ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Day 71 to 80

DAY 80 (1 OF 3) – ICEBERGS, LAGO ARGENTINA, PARQUE NACIONAL LOS GLACIARES (SOUTH), EL CALAFATE, ARGENTINA

With the rain and cold temperature, today was certainly not favorable to do a full-day lake cruise.  Originally we planned to go ice-trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier.  Unfortunately a few days ago we discovered that all ice-trekking at Perito Moreno was fully booked up in the next few days.  We opted for the alternative of doing a lake cruise to visit the several famous glaciers along the west side of Lago Argentina.  At 7am the tour organizer picked us up from our hostel.  By 8:30am we were among the few hundred of tourists lining up at the dock to pay for the national park entrance admission.  It was the most touristy event we experienced in Argentina similar to the Iguazu Falls.  One after another, about five catamaran left the pier at Puerto Bandera, bringing hundreds of tourists westward to the first glacier, Upsala Glacier.  When our boat entered Brazo Upsala, icebergs of different forms and sizes began to appear.  The translucent blue of the icebergs was absolute captivating that even in today’s poor weather and lighting, the colour seemed to glow in the various shades of grey.  A close encounter of the icebergs was certainly something we couldn’t achieve without a boat.  The icebergs were so beautiful that many passengers, including us, were willing to brave the rain and cold winds to stand out at the boat deck as long as we could endure.
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Read more on El Calafate & Isla Magdalena in 2013 South America
Day 79.2 – Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate
Day 80.1 – Icebergs, Lago Argentina
Day 80.2 – Glaciers, Lago Argentina
Day 80.3 – Glaciarium, El Calafate
Day 81 – El Calafate to Punta Arenas
Day 82 – Penguins Again, Isla Magdalena, Punta Arenas

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought

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DAY 79 (2 OF 2) – PERITO MORENO GLACIER, PARQUE NACIONAL LOS GLACIARES (SOUTH), EL CALAFATE, ARGENTINA

We left El Chalten in a rainy morning. Three hours of bus ride took us to El Calafate, a small town by the lakefront of Lago Argentina with facilities catered for all types of travellers who come for only one reason – Perito Moreno Glacier. Almost no visitor would leave Southern Patagonia without seeing Perito Moreno Glacier, the most famous glacier in South America. We arrived in El Calafate at about 1pm, just in time to catch the last bus (2pm) to the glacier. Rainy weather persisted well into the afternoon. We knew it would be a wet day for us, but some said a grey day was actually better for photographing the blue tones of the glacier. The visitor centre at Perito Moreno was full of tourists. Everyone was wet and cold from the rain. After having some snacks at the café, we then descended down to the viewing walkways. Nothing could quite prepare us for the first view to Perito Moreno. The gigantic ice wall was full of shades of blue with occasional thunder-like roars of carved ice falling into the lake. There wasn’t enough time for us to fully explore the extensive walkway system. We chose a platform closest to the rupture area of the glacier, set up our tripod and took some timelapse videos in the rain. We stayed for about two hours until it was time for us to catch the bus at 7pm.
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Previous Destination – El Chalten, reading from post Day 74

Read more on El Calafate & Isla Magdalena in 2013 South America
Day 79.2 – Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate
Day 80.1 – Icebergs, Lago Argentina
Day 80.2 – Glaciers, Lago Argentina
Day 80.3 – Glaciarium, El Calafate
Day 81 – El Calafate to Punta Arenas
Day 82 – Penguins Again, Isla Magdalena, Punta Arenas

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 79 (1 OF 2) – GOODBYE, EL CHALTEN, ARGENTINA

It’s time for us to say goodbye to El Chalten, a unique mountain village inside Parque Nacional los Glaciares.  Pretty much everything here is catered for backpackers and hikers.  It is hard to imagine that during winter times, this busy little El Chalten would be deserted for a few months.

