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El Calafate. 27.3.15

March 27, 2015

Sorry, low battery. Will past images when charged.

On RN40. 33kms before Puerto Natales. 20.3.15

Our stay at Pescazeike near Rio Gallegos extended to three nights. It was one of the nicest camp sites we’ve come upon out of a pretty motley lot. A new shower block with hot water, barbecues, outside washing up sink, elecricty for a heater, shelter from the winds and right on the Rio Gallegos. Victor, the caretaker was a sweet old fellow. Always pottering around keeping the place neat and tidy in as much as a man can do. A woman’s touch would have seen to the niceties of the place. It was a good place to get laundry washing out of the way and to wash the salt off the bakkie from the Magellan Strait ferry.

We headed west this morning taking a road shown on the map as ‘under constuction’. The first 130 kms was good tarmac then when the centre lines disappeared I thought it an ominous sign. Sure enough it was back to a quite bad potholed road. We are camped in a quarry having to cook up all the things the Chilean authorities deem it necessary to take off us at the border. Things like meat, fruit, vegies etc. It’s frustrating really as with the two countries so close together and having to cross the border so many times it becomes very annoying. In Puerto Natales (Chile) we will stock up on those things banned at the borders. Things bought in Chile are OK. We have already crossed borders between the two countries five times.

Torres de Paine NP. 21.3.15

The Torres de Paine massif that we are camped near is one of the highlights of any South American trip.The range seems to be an off shoot of the Andes and their vertical spires joined by snow-covered valleys is very impressive. There are free campsites in the park and others that charge quite an exorbitant fee. We will utilize some of each.

Our visit to Puerto Natales was brief. A coffee and email updates, buy a few provisions and were soon on our way heading north.

On the way to the park there is another attraction worth stopping and spendng time at. In 1895 an early settler, Hermann Eberhardt discovered skin  with long hair attached in a cave north of Puerto Natales. It was the remains of a mylodon, or giant sloth. Believed to have disappeared about 10,000 years ago the full size replica standing in the cave would be at least three metres high and gives the visitor an idea of their enormity. The cave also has samples of the fur and other bones from the creature in a small display case. The cave itself is massive, the result of glacial movement.

Nearing the national park the road passes near a continuous array of lakes with forested shores and high peaks surrounding them. A far cry from the haunting barrenness of Tierrra del Fuego. We will be travelling near the Andes for the next two or three weeks so no letup to the chilly winds. Last night was one of our coldest nights. The wind was not overly strong but relentless and very cold. Fresh snow had fallen in the distant peaks and our camping spot was fairly exposed. It was one of the few nights we have dropped the roof before going to bed. It meant less canvas exposed resulting in warming the bakkie a little.

Torres Del Paine 22.3.15.

It appears ‘Paine’ means blue in the language of the now extinct Indian tribes of Patagonia. By god the conquistas knew how to extinguish a whole race of people. It makes shocking reading and to see how the land was split up amongst a very few families. Makes what happened in Australia seem almost trivial.

We have spent the day travelling many of the areas of this park. But the Torres del Paine always are just over your shoulder, filling up your windscreen or a distraction to either side of you. The camp site we chose tonight is just below four pillars that soar vertically from the surrounding valley. Too steep to hold snow their colour comes out a distinct blue in the photo I took. Surprising as they didn’t appear that to the naked eye.Although less than 500 metres from the snow today and last night has been pleasantly mild. The sun shone and layers of clothing were peeled off. I am reading a history of Patagonia at the moment and something I read in some way explains a phenomenum I experienced the other day at the Pescazaike (The Place of Fish) campsite. As mentioned earlier the camp is situated on the banks of the Rio Gallegos which at that point is about 60 metres wide, fairly shallow and being only 20kms from the sea, tidal. There is a crumbling cliff on one side. I walked downstream for about a kilometre to do a bit of fishing. The tide was going out at a fair pace. I was standing on some rocks not much above the water. Suddenly the outgoing tide stopped. There was about a minute of slack water then, just as suddenly, the water was heading upstream at a considerable speed. In a matter of minutes it had risen 100mms and kept on rising. I didn’t take much notice at first and kept on fishing for a few more minutes before heading back to camp. By then almost all of the exposed land below the cliffs was covered meaning I had to clamber over sheep tracks partially up the cliff and around massive rocks to make it back safely. The water was well over the normal high tide mark going by the flotsam.   I was telling Joan what had happened when on looking out saw the water was once more rushing  seawards. I spoke to Victor about it and got the gist that this was common on this river and on the 21st March it would rise 1.5 metres. Funny, but I saw on the ABC online that Mont San Miichelle in France experienced their highest tides ever on that same day. Must be to do with the moon. Going back to the book I’m reading; an early settler, a William Halliday, lost all his belongings on the very first night of arrival at Rio Gallegos when the fast tide came up the river. That was in the 1880s.

