Incredible Patagonia!

From the dry desert top down to the ice capped south of Chile…we did it all, but the last 2.000 km we took the plane.

We landed in Punta Arena at dusk and of course we had nowhere to go. But luckily our taxi driver turned out to be so lovely and organised us a bed for the rest of the night. I could hardly sleep cause I was so excited to be at the end of the world and going to explore Patagonia and some parts of Tierro del Fuego.

Patagonia!!! This incredible part of the world clearly evoked memories of New Zealand, in fact some scenery seems just identical, fluffy sheeps in the paddock, pinguines on the sea shore (and in the souvenir shops) and a spectacular mountain scenery with the mighty glaciers and turquoise lakes at the edge of the Patagonian andes. Patagonia can also be quite monotonous, a flat bleak land, brownish with some bushes, a lot of fences but not many animals, green and red patches illuminated and beautiful when hit by sunlight. The sun shines from early morning till late night at this time of the year, if not covered by one of the amazing airbrushed clouds, what a spectacular sky you get around here! There are so wide and never really get dark. If you hang around waiting for the sunset you will get very cold. Its very chilly in this part of Chile and it is nearly summer!

From Punta Arena we very quickly made our way to Puerto Natales – the gateway to the famous Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. As we didnt carry our camping gear through Southamerica we had to hire all the stuff but no problem. Carrying it for round about 50km without any tramping fitness was the bigger issue. After the 4 days my legs were truely „in paine“. Our first 2 days were quite relaxing with camping near the Mirador de Torres. The rain made us pretty much sleep till miday and later when it cleared up we climbed up the boulders to see the famous Torres peaks, oh my god I can’t believe it…a milky green lake fed by a glacier and the Torres peaks towering just above it. Very impressive sight. The Patagonian forest is quite impressive too, moss green and scattered with dead fallen trees, and the trees that haven’t fallen yet make creapy noices! Not a good idea to go for a night walk but you wouldn’t do such a thing anyways cause its so damn cold particluar at night. The sleeping bags just about made up for it. Next morning we decided to further explore the „W“ (hiking route most tourists take) but the day went by too fast looking at green rolling hills and hiking through red Notro bushes along side the shore of a beautiful blue lake. That day we also got hit by high winds which slightly delayed our journey apart from the massive lunch break. We arrived at the campsite by 8pm and wouldn’t have had dinner before 10pm probably, so knacked, what a day but worth it. The next morning early wake up and surprise, the tent hasn’t blown away been. The roaring of the wind in the trees has kept me awake all night. Sounds are so big in Patagonia…next thing I heard was an avalance breaking off just around the corner. We inspected this glacier later on our way up to the viewpoint in the Valley del Frances which was a fair hike (no more worries for my Christmas dinner) and we made it up to the viewpoint before everyone else! The view from the top of the valley over was rewarding and not to be missed. It felt like a massive amphitheater of peaks and glaciers, but tough…Hiking out of the „W“ was easy and enjoyable with good views of the Los Cuernos and the turquoise Lago Pehoe from where we took a ferry together with a lot of other tourists, lots of French and Americans, a few Germans.

Still exhausted we are on our way again! Patagonia in Argentina was waiting for us for good reasons…fat steaks and a fat glacier – Perito Moreno! To enjoy all that we had to base ourselves in El Calefate, a small tourist town at Lago Argentino. Before we even looked into glacier tour offers we checked out the best steak restaurants in town and not much later we found ourselves confronted with the fattest, biggest and yummiest steak in the world. My Bife de Chorizo would have had the height of 4-5cm. We love Argentina cows! And than the glacier trip…Only a short bus ride away from El Calafate we entered the Parque Nacional de Los Glaciers and approached the monster sized glacier and wow, a huge field of ice, the largest I have seen in my life and its all happening! A thunderous cracking and another ice junk is breaking off and splashing into the water. Moreno is advancing every day by about 2m in the center and 0.5m at the front. We watched the show from tourist boardwalks which were pretty damn close to the glacier. Face-to-face with blue ice-peaks and crevettes. The view was absolutely overwhelming, I didn´t expect the glacier to be so blue, so beautiful, so big! Some of the icebergs floating in the lake looked almost like precious jewellery, transperant blue, gorgious. We saw the glacier’s north face where it creeps over a rock bed with an approximate height of about 50m. That means we could actually see the bottom the glacier where it is nearly dark blue, compressed ice and trapped air. In the the lake, invisible to us, the glacier takes a hight up to 100-200m. Dark lines can tell where the surface had been once. So much to wonder about, and than crack and splash, another ice junk just broke off at the front! And surely we eat another steak tonight.

Christmas is all around and coming closer, the shops are neatly decorated and inside the hostels there are fancy decorations. In one of the souvenir shops Father Christmas invited me to sit on his lap and I got given a Lollipop. Spanish Xmas sounds and „Feliz Navidad“ get us in the mood, last minute gift shopping for Brendon´s family bring it all closer…2 more weeks till BBQ Christmas at the beach in New Zealand. We are at our point of return, from El Calefate we only go back, back to Puerto Natales, back to Punta Arena, back to Santiago, back to New Zealand!

Michaela Hanke