Patagonia Trip Journal

Patagonia Journal

Feb. 1
We left over 36 hr ago and flew to the other end of the globe!
We met Dick and Kristen in Miami and flew through the night to Santiago.  We didn’t quit exit right and had to go out to the masses where there were lines everywhere! But we were eventually helped to the right line and still had lots of time before we hopped on our flight to Punta Arenas, at the very tip of Chili. Many on the plane were going to Antarctica for a mere $15k for 5 days! Makes our trip look like a deal!
We were picked up at the airport and taken to our nice hotel, Cabo de Hornos, on the main square in town. We had to make a quick decision about whether to go out to see the Penguin colony. We couldn’t do the boat trip because it was VERY windy, but a very nice National Geographic tour guide called one of his taxi friends, Omar, to drive us out to the preserve, about an hour away.  We got there just before closing and walked out to the beach as the Penguins were coming in from fishing all day. We watched several waddle to their burrows and more huddle on the beach, waiting for their friends to join them. They only come on shore with their lifelong mate once or twice in their lifetime to lay their offspring.  They leave the beach by 7 in the morning, so this was our only chance to see them. Well worth the effort!
Once back in town, we walked down to a highly recommended restaurant, Los Ganaderos, famous for it’s lamb. We got there at 7:30 and no one was inside. But within 30 minutes, the place was packed! The whole lamb was butterflied roasting on the fire and the waiter just carved off a large chunk to eat. It was definitely a specialty! We walked along the Strait of Magellan at our 9:30 sunset before crashing into bed.

Feb 2
We woke up to a pretty nice day with blue sky and clouds. Still windy. Ate a huge breakfast like we wouldn’t eat for days, but had to wait until hertz opened at 9.
We began our long drive north to Torres del Paine Nat’l Park by around 10. The first 3 hours to Puerto Natales was over flat grassy bare lands except for MANY sheep and a few cattle. We could see already the mountains in the distance which kept getting bigger and bigger.
We reached the outskirts of the park by one and drove to the eastern entrance so as to get the full effect of the beautiful peaks and towers (sounds better than just taking the long way around!) It was a dirt road all through the park so it was slow going but we had to stop so often to take pictures of the spectacular scenery that we didn’t get to our hotel at Lago Grey on the far western end of the park until 7:30. No matter, dinner didn’t start until 8! We saw many guanacos, and a herd of ostriches, both famous in this area. I’m sure they’ll show up in my cards!
Along the way we stopped at a beautiful waterfall, Salte Grande and hiked out to a stunning vista called Mirador Cuernos or “view of the horns”, which are some of the peaks. The wind was SO strong at times that we could almost not move our bodies forward. The white caps on all the aquamarine lakes were swirling in the air. It was quite an exhilarating hike!
We ended the day with a walk after dinner at 9:30 to burn off some of the too many calories we ate, watching the alpenglow on all the peaks. It couldn’t have been a more spectacular day and Ron said he will not be driving tomorrow! (He’s still trying to remember how to drive a stick shift)

Feb. 3
We woke up to another beautiful and sunny day with NO WIND! After a full breakfast, we headed up Mirador Ferrier, a 2000 ft climb in 2 miles! It was pretty steep the whole way, but the views kept getting better and better. On the top of this knoll, we could see the Andes in their full snow-covered glory! Peaks and glaciers, glacial lakes of many shades, as well as our hotel and car far below. There were many windflowers to take pictures of so we could catch our breaths. There was even a painting half way up with the views of all the mountains and lakes and all their names. It was so warm and lovely, we didn’t want to walk down! We were pretty tired when we got back to our hotel and took a little nap before we hiked out to a sand spit to see the icebergs that were blown to the end of the lake. They were more impressive from afar so we were a bit disappointed when we got up close. We ended the day with some good sandwiches from the bar to avoid eating too much at the buffet. The full moon rose over the peaks and we went to bed after some Farkle.

