domingo, 25 de novembro de 2012

Patagonia, Ushuaia and the Lakes (English version)

A mixture of antiquity and modernity, of cultural life and bohemian life, on the grounds of a breath-taking nature, Argentina and Chile are a perfect destination for those who do not fear the new.
Fantastic regional wines and the succulent chorizo stakes, that can be cut through with a fork, inebriate our senses of smell and taste, completing the festival of sensations that take over our senses: our vision is filled with the beautiful landscapes, our skin feels the cool breeze of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean and our hearing is conducted by the visceral music of tango.
We decided to start the trip from Buenos Aires, the metropolis that mixes classic massive constructions and intense cultural life, with the modernity of neighborhoods as Palermo and the colorful simplicity of the neighborhood Boca, everything in a kind of European atmosphere.

Nov 7th, 2009
Arriving at Buenos Aires, we went directly to the Livian Guest House, in the neighborhood of Palermo. We caught a taxi and went to the Recoleta, famous for the bars, restaurants, and for its graveyard. We had for lunch a chorizo stake and we walked around in the neighborhood.
At night, we went to a night club named “Roxy”, in the quarter of Palermo. The night gets more enlivened around 2h00 a.m. The music was very good: rock, pop, dance etc.

Nov 8th, 2009
In the morning, we went to the antiquity fair of San Telmo, set in a square surrounded by bars and restaurants. We got a table in one of these bars and had a beer. Street artists were performing tango dances. 

We walked all the way to the neighborhood “Boca”, where the football ground “La Bombonera” is located. 

We headed, actually, to the “Caminito”. Long ago, this street was full of humble dwellings. Around 1950, an artist who lived on this neighborhood, with the help of some friends, decided to revitalize the place, by painting the small dwellings with lively colors. The result of that was a splendid scenery of vibrant colors. Today the Caminito is considered an open air museum. At the end of Caminito, there are several bars and restaurants.

We went all the way to Puerto Madero, where many fancy restaurants can be found. We had lunch in the restaurant named “Estilo Campo”, where they serve a divine stake, accompanied by some spectacular “malbec” wines.

After the lunch, we went to the historical place “Plaza de Mayo”, a square in which there is a monument paying homage to the dead soldiers during the revolution and also where the “Casa Rosada”, Argentine’s seat of government, is located.
In the evening, we went to see a tango show, at the “Complejo Tango”.

Nov 9th, 2009
We just went for a walk in Palermo quarter and entered some outlets shops at Córdoba Ave. Later on, we took a flight to the city of Trelew, in Patagonia.

Nov 10th, 2009
We woke up quite early and rent a car at Hertz. We drove to the city of Puerto Madryn, in Patagonia, whose geography is very remarkable. It is a bay, surrounded by clear sand cliffs. We stopped at the “tourist information”.

We went, first of all, to Punta Loma beach, which is packed with sea lions and seals. They heap themselves over the sand and spend all day sunbathing.

We, then, hit the road to Peninsula Valdez. The first stop was the viewing point that, besides providing a wonderful view of the coast and the small village of Puerto Piramides, also allows us to catch some glimpses of whales, at the distance.

We went down to the village of Puerto Piramides and took a small boat to approach the whales. 

Puerto Piramides Village
We had an amazing two hours experience sailing with the whales, which were of the franco-austral type. They were approximately 16 meters long and weighed some tons. Most of them were accompanied by baby-whales.  One of them got so close to us that its tail knocked the bottom of the boat. We got back to land completely dazzled by the magnificent experience of being so close to the whales.

After finding a place to sleep and leave our stuff, we went for a walk on the main street of the village of Puerto Piramides. This tiny village is very peaceful and somewhat magical. We grabbed a table in a restaurant to get something to eat, but the kitchen was not opened yet, since it was kind of early. Meanwhile, we ordered some delicious wines and bought some peanuts in the grocery store just beside it. We ended up making friends and drinking with the other tourists who were in the same restaurant (Germans, Dutch etc.).

Nov 11th, 2009
We covered the whole Valdez Peninsula, stopping at Punta Delgada, where we could see some sea-lions; at Punta Cantor; and Caleta Valdez, where there is an interesting isthmus extending  along the coast, surrounded by bluish waters. Further ahead (about 3 km), there is a spot where we can see Magellan penguins. We also passed by two salt mines called “salina chica” and “salina grande”.

