Argentina and Chile - Patagonia - HT Wandelreizen - December 2005

Below you will find a long list of pictures (175), taken on the Patagonia trip organised by HT Wandelreizen from December 3 2005 to January 1 2006.
The most interesting images have a red bullet in front of them. In a hurry? Just want to see the pictures? Check out the slide show.
The days we were walking we kept track of how much time we spent walking. This is excluding the time for breaks.

December 3 & 4: Flight to Buenos Aires

Around 16.30 we met the rest of the group at Schiphol Airport. On the way to Buenos Aires we flew from Amsterdam to Frankfurt to São Paolo to Buenos Aires with Lufthansa.

December 4: Buenos Aires

Around 9.30 we landed in Buenos Aires. From the airport it was about half an hour to our hotel (hotel Europa). We shared the room with Arjen (yes another Arjen) and Ageeth.
After unpacking we went into the city. First to the National Congress and then to Plaza de Mayo (well known for the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo). After that we went into "San Telmo", a quarter where you can see lot's of artists performing in the streets and that has huge indoor markets with all kinds of fresh food (vegetables, fruits, fish).
In the evening we went out for dinner with the entire group. Afterwards we had to devide the tents and cooking materials. We were informed that we could bring 15kg., but it turned out that we were supposed to take all materials into account as well because of the 15kg. luggage limit on domestic flights... Luckily our daypacks were large enough to hold some extra luggage and nobody at the airport seems to care about the weight of daypacks...

December 5: Buenos Aires and Puerto Madryn

When we woke up there was a surprise: Sinterklaas (a Dutch tradition somewhat similar to Santa Claus) had brought us "chocoladeletters"!
The morning we spent in Buenos Aires to do some more sightseeing together with Arjen and Ageeth. We went to La Recoleta, a huge cemetary with many beautiful mausoleums where we went to see the grave of Eva "Evita" Perón. After that we went to the harbour and then back to the hotel.
Our flight to Trelew (with Aerolineas Argentinas) took less than two hours. From Trelew we took the bus to Puerto Madryn where we arrived around 8pm. Again we shared the room with Arjen and Ageeth. We did some shopping for lunch for the next day and then we went for dinner at restaurant Yoaquina (at the beach).

December 6: Punta Tombo

This day we were supposed to go whale watching at Península de Valdez, but because of the weather (strong winds) we went to Punta Tombo which was originally planned for the next day. At Punta Tombo (2 hours south of Puerto Madryn) there's a huge colony (some 500,000) of Magelhães penguins. Funny creatures! In december the penguins are at Punta Tombo with their chicks still at the nests. You can get really close to them.
On the way back we visited Trelew. Some of our group went to see the Dinosaur museum, we went to drink some coffee in the center of the town together with Ageeth. After Trelew we also went to Gaiman, a 19th century Welsh town. We didn't get out of the bus because we were all too tired, so we went back to the hotel.

December 7: Península de Valdez

In the morning it was very clouded and still quite windy, so we first went via Istmo Ameghino to the northern part of the peninsula: Punta Norte. Here we had a good view of a group of sea lions and sea elephants. From there we went to Punta Cantor. Again we saw sea lions and sea elephants, but also some whales! Then we went to Puerto Pirámide. The weather was getting better, so the boat could go to open sea. As the boat got further from the shore the weather improved and the sea got quiet. Within 2 hours in total 8 whales could be spotted! Some got really close to the boat.
On the way back to Puerto Madryn we saw some llama-like Guanacos and some ostrich-like Nandus.
We had dinner at "La Barra". Some of the group ordered Parilla, which meant a lot of roasted meat - off any part of the animal involved (including black pudding)...

December 8: Puerto Madryn and Ushuaïa

After Arjen's first shave of the holiday we went to have breakfast at Yoaquina. We sat outside enjoying the sun. After breakfast we went for a walk around Puerto Madryn. Usually it's quite warm in december, but not this year. We had pancakes with caramel sauce at Lizard Cafe around noon and then went back to the hotel. The tourguide gave us instructions on how to put up a tent. The type of Vaude we had was really easy to put up. Within a few minutes you can do it when you're with two people.
After some reading we headed for the airport in Trelew to catch our flight (again with Aeronlineas Argentinas) to Ushuaïa.
From the plane we had a great view of the snowy hills around Ushuaïa.
The hostel we would stay didn't have enough rooms for all of us so we stayed at a log cabin together with Arjen and Ageeth.