Camp Lugano Azul 23.3.15.

Some times things just click into place when travelling the way we do. It doesn’t happen often, I can name the times it has happened to us on two hands. But today can count as such a day. We left last night’s camp site at a reasonable hour and drove the 28kms to Lugano Azul or Blue Lake in the most distant part of the park, some 60kms from where we had entered. It is around the far side of the Torres de Paine and the complete massif was reflected in the calm waters of the lake. There was a starry night last night and today followed up with a perfect day, no wind and hardly a trace of cloud in the sky. The reflections on the lake were almost perfect. It was a day to relax, appreciate the lack of wind and incorporate a climb up to a viewing area a few hundred metres above the camp site.

The day visitors have gone, it is just the two of us and the young park warden keeping an eye on things. Earlier we had a visitor, Chris from Newcastle. He has been a guide in the park for 5 years and said that the weather today was really exceptional. Tomorrow evening it is meant to deteriorate back to normality. Earlier in the day we got talking to two Chileans, father and son, who was able to give us a lot of tips when we travel north. Unfortunately I didn’t write their names down so if they read this blog, please drop us a line.

Lago Roca,, Near Glacier Perito Moreno. 25.3.15.

There is a long gradual descent from 700 metres to about 250 metres for those approaching El Calafate from the south east. On cresting the hill before descending there is an amazing 120 degree view of the Andes ahead and to the sides. It gives the traveller an idea of the magnitude of the range.

El Calafate is on the map for one reason. The Perito Moreno Glacier that lies a further 80 kms west. The town is full of restaurants and tourist shops. A place to buy what you need and push on to the glacier.

The glacier is one of the biggest easily accessible ones in Sth America and what makes it more interesting is that the viewing platforms are a bare 200 metres or so from the 60 metre high ice face. Not sure how wide it would be but I imagine a good two kilometres and very mobile. It is an audial spectacle as well as a visual one as there are continuous groaning, cracking and booming sounds emanating from the beast. The viewing platforms are on a promontory of land jutting out towards the glacier, about half way along the wall. Often when there is a buid up of calves the channel between the different parts of the lake becomes blocked. And the northern arm of the Largo Argentina, having no exit, causes the water level to rise. When it finally breaks through the ice dam I have been told it is a sight to behold.

As we have come to expect from Argentina, the facilities and amenities at the glacier are top class. The walkways are on at least three different levels, easy to traverse and well maintained. There is a lift for wheel chairs so all people can easily get to the different levels. Largo Roca sits parallel to the larger Largo Argentina but only 7kms from the glacier as the crow flies. It was 60kms by road. It is a free camp offered by the National Parks, little facilities but again, what a situation. We ate tea watching the sun set slowly over the glacier. There is often a booming sound coming from the mountains. At first we thought it thunder before realising it is the glacier emitting its pressure caused complaints. The weather is still holding. Four days of no wind and warm sunny days. Unheard of in these parts.

From → Patagonia 2015

One Comment
  1. Denis & Sandy permalink

    G & J….Back from Broadbeach and catching up with your journey. Quite warm here still, but had to
    put a jumper on after reading your last blog. Hope battery is better as the photo opportunities must be fantastic. Will think of you while watching TV on comfy lounge to-night. Love D & S

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