Salina Grande

Punta Cantor

Caleta Valdez

Magellan penguin

Once we got back to the continent, we decided to spend the night in a village named Gaiman. Most of its inhabitants descend from immigrants originally from Wales. Therefore, it’s understandable why there are so many tea-houses in the village. Lady Di has once been here and had tea in one of these tea-houses. We stayed at the Gwesty Tywi Guest House.

Nov 12th, 2009
In the morning, we drove all the way to Punta Tombo, where lies a settlement of approximately 500.000 Magellan penguins, spread throughout a vast area. They build their nests under the shade of the bushes. We could see many eggs laid on the nests.

We got back to Gaiman village, and at precisely 16h30 we had tea at a typical tea-house.

The friendly owner of the Gwesty Tywi Guest House let use his barbecue place, so we bought some meat at the butcher’s and made a typical Argentinean “assado”.

Nov 13th, 2009
We got up really early and drove back to Trelew. From there, we took a flight to Ushuaia. Just as we stepped off the airport, the cold wind cut right through us (minus 2 degrees in late spring). The city is dazzling: by one side, it is bathed by the Beagle channel (which links the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean) and by the other side it is topped with the snowy mountains called “Martial Mountains”, which are part of the Andes chain of mountains.

This place had been once inhabited by the Yamanás indians, who used to light fires to warm themselves, even inside their canoes. And that gave the land its current name: “Tierra del Fuego”, or land of the fire.
We stayed at a guest house named “Los Calafates”.
The city’s main street (calle San Martin) is full of sportswear shops, such as North Face, Salomon, Columbia etc., and all the goods are tax-free (trekkers call the place the “goretex paradise”).
We took a boat ride over the waters of the Beagle channel, which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and separates Argentina from Chile. The sights were amazing.
We were see the Andes, with its snowy peaks. We passed by a few islets, home for marine birds, lions, penguins, among others, and we also got close to the lighthouse “Les Éclereurs”, the post card of the city.
We were, literally, in the end of the world!


In the evening, we had a snack at the Tante Sara coffee shop, which was pretty good.

Nov 14th, 2009
We drove to the base of the mountain called “Cerro Martial”, in which there is a glacier with the same name, as well as a skiing slope, that was closed. We trekked all the way up to the top of the mountain, walking on snow. The view below was spectacular.


After getting back to the village, we went to Cantina Fueguina de Freddy and ordered the regional delicatessen called “centolla”, that it is a giant crab.
In the afternoon, we went shopping and once more had a snack at the Tante Sara coffee shop.

Nov 15th, 2009
We went on a tour to the “Tierra del Fuego” Natural Reserve. The first stop was a train that in the past was used to carry prisoners from the Ushuaia’s penitentiary and that received criminals from the whole country. Nowadays, it is a touristic point.

Afterwards, we headed for the Ensenada Bay, which is part of the Beagle Channel, surrounded by snowy peaked mountains.
There is a post office at the end of the park, where you can get your passport stamped with the inscription “Fin del Mundo”, which means “end of the world” in Spanish.

We walked through the forest. After that, we went to the Roca Lake, which is encircled by snowy mountains.
We also went to see barriers built by beavers and we finally finished the tour in the Lapataia bay, where Route # 3 ends (this rout leads from Ushuaia all the way to Alaska and is about 17 thousand kilometers long, passing by Buenos Aires). During the way back, the tour guide explained to us some of the habits of the indigenous people that used to inhabit the region (Yamanás, Selkman, Onas peoples etc.).

Back to Ushuaia Village, we had lunch in a place called La Rueda, a self-service restaurant that serves lamb, and which is very good!

Nov 16th, 2009

Magellan Strait
We woke up at 4h00 a.m., in order to catch the bus that left at 5h00 and headed to Punta Arenas, in Chile. The trip was quite tiring: it lasted 12 hours, some roads being made of gravel. Leaving Ushuaia, we crossed the range of mountains while a strong snowstorm was falling. We stopped for immigration to cross the border between Argentina and Chile and after a while, got back to the typically Patagonian desert: flat and filled with animas such as sheep, llamas and wild cats. We could still see the Andes from the distance. We crossed the Magellan Strait, which is in Chile, and binds the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. We finally arrived at Punta Arenas, and spent the night in a hostel called “Avenida”.

