Sunday, April 19, 2009

2006 Patagonia (Chile/Argentina)

Dear friends,
I’d like to give you some information on my latest travels, which turned out to be more of an expedition or Camel Trophy Tour.

We started in the middle South around the volcano Osorna, which looks a little like Mt. Fuji; in fact my brother Lutz suspected me of putting a Japanese photograph in the midst of this trip. As bamboo is abundant in the region it looks even more like Japan. Actually the region is nicknamed the Chilenean Switzerland, which was sort of a problem as my friends, who were travelling with me, are Swiss. But they liked the region as much as I did. We rented a cottage with view of Mt. Osorno.

After some wonderful days we went to Puerto Montt, where we had booked a passage on a ferry through the Chilenean fjords to Puerto Natales.

Most of the times the sea was calm though the wind was very cold. On the second day the ferry had to cross open sea and the captain waited for better weather. Anyway the sea was rough with waves about 4-5 m. We had very nice sights and reached Puerto Natales, where a Nissan Pathfinder 3.6 l was waiting for us. Later we knew that this was the right choice, but gas stations aren’t around the corner in this region of the World and so we had plan carefully in order to have enough fuel.
We reached the area around Torres del Paine National Park and spent a few days outsinde and a cople of days inside the National Park.

The forests are full of beech trees, which are adapted to the Southern tip of America. The leaves are very small and folded to resist the strong winds. I called the trees giant bonsais as the leaves reminded me of the small brothers of these trees. One problem is that the government of Chile sold pristine forests to Hewlett Packard, who want to turn these forests into fax-paper. Environment activists from the U.S. were expelled as foreigners “interfering with national affairs”. Biut still we were able to visit these forests and hiked there for a couple of days. We also vivited the Torres del Paine, which was a long trail. This trail took us 900m higher to the glacial lake.

The massive with the Torres in the midst from outside of the National Park.

The Torres from inside of the National Park.

After being caught in the snow a couple of times, we also had lots of sunshine as spring was just beginning with flowers like dandelions covering large areas.

After the Torres del Paine, which had to house tour tourists, we went out to a lonely region in between the National Park and Argentina (only two villages in between 120 km.

After a week in the region we drove on, but wanted to go to a mining town for a break as we had already seen too much new, interesting, and beautiful sport. As it turned out, even Rio Turbio was interesting and we spent two days there. Well, let’s not forget: we had just crossed the border to Argentina.

We also spent some time in the El Calafate region, though we went further on and stayed on an estancia (Nibepo Aike), which offered a warm atmosphere and a nice landscape.

From there we could go to see the Perito Moreno glacier.

After two days we went North to El Chaltén, the youngest town of Argentina, from where we hiked to Laguna Torre. We were caught in snowfall again. I was lucky to find a campground with a shack, where people cook and I could wait for the sun to come out again. Leaving El Chaltén we were able to see Mt. Fitzroy.

In a rush we drove a whole day and wanted to stay in Rio Gallegos, but it wasn’t too nice, so we went on the Tirrea del Fuego, crossing the border to Chile again and the Magellan Street with a night ferry to reach Cerro Sombrero around midnight.

The next day was exiting in different landscapes and also because of an accident, when a tyre blew out while driving. The car didn’d react anymore and I feared that it urned over, which it luckily didn’t do. We were lucky! And two minutes later one of the few vehicles on this lonely road stopped – a bus of the army and they helped us changing thy tyre. Now we still had some problems: we had to go back to a settlement about 25 km away, the spare tyre had hardly nay air, one break wouldn’t loose it’s grip, and we had to call the rental agency. So we went back to Cameron, where we asked for help at an administrative building: a called (with the help of a nice young lady) the rental office, they had a compressor to refill the tyre. With the help of the janitor (the husband of the local nurse, who serves 10,000 sqkm) I was able to fix the break. And on we went into the night. Rosa, the nurse, didn’t want us to leave as we had to go 120-130 km and she feared we might not find the remote estancia. When we got there, we knew this fear wasn’t without reason. We asked at the border station of the police, who answered vauely and drove for abour 25 km through woods, through little pools, to reach a remote hotel, where the hostess had to travel from her home in Punta Arenas for 8 hour. But she uses to drive to Rio Grande in Argentina, which is only 1 ½ hours away, if you’re able to cross the Rio Bellavista at the border (more of this later). We spent three beautiful days at Lago Blanco. We had the hotel (Las Lengas – look it up on the internet) for ourselves.
Evening viewed from Las Lengas.
But we also had to see the police to get a certificate about the accident, which we did and could settle this affair. The husband of our hostess, who owns the estancia and also is the mayor of the region (Cameron, Guanacos), came for the weekend and brought us a new spare tyre from Punta Arenas. And he also drove with his car through Rio Bellavista, where we left for the Argentinian part of Tierra del Fuego.

After the border we had some nice views of Guanacos. Guanacos are a little smaller than llamas and aren’t domesticated.
Our next stop was at Lago Fagnano, where we accidentally ended up after the estancia, we wanted to stay at, was booked out and another one was without appeal to us. The Kaikan Hotel also had rooms in cottages, so we took these and had a splendid view of the lake.

The next days took us through a mountain area (peaks up to about 1500 m) and further on to Ushuaia – the World’s End. But I guess the status of southernmost town of the world will go across the Beagle canal to Puerto Williams on the Chilean island Navarino. If Chile will improve the infrastructure, they can also offer a better access to Cape Horn.

We stayed above Ushuaia with a splendid view of the city and the Beagle canal; again we could rent a cottage.

The next day we went to a penguin island near Estancia Harberton, the first settlement there. There are only three boats per day with not more than 15 passengers, so we could watch the penguins without the normal touristic nuisance.

On our way back to Ushuaia, about 80 km, we had some views of windbend trees. And in the evening we watched an oceanliner navigating though the canal.

The next day we went back to Las Lengas (we still had one tyre there). This time crossing the Bellavista wasn’t as easy as before, as the waterlevel had risen. Diving into the river, one huge wave swept all over the car. When the car levelled inside the riverbed, the water reached the windows. But I drove on and we got out the water without having problems with the engine.

After two more days at Lago Blanco, we drove to Porvenir and took the ferry to Punta Arenas.
The next day was to say Hasta luego to Tierra del Fuego and after returning the car we flew via Puerto Montt, Santiago de Chile, and Madrid back to Germany.

We had some extraordinary trips during the past years like Tibet, Nepal, Burma, Vietnam, Peru/Bolivia, Iran, or Pakistan, but none of these trips had the intensity of this last trip. (Text 19.04.2009)

PS. I enriched the text with pictures - 18.02.2016 // And it's always the last trip that has been most intense.


  1. Inspiring story there. What occurred after? Good luck!

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