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Chile-Argentina 2006

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Thursday 17 August 2006

Bye Bye white Patagonia

These last two days were filled in spending a long time in the transportation, bus then plane. Before leaving the Patagonia, we spend a last night at Cecilia's home, in Punta Arenas. She's a Hospitality Club member that hosted us as if we were kings, picking us up downtown and droping us off at the airport the nex day - a great way to end our Patagonian escapade. Between the landscapes - a few pics of them are on this blog - and the kindness of its people, we feel very sad when we leave this area. A departure which tolls the bell of our journey. 4 hours from Santiago by plane. In the evening, we meet Henrika again who will have hosted us three times during our trip, and all the time with the same hospitality. A bit of good temper before leaving Chile and flying back to our old continent. And next monday... go back working !

Monday 14 August 2006

Around the Cerro Torre and the Fitz Roy peaks close to El Chaten

While the village of El Calafate wins the title of "south gate of the Los Glaciares national park" - and it's necessary to go here to reach the splendid Perito Moreno glacier - the village of El Chaten is the north gate of the park. A very recent village, built on behalf of the Argentinian government in order to appropriate Patagonian lands at a time the border with Chile wasn't strictly definite. We reach this village with the morning bus in 4 hours. On the way, the scenery has its winter color.

The village of El Chaten boasts about offering a great deal of outdoor activities : trekking, glacier-walking, rock-climbing, cross-country skiing, sledge-riding. In this part of the park, we can admire the fantastic Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. The Cerro Torre is one of the hardest peak to climb up, just a handful of international climbers succeed in it each year. For us, it will stay a somptuous spike illuminating our eyes and our photos. In the afternoon, we go nearer to this peak. From a point of view, we stare at it for innumerable minutes.

The approach walk lasts one hour and it's exclusively in the snow. The quality of this park shows the multitude of activities offered by the Patagonia, in summertime just like in wintertime. Nature lovers, somptuous or dangerous, intoxicating or exhausting, this place is made for you.

The next day, we follow another path leading us to a point of view of the Fitz Roy.

Walking back, we enjoy our last "outdoor" pictures of the Patagonian nature. Tonight, we take the bus which drops us off at El Calafate and tomorrow another transportation will bring us to Punta Arenas. End of the Argentinian parentesis but we'll come back.

Saturday 12 August 2006

The Perito Moreno glacier : when the ice meets the water

We leave Chile to Argentina, we take the link from Puerto Natales to El Calafate. Only 4 hours from a city to another one but the Argentinian atmosphere is different. Here, people look warmer, and that suits us because at day, the outside temperature is -10°C. As soon as we get off the bus at El Calafate, a member of the America del Sur Hostal accosts us, that's come at the right time, it's the place we wanted to go. What about this hostal ? A warm-hearted, cosy place. A young people team manages the premises, their kindness and their dynamism bring a familial atmosphere. We go in and we feel at home. The America del Sur hostal , it's a kind of "the Spanish Inn" in El Calafate (translation of a French movie : "l'auberge espagnole" dealing with the Erasmus students exchange). Friendly exchanges with other travelers, fast, reliable information about the transportation and the outings around the city. About what to do here, their slogan is excellent : Watching the Perito Moreno glacier - trekking to the Fitz Roy - Staying at America del Sur hostel. In the evening, we go back in this friendly place with a lot of Pleasure. For the fans of the series "ER", there is the Dr Carter's double ! We are busy in the afternoon, too much perhaps. We wish for ending our trip in Ushuaia to walk on the end of the world and to see again our trekking mate, Jaume. The Aerolineas Argentinas company put an end to our sweet dream. We are out of luck, 2 days ago, they changed the prices for foreigners and only for them, now they charge 2 or 3 times more for a ticket. New commercial strategy of the company. We don't have enough time either to go there by bus so alea jacta est. We spent a long time trying to figure out a solution, and we don't have enough time left to go to the Perito Moreno glacier. The tour will be for tomorrow and Ushuaia will be for a next trip. We end the day in the streets of El Calafate, its wooden buildings and the snow everywhere give the impression of a ski resort. In the evening, delighted, we go back to the hostel ; a concert is improvized, an English girl plays the guitar and sings, the young manager plays the drums on a cardboard box, Mateo shakes a saltcellar by way of maracas and all the Inn's guests sing in chorus the refrains.The disappointment not to go to Ushuaia is forgotten.
The next day, in the morning, we get to the bus terminal ; we take the Perito Moreno scheduled link. The glacier is located in the southern part of the Los Glaciares national park. On the way, we see a puma, an imposing animal crossing the road. The bus stops close to a point of view looking onto the glacier. A new visual slap ! An impressing uneven-surfaced ice block. Stuck between 2 mountain ranges, a few hundreds of meters wide and 14km long, then the glacier stops dead in the lake.

As soon as we arrive, we get on a boat to go nearer to it. Everybody is on the deck in front of this 60m high ice wall. The glacier moves forward, 2m a day, puts heavy pressure on the ice blocks and gives them a particular blue-iceberg color.

The boat trip is about one hour, then we reach the main point of view of this scenic ice block, built on the upper side of the hill. The panorama of the glacier is even more impressing from this spot. A magical, unreal natural phenomenon.

When a 20m high ice block falls apart and noisily crashes into the lake - bringing about a mini tinal wave, everybody stays flabbergasted - eyewitnesses of the glacier work. An Argentinian girl, who was in our bus, takes off her clothes and take a photo with the background glacier. A bet, no doubt. According to Benito, a Spanish boy from Madrid we get on well with during the journey, Everything is included in the package tour : the transportation, the puma, the glacier, the blocks which fall apart and the striptease ! A really beautiful day, we spent hours looking at this nature wonder. Our brain is still bewildered when we come back at El Calafate.

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