Nov 17th, 2009
We walked from the hostel to bus station and took a bus from Punta Arenas, which is a convenient hub, to Puerto Natales. The trip lasted 4 hours. Puerto Natales, in Chile, is a very charming city, lying on the base of the Andes, and has a very cool atmosphere. We were looking for a car rental and therefore got to know the hilarious Mr. “Patricio Porras”, who rented us a 4 wheeler jeep. We then headed to the “Torres del Paine” Natural Reserve.

I can hardly find the words you describe such a beauty. Lakes in a variety of shades of blue surrounded colossal mountains and peculiar rocky formations, which had been sculptured by the work of climatic adversities and time.
As soon as we got to the park, we got lost and deviated from the main track. But, fortunately, we ended up in a beautiful and non-explored chain of peaks called Las Cumbras.

Once we got back to the right track we immediately caught the sight of the Reserve’s main attractions: Torres del Paine and Los Cuernos.

The towers are long and narrow rocky formations, resembling in their form the Sugar Loaf, in Rio de Janeiro, but only that there are 4 of them. “Los Cuernos” are rocks beautifully sculptured by the wheather and with permanent snow in some points. Driving through the roads inside of the Reserve, we passed by many lakes, lagoons and rivers that embraced the base of the Towers and the Cuernos and had tonalities that went from blue turquoise to dark green. Some of them were the Blue lagoon, Sarmiento Lake, Nordenskjold Lake, Pehoé Lake and river Paine.

In Pehoé lake lies a hotel over a small island, attached to the land by a tiny bridge. We stopped at some points to take pictures and then, when the night fell, we went to look for a place to stay.

Los Cuernos

Los Cuernos

Lake Pehoe

We spent the night in a hotel just outside of one of the Reserve’s entrance. The hotel provided a spectacular view, facing the Cuernos. We had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, admiring the view and tasting a good Chilean wine.

Nov 18th, 2009
Torres del Paine Natural Reserve is a very popular destination among the trekkers. Therefore, we decided to go trekking as well. It was a magnificent experience, although a little tiring. We drove to the beginning of the track, which starts at Hotel Torres. Leaving the jeep there, we began our walk.

We had walked about 4 hours when we reached our target: the base of the Torres del Paine rocks. 

The sight was breath-taking: we were at the very base of the towers. To our surprise, there was a small blue turquoise lagoon surrounding the formations, due to the ice defrosting. We set on the floor for a while to admire the view and meanwhile had a small snack to recover our energies.


We, then, headed back. The whole walk took us around 7 hours. We got back to Puerto Natales and returned the jeep.

Nov 19th, 2009
We took a bus to the city of El Calafate, getting back to Argentina. This small village is lovely: located between the shore of Argentino Lake (the biggest lake in Argentina) and the base of the Andes chain of mountains, it is filled with restaurants, souvenir and chocolate shops.
On the bus station, we met a couple from Belgium and we agreed to share a cab to take us to the Perito Moreno Glaciers, inside Parque Los Glaciares, main attraction of the place. The taxi driver drove us for about 80 km. He first stopped on the so called “bend of sighing”, where we could catch a glimpse of what was about to be one of the most beautiful things that we had ever seen. Evidently, this bend was thus named because it is impossible not to sigh when we first see the glacier.

We approached the glacier, which is thoroughly amazing: it is a huge ice wall, sculptured by the action of the weather, over rivers that form the Argentino Lake. The ice has a bluish color, and is formed by interesting geometrical forms. We walked over some platforms, built around the glacier, that provide an all angles view. People say we are not only to see the glacier, but also to hear it, because it sings. Actually, since the ice is constantly settling, it produces many sounds. While we were there, several pieces of ice got loose and fell, causing a bang and a series of waves. We spent around 3 hours there.


Once back to Calafate, we went for a walk in the village Center and had dinner. For dessert, we had ice-cream made from “calafate”, a typical small berry from the region, after which the village was named.

Nov 20th, 2009
In the morning we just went for a walk, and then, later on, we took a bus to Bariloche, in the lake region of Argentina.