December 9: Ushuaïa and Montes Martial

We got up and went to the hostal for breakfast. Both of us were exited to start walking and wondering what it would be like to walk with all your stuf in your own backpack (this being our first time). After breakfast we took a bus to the starting point of our 2 day hike through the Montes Martial (the Lonely Planet guide has this as a 3 day trek). The weather was fine when we started walking. We started walking in the sun through a forest. The higher we got, the more clouds we saw.
We had to cross a small river lots of times and since it was usually only a couple of yards on one side of the river before you had to cross to the other side again, we had to keep walking on a water shoes rather than our hiking shoes. The water however was very cold and by then we had also arrived at an altitude where there was snow on the ground... After an hour we had crossed the river for the last time and could put on our hiking shoes again, hoping our feet would get warm again. After lunch we had to walk up a very steep hillside with by now about a feet of snow on it. Fresh snow began to fall. Patricia slipped and nearly dropped into the river below, but managed to hang on to the hillside. Alfred was able to pull her up again and we could continue walking. At the Pass (Paso de la Oveja) it was snowing heavily, but only a few hundred meters on the other side it stopped and the weather improved.
A few hundred meters before the campsite at Laguna del Caminante John slipped and got stuck in the mud with his left leg. He went into the mud up to his hips and had quite a bit of problems getting out...
We cooked dinner trying to find shelter behind some bushes, but it was still very cold. After dinner we immediately went to bed, thinking that if every day of the holiday would be like this, we had choosen the wrong trip and that if we would ever do something like this again it would be in a warm and dry environment. By the time I write this, we are already planning for an expedition to Mera Peak (6,450m) in Nepal :)
This day we walked approximately 8h00m.

December 10: Montes Martial and Ushuaïa

After breakfast (hot milk with muesli) we started walking. Fortunately the night before Alfred had found an alternative route up so we wouldn't have to take the same path as the one where John got stuck in the mud. The weather was quite friendly. The ground was slippery which caused Patricia to slip and bump her hip and knee quite hard against a fallen tree. We had to cross a few rivers. Fortunately using "bridges" - trees that had been laid across the river, sometimes some wire was put up at arm height to hold on to. There were lots of dead trees laying around as the woods in this part of the country are infected with parasites which causes the trees to die eventually, leaving them as easy prey for the winds. After quite a few hours we arrived at the highway near Ushuaïa. In two groups we were able to catch a ride to the hostel (Rio Ona). This time there were enough rooms for all of us. We had a quite luxurious room.
After a shower we had just enough time to buy some lunch for the next day, before we went out for dinner. We found a nice Parilla that had really good veal and pork and a good vegetable buffet too.
After dinner we went for a walk through the shoppin street and some coffee at the Irish Pub. Not before 11pm it got dark; amazing to have so much daylight in the middle of the winter.
This day we walked approximately 5h20m.

December 11: Parque Nacional Terra del Fuego, Ushuaïa and El Calafate

In the morning we drove to Parque Nacional Terra del Fuego. Turned out that when you're with a big group, you have to hire a local park guide. After being fined for not having done so, fortunately we could still enter the park. We were dropped off at Bahía Ensenada. From there we started walking. We followed the coastline, enjoying the stunning views from the most southern part of the South American mainland. Some three hours later we arrived at Lago Roca. Near the lake lies a small restaurant where they have truly exquisit cakes!
Around noon the bus picked us up again and brought us back to Ushuaïa. We did some shopping and then headed to the airport for our flight (yet again with Aerolineas Argentinas) to El Calafate.
In El Calafate we stayed at the Hostel del Glaciar. After having dropped off our luggae we went to shop for lunch for the next day. We had burgers at a gas station since we didn't feel like going into the town (it was quite busy).
This day we walked approximately 2h30sm.

