13.03.2010 - 23.03.2010 16 °C
Arriving back from Antarctice to Ushuaia (Argentina) we had a couple of nights out and a couple of slow days due to the nights out and also because we had to start fending for ourselves again, finding our own meals, making our own beds etc etc. Nelle´s birthday dinner was a hit with king crab being eaten. Very funny looking crab, nothing like your normal aussie crab, more prehistoric than anything.
Sarah took a mountain bike out for the day and rode to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park whilst I slept off a little bit of a big evening thanks to the boys from the ship.
From Ushuaia we took a mammoth day bus trip, starting out through the mountains, where it was icy and snowy in patchs. Add to that two and a half hours of border crossing between Argentina and Chile and then a few hours of travellnig on unsealed, gravel roads. We then crossed the Magellan strait by ferry, which gave us the one highlight of the trip and that was the Magellan dolphins, which we spotted from the top of the ferry (we had been tipped off by one of the lecturers on the Antarctica ship to look out for the little fellas). About halfway across the channel these little black and white dolphins came over to the ferry and started riding the bow wave and jumping around. They were like miniture killer whales, or as Sarah called them large penguins. Unfortunately they were quick like penguins and we were not able to get a photograph.
So one day of travelling - 6am to 11pm and we only got about 600km. Gives you an idea of the roads. Not to mention the 3 buses, 2 borders and 1 ferry.
Arriving in Puerto Natales we found a hostel that had been reccomended and found it nice to not be rugged up against the cold- not warm but not freezing. Yaganhouse was like a family house and very cosy.
The next day we explored the litle town and ventured into the museum. The main reason was to find out what the weird bear was that they had on every street sign and at the entrance to the town. It turned out to be a Milodon which became extinct 10 000 years ago, it´s remains, fossils etc had been found in the area. Fair to say we did not see a live one, but no shortage of sculptures, pictures, hostels named after it etc etc.
In the afternoon we caught the bus to Torres del Paine national park. About two hours away. We arrived late in the afternoon and decided to go for a walk to check out the surroundings. It was blowing a gale so we headed back to the refugio where we had booked ourselves a nights accommodation. Dorm rooms, 3 bunks, better than camping. The full board gave us somewhere to sleep, dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch for the next day's hike.
The park is where the ´famous´W walk is. It takes four days to do the whole W and you can stay in these refugios hostel-lodge things) at strategic points or camp in the camp grounds. Unfortunately only having one day we decided on a section of the W that gave us the view of the Torres del Paine, for which the park has the name. These rock structures were amazing form the refugio the afternoon we arrived.
The next morning we got up early and set off at 820am after a small but sufficient breakfast. It was pretty much straight uphill for the first 1:15hr then we got a bit of a break for :20 as we headed down into the second refugio, but no stopping for us. We marched on, through the forest for about an hour, until we came to the final part, which was a 45minute scramble, on hands and knees at times. At the top of scramble we reached an amzing viewpoint, which looked out over a lake to the Torres, the weather was perfect and the Torres looked stunning. We sat on a rock for a while taking the landscape in.
During the walk we passed a lot people with full back packs on, obviously camping for 3/4 days. We only had day packs and both of us had hearts racing and sweat pouring off us on some of the uphill bits. I have no idea how some of them got up the last scramble.
The scenery was amazing- deep gorges with raging creeks. Great bridges that, had I had my backpack on I may have been a bit worried about weight issues, given I only had a day pack on I still stepped warily.
The other funny thing was that it was couple after couple doing this great walk for the experience. It was more than often the boy in the front looking very annoyed carrrying the bulk of the bags and then a girl walking four paces behind looking exhausted and fed up with a small day pack. It was clear that most of them were no longer talking to each other. That would not be fair to say of all, as there were some girls doing some major power walking, but setting up a lawyers office at the end of this walk specialising in divorce would have to be a good business.
(sarah) - Seth spent the whole walk happy that he wasn´t being made to do the whole W and very happy that he wasn´t having to carry a huge pack with all our camping gear. As much as he claimed he doesn´t like walking, I think he actually enjoyed this walk. He liked to see it as a bit of a competition to see if he could beat the times it suggested for each section, so I was frog-marched through most bits and of course, we did it faster than suggested time. It would have been hellish to have done it in the rain for 4 days, with him complaining all the way, carrying our camping gear!
