Wednesday 22 January 2014

Clouds, rain, snow covered summits, costal rain forest, wind - welcome to Patagonia (2)

During the night, the weather cleared up, so we could start our trip through the "valey of glaciers" again to see the "glaciar exploradores". It's a 50 km ride through rough nature on a rough road, passing lakes, hanging glaciers and waterfalls. At the end, you find a path that leads to the lookout for the glacier and, if the sky is clear, you could also see the highest mountain in patagonia, around 4000 m tall. But the low hanging clouds did not let us see it from the lookout.

View into the valley
Hanging glacier
So we continued our trip around the scenic lake to the little town Chile Chico. On the way, we stopped for taking pictures and we also visited the Marble Coves; stone formations in the lake close to Puerto Tranquilo.

Marble Coves
Inside the coves

In Chile Chico, we stayed two nights in this town so we had the chance to visit the national park in the south, where some paths can be hiked and where you have a splendid view to the surrounding mountains. Luckily, the weather was becoming better, so we had a perfect view to them. Leaving Chile Chico the next day early in the morning to be ready for the trip further south, to Cochrane to drop of our German friend and to buy our reserved bus tickets to Villa O'Higgins (There is just 2 buses a week).

Lagune panorama view
Lagune in the park

Steep section ahead
Once we arrived, we noticed they do the "siesta" also in Cochrane, so the office was closed till 15.30. No problem so we had time for lunch and we came back at 15.30. There was someone in the office, but she was just doing the taxi service they offered as well and she told us, that the girl selling the bus tickets is not here. She might comes in an hour :-) so we tried to get the other bus tickets we needed, but no luck there as well, since the office the guy needed to call was closed on Saturday afternoon :-) . So back to the office for the more important tickets to Villa O'Higgins and luckily, now the girl was there... she checked our reservation (which was there) but she said, that she could not sell us the tickets.... ?? Why?... Well, they ran out of the paper tickets they are selling so she offered us to come back on Monday, then she will have new tickets :-D . Obviously, we had to bring back the car then, so this was not an option; we had to wait until we got back by bus to Cochrane to pick up our tickets.
After this successful sunny afternoon in Cochrane, we drove north to Puerto Bertrand, a very laid back town a the shore of a beautiful lack where we enjoyed the sun (and finally got another slight sun burn!), reading the books we had to finish (since we don't want to carry them any longer). From this town, it took us about 6 hours of driving back north to be close to Coyhaique, where we had to hand over the car again. But instead of going to the city, we stayed in another cosy cabaña at the shore of Lago Elizalde in the middle of the forest.

Puerto Bertrand

View around the big lake

Panorama view from the lake

The next day, we had time to visit the city of Puerto Aisen before we handed back our car. So, instead of driving ourselves, we were back to carrying our backpacks ourselves and taking buses to move from A to B. In this case, we had to drive about 10 hours from Coyhaique to Cochrane (to finally by our tickets) to continue with a small bus to Villa O'Higgins. This is a small town at the very end of the Carretera Austral, close to the Argentinian border.
The ride itself is a very picture-some trip through remote places of southern patagonia, including a ferry to cross a fjord. We stayed in a bigger hostel and met a swiss family, travelling with bikes from Ecuador to Ushuaia in 7 months. They travel with their 2 kids (4 years and 2 years old), amazing!

Picture stop before Villa O'Higgins
Using the sunny weather again for a hike in the surroundings we spent the day in Villa O'Higgins. From this place, you can cross to Argentina, to El Chalten. But the trip is not as easy as we expected. There is a little ferry / boat that runs 4 times a week to the other side of the large lake between the two countries. On the other side, there is an estancia where you can stay for the night and where you get basic (but nevertheless tasty!) food. Furthermore, you can visit a glacier similar to the Perito Moreno glacier with the boat; a very nice trip.

View to the glacier

The O'Higgins glacier

The standard Whiskey with ice from the glacier

We had the information, that you need to hike 22 km to pass the border to Argentina (to get to the north shore of lago del desierto) but apparently, you should be able to hire horses to carry your back packs. Well, this was the information we had, but the guy with the horses did not show up and the señora did not know where he was... so we had 2 options: Waiting the next day to see if he shows up (or not) or to hike the 22 km (quite scenic) with our full gear (quite heavy) .... We decided to do the second option and it took us more than 7 hours to reach the lake on the Argentinian side, hurting legs and shoulder included. On the other side, there should have been a bus that brings you to El Chalten (37 km) but this bus was already "fully booked" so we (and some more crazy hikers doing the same) had to opt for other options. Luckily, a friendly couple gave us a lift to El Chalten, so we arrived not too late there, tired but happy that we made it, celebrating it with an very tasty dinner in El Chalten.

Scenic hike to El Chlaten

Argentinian border, 6 km to go still

Since we have visited this town already, we took the bus next morning to go straight south to Puerto Natales, the gate for the "Torres del Paine national Park" where we plan to hike some more days until we fly to Santiago de Chile and then further to Sydney and New Zealand by the end of this month.