A Travellerspoint blog

Torres del Paine

The Israeli fire aftermath


The plan for the highlight of this leg, Torres Del Paine, was slightly changed owing to the fact that two weeks previous some Israelis accidentally set fire to the park and it spread taking out most of the park.

Under normal circumstances we would have had the option to do the W walk which is a four day trek through the beautiful park. As some of the park was still burning, and most of the rest was either unsafe or the campsites and refuges had been burned.  Fortunately they opened some areas of the park just in time for our stay so we were able to do some walking, although we did have to be accompanied by a local guide, who turned out to be a complete waste of space as he couldn't speak a word of English.

When we arrived at the park he announced that we'd have to walk for 20 minutes. There was uproar on truck as our tents are really heavy and theres  no way you could carry them and a backpack for twenty minutes. After all refusing to go he finally managed to explain that this was just a walk and afterwards we'd drive to camp. I think he was a bit confused by the fact that we'd gone the one of the most famous hiking places and didn't want to do a 20 minute walk!

When we finally understood, we all got off the truck and went for the walk, this was our first experience of or guides inability to judge timings as we were walking for over an hour. It was very beautiful though. And we got our first glimpses of the towers, a strange three peak rock formation that overshadows the whole park.  We also saw some of the lakes and wildlife of the park.  It's so beautiful, you really could stay here and explore for a a very long time.

The next morning we headed out on the truck for a drive around the park to get a glimpse of as
Much as we could in the short time we were staying there. We stopped several times along the way for some hiking but the most amazing was a stop we made on the edge of a huge glacier lake.  The lake itself was stunning, the strange murky blue water you get in glacier lakes.  We walked around it and then through the middle on the natural pebble walkway that had formed.  On the other side we climbed over a hill and at the tip there was the most beautiful view of the glacier and several pieces of the glacier that had broken off.  It was such a lovely walk.

We then walked up to a waterfall and several other lakes before heading back to camp.  We were all absolutely shattered, some took the roof seats back to enjoy the ride but the rest of us flakes out.  As we were approaching camp we were told we were going for another walk back to camp. Most people declined but three of us were persuaded to go and we were told it was only an hour anyway.  Everyone else headed back to camp and off we went in our little hike.

The hike was lovely across hills that were home to many guanacas, which look a little like a large deer. We were surrounded by them. We saw the  little watchouts they had set up to look out for pumas who come
Out at night to kill. The whole area was surrounded by bones some of which were freshly killed.  A bit spooky but fascinating at the same time.

Claire and I had let Dan ad the guides go on ahead as we were enjoying taking pictures and the next thing we know Dan is running back looking very excited. When he reached us he tells us we may not want to move ahead as there was something horrible ahead. Obviously we did carry on and we saw a guanaca who had got completed tied up in the barbed wire fence. Her legs were all tangled and it looked like she'd been there a while. Despite that she was still alive and very alert so we started on a mission to free her from the fence. The guides were trying to cut the wire and sent us off for rocks to help.  Dan picked up a perfect sized rock for the job but immediately dropped it as there was a large spider on it. He took a picture of it and when we showed the guides they told us it was a black widow. There is no anti venom for a black widow spider bite. Dan had been very lucky.

After a long time we eventually freed the guanaca, but then we discovered that her legs were broken and she had been pecked at quite badly by birds. There was nothing we could do to save her. It was a very sad ending, we all thought we'd be able to rescue her.

We carried on our walk seeing more of the killer spiders and mire beautiful walks.  We saw some paintings done by the locals thousands of years ago on some rocks.  All pretty cool stuff.  The guides were clearly getting very excited and ignored there own advice and started taking us off the tracks and freestyling.

Three hours in to our one hour walk, with no food or drink we started to wander how much longer this was going on for and when we'd reach camp. We were told 35 minutes.  An hour later we returned to the start point of our walk and we still hadnt started the trek to camp.

It was at this point that we saw our truck driving towards us. We genuinely thought that Noone would have noticed we'd been gone so long but it turns out they'd all been really worried and were majorly panicking about us. After lots of hugging and relief, we headed back to camp for a good feed and a massive glass of vino.

The next day was big hike day.  It was an 8 hour hike over very steep and very rocky terrain.  It was an amazing day though, following the trail of a river with waterfalls and beautiful scenery.  It felt like the walk would never end but when we finally reached to base of the towers we were awestruck. It was amazing. The area opened up into a big lake with the towers as backdrop. A beautiful
Place to stop and relax and made the whole walk worthwhile.
After the long trek back down we had to pack up ready for an early departure the next day.

Torres del paine is stunning. It was a real shame that the fires happened as we saw
Miles and miles of burnt out trees. I can only imagine how beautiful it is in all it's glory, considering how amazing it was in it's current state. A wicked few days :-)

Posted by selson 10:08 Archived in Chile Comments (1)


The end of the world


We arrived in Ushuaia around midday on 10th Jan. We were supposed to spend 2 nights there but owing to the fact that some Israelis burnt down insignificant part of Torres del Paine, we could no longer spend 4 nights there and we decided to extend our time in Ushuaia.

