Patagonia - part III

19 January 2017 – 30 January 2017

Our big trip to Patagonia – Part III

In Part I of this series of posts on our trip through Patagonia we traveled to Buenos Aires and started our trip in Patagonia by picking up our van and test driving it on the beautiful island of Chiloe.

In Part II we decided to evade the rain and crossed the entire continent west to east and back and had a great kayak trip in Raul Marín Balmaceda. Ah, and we also acted like settlers in Puyuhuapi and had a Hopperdietzel.

In this part we are traveling further south along the Carratera Austral. We first visit Puerto Aysén and Coyhaique, followed by several amazing hikes.

This is part III in this series on our trip through Patagonia. There’s only one part left after this one and I’m sure by the end of it you’ll be totally bored with all these pictures of beautiful landscapes… and… pictures of us. Rest assured we will be too!

Puerto Aysén

Chili is home to more sheep than humans (okay, I didn’t check this, but I rdswould be surprised if it’s not).

Following Puyuhuapi we drove to Villa Amengual, and just with one goal in mind; to stock up on wool! So, if you see us all dressed in wool in any of the remaining photos to come (or, in real life for that matter), you now know where the clothes have been bought ;-).

After Villa Amengual, we travelled to Puerto Aysén, where we stayed the night and did some laundry. Other than that, our stay there was rather uneventful.

Coyhaique

The same holds for Coiyhaique. A nice city, it’s the only place in all of southern Patagonia to stock up anything out of the ordinary. With close to 60.000 inhabitants, it’s the biggest city along the Carratera Austral after Puerto Montt in the north.

Cerro Castilla

Next, we headed to Villa Cerro Castillo, a small village at the foot of a magnificent mountain, called Cerro Castilla.

Rivalling  Fitzroy and the granite peaks of Torres del Paine, it’s an amazing site with a lot of hiking options.

With the kids...

We did the dayhike up to the lagoon. With Indi on my back and Jona on Lin’s we have to pack tightly to get all equipment, extra rain gear and food with us up the mountain, so any multi-day hikes we had to leave for later years unfortunately.

Despite this limitation we had a lot of fun on the day hike (it took us, including breaks about 8.5 hours there and back) and the view at the top is simply amazing!

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In yet another attempt...

to impress with the most extraordinary places to breastfeed, Lin succeeded once more in making Jona very happy.

On the way back

the weather changed for the worse. We did get some rain, but made it back in time for the fierce Patagonian wind to pick up.

Just to show how it's like...

with clear(er) skies, this is the view on the way up. Villa Cerro Castillo is all the way in the bottom and this is about half way into the hike.

Ventisquero Los Leones

Following Cerro Castillo, we continued further south to Lago General Carrera, the biggest lake in Chile. It’s a beautiful lake, with a magical blue colour caused by glacial water flowing into it by rivers such as the river from from Lago Leones.

This lake and the glacier with the same name was to be our next stop. Terra Luna Lodge, offered, or so we heard, trips to Ventisquero Los Leones and that’s where we wanted to go. First learning that we couldn’t really go there (the trip up the Rio Leones by jet boat would have been to bumpy for the kids), we opted for a hike to the lake, from where a little rubber boat would take us to the glacier.

The Plains of Madness

We were lucky enough to have a great guide on our trip and really, if you’re ever in the region, try to find Marco Fuster for a trip somewhere in the area!

Record Time

He told us that part of the hike we’d have to cross the Plains of Madness, an hour long stretch where you’re seemingly not making any progress.

Little did he know we were in such great shape after our Cerro Castillo hike that we crossed the plains in no-time.

Boat

 Once we arrived at the lake we had to wait a bit for the boat to arrive. This meant we had plenty of time to don Indi her lifejacket.

I think if my mom sees this pictures though, she’ll never let me travel with Indi again…

Once at the glacier

Indi and Jona were more interested in the Calafate berries than to humungous amount of ice surrounding us.

The legend says that once you’ve eaten the berries, you’ll return to Patagonia. Well, I sure hope so!

It was amazing to see...

how well Indi and Jona coped with such a long day. We left at 7.30 in the morning and came home by 10pm with about 5 hours worth of hiking and the boat trip to the glacier.

Once back at the lodge

We had a great time. Terra Luna provided us a lot of inspiration with indoor slides, beautiful cabins and a super relaxed vibe. We camped on the soccer field and had dinner in the restaurant after we came back from our trip.

