We were happy that we were able to enter Bolivia, arrive in Tupiza, and organize a tour of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia’s salt flats, for the next morning. Conscious that every day is precious, we were very appreciative that La Torre tours was so accommodating; bright and early on our first full morning in Bolivia, the four of us met Henry, our driver, and Isabel, our cook, and all climbed into our 4WD transport that would take us through the Salar de Uyuni. Although it would have been fun to explore the area in our van, we knew the conditions would wreak havoc on our delicate little flower and were happy to be chauffeured around for a few days.
I didn’t think Northern Argentina would be quite so memorable, but the scenery blew me away. From Cafayate we drove through the Quebrada de Cafayate which turned out to be a series of gorgeous canyons full of bright red rock formations.
Heading east out of Mendoza we made our way through Uspallata and eastwards towards the Andes. Driving through the dramatic valleys was an awesome daytrip in itself with some impressive rocky peaks, gorgeous colors, and railroad tracks that seemed to lead nowhere.
Arriving in Mendoza in the evening, we were happy to arrive and meet another milestone on our trip. We camped at Camping Suizo, northwest of the city center, which turned out to be an awesome little place where we met a couple of other travelers who gave us some helpful tips about the road north
Waking up to cloudy skies we felt even luckier that we’d caught the volcano on a perfect, sunny day for our climb the day before. We drove out of Pucon, on our way towards the border where we would leave Chile for the last time and enter Argentina for the last time. We’ve done a lot of back and forth across the border thus far and Chile has sort of felt like a home base and I felt a bit sad to be moving on.
We decided to take the crossing closest to Pucon, at Mamuil Malal. From a scenery perspective, it was amazing.
It’s strange, but I think we had actually missed being in the van after having spent the better part of two weeks on non-driving activities, between Torres del Paine and the Navimag trip. Driving off the ship it felt good to be on the road again.
After finishing our W trek we were happy to have planned for a day of rest back in Puerto Natales to wash all our smelly camping gear, relax, and prepare for our next move. The most awesome part about our day though, was our new friends Lisa and Mike, who were staying at the same campsite with us again, invited us to join them for dinner. Lisa made an awesome seafood chowder that totally hit the spot on another cold, windy, rainy day. We were so happy to sit around a table with friends, share a meal, and laugh together about our adventures.
The following day we were starting on yet another unique journey – a ferry ride through the Chilean fjords. We had booked our 4-night trip on the Navimag Ferry from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt over a month in advance, and we were glad we did – the morning of our trip Lisa and Mike tried to make a booking as well but were told the ship was full. We were so disappointed they wouldn’t be with us for the next leg of our travels, but we’d had such a nice time hanging out together that we went our separate ways feeling sure our paths would cross again. Continue reading “Navimag Ferry Eden – Chilean Fjords to Puerto Montt”
Visiting Torres del Paine has been on my bucket list for many, many years. I don’t exactly know when or how I became fascinated with it, but for me, Torres del Paine was a non-negotiable as we thought about spending time in South America, so I couldn’t wait for our trek to begin. We didn’t quite have enough time to commit to doing the 7-9 day Circuit, which takes you around the backside of the park, and we figured 5 days would be plenty for us, so we chose the W, a 55km trek through the highlights. We learned that there are many ways to plan your time in the park, but we chose a 5-day trek, going from west to east. Based on the distribution of the camps along the route, we thought that choosing this route made the most sense for the following reasons:
- the first day of hiking would be the shortest, making it an easy first day for us to carry our packs the shortest distance when they were at their heaviest, full of all our food for the next 5 days;
- hiking towards the east, we would have the best view of the Torres as we came closer and closer, rather than having our backs to the towers the entire time;
- the last push up to the towers, featuring some pretty dramatic altitude gains, would be tackled on the last full day of hiking, when we had eaten most of our food and our packs would be at their lightest; and
- setting out on the first day it seemed like the weather was pretty bad, which meant the towers would probably be fogged in if we started on the east side and tried to see them right away.
It turns out that we were basically wrong about everything, mostly about the weather. But, we’ve now learned that in Patagonia, the weather has a mind of its own. Most of the rangers we spoke to on the trail wouldn’t even talk about the weather – they had signs that said “Don’t even ask”. The only thing predictable about the weather in Patagonia is that it’s unpredictable. Day One: We were up bright and early to jump in the car with Don Pepe. We arrived at the bus station after a few stops to pick up other backpackers – the place was a total madhouse.
We thought we might stop at another penguins preserve before heading out of Punta Arenas, but once we realized it was a few dozen kilometers down a not-so-great dirt road, and since the rain had picked up quite a bit, we decided to pass on this one. It felt somewhat wrong to skip seeing more penguins but we had loved the prior day’s adventure so much that we were satisfied and didn’t want to push our luck with daylight, weather, and the car’s ability to handle another rough road.
January 1st it felt good to officially start heading north, towards home, towards our families and friends, towards all the excitement of 2015. We headed out of Ushuaia early and started on the same route we had travelled south just a few days earlier. This time though, we planned to take a ferry from the town of Porvenir, on the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego, which would take us to Punta Arenas. We had tried to make a reservation for the ferry, but we weren’t exactly sure whether our emails were received, and we also weren’t exactly clear on when we needed to arrive, and how long it might take, so we planned to spend our first day driving as far as possible. We were thankful we hadn’t depended on getting gas at the border in San Sebastien when we pulled up and were told the power was out so the attendant couldn’t pump anything for us.