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Parque Nacional Chloe. 6.4.15

April 6, 2015

El Chalten 28.3.15

Another town built for tourism. In fact it is Argentina’s youngest town. The attraction this time is Mt Fitz Roy standing 3405 metres high, it is in the northern part of the Los Glacieres Parque National. The town is full of young trekkers walking around with packs almost as big as themselves. I said to Joan the other day at Torres del Paine PN that I reckon it’s all show; they get out of their buses, parade around the hotels and hostels with their gear on, make sure everybody sees them, then get back on the bus for the next destination.

The weather finally broke last night after 6 hard to beat days. The wind rose to break neck speed and today is showery. I was able to capture a couple of photos of Mt Fitz Roy before it succumbed to the elements.

When trekking is out of the question an alternative is the 27kms drive to Largo del Desierto. The road was rough but the early autumn colour changes appearing in the deciduous trees on either side of clear fast flowing rivers was balm for the soul and made up for any discomfort. As Pete said. this place is full of superlatives. So much beauty. Glyn and Pete are an English couple living in the highlands of Scotland whom we have been following for the last week and finally met yesterday They hired a Chilean camper for 5 weeks and are heading north from Punta Arenas. We are spending the night together at a camp site half way to Largo del Desierto.

The road north from El Chalten is mainly through flat pampass country with little of interest for a thousand or so kilometres. Our plan is to cross back into Chile at the first available crossing and meander through the rough western part of that country. It wasn’t our plan to travel right up to the north of Chile on this trip but people we meet talk about the Atacama desert and the beauty of that area. Salta lies just across the border in Argentina and could be a good place to leave the bakkie.

Looking for a lavaderia this morning to get some clothes washed we came upon this one called ‘El Lavaderia Maori’. A strange name but after  talking to the big older bloke running the place it all fitted in. Marcello’s great grandfather, a Maori, came to Argentina 100 years ago accompanying a herd of sheep. He was meant to stay two years but met his wife and stayed. He played rugby for Argentina and roots for the All Blacks when the Pumas aren’t playing. A man after my own heart.

Los Antiguos. On Argentinian/Chilean Border. 30.3.15

In 1991 Volcano Hudson spewed thousands of tonnes of ash skyward with a good part of it falling on this town and the surrounding area. Over a million head of stock were lost and the livelihood of many families ruined. It took ten years for the town to renew  itself and is now an attractive border town and the centre of the cherry growing industry for the country. Cherries must like ash.

It was a long drive today, over 500kms. The RN40 was once notorious as one of the worst roads in the country but most of what we have driven on so far is excellent.  We have had to make it to a larger town to try and find a dentist for Joan. In fact we have both had dental problems with me losing part of a tooth in the second week here but haven’t been affected by it and Joan has had this niggling problem from early on that has been getting worse the last couple of weeks. We were going to try and make it to Coyhaike in Chile, a city some 300kms away but will try here or in Chile Chico, the larger town on the Chilean side of the border.

The country we passed through today was once again devoid of people. In fact in 350kms we only met three cars. There is the occcasional estancia sign, where we stopped for lunch there was one saying the hacienda was 53kms from the main road.The scenery started bare and barren but later morphed into wide valleys with a multi coloured pallette of sand and rock. The only trees growing are the Lombardy poplars favoured around the estancia haciendas. At the moment they are gaining their autumn colours.Puerto Bertrand Carratera Austral, Chile. 31.3.15We are very impressed with the medical services of Argentina. Our first port of call was the tourist office who directed us to the local hospital around the corner. With the aid of my itranslate app I was able to get over to the staff there the problem. They drew a mud map to where to find the dentist. Again itranslate came into its own and Joan was soon sitting in the dentist’s chair with the x-ray machine trying to sort out the problem. Nothing showed so scripts were written for anti biotics and analgaesics. No fee. Medical services are free to the people in Argentina I think we were told. Things have quietened down dental wise but more investgations may be neecessary.

The border crossing at Chile Chico is one that we will remember by the officiousness and stupidity that possesses some people in uniform. Getting out of Argentina was straight forward. Arriving at the Chilean offices there was a demonstration going on for staff wanting more pay. Cheer squads, speeches, the lot. Then they went on strike until 12 noon. Not long for us as it was 11.30 when we arrived. Then at the customs, the bloke stamped my passport that we had entered by vehicle. The first time that had happened meaning if we wanted to leave the bakkie in Chile for three months while we flew home there would have to be a lot of explaining on our behalf at the airport. Then the vehicle was given a healthy search by the agricultural people who confiscated the cheese. Fist time in the 6 border crossings entering Chile. Then the customs bloke came out and carried on abouut our right hand drive vehicle being illegal in Chile. This was something we thought we might experience in some minor crossing, not the major one at Chile Chico. We had offered Carlo, a German, a lift to the next town. He could speak fluent Spanish and translated for us. He found out the police were coming out from the nearest town to talk to us. Argument was futile. Having crossed 5 times into the country meant little. We waited half an hour until the gendarmerie arrived, all peaked caps, braid and clap boards. The peaked cap spoke to the aduana (customs) bloke for a while before Carlo and I joined him. No problems: Chilean citizens are not allowed RHD vehicles but no problem for tourists. We shook hand and took off. I hope he gave the stupid aduana bloke a mouthful for wasting his and our time.