Yet another episode...

the next day we left, not knowing this place would give us yet another episode of ‘lost and found’.

The Marble Caves

Next up were the marble caves. Here again, people had told us it was going to be impossible to visit the famous marble caves with the kids. But Marco, our guide from Terra Luna told us to go to a little harbor, closer to the actual caves from where it would only be a 10 minute boat ride to visit this wonderful act of nature.

The marble caves are one of the most touristy places in all of Patagonia but I’m glad we visited it in the end. The water from all the glacier in the Northern Ice Field sculpted these magnificant marble formations.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Alma Verde and Los Maquis

After visiting the marble caves we found out we had lost one of Indi’s sandals. Since they were brand new (we had bought them in Coyhaique) we figured we really should head back to Puerto Guadal to find them.

We didn’t have any luck finding it again (as with any of the other 20 things we lost on this trip ranging from more shoes, to hats, scarves and… more sandals).

It was late already though so we opted to stay at a campsite in Puerto Guadal and more specifically one that was recommended to us by somebody in Puerto Aysén.

Enter… Alma Verde. 

The girlz...

Apart from the great campsite it was the people there that made it a great stay. Cristian is an exceptional host and we were lucky to find Elisabeth and Felix there too. And Johanna. Indi and Johanna immediately became best friends!

Fossils everywhere

Well, for sure the multiday hike through Jeinimeni National Park tops the fossil hike Cristian would say, but the fossil hike was a pretty darn nice hike too.

About 2 to 3 hours up, on the top of the hill, it was impossible not to see any fossils. Mostly shells, but other underwater stuff too. We had great fun with the seven of us.

The views

The views there were amazing. Looking over Lago General Carrera on the one side and the vast expense of mountains and glaciers on the other, it was breath taking.

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The views

The views there were amazing. Looking over Lago General Carrera on the one side and the vast expense of mountains and glaciers on the other, it was breath taking.

Slash-n-burn

Although very beautiful, the region of Aysén is still visible scarred from the slash and burn agriculture that has been taking places throughout the 20th century.

Fire that went wildly out of control burnt down whole hillsides, nobody was ever planning on using.

Landslides have displaced numerous people over the years and until today the landscape is scattered with the remains of the fires from decades ago.

Cascadas Los Maquis

A bit of an undiscovered little gem we found in Cascadas los Maquis. These waterfalls are alternated by little pools, one of which is in perfect infinity-style. It’s as if we were in a 7-star resort, but then without the price to match.

The kids

Enjoyed themselves a lot as well there, although swimming was out of the question for them; they found the water way too cold ;-).

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The End of the Road

All good things come to the and end and after 4 days in Puerto Guadal we had to leave to finish the Carratera Austral.

The road trip still had two stops in store for us. First Cochrane, a nice little village about an hour or two south of Puerto Guadal. And the other was Caleta Tortel, a magical village where rain is the only thing we saw for the entire 24 hours we were there. Ah that, and the medical post.

Rio Baker

The Baker river provides drainage for Lago General Carrera and is a beautiful and wild river.

Rio Nef

Half-way the trip Rio Nef merges with Rio Baker. The colours of the two rivers and the sound of the rapids of the Rio Baker; natural beauty at its best.

Just south of Cochrane

we camped at a farmer. In a beautiful part of their property we made some dinner and tucked in early. Jona was a little feverish, so we had a bit of a rough night.

Caleta Tortel

was beautiful. Once parked at the end of the road we continued into the village using the only means possible: wooden board walks. At first we were surprised about the lack of tourism in the village, until we learnt the village is one of the wettest in all of Chile.

Doctor's Visit

The next day we went to the medical post in Caleta Tortel. During the night we found out our ear thermometer wasn’t working very well. Instead of only a modest fever, Jona had a really high one, even after we gave him some paracetamol. Well, the doctor reassured us it was a virus, but nothing to be too worried about. We quickly left Caleta Tortel to head back to sunny and warm Cochrane.

End of part III – end of the Carratera Austral

Once we left Cochrane, we also left the Carratera Austral. And doing so, we kind of felt like saying goodbye to a good friend. Seeing the last sign, just having taken the road into Valle Chacabuco almost made us cry.

In the next and final part, aptly titled Part IV we’re hanging out in Parque Patagonia and go into Argentina to complete the last part of our trip.