We had a really good time in El Chalten.  We enjoyed the hikes, the causal atmosphere of the village, and even the ever-changing weather.  Unlike Torres del Paine where we had to rush from refugio to refugio during the W-trek, at El Chalten there was always a temporary “home” where we could return to after each hike.  Considering the remoteness of this mountain village, the food was  great as well.  The Internet was really slow for most of the time, especially during bad weather.  We couldn’t see Cerro Torre during our stay at El Chalten. That might be the reason for us to come back again in the future.
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Read more on El Chalten in 2013 South America
Day 74 – Patagonia Once Again, Ushuaia to El Calafate
Day 75.1 – Laguna Torres, El Chalten
Day 75.2 – Estepa Restaurant, El Chalten
Day 76.1 – El Muro, El Chalten
Day 76.2 – Laguna Capri, El Chalten
Day 77.1 – Laguna Torre Once Again, El Chalten
Day 77.2 – Domo Blanco Ice-cream, El Chalten
Day 78.1 – Sendero al Fitz Roy, El Chalten
Day 78.2 – In-house Dinner, El Chalten
Day 79.1 – Goodbye El Chalten

Next Destination – El Calafate & Isla Magdalena
Continuing on our journey from post Day 79.2

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 78 (2 OF 2) – IN-HOUSE DINNER, KAU SI AIKE GUESTHOUSE, EL CHALTEN, ARGENTINA

After a long day of hiking, we had an in-house dinner at our guesthouse room.  Several things worth noting: smoke trout, and mushroom and lamb meat Patagonia, and a small bottle of craft beer from El Chalten.

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Read more on El Chalten in 2013 South America
Day 74 – Patagonia Once Again, Ushuaia to El Calafate
Day 75.1 – Laguna Torres, El Chalten
Day 75.2 – Estepa Restaurant, El Chalten
Day 76.1 – El Muro, El Chalten
Day 76.2 – Laguna Capri, El Chalten
Day 77.1 – Laguna Torre Once Again, El Chalten
Day 77.2 – Domo Blanco Ice-cream, El Chalten
Day 78.1 – Sendero al Fitz Roy, El Chalten
Day 78.2 – In-house Dinner, El Chalten
Day 79.1 – Goodbye El Chalten

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 78 (1 OF 2) – SENDERO AL FITZ ROY, PARQUE NACIONAL LOS GLACIARES (NORTH), EL CHALTEN, ARGENTINA

Today was our last full day at El Chalten, and also our final hiking day in Patagonia.  We woke up with great joy of seeing Cerro Fitz Roy against the blue sky.  The weather was finally on our side, and how lucky we were on picking today for hiking Sendero al Fitz Roy (about 9 hour return).  Often considered as the most important hike in El Chalten, this hike would get us to Laguna de los Tres, a glacial lagoon at the base of Cerro Fitz Roy.
Arranged by our host, a bus picked us up at our guesthouse at 8am and took us to Hosteria El Pilar, an alternative trailhead about 45-minute drive from El Chalten.  Perhaps it was the fine weather, it seemed that there were many hikers on the trail.  The first 3 hours was easy and pleasant.  Whatever we reached an opening in the woods we would have a great panoramic view of Fitz Roy and its surrounding mountains.  About an hour into the hike we came face-to-face with Glaciar Pierdras Blancos with Fitz Roy in the background.  Then an hour later, on the path before the campsite of Poincenot, it seemed that there was just a small evergreen forest standing between the majestic Fitz Roy and us.  After Poincenot, we crossed a river and reached the next campsite at Rio Blanco, where a sign reminding hikers about the upcoming steep and rocky route up to Laguna de los Tres.  This last hour of uphill hiking was by far the most difficult trail we had encountered during our entire trip.  Not only the steepness and roughness of the path, and the slippery conditions at certain wet spots, but also the extremely strong wind near the top altogether made this part of the hike really physical demanding.  Temperature dropped dramatically and the wind significantly picked up its strength when we got near the top.
At last we reached the lookout at the top of the rocky path where the panorama of Laguna and Glacier de los Tres and Cerro Fitz Roy dramatically unfolded in front of us.  The steep ascend was challenging, but the view at the lookout was unbelievably rewarding.  The gusty wind never really slowed down.  We picked a spot behind a large boulder to avoid the wind, sat down, set up the tripod for videos and timelapse, and had some apple juice, a chocolate bar and some nuts to reward ourselves.  Half an hour went by and we could see storm clouds moving toward us from behind Fitz Roy.  Minutes later, Fitz Roy was fully covered, and then came the icy rain, and lastly, the flurries.  We had no choice but to abandon the idea of checking out another lookout further down the side of the lagoon.  We decided to pack our gear before the storm turned ugly.  The wind was so strong at this point that we almost had to crawl out of the boulder area to reach the main path, because we simply had trouble standing up with the gusty wind pushing from behind.  When we reached the foot of the hill and saw the dark grey clouds behind us, we felt so relieved.  No more Fitz Roy.  Near the campsite of Rio Blanco, we filled our water bottle at a glacial stream and felt grateful that we had at least half an hour at Laguna de los Tres to enjoy Cerro Fitz Roy (from behind a rock).  The sun was out again while we moved away from the campsite of Poincenot, although Fitz Roy was still covered by heavy clouds, and it stayed that way for the rest of the day.  And according to the weather forecast by the park ranger, tomorrow would be a rainy day.  On our return, we were in no hurry to rush back to El Chalten.  We took our time to enjoy the serene beauty of Patagonia at this very last hiking day of our trip.
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Read more on El Chalten in 2013 South America
Day 74 – Patagonia Once Again, Ushuaia to El Calafate
Day 75.1 – Laguna Torres, El Chalten
Day 75.2 – Estepa Restaurant, El Chalten
Day 76.1 – El Muro, El Chalten
Day 76.2 – Laguna Capri, El Chalten
Day 77.1 – Laguna Torre Once Again, El Chalten
Day 77.2 – Domo Blanco Ice-cream, El Chalten
Day 78.1 – Sendero al Fitz Roy, El Chalten
Day 78.2 – In-house Dinner, El Chalten
Day 79.1 – Goodbye El Chalten