The only downside to the walk is that you have walk back the way you came, which is the same for all the 'legs' of the W, but we charged down the hill and got back to the refugio for lunch. 5.5 hours of walking, not bad. We then got a minibus back to the park entry, where we bumped into a couple of the boys from our Antarctica trip (small country), they were heading out to do the whole W, but in about 3 nights, with very limited food, a small tent and not a lot more.. oh dear. We drove with them to the catamaran which took you around to the alternate starting point of the ´W´walk and gave a view of the other end of the Park. We past the Cuernos (horns) and the Torres again, with the beautiful milky aqua lake in the foreground.
A bus trip back to Natales, pizza and bed.. wondering if the boys had managed to pitch their tent in dark with one small pocket torch!
From Natales we headed back down to Punta Arenas to catch a plane up to Puerto Montt, which gave us great views of the mountains and glaciers between Chile and Argentina.
We then decided not to stay in Montt and sneaked onto a bus heading for Pucon (6 hours North). We arrived in Pucon at 11.30pm, with no accommodation, but found a good, little Hostel right next door to the bus Terminal, Hostel Wohlenberg.
The next day in Pucon was glorious, the weather was great, it felt good to get some sun! we wandered about the cute little town, all very 'alpine', lots of wooden houses and great views of the large volcano, only 20kms out of town, Villarica. We even made it to the beach, which is black (volcanic sand) and Seth had a swim in the chilly, but clear lake. Pucon is a nice town, and can obviously get very busy, as there are a lot of hotels and restaurants etc, but there was no one around, hlaf due to the change in season and half due to the earthquake, people said that it had had a huge effect on tourism, which was a shame, it also meant that we were on our own for dinner most nights, which was weird!
The first night we had Salmon and Trout, which are the local specialities, and were fab! (we got huge helpings too.. maybe due to the downturn in tourists! ha ha )
On the second day in Pucon we set off up the Volcano. We were kitted up in wind-proof, water-proof outfits and headed off with a little tour group. We got the ski-lift up the first 500 metres, which was good as it missed out a lot of boring, scree climbing.
We then started walking uphill, half-rock, half-snow, the guide went nice and slowly, so it was all ok!
Then things started to get a little windy... and then a little more windy. We stopped to put crampons on as we headed up to more icey, snowy stuff, but by this time the guide had started to look a little worried and so we started to worry that we weren´t going to make it to the the top. The cloud had come down and was totally surrounding us, but we headed on upwards, the 5 of us slowly trudging, little steps, zig-zagging through the ice.
By time we reached the next little peak, the wind was howling and we could hardly stand up! So, the guide called it off, which was a little depressing, but as we could hardly stand, I can´t really imagine us getting to the top edge of a live volcano!
So crampons off, and thick black, goretex nappy on! We were each given a plastic thing (like a giant frying pan) and we headed downhill. There were loads of little, luge-like channels in the snow and we headed off on our bums! It was pretty cool, espècially as our plastic thingies made us go faster than any other tour groups!! It took us about 2.5 hours not to get to the top, and then about 45mins to get back down! But it was muchos fun!
The weather just got worse and worse during the afternoon, and it pretty much started rainy and didn´t stop!
What better to do when it rains, than eat! We had a Chilean bbq, so much meat, and 2 free Pisco Sours, which are Chilean drinks, lemony things that are brandy based, gross! Neither of us like brandy, but I am sure if we did they would be lovely and refreshing! We made some pretty funny faces while drinking them and as we were the only ones in the restaurant we had to drink most of it, although the pot plant got some too.
The rain continued the next day, so emailing, blogging, shopping (sarah) and gymming (seth) for us. We then went to some natural thermal baths which were amazing. Most of the baths were hot bath temperature but there was one that you could not get in it was so hot. Three hours in the baths gave us a nice relaxed feeling.
But that was before setting off on a 10 hour bus ride through the earthquake zone to Santiago. As it was night the whole way and we slept for the total journey we didn´t see any sign of the devastation caused.