Now Im starting to get irritated with technology!! I thought I had it all worked out. So basically I cant work out how to turn this photo to the correct orientation. I have also inadvertently split the blog in 2. Please go to the previous page as one of my favourite photos is there.
Enough whinging. At least I have photos! Since I last updated my blog, I have been to Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. It is a small mountain range that is separate to the Andes and is extremely dramatic. Within that are the actual Torres (towers) which are in the photo above. Before I left home, a few people said to me that it was a place they would love to visit. And I can tell you that it is absolutely stunning and one of the most dramatic places Ive ever seen. A lot of people do a 4 – 5 day trek through the park but to be honest, I wouldnt be interested in doing that by myself. In fact I did the cushiest version I could! Normally its an 8 hour walk, 4 hours up up up and then 4 hours down. I went by horseback as far as I could then climbed the rest. Well let me tell you about my very unsuccessful horseriding trip! Basically Im scared of heights and we were walking along a narrow path for about half an hour, with a massive drop off to the side. I wouldnt have been mad about it even if I was walking but was petrified on the horse! I was with a group of Chileans who were great. My buddie for the trip was Pedro, who minded me and distracted me. He was about 65 but was a great horseman. At the very end, there was no avoiding looking at the long drop downwards. I went nuts!!! I had to get off the horse and walk, but only for a few minutes. After we visited the tours, I ended up walking back instead of getting back on the horse because I was too nervous. It was nice to have company for the day though. I spent a couple of days in the National Park, staying at a refugio, which is basically a hostel.
After Torres del Paine, I returned to Calafate via Puerto Natales. I had a bit of a worrying time before getting to the Argentinian border. When I entered Chile, a very bored looking official had stamped me down as entering the country and had then stamped me as exiting the country at the same time. She had taken the all-important piece of paper that I needed to get out of the country. Of course I didnt realise any of this until I was in Chile. When I was returning to Argentina, the very happy-go-lucky bus driver told me it would be FINE! I wasnt convinced but it was in the end. I thought that I looked so worried that theyd be convinced I was trying to smuggle something into the country!
My next trip was called Overland Patagonia, travelling along the famous Ruta 40. Patagonia is so vast but I wasnt really getting a feel for it as I had flown most long journeys. The tour allowed me to get to extremely isolated places that would have been very difficult to get to as a solo traveller. The journey from El Calafate to Bariloche was 1800km, with 3 of the 4 days on a gravel road. They are paving the road at the moment so it will be a very different journey in about 2 years time. However I was glad to do it this way – a very authentic experience! And I began to get a concept of the distances! The landscape was mostly Pampas, a very dry lanscape covered in scrub. There were plenty of views of the Andes in the distance so it wasnt monotonous. There were 7 of us on the trip, an Aussie couple in their 50s, an English guy, an older Austrian guy, 2 other American girls and me. They were a great bunch to spend a few days with. We stayed 2 nights on Estancias (ranches), literally in the middle of nowhere. As Ive said before, the wind here has to be experienced to be believed and its pretty cold at night, even though it is the Summer. However I really enjoyed being there. We went to Perito Moreno National park, which is so isolated, it only gets 1000 visitors a year. The lake there was the most incredible aqua colour. Completely unforgettable! The other highlight was a visit to Cueva de los Manos, which are really amazing pre-historic drawings of hands. Those of you who have read Bruce Chatwins In Patagonia, will probably have seen the photos. (Thanks Simon!). They were done over a 5000 year period. The cave is located in a really beautiful canyon.
Although the trip was very enjoyable, I was delighted to reach Bariloche last Saturday night. Back to civilisation! Mum and Dad arrived here last Monday and we have been having a lovely time since. The weather at the moment here is awful, just like Ireland! We went to a National Park but couldnt really appreciate the dramatic scenery as it was raining and the mist was partially covering the mountains. On the return journey, we had a little drama. Basically the bus appeared to skid and we came to a halt at the edge of a high narrow road.
posted Thursday February 2007