Patagonia - part IV

31 January 2017 – 17 February 2017

Our big trip to Patagonia – Part IV

Phew… this is the last part of our Patagonia travel report and I have to say, although I never get tired of the pictures of this wonderful region, I’m happy we can move on to putting our potatoes in the ground now that this is finally over ;-).

But it’s not over just yet. After having finished the Carratera Austral there was still a final bit of road tripping to do before we could go home.

We left you just north of Cochrane with a final shot of one of the Carratera Austral road signs. This is where the X-83 heads into Valle Chacabuco or, Parque Patagonia.

(Part I, part II or part III are also available)

Parque Patagonia

Going into Valle Chacabuco means entering Parque Patagonia, the other major park set up by the Tompkins couple. Where Parque Pumalin is associated more with Doug Tompkins, Parque Patagonia is the brain child of his wife, Kristina.

Lots of Guanacos

Entering Valle Chacabuco also means entering the land of the Guanaco. It’s great to see the area being resorted to a state that is more natural. Re-introducing the puma and making sure there’s enough Guanacos for them to feed off is one of the things Tompkins have managed to do here.

We did have Guanaco for dinner once (yes, it’s a totally acceptable thing to eat in Patagonia) and I have to say, the meat wasn’t particularly special…

Flamingos

Entering Valle Chacabuco also means entering the land of the flamingos. We managed to see quite a few.

Can we stop please?

Every time we saw one Lin commanded me to stop to van and take 20.000 pictures. 

Without that we wouldn’t have these shots ;-).

Sleepy

I don’t think Jona will remember anything of this area. That’s not just our fault though. Every time we saw guanaco’s or flamingo’s he went to sleep :(. 

Lush Gardens

Both the Pumalin Park as well as Parque Patagonia struck us in the sense that there’s a great amount of attention to details, especially in terms of landscaping and infrastructure.

Hectares of meadows, beautifully landscaped gardens and heavily optimized vegetable plots and green houses; it’s all to be seen in either of the two parks.

Volunteers

The vegetable plots seemed to be layed out using bio-intensive gardening methods and they’re largely maintained by volunteers. It was impressive and inspiring to see what can be done in such a remote location.

Lazy park tourists

Unfortunately as Jona was recovering we couldn’t do any of the beautiful hikes in the park and we just enjoyed the beautiful campsites and the company of some people we met on the way.

Passo Roballos and El Calafate

Leaving Parque Patagonia on the 31st of January also meant leaving Chile and we were going to do so using Passo Roballos.

Some people told us it was impassable by car, some people highly recommended it, so until we entered the valley we weren’t sure. Well, as we had learnt before, whenever a road starts with an X, it means there’s trouble up ahead.

And so, although up until Parque Patagonia the road was quite doable, after leaving the park’s last campsite the road quickly deteriorated and speed came down to a humbling 30 kilometers per hour.

It was beautiful though and also quite fun to use a border crossing that supposedly only gets 400 cars per year… 

The landscape into Argentina immediately changes. Still rather green on the west side of the Andes things immediately dry up to the east of the border and the pampa begins.

Lago Ghio

The pampa does have amazing sights to offer though. Ranging from beautiful blue lakes (such as Lago Ghio) to little salt flats, it’s a mesmerizing landscape.

Ah, and did I mention the guanacos and flamingos yet?

El Calafate

We had some trouble getting there, but once we reached El Calafate and made our way to the Perito Moreno glacier, we felt humbled… Its face rises 80 meters above the water and chunks of ice continuously break off.

Ice Ice Baby

 At 30 kilometers long, its maximum ice depth is 170 meters. It’s part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which at about 30% of the surface of The Netherlands is the world second-largest ice field.

Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas

After El Calafate it was almost over. With one more stop before we had to hand in our beloved van, we drove the last bit of Ruta 40 that we would see on this trip. We crossed over into Chile at Rio Turbio, famous for its large cole mine.

Puerto Natales is the ‘basecamp’ for National Park Torres del Paine, one of the highlights of the region. We had planned to do one or two longer hikes there to finish things off. Unfortunately that didn’t happen as I spent the majority of the three days we were there in bed. My stomach wasn’t behaving… 

Lin and the kids...

did have a good time though…

Boat trip

On the second day in Puerto Natales they took a boat trip to Ventisquero Balmaceda and Serrano. This involved a hike of about an hour and although a very happy Chilean family helped carry Indi occasionally, I’m still very proud of her that she made it all the way there. 

Back on shore

I’m also quite proud of Lin by the way, for bringing our two hyperactive kids on a boat trip like that!

Meeting old friends

Although we knew they were in Patagonia too, we obviously would have never thought we would bump into our deer friends from Rassa in Italy. Just in a coffee shop, the meeting was a matter of total coincidence. Such fun!

End of an 'era'

Then came the moment to say goodbye to our van. There were tears… I’ll leave it at that ;-).

Travelling back

After staying in Punta Arenas for a few days (which pleasantly surprised us as a town with nice restaurants, good coffee and in general a pretty good vibe), on the 12th of February, around 3.30 in the morning we left the hotel and went to the airport.

With two flights, a few taxis and a 90 minute boat trip ahead of us it was going to be a long day. The kids didn’t complain at all though and about 20 hours later, we finally settled in our hotel in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.

When planning this trip we decided that we would finish things off with a few days on the beach, not knowing that in the immediate vicinity of Buenos Aires… there are no beaches…

We did have fun in Colonia though, the swimming pool was a good replacement for the beach.

And then...

on the 16th of February, we head back to Argentina using the same ferry that brought us to Uruguay and we boarded our last flight… back to Amsterdam.

The flights all went very smooth. I guess not having a TV at home really pays off in an airplane. Indi really liked being in the airplane and after Frozen had played three times she finally fell asleep.

And what about bear

Of course you’re all wondering about ‘lievelingsbeer’. Well, fortunately we had the brother of lievelingsbeer’ with us as well, so that made Indi’s loss a little more bearable.

But… to our surprise, on a rainy Monday morning a few days after we got back we received a call from Aloha, a beach club at Wijk aan Zee telling us that a little seal had just dropped of a bear, completely covered in sand.

It was calling for Indi…

We immediately went to pick the poor thing up of course and then we learnt that he had travelled all the way to Holland on the back of a whale called Elvira. Such luck that he was able to find his way back!! Indi almost cried!

The End of the Wonderful Trip

And with that, our trip came to an end.