Feb. 4 – Wed.
We got off to a good start checking out of Hosteleria Lago Grey in order to catch our catamaran at 9:30. The line was quite long but somehow they got everyone on the boat. After a 30 min boat ride across Lake Pehoe, we started our 13 mi hike, up 2000 ft from Grand Paine Lodge to Camp Italiano and then up to a lookout (mirador) to view the rest of the French valley. Unfortunately I took quite a spill walking down from the bathroom at the camp and made a bloody mess of my arm and my knee. But fortunately had brought a first aid kit of band aids and Dick helped patch me up (Ron faints at the sight of blood and Kristen decided to have a day of rest due to back surgery not too long ago). I was very thankful that I hadn’t broken a bone, sprained an ankle or got a deep laceration needing stitches. Once cleaned up, we kept on going up to the mirador. The clouds had rolled in which made for spectacular photos and we were in between the peaks with a huge glacier on one side with its of waterfalls and a few snowfalls down the cliff.
We were really tired but made in back in time to catch our catamaran at 6:30. Again, they packed the boat with more hikers than it should hold, but it’s Chile and no one is counting!
We drove for another 45 min to our new hotel, Las Torres, which is quite fancy. They have 150 horses for riding, but we decided to take a pass and have a more leisure day tomorrow. We’re turning down the famous “hike to the base of the 3 towers” which is only 3100′ up and 9 1/2 hours of hiking! Our bodies revolted!

Feb. 5
Can you believe we turned down a great hike! How wonderful to have a relaxing morning eating a fabulous breakfast (included of course) and moseying around in the morning watching all the horses run back and forth across the fields. We finally got on our way by eleven for a circuit tour by car to see “the towers” from a distance instead of hiking to their base (9 1/2 hr and 3100′ up in case your forgot).
We first stopped at Laguna Amarga for a photo shoot of the towers and their reflection in the water. There were a lot of flamingoes swimming in the lake so we followed them around waiting to catch them in flight – beautiful! On our way to Laguna Azul where the most reflections were supposed to be, we found some ostriches and chased them to catch them on video. It was quite entertaining watching Dick shoo them so they’d run. By the time we got to Lago Azul it was already windy and the towers were dipping a bit into the clouds, but we ate lunch by the lake in their full view. We went on a 6.3 mi walk along the lake where the daisies and dandelions were in full bloom with fields and fields of them. We were in search of a waterfall which Ron said was on the map, but only a few tricking brooks were present. But on our drive home, we passed Casada Paine which was a spectacular waterfall with high volume and beautiful cascades. We made it home by 6, feeling great from a lovely day (instead of half dead!)

Feb. 6
The clouds moved into the peaks today, so it must be time to leave. After a sumptuous breakfast, we took a walk on the interpretive trail before we packed up and headed back to Puorto Natalie. We walked around town, wrote postcards and checked mail before boarding Skorpia III. There were 39 passengers aboard (holds around 90 max) so it should be a nice cozy group. It left the port around 5:30 with beautiful rain clouds including a full rainbow. We saw some dolphins and snowcapped peaks, including a wrecked ferry boat from last August that missed the narrow channel. They are feeding us a lot and it’ small good. I wonder if they have an exercise room?

Feb. 7
We woke up to some cloudy skies with drizzle off and on. But the rain held off until our last trip off the boat when we were in the covered Capitan Constatino icebreaker boat. But more on that later!
After breakfast, we immediately put on life jackets and were ferried over to a beach of the Amalia Glacier. We hiked up a hill to where we could look at the actual edge over a lagoon. We saw lots of calving before we headed back. Then our Skorpius III carefully drove into the lagoon to get really close to the glacier.
Our 2nd stop was to the El Brujo Glacier. The small ferry boat had to plow through mostly ice to get to the base of the glacier which also had a lagoon of icebergs. The sun came out and made the blue ice even bluer. Lots of activity with calving and waves. It was lovely.
Our final excursion was to several glaciers in a variety of bays, the main one being the huge Calvo Glacier with lots of arms. Here we boarded a special boat just for the ice and spent over two hours visiting different bays, glaciers, sea lions, cormorant nestings  on a rock wall, dolphins, and a beautiful waterfall that the boat drove right up to so everyone could take their picture in front of it. (We had enough of us, so I took one of the interpreter). Even there it was raining some on this excursion, we were cozy inside the boat. We finally made it back on word by 7:45, with a sumptuous dinner at 9. It was quite a full day!