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 77 (2 OF 2) – DOMO BLANCO ICE-CREAM, EL CHALTEN, ARGENTINA

Despite the evenings are always chilly in Patagonia, we have developed a pre-dinner habit of having a 1/4 litre of homemade ice-cream at Domo Blanco when we returned to El Chalten from our hike.  Domo Blanco is the only homemade ice-cream shop we found in town.  They even offer a unique flavor made from the local calafate, the legendary berries that once eaten would “ensure” your return to Patagonia!

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Read more on El Chalten in 2013 South America
Day 74 – Patagonia Once Again, Ushuaia to El Calafate
Day 75.1 – Laguna Torres, El Chalten
Day 75.2 – Estepa Restaurant, El Chalten
Day 76.1 – El Muro, El Chalten
Day 76.2 – Laguna Capri, El Chalten
Day 77.1 – Laguna Torre Once Again, El Chalten
Day 77.2 – Domo Blanco Ice-cream, El Chalten
Day 78.1 – Sendero al Fitz Roy, El Chalten
Day 78.2 – In-house Dinner, El Chalten
Day 79.1 – Goodbye El Chalten

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 77 (1 OF 2) – LAGUNA TORRE ONCE AGAIN, PARQUE NACIONAL LOS GLACIARES (NORTH), EL CHALTEN, ARGENTINA

After a brief talk with the hosts of our guesthouse, we decided to hike the Sendero al Fitz Roy for Laguna de los Tres tomorrow.  As for today, we would like to give ourselves a second chance to see Cerro Torre despite the gloomy weather.  We knew it was unlikely to have a clear view of the spiky Cerro Torre, but enjoying the hike to Laguna Torre a second time was way better than staying in town.
When we reached Mirador Torre, we could see that clouds at Cerro Torre were even lower than two days ago.  We waited a bit at the lookout and decided go ahead to Laguna Torre.  The weather forecast suggested by 3pm the clouds might start to clear up.  We reached Laguna Torre at about 4pm, but there was no sign that the clouds would be gone anytime soon.  The wind was mild today and that might have prevented any possible clearing.  Once again we stayed at the stony beach and waited, but we could hardly see the foot of Cerro Torre.  We then shifted our attention to the details of the surroundings: colourful boulders, milky water, blue icebergs, etc.  On our way back we took our time to enjoy the scenery of the woodlands and river valley.  By the time we reached halfway back the sun was out again above us, though when we looked back towards the mountains Cerro Torre was still heavily concealed by fog and clouds.
When we got back to El Chalten, we met another hiker who made four attempts on Senda a Laguna Torre but still failed to see the peaks of Cerro Torre.  So be it, we would leave El Chalten without seeing the peaks of Cerro Torre.  Until next time…
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Read more on El Chalten in 2013 South America
Day 74 – Patagonia Once Again, Ushuaia to El Calafate
Day 75.1 – Laguna Torres, El Chalten
Day 75.2 – Estepa Restaurant, El Chalten
Day 76.1 – El Muro, El Chalten
Day 76.2 – Laguna Capri, El Chalten
Day 77.1 – Laguna Torre Once Again, El Chalten
Day 77.2 – Domo Blanco Ice-cream, El Chalten
Day 78.1 – Sendero al Fitz Roy, El Chalten
Day 78.2 – In-house Dinner, El Chalten
Day 79.1 – Goodbye El Chalten

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought