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Archive for the ‘Patagonia’ Category

We weren’t quite ready to leave the beauty of Patagonia, but we knew staying any longer would throw the budget off.  So, we started looking for the best and cheapest way to head north. Originally, we planned to take a plane from Punto Arenas (PA) to Santiago, Chile. But, I suggested that we look into other options.  Obviously, we didn’t want to take a bunch of buses north; that would be exhausting & a waste of money.  I really wanted to take a boat at some point on the trip & why not look into our options during this portion?

Navimag Ferry

Eventually, I was able to convince Corey to head to the tour office in PA.  As it turned out, there was a ferry, but it left from Puerto Natales (PN) & it didn’t leave for another 6 days. That meant we’d have to divide our time between two Podunk (two-horse) towns in the coldest part of South America! Yes, it was a long time to wait, but it was worth it in the end!

Navimag Mapa

Top Deck

The NaviMag Ferry (not luxurious enough to call it a cruise) is a 4 day boat journey through the fjords of Patagonia from PN to Puerto Montt (PM). For the most part, it’s navigated through channels, but there are 2 portions where the ferry goes through the Pacific Ocean for a chance to see some cool aquatic creatures.

Our Cabin

Our Cabin

Our buddy Desmond in the cafeteria

More Chilean Fjords

Before leaving PN, we’d made sure to stock up on supplies: mostly snacks & drinks, since these items can be a bit more pricey on the ferry. It was also suggested that we get seasick pills, because the 3rd day on the boat is known to be very rough, since it navigates through open seas. But after stopping at 3 different pharmacies & coming up empty, we decided to risk it & go without them.

Our first night on the NaviMag - hanging out in PN Harbor

Our first night on the NaviMag – hanging out in the PN Harbor

On February 25th, we departed Puerto Natales at 4:00 am after already boarding the night before around 9:00 pm. I realize how cheesy this sounds, but you could feel the excitement in the air the night before. Everyone was taking pictures of the sunset our last night in PN & travelers old & young were anxiously waiting for what would come on our first full day of the journey.

Sunset

We had a 6:00 am wake up call that Monday to watch the captain navigate a difficult maneuver. I would like to say, that if you ever take this journey, unless you’re big into photography, just sleep in & go to the late breakfast! We got some nice photos of the sunrise, but since I know nothing about navigating a boat, it didn’t look super impressive to me or Corey or any of the other travelers who got up at the butt-crack of dawn to watch our navigation through this “narrow” passage.

Chilean Fjords II

Chico Glacier BW

For the next 3 mornings, there would be an early wake-up call over the loud speakers & every time fewer & fewer people woke up to see what was going on. As each day passed we made more friends & as a result we stayed up later & later every night. I got up early the last day because I wanted to see one more unobstructed view of the sunrise, but it was just me & one other girl that day.

Photo Buddy

My photo buddy on the last morning

Every morning after breakfast, the crew would show us the path of the ferry in English & Spanish. In the afternoon they would offer lectures and activities related to this region of the world. My favorite was knot-tying class on the 3rd day. The evenings consisted of dinner, a movie for all ages in Spanish (with subtitles) in the cafeteria and adult activities on the top deck in the bar.

Ricardo in Plain Clothes

Ricardo, one of our favorite crew members!

Karaoke Night

Karaoke Night (I sang too & we do have video, but not sure if I’m ready for that kind of exposure!)

Nubles de Chile

As it turns out, we got very lucky in that the Pacific Ocean was extremely calm on the 3rd day. Normally, the boat is rocking back & forth uncontrollably and most people are seasick for 12 hours (more or less). We spoke with a couple who’d taken the ferry south to PN & the husband said it was, by far, the worst 12 hours of his life. I was so happy that the most we had was a gentle swaying back & forth and the few times I felt queasy, I just sat on the deck & watched the horizon wearing my motion-sickness armbands.

seascape II

It also helped that we had a Brad Pitt look alike on the boat - Utaw, one of the travelers that we KEEP bumping into post-NaviMag!

That day would also bring the chance to see dolphins & whales. We didn’t want to get our hopes up, but as it turned out, we didn’t need to. We actually got to see 2 whales & one of our friends got a great shot as it was they dove below the surface! This was the first time either of us have seen whales in their natural environment & words can’t describe just how amazing it was!

Photo by our friend Ainara

Photo by our friend Ainara

Photo by our friend Ainara

Photo by our friend Ainara

Cards

Claudia & Corey playing cards

BINGO night & I actually won!!!

BINGO night & I actually won!!!

