Now I´m starting to get irritated with technology!! I thought I had it all worked out. So basically I can´t work out how to turn this photo to the correct orientation. I have also inadvertently split the blog in 2. Please go to the previous page as one of my favourite photos is there.
Enough whinging. At least I have photos! Since I last updated my blog, I have been to Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. It is a small mountain range that is separate to the Andes and is extremely dramatic. Within that are the actual Torres (towers) which are in the photo above. Before I left home, a few people said to me that it was a place they would love to visit. And I can tell you that it is absolutely stunning and one of the most dramatic places I´ve ever seen. A lot of people do a 4 - 5 day trek through the park but to be honest, I wouldn´t be interested in doing that by myself. In fact I did the cushiest version I could! Normally its an 8 hour walk, 4 hours up up up and then 4 hours down. I went by horseback as far as I could then climbed the rest. Well let me tell you about my very unsuccessful horseriding trip! Basically I´m scared of heights and we were walking along a narrow path for about half an hour, with a massive drop off to the side. I wouldn´t have been mad about it even if I was walking but was petrified on the horse! I was with a group of Chileans who were great. My buddie for the trip was Pedro, who minded me and distracted me. He was about 65 but was a great horseman. At the very end, there was no avoiding looking at the long drop downwards. I went nuts!!! I had to get off the horse and walk, but only for a few minutes. After we visited the tours, I ended up walking back instead of getting back on the horse because I was too nervous. It was nice to have company for the day though. I spent a couple of days in the National Park, staying at a refugio, which is basically a hostel.
After Torres del Paine, I returned to Calafate via Puerto Natales. I had a bit of a worrying time before getting to the Argentinian border. When I entered Chile, a very bored looking official had stamped me down as entering the country and had then stamped me as exiting the country at the same time. She had taken the all-important piece of paper that I needed to get out of the country. Of course I didn´t realise any of this until I was in Chile. When I was returning to Argentina, the very happy-go-lucky bus driver told me it would be FINE! I wasn´t convinced but it was in the end. I thought that I looked so worried that they´d be convinced I was trying to smuggle something into the country!
My next trip was called Overland Patagonia, travelling along the famous Ruta 40. Patagonia is so vast but I wasn´t really getting a feel for it as I had flown most long journeys. The tour allowed me to get to extremely isolated places that would have been very difficult to get to as a solo traveller. The journey from El Calafate to Bariloche was 1800km, with 3 of the 4 days on a gravel road. They are paving the road at the moment so it will be a very different journey in about 2 years time. However I was glad to do it this way - a very authentic experience! And I began to get a concept of the distances! The landscape was mostly Pampas, a very dry lanscape covered in scrub. There were plenty of views of the Andes in the distance so it wasn´t monotonous. There were 7 of us on the trip, an Aussie couple in their 50´s, an English guy, an older Austrian guy, 2 other American girls and me. They were a great bunch to spend a few days with. We stayed 2 nights on Estancias (ranches), literally in the middle of nowhere. As I´ve said before, the wind here has to be experienced to be believed and its pretty cold at night, even though it is the Summer. However I really enjoyed being there. We went to Perito Moreno National park, which is so isolated, it only gets 1000 visitors a year. The lake there was the most incredible aqua colour. Completely unforgettable! The other highlight was a visit to Cueva de los Manos, which are really amazing pre-historic drawings of hands. Those of you who have read Bruce Chatwin´s In Patagonia, will probably have seen the photos. (Thanks Simon!). They were done over a 5000 year period. The cave is located in a really beautiful canyon.
Although the trip was very enjoyable, I was delighted to reach Bariloche last Saturday night. Back to civilisation! Mum and Dad arrived here last Monday and we have been having a lovely time since. The weather at the moment here is awful, just like Ireland! We went to a National Park but couldn´t really appreciate the dramatic scenery as it was raining and the mist was partially covering the mountains. On the return journey, we had a little drama. Basically the bus appeared to skid and we came to a halt at the edge of a high narrow road.