Sunday, January 7, 2018

Torres Del Paine, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina, January 6-7, 2018

The possible route for the next 2 days is close to 1000 km hopefully driving on a lot of pavement because on the washboard gravel roads we can't go more than 20 km/h.  We'll also have a border crossing and a ferry crossing across the Strait of Madgellan-

The truck doesn't handle bumps very well.  It is a Mercedes 6 X 6 made from an old dump truck, I think, and so when we hit a bump, the people sitting in the back seats get quite a ride.  They often travel witih their seatbelts on to keep them in their seat.  Those of us with back problems, not me thank goodness, have to sit towards the front.

Along the way-

Miles and miles of nothing.  The land is sandy so little will grow but it is all fenced-

An estanchia is a ranch.  Buildings are the same color with the same colored roof and they are run by corporations-

We're on our way to the end of the world-

We stopped at a ghost town to see the Amadeo.  It was built in 1893 and is 36 meters long by 6 meters wide.  It sits in the Strait of Madgellan-

Next to it is the Ambassador which was built in London in 1869.  It was a passenger ship for the next 40 years and was declared an historical monument in 1974-

The buildings in the ghost town are so depressing-

Further along, we had to cross the Madgellan Strait

There were lots of ferries because it's a busy crossing, the only way to get to Ushuaia.  We've seen a few bikers along the way and these three lawyers were travelling from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia-

We saw two Hector dolphins while on the ferry.  They are very small and black and white and too fast for me and my camera.

More Chilinglish.  How can this still be happening in 2018?-

We are bush camping right along the highway but it's not a very busy road so we'll be all right-

The kitchen is waiting for the cooks-

Me and the truck-

Sunday, we left the bush camp at 7.  Everyone pitches in to close down camp, well, almost everyone-

Things were going great until we hit some construction and then spent an hour and a half bumping along.  Luckily, the Chilean border crossing was fast and once on the Argentinian side, I learned that since January 1, Canadians no longer need to pay a reciprocity fee!  I was thinking I might have to buy a new one to go with my new passport because after I pick it up in Buenos Aires we'll be crossing once more into Argentina from Uruguay so that was great news.  It costs $78 US and can't be bought at the border. It must also be printed and presented to customs officials.  It's funny how things work out if we relax and let them!

There are more and more cattle and estancias, this time grey and white-

The towns are few and far between and the homes look pre-fabricated.  I sure wouldn't want to live here-

The further south we went, the more trees there were but most are covered in what looks like moss.  It's a parasite that kills the tree-

And soon we saw dead forests-

100 km from Ushuaia we stopped for about 40 minutes.  Not sure why, but Jono must have been tired.  The stop definitely took me out of the running in the arrival pool.  I guessed 1:50 and Annette (3:05) and Norm (3:25) tied when the truck was finally shut off at 3:15.  

More lovely lupines-

There are lots of lakes, rivers and mountains along the way.  It's really lovely-

The members of the group who started in Anchorage were very excited to finally see this sign after 7 long months-

Although the British weren't too happy to see this one.  The Malvinas are the Falklands-

My cruise starts today with a stay in a ritzy hotel.  I have to have my luggage tagged and ready to be picked up by 10 tomorrow morning, then I have to be at the pier at 3:30!  I probably won't have wifi until back on land January 17, unless I splurge on the boat- it's apparently very expensive.  I'm travelling with Quark Expeditions on the Ocean Diamond and quite looking forward to this next adventure!

Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile, January 5, 2018

After breakfast, half of us went with John our official guide into the park to do a couple of short walks.

In the visitor's centre is a topographical map of Torres Del Paine showing the lakes, rivers and mountains covered in snow..  It's 2400 square kilometers-

and was started in 1979 when an Italian rancher donated his land to the government.  It is beautiful.  There are many lakes that are all different colors of blue because of the different sediments on the bottom-

Getting closer-

And closer-

The mountains are made of granite - quartz, feldspar and mica.  During the past millions of years, the wind has whipped through this area, changing the landscape and forming the towers.  It would be interesting to see what they'll look like in the future.  

The wind was howling so I decided not to go walking but to sit in a restaurant and enjoy the view.

The second walk started at the island of Pehoe-

where we stopped for lunch-

The view from my table-

I didn't do the second walk either.  I'm sure both walks were lovely but that's okay.  I enjoyed what I did.  Apparently on the second walk, the wind can gust up to 140 km/h and judging by the video, it just might have been!  