December 12: Perito Moreno Glacier

We took a tourist bus to the Perito Moreno Glacier. The bus took a scenic route on the way to the Glacier. On the way we saw a lot of Condors and Karakaras. The glacier currently splits the lake it end up in into two lakes. You can see from previous times this has happened how high the water can rise before enough pressure has been built up to break through the glacier again. The glacier is really spectacular to see. The ice has a beautiful blue color on the front side. Every 10-15 minutes a piece, sometimes the size of a car, breaks off and crashes into the lake. We spent about two hours watching it from the shore (there are several balconies that offer great views from close by) and then took a boat to get a view from the lake. Before we were allowed to sit on the deck, we had to watch safety instructions, explaining how to use the life vests - pretty useless when you have about two minutes to live when you end up in the water...
Back in El Calafate we went to a different hostel to check if Ester, a friend of us who happened to pass through El Calafate on her trip through Patagonia by any chance had arrived. Unfortunately she would arrive in the afternoon of the next day so after we would leave. We went to our hostel and took a shower.
On our way from the Hostal Ester would stay to our own hostal we saw a lot of nice restaurants. We ended up in "Casablanca" where we had pizza (didn't feel like eating huge chomps of meat) and a large Quilmes.

December 13: El Calafate to Piedra del Fraile

Around 7.30 we left El Calafate for a 4 hour drive to the drop off point outside El Chaltén, near Rio Eléctrico. The road leads around the lakes (Lago Argentino and Lago Viedma), hence the long drive.
Around 13.15 we started walking. The closer we got to Piedra del Fraile, the more clouds we saw. When we arrived there to camp on the site of Refugio los Troncos, it was getting foggy. We put up our tents and then headed for a viewpoint at Lago Electro. When we arrived there, we saw the rain heading straight towards us so we turned back. We arrived at the camp just when it began to rain. It was only a short shower though. The rest of the evening and night there was a slight drizzle.
This day we walked approximately 2h50m.

December 14: Piedra del Fraile to campamento Poincenot

Patricia was supposed to help prepare breakfast, but we overslept. The rest of the group however did not care about this, since now they had the chance to wake us up by singing "happy Birthday" for Patricia. She got some presents from Kees&Rita and Arjen&Ageeth. Today she could also open the birthday letter from Annekatrien that we brought from home and she was not supposed to open before today. An extra gift was the clear blue sky.
Around 8 Diego, our local park guide arrived.
Around 8.30 we started walking. We heard a woodpecker, but didn't see it. The first part of the trail went through the woods. The second part followed the river upstream. We had great views of the Fitzroy and the Piedras Blancas glacier. Just when we sat down to enjoy the view of the glacier, a huge pice broke off (see the before and after image below). We arrived at campamento Poincenot where we put up our tents and had lunch. After lunch we took the path to a viewpoint at the foot of the Fitzroy. It was a steep climb, but definately worth it. When we arrived at the lake I thought it was beautiful already, but the viewpoint a bit further and to the left was even more stunning. We stayed there for something like an hour and if we would'nt have had to go back for dinner, I would have loved to stay there for another hour. All this time we had a clear blue sky. Diego was amazed that the weather was so nice too.
Back at the campsite it was Patricia's turn to help cook dinner. Arjen took the opportunity to take a bath in the river (cold...).
This day we walked approximately 5h40m.

December 15: Campamento Poincenot to Campamento de Agostini

The day started bright again so we had good views of the Fitzroy and Poincenot. In the river, near to Campamento de Agostini we saw a couple of Patagonian ducks. Amazing how fast they can swim upstream under water with those strong currents! The Cerro Torre was free of clouds, even though there were more and more clouds in the sky. When we arrived at the campsite we put up the tents and had lunch. After that we walked to a viewpoint near Glacier Grande. We stayed there for half an hour. Al the time the cerro was free of clouds even though now there were UFO-like clouds in the sky, usually a warning sign of an upcoming storm and rain. Diego said that by 5 it would be raining. When we got back at the campsite, the weather seemed to be improving a bit and by 7 the sky was clear again, allowing a great view of the Cerro Torre.
This day we walked approximately 4h35m.

