Friday, 30 December 2011

Carretera Austral #1: El Chalten-Cochrane

We arrived in Cochrane last night and spending a day here relaxing, shopping and doing the washing. From El Chalten we cycled to Lago del Desierto, where we took the ferry across to the other side and cleared Argentinian customs. The next day we pushed our bikes 7 km along forest trails, with brilliant views back to Mount Fitz Roy and Mount Cerro Torre, to the Chilean border. Here the road started and we cycled down to the coast at Candelario Mansilla where we cleared Chilean customs. After a relaxing morning, we took the ferry to Villa O´Higgins, together with 2 more cyclists and 4 backpackers. Three days cycling and a short ferry later we arrived in Caleta Tortel, an old fishing village with no roads, but only boardwalks connecting the houses. Two more days cycling got us here to Cochrane. The weather has been very good, a little too hot at times (who said Patagonia was cold and wet?), but the horseflies can be quite annoying.

Tomorrow we will continue northwards towards Coyhaique, some 330 km north from here. We are planning to do some side trips and day walks along this stretch, e.g. to Valle Chacabuco and Villa Cerro Castillo. The next internet access may not be until Coyhaique, in about 10+ days time.

Map of the route El Chaltén - Cochrane

Road from El Chaltén to Lago del Desierto, Argentina

On the ferry across Lago del Desierto

Looking back over Lago del Desierto to Mt Fitz Roy and Mt Cerro Torre

The fishing village Caleta Tortel, no roads, only boardwalks connecting the houses.

The Carretera Austral between Caleta Tortel and Cochrane

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

El Calafate, El Chalten

From Puerto Natales we took the bus to El Calafate. The bus driver first refused to take the bikes as the bus was full but with help from a friendly Argentinian couple we managed to convince the bus driver to try to fit the bikes in the luggage compartment which worked fine after some rearrangement of luggage. The landscape along this road is mostly flat. El Calafate is a noisy tourist town, and after a day trip to the main tourist attraction, the enormous glacier Perito Moreno, we were happy to leave to El Chalten, again by bus. El Chalten is the start for our cycle trip along the Carreterra Austral. El Chaltén is also a base for hiking in national park Los Glaciares with the famous granite mountains Mt Fitzroy and Mt Cerro Torre.

Yesterday we made a day hike to Laguna Torre, where on a clear day you get a good view to Mt Cerro Torre. However, all we saw was glacier Grande at the base of the mountains, the steep granite peaks never showed up. In the evening some of the peaks came out of the clouds and we saw them from the town. Tomorrow, Thursday, we will start cycling northwards, crossing the border back to Chile on Friday, and taking the ferry to Villa O´Higgins on Saturday. At least, that is the plan.

A could be a while before we have internet again, so I wish all a good Christmas and all the best for the New Year!

Map of the El Calafate-El Chaltén part of our trip.

 View from the bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate

 Glacier Perito Moreno

 El Chalten

View of glacier Grande, Cerro Torre is in the clouds.

In the evening Cerro Torre finally showed itself from El Chalten

Friday, 16 December 2011

Torres del Paine

We have just come back to Puerto Natales after an 8-day hike around the Torres del Paine national park. Beautiful nature and mostly very warm and sunny weather (too warm even). Here are some initial impressions of the trek. Tonight we are moving on to El Calafate in Argentina.

We walked the circuit around Torres del Paine and started with the back of the circuit. The first 2 days from Laguna Amarga to Camp Seron, and on to Camp Dickson were fairly easy hiking but the weather was hot, which we were not used to. From Camp Dickson to Camp Perros we walked in sleet and snow, and from Perros over the pass to Rifugio Grey we had mostly clear weather with very strong winds on the pass but excellent views of the glacier. These first 4 days were nice and quiet with only about 30 people on the trail. From Rifugio Grey you get on the front part of the circuit, which can be walked by itself as a 4-5 day hike and this is extremely popular. So here there were hundreds of people on the trail, and the campsites were very full and dirty (some had no toilets and with a hundred or so inexperienced campers, this can get rather messy). So, although this is the more spectacular part of the trail, I found the back part of the circuit was much more pleasant hiking.

Map of Punta Arenas-Torres del Paine part of our trip.

Start of the walk, view towards de Torres from Laguna Amarga

Guanacos in front of the Torres

At the back of the circuit, Laguna Paine

The one day with rain and sleet

View of glacier Grey from a very windy pass John Gardner

Sunrise on the Torres

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Punta Arenas

After a long flight with a stop-over in Copenhagen we arrived without problems in Punta Arenas. We spent a couple of days in Punta Arenas to get organised; this time we didn`t bring our own bicycles, but relied on buying some here. So it took a bit longer to get started than usual, but we managed to buy bicycles and, hopefully all, the equipment to go with it, and are today heading to Puerto Natales.

Our first day in Punta Arenas was a Sunday, when all the shops are closed, so we hired a car for the day and explored the area around Punta Arenas. We saw condors, flamingos, rheas, penguins and lots of other birds, and lots of sheep and cattle. The countryside here is fairly flat and open with mountains in the distance. We have been lucky with the weather, mostly sunny so far and not too much wind.

Map of the Punta Arenas-Torres del Paine part of our trip

Magellanic penguins in the Otway penguin reserve

Cattle on the road

Southern caracaras

The red building is our bed and breakfast

Town square in Punta Arenas