May 5, 2014
12 days in Patagonia
After my family’s visit to Paraguay we all flew to Patagonia, more specifically El Calafate, Argentina. Call me ignorant, but I wasn’t exactly aware that people traveled to Patagonia. But in my early days as a volunteer I kept hearing other volunteers mentioning their trips to Patagonia, and showing their epic photos, and so Patagonia quickly went on the “To-Do” list during our service. Thankfully, my parents were also up for the adventure to travel to the end of the world.
Our first outing in El Calafate was ice trekking on a glacier. It felt surreal to be walking on the infinite expanse of ice with crampons. The colors of the ice were mesmerizing, the deepest blue you could imagine. During the trek we also stopped to see the front of the glacier Perito Moreno. Perito is one of those “must-sees” when you visit Patagonia, you simply don’t get tired of looking at it and waiting for a chunk of ice to break off and go plunging into the water.
The next day we went to an estancia for some horseback riding near Mount Fitz Roy. I loved the estancia we went to; our group was nice and small, and the gauchos were extra hospitable. It was fun to get a small glimpse of what gaucho life is like. They also showed us the barn where thousands of sheep are sheered once per year.
For our final day in El Calafate, we went on a boat tour that took us to three glaciers. Several people told us that they didn’t recommend the boat tour because after 8 hours on a boat it can get quite boring. I, though, was quite insistent that we go on the boat tour—I wanted to get up close and personal with icebergs and glaciers, and, thankfully everyone enjoyed it in the end. While it is long I felt that the view outside was constantly changing. And during the few moments where there wasn’t much to see it was the perfect time for a short snooze.
From El Calafate we traveled to Puerto Natales, Chile for two nights. The plan was to stay for one night, but it turns out I don’t know how to count on a calendar, so we ended up having to book for two nights. We really liked the sleepy town, and the food we had there far surpassed what we ate in El Calafate. We also enjoyed walking along the gulf, with the view of mountains. I must mention the cute chocolate coffee shop that has great desserts and nice, warm drinks. So yes, I recommend staying for more than a night.
From Puerto Natales we headed to the National Park Torres del Paine. The park is famous among hikers for amazing views, rock formations, mountains, glaciers and icebergs. It also known for crazy weather: one day it’s beautiful, clear and sunny, and the next it’s overcast, windy and cold. We thankfully got lucky, and two out of our three days had beautiful weather. In the park we stayed at a hotel and then did day hikes from there. Looking back we would recommend instead renting a car as we felt limited in what hikes we could do/where we could go. It felt like being on an isolated island with no way to escape, with everything extra expensive. Except with a beautiful view. In general, though, Torres del Paine is worth the visit.
Torres del Paine marked the end of our trip and, unfortunately, from there everyone had to head back to their respective homes, though Jon and I made a quick pit stop in Buenos Aires. Thank you to my amazing parents, sister and husband for making it a fun-filled vacation and heeding my desire to go to the end of the world!