December 16: Campamento de Agostini to El Chalten and back to El Calafate

Again a clear blue sky when we woke up, giving a wonderful view of the Cerro Torre catching its first rays of sun of the day. We were told that about 10 days a year the Cerro is visible against a blue sky and we saw it two days in a row!
Around 8.30 we headed back to El Chaltén. Almost the entire road both the Cerro Torre and the Fitzroy could be seen.
When we arrived in El Chaltén the group split up. Some went for a big lunch at Rancho Grande. We went for some groceries and had wafels and hot chocolate at Del Bosque (delicious!).
Around 2 we headed back to El Calafate. We had dinner again at Casablanca. Great Lomo de Probre!
This day we walked approximately 2h45m.

December 17: El Calafate to Puerto Natales

We took a bus from El Calafate (goodbye Argentina) to Puerto Natales (hello Chile). To show you how lucky we were with regards to the weather: this was our only rainy day in the entire month and it happened to be the day we would spend partly inside the bus anyway...
We stayed at the Hotel Alcazar. We went outside to get some Chilean Pesos but because of the rain didn't stay out too long. By the time we wanted to go out for dinner it was dry again and the sun began to shine. After dinner we had to devide the food for the upcoming week. It took a while but then we had 16 packages of about equal size and weight.

December 18: Puerto Natales to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

We took a bus to the entrance of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine and from there a minivan to the campsite. We put up our tent and after lunch we went up to the viewpoint near the lake at the bottom of the 4 towers. We saw a couple of orchids on the way up. Then we had to go back to a bridge to cross the river. The last climb to the viewpoint was really steep, but again worth the effort. As you can see in the pictures the weather was superb again! After half an hour we headed back for the campsite. It was a long way back and about 7.30 before we arrived. Arjen went to the hostel nearby to buy some well deserved cokes. At the park gate we had seen that the O-trail (circuit) was closed because of a landslide and that everybody was supposed to walk the W-trail (called like that because of the shape on the map). Our guide said we would see how far we could get because they would still have a couple of days to fix the problem before we would arrive at that point.
This day we walked approximately 6h20m.

December 19: Campsite near Hostel Las Torres to Puesto Serón

After the long day yesterday, we started a bit later than usual. It was 9.40 before we headed off to Puesto Serón. A relatively easy and short walk through fields of mayflowers.
We had lovely weather. Together with the early arrival we had some time to enjoy the sun and read a book.
This day we walked approximately 3h15m.

December 20: Puesto Serón to Refugio Dickson

The path took us upstream along the Rio Paine. On the way we were overtaken by a group of people who did the same trail as we were doing, but in 3 rather than 7 days and running too! Turned out they were doing this sponsored for a good cause. The weather was dark and sometimes we felt a drop of rain, but again we were lucky that it never was necessary to put on the rain clothes. Just before we arrived at the campsite we had to take a steep path up hill but then had a lovely view of the campsite near the river.
Just as we had put up our tents the sun started shining. Later in the evening we had a few drops of rain again, but by then we were in our tents getting ready to go to sleep.
This day we walked approximately 4h30m.

December 21: Refugio Dickson to Los Perros

This day was another relatively short day through the woods. Near the Glacier Los Perros it was getting windier and when we arrived at a ridge near the lake we were almost blown away by the strong winds. A rain cape for a backpack from one of the guys in the group was blown away and within seconds hundreds of yards out of reach. Remco, our guide, went down to the lake and walked around the many pieces of ice floating in it.
At the campsite Los Perros there was a small shelter with a fireplace which allowed us to warm up again. We couldn't sit outside because of a slight drizzle that lasted the entire evening.
This day we walked approximately 3h30m.