One final view-

Driving out of the park -

Striated rock formations-

We've got a 5 am start as we drive for 2 long days to get to Ushuaia, the town at the end of the world.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile, January 4, 2018

Last night, I decided not to upgrade - a dorm would be fine because most of our dorm sleepers are very quiet and respectful.  Low and behold  Weibke and I shared a twin room!  She snored and kept me awake in the night and I snored and kept her awake this morning!

The truck showed up around 9:30 and we left by 11, only to have to fill with diesel.  While sitting in the truck, a gaucho was in the parking lot.  Look at that costume-

He has 600 cows, 35 horses, 15 working horses and 2800 hectares of land.  

Eventually we were on our way, only to find a slow washboard gravel road that allowed us to travel around 15 km/hour so a 1.5 hour drive turned into a 3.5 hour one!

Along the way-

There's a sheep dog on the left-

We arrived at the campsite and set up our tents, then hung out in the truck where it was nice and warm until supper.  Looking forward to a good sleep back in my tent!

Puerto Natales, Chile, January 3, 2018

It was a 181 km drive from El Calafate, Argentina to Puerto Natales with a border crossing into Chile-

The border was in the middle of no where with a bumpy gravel road to get there.  Surprisingly, we weren't the only group there so I guess that inspite of the route, it's popular.  Chile can be difficult but we were through in about an hour and a half.  They have X-rayed all our bags at other borders but this time, we lined them up on the sidewalk next to the truck and a dog sniffed his/her way around them.  The dog also went into the truck but came out empty mouthed.

Along the way-

This plant is as hard as a rock and only grows about half an inch high.  It's sort of like lichen but very pretty with its tiny yellow flowers-

Road side death monuments are usually red-

Once in Puerto Natales, we were to get groceries for 3 days of camping and carry on to our campsite in Torres Del Paine but we've needed new batteries for a while - apparently people were charging while the truck was turned off and drained the batteries.  Jono has had to boost the truck every time since then.  Batteries are very expensive in Argentina so it was hoped they would cost less here.  The truck went to the garage while we shopped - cheap wine and rum and vodka in the supermarket.  In fact, a 26 of rum and / or vodka costs less than wine - about $7.00!  We were to meet at 5 for word on the truck and learned it might be ready by 6.  The  wind blew and it was very cold - not a great climate for camping but whatever.  At 6:30, we learned the truck could not be fixed until tomorrow and that WE WERE STAYING IN A HOSTEL!!!  That news was like winning the lottery!  And what an awesome hostel it is with great wifi and a common area that feels like your own living room.

Hopping for good news about the truck in the morning.  6 hikers wil be leaving at 7 am for their hike but it was too hard for me to attempt so I get to sleep in!

Looking forward to Torres Del Paine National Park tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

El Calafate, Argentina, January 2, 2018

Today a bunch of us went to the Perito Moreno glacier.  Along the way, there was more barren nothing although we did see a few cows - first ones in a long time and there even was grass for them to eat-

More lakes and mountains-

Perito Moreno glacier is 5 km wide, 70 meters high in some places and absolutely beautiful.  Driving into the national park-

The bus ride was so smooth and fast compared to the truck!  We parked and walked past the beautiful chalet/restaurant to get to the boardwalk where there are many stairs but that's okay because there are also many paths for fabulous views-

Views of the glacier-

The wind was cool and so warm clothing was essential, in spite of the bright sunshine-

This small channel is sort of an ice dam.  The ice gets stuck here and sometimes the water gets backed up and has risen as much as 26 meters.  We were lucky to be some of the first ones on the boardwalk.  As the day progressed the place got quite busy-

I love the blue ice-


and after a calving-

Perito Moreno is the third largest glacier of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and in South America.  It's well known because of its thinning and retreat.  In 1996 they did seismic testing and recorded an ice thickness of 700 meters at the glacier centreline 9 km from the front.  Here the bedrock is 200 meters below sea level.  In 2010 a 510 meter hole was drilled with a hot water drill to reach the glacier bed.  This research helps understand the effects of glacial water pressure on glacier dynamics and predict its behavior during climate change.  

Another interesting fact for the day is that El Chalten, the town we just came from was just established in 1985 so tourists could explore the Fitz Roy mountain range.  That means the whole town is only 33 years old!

After I'd had enough of watching the glacier, I went to the restaurant where whiskey is served with glacial ice-

The view from my seat in the restaurant was great and I saw a huge calving-

Back in El Calafate, this restaurant is getting ready for tonight-

These trees are so cool-

The branch feels hard and the edges are very sharp-

A seed pod-

We're leaving at 7 am for Torres Del Paine in Chile.  I'm looking forward to the beautiful park but not 4 nights of camping especially in the rain, cold and wind!