Feb. 8
We were awoken by Fernando’s singing to us (our guide) at 8 am, so slept so well. Breakfast is now pretty set with eggs, fruit, yogurt, cereal and different breads. We arrived at our first glacier and took the boats into the small bay right up to the glacier. It was almost worshipful, it was so quiet except for an occasional cracking and ice falling.  The 2nd glacier was a 30 min walk over the moraines with even a rocky bridge made by the staff previously over the lagoon so we could get right up to the glacier. Lots and lots of windflowers.  After lunch and teatime at 5 (which we should have avoided but just couldn’t), we went on a 60 min boat ride among the small islands where we came through the narrowest part of the passage. It rained here and there during the day but made for dramatic pictures and didn’t stop us from going out. Now is our captain’s dinner and dance and then we starve ourselves starting tomorrow after breakfast when we get off the boat. Overall it was a fabulous trip on the Skorpius III, a family run business with the captain being one of the 6 sons (dad, original captain) and the mom on board. I think a cousin is the chef. We were well attended by the staff, the food was fabulous and the excursions were unique. We saw one cruise boat only the entire three days and really no other human settlements anywhere.  It reminded us of Norway but was very different. Not so green and no people, but many glaciers and peaks. We saw a minuscule part of the Chilean fjords!

Feb. 9
The buffet last night was the most incredible spread of food you could ever imagine! Many dishes of meats, fish, rice, potatoes, stir fry, eggplant, lasagna, crab…and then the desserts! It was like being in an exotic bakery! We burned off a few calories with some great dancing, ending with two Chilean couples doing a native dance. We were already docked at Puerto Natales so finished the evening climbing onto the top deck for a look at the lights of the city.
After our last breakfast on board, Ron and Dick took a taxi to the bus depot to drop off our bags and Kristen and I walked the 3 miles to town. It was windy and chilly so we visited many stores and ended up at the bus depot an hour early just to sit down.
The bus left at 2, pretty much every seat taken. We stopped once at the Chilean immigration and all had to get out to show our passports and again at the Argentina immigration and wait in a long line while they stamped each one of our passport. Oh, the joys of taking the bus! But we couldn’t bring our rental car across the border, so this was the best way to travel to El Calafate, on Lago Argentino, the largest lake.
We drove for 5 hours across very flat plains, all golden brown and nothing growing and no livestock. Pretty desolate. We stopped for the bathroom half way at a very tiny town. As we drove into El Calafate, we could see the mountains again in the distance where we are heading tomorrow. The bus was comfortable and we all got a lot of reading done.

Feb. 10
El Calafate is quite a lively town. After we checked into our hotel last evening, we walked around the town while Ron and Dick hunted down some Argentine money. Lots of trekkers and other tourists filling up all the restaurants. We finally got seated at 10 pm (only an hour later than usual) and enjoyed steak and lamb. A lovely gelato down the street finished off the late night.
By the time we had our fill of another great breakfast and the guys picked up the car and gassed up, it was 11. We headed out for our 2nd stage of Patagonia on the Argentine side. We drove around two large glacial lakes over very dry and brown flatlands until we turned the corner of Lago Viedma where we started to get views of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre peaks. Of course we stopped the car MANY times in high wind (I mean really high wind!) to take ANOTHER picture. But it was very impressive.

By the time we actually pulled into the ranger station at El Chalten, the small village where everyone leaves from to go climbing, trekking or hiking, one of the peaks was already in the clouds. We went on a easy two hour walk up the hill overlooking the town and mountains and they were all in the clouds. We are staying out of town in this lovely B & B, El Pilar, so stopped at a waterfall along the way. It started raining and hasn’t stopped, so we are so glad we aren’t camping! We had a lovely dinner here and are hoping for some good weather tomorrow. So glad we had some views on the drive in!

Feb. 11
We all slept well and woke up to rain and clouds. We hung around the fireplace and read most of the morning. By lunchtime, we were getting restless, so we put on our hiking boots and rain gear (at least I did which is why it stopped raining) and drove about an hour to the end of the dirt road at Lago del Desierto. Boats take people around the lake or one way to a dirt road that takes you to Chile. We met a couple from Belgium this morning who arrived that way last night in the pouring rain via bikes. They left Porte Montt 1 month ago!
We hiked along the lake for a couple of hours, 6 miles and 1000 ft up and down, seeing a beautiful waterfall, several glaciers across the lake with high peaks coming in and out of the clouds. Once we briefly saw Fitz Roy peak out of the clouds. The forest was lovely and it was a very pleasant 3 hr walk. Things were starting to clear as we drove home and both the Cerro Torres and Fitz Roy let us see them in between floating clouds. We were very thankful for a good day, despite the morning rain. Tomorrow is our big hike, rain or shine!