The road from Chile Chico to the Carretera Austral Highway follows the southern shore of Largo General Carrera, the biggest lake in Sth America. Seldom used the road is as series of steep inclines and declines, hairpin bends, few guard rails mixed in with a good serving of corrugations. In places there was an almost vertival 200 metre drop to the lake. I am not good at heights at the best of time. Carlo had asked if we could give him a lift to the Carratera as hitch hiking would be difficult. We agreed but it added another stress as Joan then sits in the middle and I have difficulty getting to the gear stick, clutch and even brakes. That and knowing I am responsible for someone else, a stranger, made the three hour drive quite nerve wracking.. The scenery once again was spectacular. The Andes top peaks were shrouded in misty rain while the blue waters of the lake were broken by white horses caused by the gusting winds. When we arrived at what was to be our destination there was absolutely nothing there. It was getting dark, raining and we had with us a bloke without even a tent. Another village was marked on the map a further 17kms south and this turned out to have a hostel for Carlo and a pleasant place by Largo Bertrand for us even though the rain is still falling. Welcome to Chile.

Camping Los Nires, Carretera Austral. 1.4.15.

Joan thought I was playing an April Fools joke this morninng when I said we had a flat tyre. As it was not completely flat I used our compressor to inflate it and kept an eye on it. It seemed to last ok until reaching this haven in the middle of mountainous winding roads where I found it completely flat. I have plugged it and will see what it looks like in the morning. Camping Los Nires was a welcome sight. The road has been gravel all day, a good serving of potholes and soft shoulders making concentration necessary. The wind is chilly but the hot water in the shower a blessing. Carlo left us at Puerto Tranquilo where he wanted to visit some marble caves on the edge of the lake. He was a very nice 20 yr old having a break on his gap year. His Spanish helped us at the border yesterday no end.

There are a lot of masochists in this world and they seem to target Patagonia as their nirvana. I’m talking about the many cyclists passed on the road. Who in their right minds would want to cycle thousands of kilometres in fierce winds over endless pampass plains or through mountains on rough gravel roads and again, fierce winds. They see to be mainly Europeans. It might be a right of passage or a prestige thing, I don’t know. We spoke to a Frenchman this afternoon who was struggling to ride his bike uphill over where a grader was working. He told us everything was alright as he gasped for breath. At least the hundreds of motor cyclists we have come upon have a more sensible mode of travel.Puerto Cisnes. 2.4.15.

An interesting days travel. Tarmac began some 10kms from our overnight stop. The road then began to climb, not high, but at 850 metres it began to snow and became heavier as the road climbed. I have had litttle experiences of driving in snow so took it easy and tried to appreciate the beautiful whiteness around us. Coyhaique is a medium sized town that we hoped to stock up for easter. It was a very strange place where super market security personnel wore flak jackets and many of the shop windows were barred. We have been told by a few travellers who hav been victims to break ins of their vehicles to be very careful so we were pleased to see two parking attendants earning a few pesos keeping an eye on things.

After the town the road passed through valleys with vertical cliffs on both sides awash with waterfalls. The rivers were high and some muddy from the incessant rain run off.

Puerto Cisnes was meant to have a camp site but it hasn’t. It is on the Channel Puyuhuapai that passes throuh myriad channels and around many islands before reaching the Pacific. It was our intention to travel north before taking a ferry to the island of Chloe but one leaves from here tomorrow night for the 18 hour journey. We have decided to take it and have a break from the gravel roads. Chloe is the place of mists, legends and wooden churches. It sounds interesting.

On Board ??? 4.4.15.

The crew member guiding us into the parking slot on the ferry was good enough to leave us enough room to put the back steps down and drop the bed to the side. Meant we could sleep in the bakkie instead of sitting up all night in the uncomfortable looking chairs. The ferry stopped off at a couple of island towns during the night as well as the island of Melinka this morning before heading on to Quellion where we disembark. Both of us slept well.

From → Patagonia 2015

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