Boat Buddies

Last night on the boat with Dirk & Naoya

We knew from the start that the ferry would be 1 of 2 things: 1) a horrible experience & waste of money or 2) one of the best experiences of our trip so far & something we’d always look back on with fond memories. It was definitely the later & I can’t believe we contemplated for a moment taking a plane north! There was lots of laughter, dancing, singing, card games & memories! Since arriving in PM on Friday, March 1st we’ve bumped into other NaviMag travelers more than a dozen times, including last night at a restaurant in Sucre, Bolivia, 50 days later! We’re so happy that we took the ferry north & know that we’ll be talking about it for years to come!

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A map of the world, in my opinion, doesn’t do justice to just how big a country Argentina is. This sounds kind of silly considering it is the 8th largest country in the world.  If you turn it on it’s side, it’s just as wide as the United States. We ended up spending a little under three months in Argentina, crossing the Bolivian border to enter at the beginning of December and finally exiting Argentina on the 19th of February. We spent in the neighborhood of 100 hours on buses working our way south from the Bolivian border all the way to El Calafate in the southern portion of Patagonia and eventually crossing the border into Chile at Puerto Natales, Chile.

Iceberg Reflection

All in all we had a great time in Argentina. We made a number of friends staying in hostels throughout the country that we still keep in contact with and then there is the close friendship we made with Susan, Dave, & Tiv in San Rafael. Along with the incredible sites that we’ve seen, it’s the people that we’ve had an opportunity to meet that have been the highlight our trip and will, most likely, continue to be.

Our buddy Joe from England

Our buddy, Joe, from England

Another friend, Tina, from Germany!

Another friend, Tina, from Germany!

When we tell people that we’ve meet on the road our plans to find a home in South America the first question they always seem to ask is, “Have you found any candidates yet?” Our immediate response is Salta, Argentina. We spent 2 weeks in Salta and really loved it. The people there were extremely friendly, despite being a big city it has a small town feel, & it has the prettiest square that we’ve seen in South America, by far.

Architecture in Salta

Outside of Salta, we really enjoyed our time in Patagonia. Words and pictures really can’t encompass just how incredible nearly every view is in Patagonia.  Although we really liked Patagonia, it’s just too cold most of the year for us to even contemplate making it our home someday.

Kevin in Bariloche

Kevin in Bariloche

Bus ride to Perito Moreno Glacier outside El Calafate

Bus ride to Perito Moreno Glacier outside El Calafate

El Calafate

El Calafate

Our six weeks in San Rafael was another highlight of our time in Argentina. Outside of all the previously mentioned reasons why our time there was so great for us, one of the best aspects of being there was the opportunity to meet many of Susan & Dave’s ex-pat friends. Talking with them and getting the chance the listen to them talk amongst themselves, we got a real world insider look of what’s really going on in Argentina. One that we wouldn’t have gotten just hanging out and talking to fellow travelers. As a whole, we really didn’t like what we heard. Comparatively speaking, Argentina is light years ahead of Bolivia, but it still has a lot of work to do. It doesn’t help that the current government has been very interventionist in the economy in a number of negative aspects. In some ways completely erasing the work that Nestor Kirchner’s administration did to push Argentina forward. It’s ironic and kind of sad that the current president, Nestor’s wife Christina, has been such a disaster.

San Rafael

San Rafael

 Despite all the positive aspects of Argentina, it’s the negative ones (the inflation/struggling economy, bland food, & lack of an adequate build up of local industry) that really gives us pause with regard to making it our home.

Overall, the food was bland & not very inspiring, however, we loved Argentine asados!

Overall, the food was bland & not very inspiring, however, we loved Argentine asados!

image[5]

It is, however, an amazing place to visit. It has something for everyone and even though we spent almost three months there, we would love to go back someday to see all the places that we missed.

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One of the animals I’d been dying to see were penguins, so we decided to head further south.  Here are some of our favorite shots from our trip to Isla Magdalena in Punta Arenas, Chile – Patagonia!  It was pretty cold & mostly because of the wind, but we managed to enjoy ourselves for our brief stay in Punta Arenas.

Isla Magdalena

sunbathing

bathtime

penguin blues

strike a pose

amigos

ornithophobia

the gang

vogue

We also got to see Tonina dolphins, as well as sea lions!

https://i1.wp.com/filmatidimare.altervista.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/62-tonina-overa2.jpg

Tonina Dolphins – Photo courtesy of Bing (these cuties were too fast for me!)

Sea Lion Lookout

Sea Lion Lookout

sealions

We even got some footage of the sea lions making some crazy noises . . . but, we’re having issues uploading the video.  We couldn’t stop laughing at these funny critters!

mista sealion

It was dreary, windy & cold, but we’re really happy we traveled so far south to see these fun animals!