Nov 21st, 2009
After 28 hours on the roads, we finally got to Bariloche (we actually regretted not having caught a plane). We looked for a hotel and found the comfortable and convenient View Hotel, close to the city center. That night we had a cheese fondue at Le Marmite restaurant.

Nov 22nd, 2009
We could not manage to rent a car that day, since they were all taken. Therefore, we took a regular bus that ran throughout the whole city, in a route called “circuito chico” (small circuit). The bus bordered the Nahuel Huapi lake and passed by several luxury hotels and mansions. We got off the bus close to the Campanário mount and rented two bikes. We rode around Moreno lake, Lopes bay, among others, and passed by Llao Llao Hotel (one of the most famous hotels in Argentina). 

For dinner, we went to El Boliche de Alberto restaurant and had a delicious “chorizo” stake.

Nov 23rd, 2009
We finally could manage to find a car to rent. After taking it, we headed the lake region. We passed by the lovely Angostura Village and began the 7 Lakes Route, passing by the following lakes: Espelho Grande, Espelho Pequeno, Correntoso, Escondido, Villarino, Falkner and Machônico, and also by the Vullignanco waterfall. At the end of this route, we found the bucolic village of San Martín de Los Andes, on the margins of Lácar Lake. We stopped there to go for a walk and get something to eat.

San Martin de Los Andes village

We went further on, passing by Lolog Lake and through the village of San Junin de Los Andes, all the way to Tromen lake and to the modest Lanín volcano.
On the way back, we stopped at Huelchulafquen Lake. The landscape was really special at dusk: the lakes looked like mirrors and there was mist over them. We had pizza in Angostura Village and went back to Bariloche (that day we covered a total amount of 700 km).

Nov 24th, 2009
We went to Catedral Mount and Otto Mount, since it was a sunny morning, but it soon began to rain heavily. Therefore, we decided to stay in central Bariloche, stuffing ourselves with chocolate and wine. We got back early to the hotel.

Nov 25th, 2009
We drove to the base of Campanário Mount and from there we took a cable car up to its top. The landscape was just spectacular: we could see the entire lake region, as well as the Andes. 

Afterwards, we drove to the base of Lopez Mount. Once we got there, we walked up almost to its top, but not all the way to the end, due to the melting snow, which made the ground very slippery. The view was also amazing.

On the way back to Bariloche we stopped at the cool Blest pub, on Bustillo road. They produce their own beer. We got back to the hotel and had pasta for dinner at “Boliche de Alberto Pasta”.

Nov 26th, 2009
It was a beautiful sunny day, so we went to the Nahuel Huapi Park. The road bordered the beautiful gold-green watered Mascardi lake. 

Behind the lake, we could see the back part of Catedral Mount, with its triangular peaks.

Further, there was the “Monte Tronador”, an extinct volcano, with glaciers and waterfalls around it. We walked to its base, where the river “Manso” rises, beneath the ice, walking over the bed of the almost dried river.
We startled when a piece of ice broke off, causing a loud bang. As we were under trees, we could not see what was happening. We started running away very quickly, expecting a waterspout or something alike... when we finally realized that nothing had happened, but only piece of ice had broken off, causing the bang, we bursted into laughter! We then got the meaning of the name "Tronador", which means "thunder", and that the name was given because of the noise made by the release of ice. We climbed the rocks to see the source of the river.

Tronador Mount

Manso River Source

One kilometer away, there is a glacier called Ventisquero Negro (meaning "black snow"), which is in the process of melting, causing very interesting rock formations, within an almost dried pond.

Ventisquero Negro

Alerces waterfall
We continue up to Alerces waterfall, and then, back to Bariloche.

Nov 27th, 2009
We drove to Traful Village, through another road (road 237). We passed by interesting natural formations on the road, called the "Amphitheatre" and then by the “Vale Encantado”, bordering a river of emerald green color. We got to a gravel road, passing by the Traful Lake

We stopped at Angostura village and had trout for lunch. Afterwards, we went to the small village harbor, where the lake Nahuel Huapi presents its loveliest tonalities, ranging from turquoise blue and pale green.

Nov 28th, 2009
We walked around the old center of Bariloche and did some shopping. In the afternoon we took the flight that got us back Buenos Aires and had dinner once more in Puerto Madero. In the day after, we got back to Brazil.