December 22: Los Perros via Paso John Gardner to Campo Paso (old)

The day of the pass. We packed our stuf and headed for the pass, expecting strong winds, rain and a lot of mud. Mud there certainly was. The first part of the way up leads through low bushes where there's hardly any solid ground, just mud, mud and more mud. During the second part we were lucky there wasn't very much snow. The dark clouds kept blowing over, being replaced with a few minutes of clear skies and vice versa. At one point Patricia asked me if it was hard going up. I said yes, assuming we were only halfway. 2 minutes later we reached the pass. What a great view of the Grey Glacier. 4km across and over 20km long! Makes you feel very small...
We didn't stay very long at the pass because of the very cold wind. On the way down there was a lot of mud again.
We stopped at the old campsite of Campo Paso and put up our tents. Officially this is not allowed, but it is located near a spot where you can easily enter the Glacier (at your own risk!), which some of our group actually did. Patricia went as well. Arjen was too tired, but ofcourse afterwards when he saw the pictures of the beautiful blue ice, felt staying at the camp had been a mistake.
A park ranger told us we should not be camping where we were and that we should not do that again (duh!). He didn't say anything however about the fact that we were walking the O-trail against the advice / regulation mentioned at the park entrance.
Alfred, who had already gone there during the day still had energy left. He asked Arjen to go see the edge of the glacier. Together with Gerard who had stayed behind in the afternoon as well, they went and too some nice shots of the sun setting on the glacier.
This day we walked approximately 3h50m and Patricia an extra 3h05m.

December 23: Campo Paso (old) to Refugio Grey

Again a short day. When we had to cross the crevaces we say why the trail was closed. The steps that had been created using logs and wire were good enough to be used by a few people, but not more than that. The trail was mostly close to the side of the glacier and the campsite was at the shore of the lake, a mile or so from the point where the glacier ended in the lake. We put up our tents and had a drink in the refugio. The two of us went back to a viewpoint near the point where the glacier ends in the lake, a short and easy walk that to few people take since it gives a wonderful view of the glacier with lots of icebergs of different sizes floating in the lake.
Before and after dinner we enjoyed the warmth of the Refugio. In the evening we had a couple of beers and discussed all the holidays we had all done before. Remco had great stories about Japan and the north of Chile apparently is worth visiting too. Our list of things still to see keeps getting longer with every trip we make...
This day we walked approximately 3h10m.

December 24: Refugio Grey to Puerto Natales

We started early to make sure we would be at the boat early enough to have a seat. On the way we had great views of the mountains and their remarkable layers.
The boat trip across the lake to the point where the busses can pick up people is spectacular. The lake has a wonderful blue colour and the view from the lake towards the peaks is superb.
Our bus was late because of problems with the engine cooling, but fortunately not damaged too much. We arrived in Puerto Natales around 5.30. After packing for the next day and a shower we went out for dinner.
This day we walked approximately 2h55m.

December 25: Puerto Natales via Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt

At 7.50 we were picked up for a bus ride to Punta Arenas (a few hours to the south) from where we flew (with Lan Chile) to Puerto Montt. From the plane we had great views of the Perito Moreno glacier, the Fitzroy and the Cerro Torre from high above. In Puerto Montt we did a bit of shopping and walked around the center. Puerto Montt is a nice town. Because it's quite a bit up north, the climate is almost sub-tropical. Around 7.30 we wanted to go out for dinner with the entire group. It turned out to be difficult to find a place that could serve 16 people on X-mas. The group split up and we ended up in "Sherlock" where we had a great dinner (Arjen had the Lomo de Pobre and Patricia grilled Salmon).
Back at the hotel we retrieved our packages with food for the next days and went to bed.

December 26: Puerto Montt to El Rincón to Termas el Callao

We went to Lago Todos los Santos by minivan. On the way we had a great view of the Osorno vulcano. From there we took a boat to El Rincón. This was where we were confronted with the Tabanos for the first time. Tabanos are huge flies that sting. Problem is that there are hundreds of them around. We started walking at El Rincón and immediately noticed the difference in temperature. So far it had been around 12 degrees Celcius, but here it was 25.
Arjen was about the only one not to see the giant spider sitting on the path - actually a good thing because he's afraid of them...
On our way to the Termas we had to stop at the ranch that owns the lodge near the Termas to get the key. We had to wade through the river near the Termas because the bridge was swept away. The river was deeper than we expected and it was tough getting across.
When we arrived at the campsite we were lucky that there still was enough sun and warmth to dry our clothes. In the meantime we could enjoy the hot water of the Termas.
This was the first campsite where we were allowed to put up a camp fire to cook. Dinner was accompanied with wine and beer to celebrate Piet's birthday.
This day we walked approximately 4h30m.