Feb. 12
Today was a beautiful, sunny day. By the end of our longest hiking day, we went 13.2 miles and 3250 ft up, but it was spectacular the entire way. Fitz Roy and Cerro Terro peaks were visible off and on and of course we stopped often to take pictures. The trail was good and slowly up until the campground 5 miles in. Then it was a steady up and up for 90 minutes to a great reward- Lago de Los Tres (3 lakes) and glaciers coming down from Fitz Roy and the Cerro Torre peaks. We saw a beautiful ice fall, a condor and a fox. There was no wind at all, which was so nice. We spent over an hour just looking at the peaks from different angles. The trip back home was a bit rough on the knees and we were really tired by the end, but we made it home by 5 and began the packing up process. It was clearly the most amazing day of our entire trip so far. Tomorrow on to Iguazu Falls!

Feb. 13
All went well getting on our flight to Buenos Aires after a beautiful drive from El Chatan, very sad to leave the beautiful Patagonia mountains!
Walked along the ocean while waiting for our flight to Iguazu Falls. Our driver was very late, but we made it and are  eating a late dinner at the Sheraton. Excited about our adventures tomorrow!

Feb. 14 Happy Valentine’s Day!
We, of course, started our day with a sumptuous breakfast, seeing the falls for the first time from the hotel. The first train to the hottest spot for tourists ” the devil’s throat”, was at 8:30 and we got one of the last seats on it. We went for about 4 km through the jungle to the Argentina side of the falls. We walked for about 20 min. on a boardwalk almost completely across the river to the farthermost part of the falls on the Brazil side. It is the most dramatic with so much water flowing down. We spent almost an hour watching the falls, getting sprayed, watching all the people take pictures. It was quite spectacular!
Consider a network of 275 different waterfalls spanning an area 3km wide (2km of which is the upper rim of the waterfall) during its normal flow of around 1000 cubic meters per second. It is such a natural wonder that UNESCO designated the falls as a World Heritage Area in 1986.
But there was more. After riding the train back (we could have walked, but there were no views on the trail next to the train), we signed up for the Great Adventure – a ride through the jungle in a downpour (part of the “rainforest” experience), then a boat ride up the river to the two main parts of the falls where you get soaking wet. But since we were wet from the rain, it didn’t matter.
We were let off at the bottom of the falls and so more pictures to take. We had done the upper falls trail before the adventure, so it was quite a full day. We came back to the hotel for our lunch and to dry off, but it was raining again, so we finished the lower falls trail and then went swimming in the hotel pool in the rain. It was so warm and lovely. We hope we can do the jungle hike before we leave tomorrow as it was already closed this afternoon.

Feb. 15
What a beautiful sunny day! Up early so we would be the first ones in the park to see the waterfalls in the sunshine. And we were! So few people on the trail. Many were in the train station waiting in line! We had both the upper and lower trails all to ourselves. Butterflies were flitting all over the place. We took another round of photos, of course, which we will have to agonize over, because no one will want to look at all these pictures.
I got tired of waiting for the real photographers, do I hoofed it to the jungle trail and ran into a family of monkeys high up in the canopy, hopping or jumping or climbing from tree to tree. I watched them for about 15 minutes until they finally moved away from the trail. It was a special way to end our time and our vacation!
As we drove out of the park, we saw hundreds of cars and buses of people coming into the park. We were so thankful we missed all the crowds today!

Things we are thankful for:

First restaurant in Punts Arenas Patagonian lamb, stretched out on the rack
Making it to the Penguins and seeing them march
Finding Chilean money eventually
No too many windy days, but it did get very windy at times (Salto Grande hike and drive to Fitz Roy)
Fun with the guanacos and chasing the ostriches, photographing the flamingoes
Seeing a few condors and foxes
Clear days in Torre Del Paine and Fitz Roy for hiking.
Going on all the glacier excursions, even with drizzle
Fantastic hikes of Mirador Ferrier, Salto Grande and Mirador “horns”, French Valley,
Laguna Azul, Lago del Desierto, Lagos del Tres
Wonderful lodgings
Fun cruising on the Skorpius
Diversity of people trekking
Fabulous food on the Skorpius
Reflections of Torre del Paine and Fitz Roy
Glacial aquamarine waters
Beaver encouragement signs on Mirador Ferrier
Enchanted burned forest and enchanted Laguna Azul
Many waterfalls
Only rainy at Iguazo Falls in the afternoon so good picture taking in the morning.
A lot of steak!
Dick well with gluten free food after Miami
Ron’s good driving, even with a stick shift
Patti’s fall only superficial
Beautiful walkways at Iguazu
Fabulous breakfasts which provided lunch
Great service from locals
One rainy morning for reading
Glad we weren’t backpacking – mob scene – in Patagonia
Survived two 13 mile hikes
Seeing the Iguazu Falls in clouds and sunshine

