Category Archives: Argentina

Austral 09

Green Miles : Carretera Austral, Chile

After the great times we had around the Lakes DIstrict of Argentina, it was seriously hard to leave. But the deep south beckoned and we answered the call.

Austral 01 Bird watching. 

Austral 02Flamingos

Austral 03 Austral 04 Los Alerces National Park, Argentina

We crossed back into Chile to take the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway), keen to spend as much time as possible in the mountains and forests.

Austral 05 Austral 06

The Andes trap all of the rain on the Chilean side as it sweeps in from the Pacific. This means foggy rainforests, huge lakes, glaciers hanging from towering peaks, and more shades of green than I thought possible.

There are no tourists this time of year, so the gravel roads were mostly deserted and we could camp anywhere we wanted for free. Often times we would pull into a National Park campground, with not another soul around and nobody to accept payment.

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Once in a while we rounded a bend and realized that the dark body of water before us wasn’t a lake, but an ocean fjord.

Austral 12Puyuhuapi fjord

We are moving pretty fast these days, but we found time to take a wander through one of the forested trails in the Queulat National Park. The temperate rainforest is amazingly rich in plant life. The continual rain makes the ground soft underfoot, every inch of space is covered with something alive. Trees grow on other trees. A rock isn’t just a rock, but a foundation for a miniature bonsai-like forest of ferns and moss. The thick forest and the soft rain dampened all noise, so it was really peaceful. Just soft footsteps, bubbling creeks and birds chirping.

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There’s a glacier here that hangs over the side of a cliff, melting into a waterfall, which drops into a lake and empties through a river into the ocean a few kilometres away. The thick clouds rolling in from the coast completed the entire water cycle on a grand scale right in front of us. We sat and watched for a while as the occasional chunk of ice broke loose and fell into the water, the loud cracking sound reaching us a little later.

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Later that day we stopped in at another deserted campground, and couldn’t believe our luck when we found one of the wood cabins unlocked and stocked with firewood for the stove.

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Another drifter dropped by to share the warmth.

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As we travelled further south, the temperature dropped. Towns and gas stations became fewer and farther between. But with a van stocked with food, all we needed were flat spots to pull off for the night. And they were plentiful.

Austral 22 Austral 23 Fuel stop.

Austral 24 Austral 25 Austral 26 Austral 27Austral 29Roads, roads, roads.

This is a seriously beautiful part of the world. I have filed away a few moments and images in my memory, to be revisited someday when I need a brief escape from a long day at the office.

Posted from: Olavarria, Argentina

Mallin Alto 04

Into the Backcountry : Mallin Alto, Argentina

Horse riding and skiing in the Patagonian backcountry you say?? …um ok, we’re in.

We set off on our trusty steeds across the ever changing landscapes of Nahuel Huapi National Park. Ambling along a picturesque river and up through snowy forest until we finally reached the rugged mountain range that would be our playground for the next few days.

Mallin Alto 01 Mallin Alto 02 Mallin Alto 03 Mallin Alto 04 Mallin Alto 05

I was gobsmacked when we arrived at El Domo, our seriously luxurious backcountry accommodations. The fire was roaring, the mate was ready and Miguel, the chef, was whipping up some lunch. This was to be the “norm” over the next few days. If we weren’t out exploring the mountains, we were warming up by the fire, merrily stuffing our faces with Miguel’s delicious concoctions, washed down with a few bottles of Malbec.

Mallin Alto 06Mallin Alto 07 Mallin Alto 08 Mallin Alto 09 Mallin Alto 10 Mallin Alto 11 Mallin Alto 12

We knew that mother nature wasn’t going to be on our side. It has been a terrible year for snow and the forecast showed clouds, clouds, with a chance of clouds. At times the visibility was pretty much zilch, but in some ways it added to the adventure. Our guides Kao and Lucio knew the terrain inside and out, and took us exploring on the snow mobiles almost anywhere, and sometimes in a complete whiteout.

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The afternoons were a bit clearer, but also warmer. The snow quickly became wet and sticky. We still managed to get in a few pretty good runs though, and the experience is not something that I will soon forget. No ski lifts, no other people, just us and the mountains.

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The nights were much like the days. Good food, good wine and Mark and I straining to follow conversations in Spanish. We are at the point now, where we basically get the gist of what is being said, but by the time we think of something to say, the conversation has moved on.

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We woke up on the last morning to a light blanket of new snow covering the land. This is something that I will truly miss when we move back to Australia. The peaceful beauty of wandering amongst trees heavily laden with snow, has to be up there as one of my favourite things.

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Luckily, we had time for a few more runs …

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Soon the famous Patagonian wind had moved in and was roaring wildly all around us.  This was finally our queue to leave.

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Thanks again to Manu and everyone at Mallin Alto. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Posted from Puerto Natales, Chile

Bariloche 11

Lake Days : Bariloche, Argentina

We were welcomed back into Argentina like old friends. We both agreed that the border crossing in the shadow of Volcán Lanín was the easiest and friendliest that we have come across so far. The staff were happy to chat, fixed up some paperwork issues that had been giving us problems and even boiled some hot water for our thermos… having water for a mate break is a big deal to Argentines.

The Lake District of Argentina has been a paradise for wild camping. It seems that we can take any random road alongside a lake and find a perfect spot for the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHitting the snooze button. Lago Lolog. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA morning at the gym, Lago Lolog.

Bariloche 23 Bariloche 24 Bariloche 25Honey, I’m home. Lago Gutiérrez.

Our good luck didn’t end at the border crossing. We arrived in San Martin de Los Andes and checked our emails to find that Manu and the La Chanchita Bus were also there. Manu has just finished his project and it’s a real beauty. A 1966 Mercedes Bus that was once used as public transport in Buenos Aires, he’s fitted it out as a six berth camper ready to take snow seekers wherever they want to go in the area.

We met up with them at the Chapelco ski resort and followed them back to Bariloche along the amazingly scenic Ruta de Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Drive).

Bariloche 01 Bariloche 02Is it a bus or a cabin?

Bariloche 08 Bariloche 09 Bariloche 10 Bariloche 11In convoy with La Chanchita

Once in Bariloche, Manu welcomed us into his home and showed us around the area. We had a great time throughout the week, hanging out with him and his friend Lu (and his dog Bengoa).

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Manu also knew of a hidden lakeside beach, perfect for a dinner party around the campfire.

Bariloche 19 Bariloche 20 Bariloche 21 Bariloche 22A lesson in asado

We couldn’t have hoped for a better week. All thanks to the kindness and generosity of this one guy. There was only one downside. Argentina didn’t get much snow this winter, so the ski resorts were either completely closed or not worth skiing.

But not to worry. Manu had a plan for that too…

Posted from: Coyhaique, Chile.

PS: for some amazing photos from this week see the La Chanchita facebook page.