December 27: Termas el Callao to Lago los Quetros

When Arjen woke up he heard a strange sound. Turned out it was a beautiful bird.
A really short day. We didn't start walking before 11. The weather was quite different from the day before: cold and foggy. The only positive thing: no Tabanos!
The campsite at Lago los Quetros is a beautiful spot. Most people don't spend the night here but near the next lake, a big mistake in our opinion. Here also we could make a fire to cook and warm ourselves and there's a nice shelter. Fresh water and bread can be obtained by the lady that lives in the house across the lake - the boat that's there seems crappy, but still is fine to use.
In the afternoon we had a few drops of rain, but nothing serious. When the lady brought us fresh bread for breakfast next morning it was difficult not to start eating it straight away because it smelled too good not to do it, but we managed to restrain ourselves.
This day we walked approximately 2h40m.

December 28: Lago los Quetros to El Ponche to Puerto Montt

A foggy morning with the sun trying to shine through offered a superb site of the lake and hills surrounding it. After breakfast we also had great views of the fog in the hills. We planned to walk to the lake side of Lago Rupanco this day and to El Ponche the next to take the morning bus. But a gaucho that came up to us to have a chat told us we could easily make it to El Ponche and take the afternoon bus. We discussed this in the group and although some people were indifferent (it would mean that we had already spent the last night in our tents) nobody objected.
We arrived in El Ponche two hours before the bus would leave which allowed us to dry the tents an clean them a bit and have lunch. Remco called the hotel to check if they had room for the night, which they fortunately had (otherwise we would have put up our tents on the shore of the lake at El Ponche). Because of the sun, the Tabanos had returned which made it not a very pleasant place to stay...
The bus brought us to Osorno. From there we took a bus to Puerto Montt. Around 7.30 we arrived there. We took a shower and had dinner just with the two of us.
This day we walked approximately 4h30m.
This makes for a total of 70h50m for this holiday!

December 29: Puerto Montt to Santiago de Chile

In the morning we did some window shopping. Around noon we gathered to eat the food that was left because we didn't have to cook our own dinner the night before. We did that on the pier which resulted in quite a few suprised looks from the locals who were wondering what we were doing and if their restaurants weren't good enough.
After lunch we went to the hotel (Recidencia Mery) to get our stuf and headed for the airport to fly to Santiago de Chile (again with Lan Chile).
We took a bus to downtown Santiago. The bus driver was kind enough to drop us off almost next to the hotel even though there was not an official bus stop at that spot.
We had a tripple room which we shared with Dian. After having a shower we gathered to have dinner with the entire group for the last time.

December 30: Santiago de Chile

We spent the day shopping and sightseeing in the center. Of course visited the Cathedral and saw the Plaza de Constitución, famous because of the uprise and Salvador Allende. In the afternoon we headed back to the hotel and went out for a beer together with Dian in a small restaurant.
Together with 5 others we went out for dinner at Ostras Azócar. When you Google for this restaurant, you will find it is "Supposed to have the best seafood in town". As far as we are concerned they can leave out the "supposed" - certainly the best seafood we've ever had!
We went back to the hotel while the rest went to a bar.

December 31 and January 1: Flight from Santiago de Chile via São Paolo and Frankfurt to Amsterdam

Alfred and Petra had already left for their flight to Easter Island. We had grabbed a sandwich before we gathered to put our stuff in the the minivan that was arranged. It turned out to be to small, so another one was called and then we took off, leaving behind Gerben and Brenda who would go to Easter Island the next day.
We had lunch at the airport where we had already learned that our flight would be delayed because of problems with snow at Frankfurt which had caused our plane to depart there with a delay already. The delay was not too bad and we were able to catch up a bit during the stop at São Paolo. We celebrated new year when it was new year CET. We had some time between the flight to Frankfurt and our connecting flight to Amsterdam so in the end we didn't have any delay and even landed earlier than expected at Schiphol aiport. We said goobye to everybody and took the train and bus back home.
At home, Arjen decided to see if he'd lost any weight. He went from 80 to 75 kg.