Snow at the border….

We arrived in Puerto Natales last Thursday, and took the bus over to the eastern side of the Andes on Friday, and have spent the past few days exploring various sections of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, which rivals Chile’s Torres del Paine, our destination this coming Thursday.

The 4 hour bus ride from P.Natales brought us over the border at quiet Cerro Castillo, and as we descended from the high plains we had fantastic views of the milky blue, glacier-fed waters of Lago Argentina. Two nights in the Argentinian metropolis of El Calafate (well, in comparison to P.Natales, it has much more to offer the visitor, from delicious ice creams at pavement cafes, to souvenir shops!) allowed us to enjoy pizza and a parilla grill as well as the Perito Moreno glaciar, which was our first encounter with the amazing blue skyscrapers of ice (or, more accurately, compacted snow). The northern part of Los Glaciares is home to El Chalten, and we had a fantastic couple of days there, hiking amidst spectacular scenery under blue blue skies.

In contrast, today’s return to Chile featured a 6 hour bus journey, with horizontal snow at the border…. still, back here in P.N. we have spent the afternoon chilling out in El Living, a cafe-bar which would not be out of place in Hoxton Square. Great food, the odd glass or two of chilean red wine, and The Guardian Weekly, courtesy of the Croydonese-owner.

Rain rain rain rain rain

rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain

It’s one of those words that becomes meaningless when you type it out a zillion times.

But rain has been the stuff that’s been falling from the skies here in Ancud _all_ day. incessantly. From before we woke up (it filled my dreams) and it’s 6pm now and there is no sign of it easing off, or the clouds lifting. Although it did ease off a little when we bobbed out into the Pacific Ocean to visit the penguins (Magellan and Humboldt) cared for by the Otway Foundation, on the Isolotas P.

ūüôĀ

Amazing Ancud

We’ve managed to find some sun here in Ancud, a “town” on the north west coast of the island of Chiloe. We’re staying in a great hostel – Hostal Mundo Nuevo – brand new, complete with woodstove and helpful hosts.

It’s been the first time without rain, or at least low clouds, since… Wednesday morning, when we took the tour from Puerto Varas to the base of Volcan Osorno and across Lago Todos Los Santos. A beautiful trip. And we got the black and white (aka cloudy and rainy) version on the return leg.

We’re booked (hopefully – it was a bit of a saga at the Navimag agency in Pucon) on Monday’s Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales; 4 days, provided the weather isn’t too bad. People keep telling us horror stories about crossing the Bay of Sorrows, which should be on Tuesday night for us. All being well, we’ll have almost a fortnight in Patagonia, enough time to get up to El Calafate and Chalten, and to do a hike around Torres del Paine.

Been eating well – you’ll be surprised to hear!! – most places we’ve been to have a veggie option, even El Trebol, a cafe on the seafront in the small fishing port of Chonchi where we were yesterday.

The only down side, apart from the rain, is that we’re a bit early for “the season”, which means that a lot of places aren’t geared up to run trips, so we’ve been a bit limited at to what we can get to see. Still, the day hike we did in Parque Herquehue was great, and hopefully in Patagonia we’ll find a bit more activity.

And to finish on a personal note, I’ve been grinding my teeth, accompanied by bizarre dreams. It must be the strange beds and late meals…. and beer.

Drying off and warming up in Chile

Arrived in Santiago safe and sound, H met me at airport and we took a TurBus into Santiago and another straight out of Valpariso where we chilled out for a couple of days as I slept through jetlag. In our more active moments we wandered around the old town, taking funiculars up the steep hills and enjoying beers with splendid views of the bay and slightly mouldy gateaux in faded glory tea rooms.

Left Valpariso by TurBus on Monday, at 6.15am and arriving here in Pucon on the shores of Lago Villarica at 20:30, seeing, but not stopping in the fablously fertile Central Valley. Great views of the snow capped Andes en route too.

H and I are just drying off after a great day’s hike in Parque Huerquehue (and i’m not even going to try to pronounce that!) just outside Pucon, with our Politur guide, Juan. It was a great hike, fantastic scenery en route to and surrounding the the three lakes – Lago Chico, Lago Toro and Lago Verde – which looked splendidly mysterious in the clouds, and the waterfalls were in fine form. The route climbed through the forested covered hills – loads of different trees, including 1000 year old monkey puzzle trees.

That said, we did return drenched and muddy – boots are drying out at the foot of our hostel’s fabulous wood-fired stove. The hostel, eco-friendly ‘ecole!, wins additional brownie points for it’s veggie restaurant where we’ve eaten every meal since we arrived. Delicious, and plentiful portions too.

It’s been raining ever since we arrived here in Pucon…. and that means we’ve not even seen the celebrated volcan Villarica – I’m going to have to fib to Barney….. there are tourist agencies here which run climbs to the top…. but seeing as the whole thing’s been in cloud for the past 3 days, so we’re not hanging around for our chance of a clear day.

Talking of which, our travel plans have firmed up a bit:

Tomorrow (Weds): bus to Valdivia
Thurs: bus to Puerto Varas
Fri: lake ferries in the shadow of Volcan Orsorno
Fri/Sat: travel to P. Montt.
Sat (hopefully): ferry from P. Montt to San Rafael glaciar and back up again (4 nigths , 5 days, although i fear we’re looking at the more expensive Navimag accommodation….. with a price tag of several hundred dollars. eek!)

then Chiloe, and then a flight from P. Montt down to P. Arenas and Patagonia!

Having a lovely time!