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Week 19 - Serenity - Somewhere on the Pacific Ocean, Chile (Navimag Ferry)

Week 19 – Serenity – Somewhere on the Pacific Ocean, Chile (Navimag Ferry)

Week 20 - Marble - Villaricca, Chile

Week 20 – Marble – Villaricca, Chile

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Patagonia is the region that encompasses roughly the bottom third of the countries of Argentina & Chile. It is an area of the world that has attracted travelers & bandits alike for centuries. Butch Cassidy, the Sun Dance Kid and Etta Place spent time here trying to escape the law and make an honest life for themselves, as is documented in Bruce Chatwin’s (a fellow traveler) timeless classic “In Patagonia”. Unfortunately for them, that didn’t last too long. What attracted us, along with countless others, to Patagonia is the regions beautiful scenery. From snow-capped mountain peaks & glistening lakes to the towering plateaus & vast expanses of wind-blown desolateness, Patagonia is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and unpopulated places on the Earth.

 Bariloche View

 

Thistle

Our first stop after leaving Susan, Dave, & Tiv in San Rafael was Bariloche, Argentina. Located on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi and home to countless chocolate shops, Bariloche definitely had the feel of a town in the Swiss Alps. We had only planned to stay two nights in Bariloche, so we figured what better way to spend our one full day there than taking a nice hike. A woman working at the hostel that we were staying at recommended an “easier” three hour hike that would take us up and over one of the surrounding mountains to a smaller lake that would be warm enough to swim in.

Notice how happy we are at the beginning of the hike!

Notice how happy we are at the beginning of the hike!

What she neglected to tell us was that the map the hostel gave us was horrible and that the “trail” had zero signs that could give us even the slightest idea where to go. After several hours of hiking we reached what we assumed was the end of the trail. We could see the lake, but had no idea how to get down to it outside of summer-salting down the mountain.

Bariloche Hike

After 6 hours of hiking and attempts at 4 different side trails proved fruitless, we finally decided to abandon our mission and get off the mountain.

This is Kevin - who turned out to be a girl, but we'd already named her - she followed us for 4 of the 6 hours!

This is Kevin – who turned out to be a girl, but we’d already named her – she followed us for 4 hours!

This is probably around the 5 hour & 45 minute mark, when we finally had to throw in the towel!

This is probably around the 5 hour, 45 minute mark, when we finally had to throw in the towel!

Unfortunately, for me there were two ways off: hike 8 km back down the way we came or take the suspended cable car. Despite my debilitating fear of heights, Lisa finally talked me into taking the cable car down and we lived to talk about it!

Cable Car Drama

Bariloche was great and we wish we could have spent a little more time there, but we already made plans to head south to a small mountain town called Esquel, Argentina with plans to camp at the Parque Nacional de los Alerces.  As we all know, sometimes the best of plans can get dashed out. In our case rain was the main culprit.  After 3 days of straight rain we decided that it just wasn’t in the cards for us to camp in Esquel.  At this point we had two options, head south again or end our time in Argentina.  In the end we decided that El Calafate, Argentina, in the Southern third of Patagonia, was going to be our next destination.

Sepia geese

 

life aquatic II

Like pretty much everywhere else in Patagonia, El Calafate proved to be a really beautiful city. With a population of around 100,000, it plays host to many thousands more during the high tourist season of January & February. During this time prices are very high for food and lodging. Despite our best shopping around, every restaurant ranged from kind of expensive to really expensive. Nevertheless, we had a great time in El Calafate after we changed hostels to one that was a little farther our of town, but had a great atmosphere, where we met a handful of fun travels along with a great staff!

Blue Skies

 

reflection

After a few days of hanging out around town, we were finally able to get on a tour to El Calafate’s main attraction, the Perito Moreno Glacier. One of the world’s fastest moving glaciers, creeping along at a little more than 2 meters a day & dumping 4 story building size pieces of ice into Lake Argentina all day long, Perito Moreno stretches some 35 plus kilometers back through the mountains and across the Chilean border.

Glacier Perito Moreno

Scenery - Puerto Moreno Tour

Black chested eagle

Our tour took the back roads to the National Park allowing us to see falcons & eagles at close range as well as stopping at a large estancia (ranch) that was home to horses, cows, goats, and a milk hungry cat.

Bull Skull

According to Lisa, my photo skills are improving – I took this shot!

frontier

Glacier Perito Moreno - Cobalt

Lisa even had a good time, despite that fact that she was freezing!

Lisa even had a good time, despite the fact that she was freezing!

We admittedly had some reservations about spending money to see a giant block of ice, but it was one of the most impressive things that we’ve seen so far on the trip. All in all, El Calafate was one of our favorite places so far on this trip, despite it’s Wisconsin like cool/cold weather.

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