Friday, January 3, 2014

Patagonia Part II: Chalten to Torres del Paine


Not a lot of time for just hanging around in our itinerary. After a BIG meal and a few bottles of wine last night we are up and off to the bus station in El Calafate to head out for Chalten. It's Christmas Eve, and we are on a 3.5 hour, 132 mile (214 km) drive that will take us out onto the famous Ruta 40. More adventurous types than us road trip this from start to finish, on motorcycles, in RV's and of course cars. The even MORE adventurous hitchhike.   
Halfway bathroom break at La Leona, along the river of the same name. Rumored to be the ranch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hid out at on their way to Ushuaia. HOWEVER, that was in 1905, and the ranch wasn't even built until 1915, sooo take that with a grain of salt. 

First sighting of Mount Fitz Roy/Chalten

Amazing! We have a beautiful, bright sunshiny view. Which will change quickly!

So glad I took these pictures early in the day. . . 
Upon our arrival, we were met at the bus station and shuttled to our hotel, El Puma, where we will stay the evening and most of the next day. It should be noted, FM and I? Not trekkers/backpackers/hikers (whatever the term of today is for people who go off and camp into the mountains for days on end, or even hours on end). We are walkers. Plain and simple. We are pretty much not interested in 6-8 hour treks up and down mountains. Nor do we have the gear for it. Remember, we packed to go to hot Buenos Aires for an urban road warrior adventure back in October, not for treks through the wilderness. Thank goodness the park offers some easy 1-2 hour walks for us novices. We walked the 20 minutes back to the park headquarters, which is the northern point of Los Glaciers National Park and headed out onto the Condor Trail.
Views up and away from Mount Fitz Roy

Looking down upon the quaint and quiet town of Chalten

As we ascended, the wind REALLY started to pick up, and clouds moved in over the glacier range to totally obliterate those awesome views of Mount Fitz Roy. This is the last we'll see of these amazing peaks. 

It's a beautiful valley

FM at the top, with no Mount Fitz Roy for the background. And no condors either. I think the wind was too strong even for them! We were definitely being buffeted around up there! Gusty does not quite cover it.
What had started out as a gorgeous afternoon quickly turned into a cold and windy one. The weather is famous for its ability to change in a moment here. Unfortunately, it never changed back. We had a nice Christmas Eve dinner at Patagonicus amongst massive amounts of die hard trekkers. Awoke in the night to severe wind and thunderstorms. Spent Christmas Day gathered around the fireplace with tourists from all over the world (honeymooners from Munich, just engaged couple from Ireland, family from Boulder, Colorado). Ventured out for a little lunch and a bottle of wine with another couple we had met in El Calafate and basically waited until it was time to take the bus back to El Calafate. Even the die-hards stayed in today, what with the massive wind and sideways rain. A bit of a let down, really. Especially for Christmas Day. Returned to El Calafate and the Kau-Yatun hotel for a quick dinner and overnight, as we are leaving at 7 AM for Torres del Paine in Chile.

DAYS FIVE AND SIX: Torres Del Paine

National Geographic has named Torres del Paine the 5th most beautiful place in the world, in a special edition magazine released in June of this year. Torres del Paine also made the cover photo. Unfortunately, due to the weather, there will be no Nat Geo worthy photos from little ole me. . . LOL

It's only 161 miles (260 kilometers), but half the road is unpaved and we must cross through Argentine and Chilean immigration. But our tour provider today is South Roads, and it would appear they have JUST the vehicle to ensure our safety through any type of terrain or weather!
Are we going on tour or to WAR???
Picture stop between the borders for some Condors circling something dead. Big birds!

If your from Michigan, you KNOW those are snow clouds. . . gonna get ugly!

But first a pretty down river view of Paine Waterfalls

It is starting to RAIN ON OUR PARADE

The Guanacos don't care a bit, though

View of the Torres through the snow and clouds

Looking south over Lake Nordemskjold (doesn't sound very Spanish, eh?)

On our cold and windy hike

A close-up does PROVE they are there

Results of a forest fire in 2011. Rather eerie 

More Guanacos

They are everywhere!

Even with limited visibility, the vistas are awesome and impressively colorful

Top of Cuernos Falls


The actual falls

Some lava to remind you of where these big rocks all came from. . . 

Upon our return to our hotel, Las Torres, the sun came out a bit an we saw some evidence of the Torres

Getting some much needed sustenance with our Uruguayan bartender Andres
Seventeen hours of daylight seems like a lot, and we went to bed while the sun was still up, what little there was. On Day 5 we awoke to some pretty decent looking weather, but there was still a lot of cloud cover over the Torres and quite a bit of wind. We set off on a couple different small treks around the hotel. But first checked in with some of the horses at the Ranch.

Off and away from the Torres on a hilly meadow walk

As the sun came out and the clouds blew over we reversed stepped back to the Torres

These Torres are actually about 40 million years younger than the Andes surrounding them, hence there lighter color and less eroded peaks

Climbed to the top of a hill for a better view, and FOUND A BAR!

Blue ice in evidence here, too

About as good of a view as we're going to get today.

Oh wait, much better view with a BEER IN HAND!
Unfortunately, we didn't get to do the motoring around the park today. We instead opted to rent the hotel van to take us back to catch the bus about an hour early so we could capture some views from different angles.

Found some baby guanacos wandering around with Mom

Looking back from Laguna Armaga, the meeting point for all busses out of Torres del Paine

The valley

Lone Guanaco on Lake Sarmiento
Last impressive views from the park entrance. Now a SEVEN HOUR bus ride back to El Calafate. UGH.


Bill H said...

eathejucoldGreat pics and story, will there be a part 3??

Rachelle Stout said...

Not sure what the FIRST part of that meant, but am working on the Ushuaia segment right now. . . LOL