I remember fondly from my school days our 6th form geography field trips. It wasn't the case studies of glaciation in the Lake District; the rivers of Devon or the urban planning of Newcastle. No it was the fun times with your school mates away from home for a week...Lango and his mini-bus rally driving skills; Jonny Angel proudly wearing his Arsenal scarf through the Byker Estate in Newcastle; Rich and I making a lame attempt at covering the bus in loo paper; and of course trying to score booze or the late night run home from the pub due to the curfew!
Heading to Torres Del Paine National Park (This park was awarded the 8th Natural Wonder of the World...what happened to just 7?? Jealous Table Mountain got that accolade?!? Why stop at 8?!?) in Southern Chile suddenly brought back memory of my school studies. The area can be classified as a Physical Geography teachers wet dream! Whereas at school we had to visualise glaciers, rivers and diffluent col down here you can see glaciers and their devastating force with your own eyes. See the glacial lakes and rivers meandering through the valley. The twisting of the rock from the immense pressure of the tectonic plates millions of years ago.
This knowledge occasionally impressed my new travel partner (Nancy from Sydney from EY days) but was mainly met with a L across her forehead towards me..."LOSER!"
My early blogs of needing jaw dropping scenery to impress me certainly exceeded my expectations here. Anyway see the photos for yourself and marvel at the breath taking scenery. What the locals call Buena Vista! My aim was to seek green /azure lakes and they certainly fulfilled this in abundance.
Unfortunately this comes at a price...yup camping it up ("oohh Matron" Kenneth Williams) is a nightmare. Tents are not made for light sleepers and 6ft manly frames. I was able to pitch my tent ("aight" Ali G) to prove my manly skills but after that the fun disappears. Picturesque camp sites are appealing but lack of sleep out weighs this. Thus the option of getting up at 4am for sunrise was much more appealing than sleeping on the ground!! The views were well worth it although the cold air at the summit suddenly made the tent have the comfort of a 10 tog doona (sorry Oz influence from Nancy after a week...means duvet!)
Luckily we only did the light "W" walk so had to carry kit for just 2 days not 5. We decided to spend more time in El Chalten and have a hostel/cabana for day walks which is much more pleasant. I say "we" loosely as Nancy did all the prep and organising skills for her 3 weeks...the rule of any joining member of Palmer Tours is that of planner...and thanks to her spreadsheet (she is an accountant after all!! Don't worry no mention of accounting is made in public places...although embarrassingly all border post forms ask for our profession!) the plan is error free so far...so far!!! Like a good ex-auditor I am always checking things ;) Also Nancy brought the Ozzie sunshine with her as we had the only hot days Patagonia has seen all summer!!
After nearly getting stuck in Puerto Natales as all buses were full which is not ideal as not much going on we headed to Perito Moreno glacier in El Calafate back in Argentina (3rd of 5th border entries being madero Arg!). Our mode of transport was the Little Miss Sunshine mini-van...was part of a family trip but didn't care as all other avenues of taxi, hitching and flying had expired. And wow what a sight the glacier was!! Ok very touristy and set up for the masses but being that close to the glacier and seeing / hearing it crash around you is awesome...it moves by 2m per day!! Mother Nature at her best!! Surprisingly peaceful just watching it and seeing it drop bits into the blue glacial lake.
Not to be outdone El Chalten 3 hours away is where Mount Fitzroy (3405m) peaks above all those around it. A technically challenging summit that was not on my radar to complete as involves ropes and ice axes...although the trekking around it to the lakes and glaciers proved equally rewarding as the W walk and a great way to sign off trekking and no more sleeping in cold/uncomfortable tents in South Patagonia. Unfortunately after 4hrs up to the Fitz Roy view it was overcast but the view from the high street the following morning was equally beautiful.
So we camped for one night again and as the gentleman I took the tent and heavy items but I am not going to lug gas, pots and dried noddles...meant my back thanked me as I slept on the hard forest floor!! Unfortunately did mean we ate cold pizza for dinner whilst smelling the chicken noodles from next door! Winning Trivial Pursuit was the only consolation.
The Argentinians have managed to adapt Swiss style architecture to their trekking/activity areas albeit they are new towns whereas Chile prefers the tin shed option...Swiss style reminds me of Europe and more pleasing to the eye whereas Chile has perhaps the more authentic look. Hence Argentina is winning over Chile for favourite country so far!! Issue with Chalten is lack of internet...my Commodore 64 could load things quicker...rather sad though that dependent on wifi but booking hostels etc it is a key traveller requirement. The good thing about these little towns are the quality of the beer and steak...steak for 3 nights in a row followed by digestifs at the micro-brewer...don't worry made sure of token vegetable for a balanced diet!
And finally...had my first "what the F are you doing here" moment!! Yesterday after a double-take bumped into a friend Bridget from EY days in Chalten who is taking 6 months off...not such a small world after all!!