Just a Teaser

Yes, I have sailed off the end of the world for the last 3 weeks, or pretty close to that.  I just finished a 18-day cruise of the Falkland, South Georgia, and the Antarctic.  It was an absolutely amazing trip and this little blog is not going to do it justice.  As a matter of fact, the card reader and this pad refused to pick up the images; this one is form the backup camera.

  • A South Georgia glacier

    I heard wonderful things about South Georgia but really had no expectations.  One thing that did surprise me, and probably shouldn’t, is that the landscape of South Georgia is full of steep mountains (ok, not high) with lots of glaciers.  The captain of the ship took us up a fjord and turned around before we hit the glacier.  Yes, we got really close and the ship can carry 132 passengers plus staff.  All I can say is “kudos to the captain”.

  • I will write more once I am home in 3 days time and sort out my technical problems.

Life on the Road

 

Home away from home

Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, both Chilean and Argentinean, are hard on the budget.  Both areas are popular with foreigners for different reasons; Patagonia is famous for its stunning scenery and Tierra del Fuego is the starting point for most Antarctic trips.  Consequently, the whole area is very expensive.

The food price (supermarket) is higher than comparable Canadian items.  There is a large selection of booze and a little selection of vegetables.  The diet of both country is heavy on meat and white bread and light on fruits and vegetables.  If possible, Argentinians consume less fresh veggies than Chileans.  Processed food is much more popular than its fresh cousins.  If I order fish in a restaurant, I will likely get just that, a piece of fish and nothing else.  Everything else will be additional.

A German said that if he wants to see Patagonia, he would have to stay in hostels.  I am sure that there are nice hotels but I rather use my money for something more useful.  Even the hostels are not cheap and they come in all sorts.  All age groups, from children to retirees stay in hostels.  The disadvantage is the cramped quarters but that is also the advantage.  Talking to your room mates is just natural.  I made good friends during the ferry crossing in Chile.  It is also easier to find information about onward travel.  Everyone is more than happy to share, including cold virus.

Ferry crossing in Chile

Long distance bus travel in Chile is cheap and very efficient. My trip from Puerto Natales Chile to Ushuaia Argentina covered over 1000 km, 1 ferry crossing, and border crossing took 12 hours and $64.  The bus driver took head counts at various point to make sure that no one was left behind.  There is an onboard washroom which was useable even at the end of the trip.

Hasta luego (until next time).

Ushuaia

Ushuaia’s claim to fame is that it is the most southern city in the world.  Because of its proximity to the Antarctic, most of the cruise to the white continent start from the city.  Most tourists spend a day or two here, waiting for the boat to depart.  Consequently, things are pretty expensive here.  I would say that prices are higher here than Canada (if I go by the price in the supermarket). After all, anyone who can find the money for a trip to Antarctic is not poor.

Ushuaia

Ushuaia is not a particular pretty city.  Nor does it have much historical buildings.  It does have a beautiful setting squeezed between the snow capped mountains and the waters of Beagle Channel.  I headed out to Tierra de Fuego National Park to do some hiking today.  What a beautiful day; sunshine and high in the mid teen’s.  I did the Costal Trail.  The scenery was just stunning.  It was a rare fine spring day, according to the locals.

Costal trail, Tierra de Fuego national park.

Tierra de Fuego national park

Torres del Paine

I knew that I was going to be close to the famous Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.  Trekking it is in every hiker’s dream.  I am fortunate that I did the “W” in the early 2000’s.  However, it would be silly of me to pass up the opportunity again if the weather is good.

The sun was shining and forecast called for 15 degrees C.  We, myself, Eva, and Kat (2 roommates from the ferry) headed for the park to hike to the base of the towers.  It is the “must see” of all features in the park and it is possible to do as a day hike from Puerto Natales.  It is, however, a very long day.  The day started with a 7:00 AM bus ride from Puerto Natales, followed by a 4-5 hour hike up then retrace the steps.  See below for the photo evidence that I actually made it.  There was a couple of condors circuling overhead for a few minutes.  They are so big that they cast shadows on the ground.

The 3 towers of pain

This famous trail, unfortunately, is suffering from overuse.  I certainly do not remember it “as that bad” the first time.  Now, most of the trail is either extremely muddy or one is walking up a stream bed.  The last hour, up the terminal moraine, is much worse and longer than I recalled.  The park had to reroute due to erosion.  There is little money for trail improvements.  Little of the money collected stay in the park as it is shared among all Chilean national parks.

The next day, I joined 3 friend (from the ferry) and rented a car and drove back into to the park.  Again, the weather was perfect and the scenery was amazing.

Waterfall

Torres del Paine national park

Salta Grande, Torres del Paine

I am a little behind in my post as today is 5 days after I left the park and am now in Ushuaia, Argentina.  The original plan was to find a cheap last minute cruise to Antarctic.  Unfortunately, that is not going to happen as I would have to wait too long or pay too much for a longer rough ocean crossings to South Georgia.  So I am off to Argentinian Patagonia next, flying this time.

A Ferry Ride from Nowhere to Nowhere

Navimag ferry.

I like to start by saying that this one was on my bucket list.  I have read about this ferry ride from Puert Montt Chile to Puerto Natales Chile.  The reviews are either wonderful or horrible.  It is up to you and your luck as to the type of trip.  The photo above was Evangelista, my home away from home for 3 days and 3 nights.

The weather was typical of Patagonia; it rained every day but not all day.  When it rained, it was wet, windy, cold, and miserable.  However, there were moments of sun and stunning scenery.  When it rained, the landscape is one of multiple layers, similar to Vancouver Island area.  When the sun shine on the snow capped peaks and glaciers, it is something else.

It was raining in the Patagonia fjord

A glimpse of sun in Patagonia

Southern chile

Was I bored?  The answer is no.  There are naturalists on board that gave lectures on the area.  The landscape is stunning with some very tricky navigation.  We were well fed.  Although the facilities were basic and cosy (small and tight), there were just fine for what I paid.  Most of all, it is the people.  There was a mixture of nationalities and ages.  Without wifi, we actually talked to each other.  Strong friendship was formed among the travelling singles.  Games were played and enormous amount of junk food was consumed.  It was a very enjoyable trip.

We arrived in Puerto Natales in sunshine.  Unfortunately, there was no running water due to days of torrential rainfall that washed away the waterline.  All the restaurants were closed.  None of the hostel would let us all in to share a meal as we were staying in 3 different ones.  So we had an impromptu picnic in the park; it was cold.

Picnic in the park, Puerto Natales