OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Desert, Ice and Snow : Patagonia, Argentina

We crossed the border at Chile Chico, and our first stop back in Argentina was a panaderia (bakery). Argentina’s baked goods are phenomenal… we are obsessed and of course always overdo it. Still, it’s a struggle to spend over $5.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We tried to move as quickly as we could, though the flat and barren scenery. The weather however, kept things interesting. We had snow, rain, hail and shine. The only constant was the howling wind. Mark and Oscar were in a never-ending battle to keep us on the road, and I’m still amazed that we weren’t blown over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were so travel weary at the end of each day that we’d just find a quiet gravel road and pull off to the side to camp. And I mean, just off to the side. One of my favourite things about Patagonia is the isolation. We only saw one other car the entire time we were camping roadside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our spirits soared when we finally caught sight of mountains on the horizon, as they rose up gallantly to puncture the seemingly endless farmland. Mountains and glacial lakes are nature’s perfect match, and they suddenly exploded in abundance as we drove along the road towards Los Glaciares National Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We stared wide-eyed and mouths agape as we approached the awe inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier. The size, colour and beautiful setting alone are enough to impress, but what stuck with me was the immense power it seems to emanate. The sound of the shifting, cracking and breaking ice echoed eerily as we walked around the viewing platform, giving me butterflies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA perito moreno 2 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We found ourselves a sweet wild campsite just off the main park road to the glacier. Life is pretty cramped these days as we barely pop the top in the relentless Patagonian wind. We have to make an effort to go outside, rugged up against the elements. Turns out ponchos are a bit breezy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We pointed the brown bus towards Chile for one last time, but Argentina wasn’t going to let us leave that easily. There was fresh snow on the roads and some very icy sections. At one point we thought we might have to turn around, but as we pushed on the roads gradually improved.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A feeling of excitement was building gradually between us, we’d be reaching the end of our road somewhere in Chile. But where? We hadn’t quite figured that out yet.

Posted from: Buenos Aires, 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.

Austral 07Austral 08Austral 09Austral 10Austral 11

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.

Austral 13 Austral 18Austral 16

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.

Austral 17Austral 14Austral 15Austral 19

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.

Austral 20

Another drifter dropped by to share the warmth.

Austral 21

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.

Mallin Alto 13 Mallin Alto 14 Mallin Alto 15

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.

Mallin Alto 16 Mallin Alto 17 Mallin Alto 18

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.

Mallin Alto 19 Mallin Alto 20 Mallin Alto 21

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.

Mallin Alto 22 Mallin Alto 23 Mallin Alto 24

Luckily, we had time for a few more runs …

Mallin Alto 25 Mallin Alto 26 Mallin Alto 27

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

Mallin Alto 28 Mallin Alto 29

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

Posted from Puerto Natales, Chile