian pesos and we certainly were not going to find any cash machines where we were! The Patagonian lamb lived up to Alasdair's expectations and my veggie curry was pretty good too!

El Calafate is close to the home of one of the worlds biggest glaciers, part of a 250 sq kilometre ice field, Perito Moreno. We've seen a couple of glaciers during the last 4 months but this one paled the others in to insignificance in comparison. Having been a beautifully sunny day when we arrived in El Calafate, we forgot that you can get all four seasons in a day in southern patagonia! We arrived at the first view point of the glacier in the pouring rain, luckily we had our jackets but a jumper, hat and gloves wouldn't have gone a miss! It was freezing! Who'd of thought it would be cold visiting a glacier?! We did an hours walk around the edge of the glacial lake seeing a couple of icebergs and then made our way to the balcony's just 700 meters from the 75 meter high north face of the glacier. It was an incredible sight, you could hear the ice creaking and when blocks of ice fell off, it made a thunderous sound. It looses 2 meters of ice each day and we actually saw a couple of ice falls while we were on the balcony's, they created huge waves in the lake.

From El Calafate, we travelled down to Puerto Natales where we planned to spend a few days in Torres Del Paine National Park!
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