Speed Bumps
When we were driving from the airport to Iguazu Falls in Argentina,  there were speed bumps every 1/4 mile or so. Our driver would speed up only to immediately slow down to go over a speed bump. It sure gave us time to look out the window and see the scenery (which was all jungle).
The driver really had to pay attention to the signs telling us another one was coming up.

It reminded me of how few speed bumps I have in my life.  I look at my daily calendar and see how many things are packed into my day – all good things of course! But I wonder if a few speed bumps would help me slow down and not miss things God wants me to see along the way. Maybe there are monkeys in the trees that I won’t see because I’m speeding along. Or a toucan squawking  that I might not hear because of the engine noise. When you go slower, the car rides much quieter.

Sometimes, if I’m still going too fast, I might fly over the speed bump, having missed the warning sign. Maybe those are God’s little signs that He needs to get my attention and slow down and listen for Him. I can think of some good speed bumps that might be related – such as things not going how I had planned ( could be a control issue), or an expectation not having been met. Maybe it’s a migraine or an illness that makes me physically need to take a break.

As we slowly drove back to the airport to end our vacation, I thought I should add some speed bumps into my life when I get home. Put more God space kind of speed bumps so I can hear Him more clearly and know His will  for my day. That way my schedule won’t pick up speed and get me out of control as I would fly over those bumps.

Lord, help me to slow down for your speed bumps each day, so I know you’re keeping me at your speed limit. Thank you!
Amen

Remembering

As we were driving away from the Argentina side of Patagonia after three spectacular days of beautiful hiking and mountain peaks, I didn’t want to forget what I had seen. It was so spectacular! Yes, we took LOTS of photos, but they never do justice to the experience itself. I wanted to remember the rushing rivers, the crack of a calving glacier crashing into the lake, the howling wind and the birds chirping. I didn’t want to forget the intense aquamarine colors of the glacial lakes, the blue sky and clouds framing Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre peaks, the tired joints and muscles oater 13 miles of hiking up 3100 ft.
God uses the word “remember” quite often in both the Old And New Testaments. After Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan river at flood stage, God commanded each priest from the 12 tribes to gather a stone from the riverbed to build an altar as a reminder of what God had done. Even Abraham, Isaac and Jacob built altars after a special experience with God to never forget how God provided.
Jesus told His disciples to remember Him and what He was about to do when He celebrated the last supper. How can we understand His grace and love if we don,t remember His death and resurrection?
As I look at all my photos and remember my wonderful trip to Patagonia, I need to also remember how much God loves me and directs my path, when I let Him. I want to remember all His great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:3-4) that I can claim daily when I surrender my control to Him. He does give me everything I need. I really need to remember that!

Missing the Obvious

I’m just not good with directions! We visited Iguazu Falls in Argentina recently. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, spread out over 2 km on the top level with over 275 different falls across that span. It is a sight to behold!

It has an upper falls trail and a lower falls trail. After a walk on the upper trail, I wanted to go back up the trail to the Adventure Kiosk to take another picture and told Ron and our friends that I would catch up with them on the lower trail. I had looked at the map already many times and told them I didn’t need one. I knew where to find them.

Somehow, I ended up at the train station instead, where there were mobs of people waiting for the train. I realized where I went wrong and went the roundabout way to my photo op. No problema! I’d been here several times and could easily find my way to the lower trail. When I walked another roundabout way to where I thought the trail should be, I couldn’t find it and ended up on the wrong leg. I eventually found everyone, but when I got back to the beginning of the trail, there was the sign in plain sight. I had missed the obvious!

It reminds sometimes how I miss God obviously working in my life. I meander here and meander there, forgetting that He is waiting for me to ask Him for directions. It says in Proverbs 3:4-5 “Do not lean on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” He knows the right way for me to go, and I would save a lot of time if I would remember He wants to show me His plans for my life.

Dear Lord,
Don’t let me miss you obviously working in my life. Let me look at your guidebook, the Bible and stop frequently to ask for directions. Thank you for wanting to show my your good straight path to eternal life!
Amen