Unfortunately there still wasn't enough time to pop over to Antarctica, which would have been incredible, but there were plenty more things for us to do. 

The first afternoon was a free afternoon so we organised the activities we wanted to do for the next two days and then chilled for the afternoon, before hitting one of the two pubs in the town.

The next day I had booked to go on a boat trip along the beagle channel. It was a fairly early start but well worth it. We sailed around the channel stopping at several islands to see the wildlife, mainly seals, sea lions and cormorants. It was really beautiful and very cold!!!

A lazy afternoon attempting to share photos with people back home.

A group of us decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal for a change. Antarctic king crab being the local delicacy I ended up overdosing and having it for starter and for main. My main was amazing, king crab, seabass, octopus and king prawns. Mmmmm scrummy.

Next day was a very busy day. We started early with a tour around the national park. We did several walks and went to the end of the world to get passports stamped and the usual tourist photos.  It was beautiful there by lakes and mountains.

In the afternoon, jo and I went to visit an island to see the penguins. We were both shattered and fell asleep on the bus dazed and confused with no idea where we were. Fortunately we didn't miss the penguins. Whilst we waited for the boat to take us to the island we took a short tour around the museum there which researches dolphins, whales and penguins. They get a lot of them washing up on the shore of Ushuaia so they have been able to do a lot of research into them all. We learnt all about the differences between dolphins and whales and the types of penguins we'd see on the island before we had to leave to catch the boat.

We were told on the boat that we shouldn't get within less than 2 metres of the penguins unless they come to you. I don't know quite what I was expecting but what I got was amazing. There were hundreds of penguins everywhere and you literally had to step over them at times.  The chicks had recently hatched so we saw lots of babies and the nests. Some of them were very funny mimicking our movements. We even saw one sat happily on a bench. I have no idea how he got there.

When we reached the end of the walk we landed on a beach full of them diving in and out of the water. As the boat pulled up, they all moved aside tinker us board and off we went back to the mainland.

That night we had our first eat all you can Argentinian BBQ. It was so nice, and quite disgusting at the same time. I must have eaten my own body weight in red meat.  BBQ lamb is something very special!!

That was the end of our time in Ushuaia, it was a very odd little town but with some amazing wildlife and beautiful views. A wicked place to spend a few days. 

After Ushuaia we had a few long drive days to get back to civilisation, destination Torres del Paine where we were hoping to do lots of hiking.  We had some very odd bush camps along the way, staying at derelict towns and random lakes. We didn't always feel entirely safe but it was good fun and with Torres del
Paine being the highlight of this leg we were all excited about what lay ahead.....

Posted by selson 10:03 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

New years day and bariloche

Chile to Argentina again!


New years day was a little subdued for most, with lazy starts. I had volunteered to cook dinner. A feast of roast turkey with all the trimmings. It turned out to be a bad choice. Cooking turkey for 24 people in two gas ovens which are either on or off with limited utensils was hard work and took all day. Made worse by the fact that everyone loved it but did nothing but grumble about how long it took. There's no pleasing some people. I did make the best cauliflower cheese ever though!

In the evening we took a visit to the local hot pools. We were told we had 2 hours there but after sitting in tepid water for an hour we said we wanted to head back. it was at this point that the guide told us that there were in fact 8 pools and we had only sat in the coldest one. So we got back into our swimming stuff and got back in. They were amazing!

All that remained was to get home have a trio of desserts and then hit the sack before leaving pucon the following morning.

The next day we were exiting chile again to head to bariloche in chile. We were due to be staying in a hostel but when we arrived at the most beautiful looking chalets, we were told they didn't have room for us so off we went in search of a campsite. Everyone was pretty fed up as we'd all been looking forward to a decent nights sleep after new years madness so when we arrived at the campsite there was a bit of a nasty atmosphere. Later on we realised that we ended up with a much better deal as we were camped right next to a beautiful lake in a really lovely campsite. 

First night was just shopping and decide and book activities night, but after a decry sleep we got a little more into bariloche.

The next day we had a lazy morning in the sunshine before a few of us headed out for some kayaking in the afternoon. I was very excited about my first attempt at kayaking and I wasn't disappointed. We drove to a different lake where we were acquainted with our kayaks. They were two man kayaks and I teamed up with Sarah. We were given little skirts to wear and our paddles and then we hopped in our kayaks. It was a boiling by day so we all burned ourselves on the black seats. 

We kayaked the length of the lake stopping at a little beach for a swim, a dulce de
Leche cake and a cup of coffee before heading back across the lake. The journey back was tougher as we were against the wind but Sarah and I had got into it and managed to get some speed up.

That night we chilled out on the beach by the lake with a bonfire and drinks where we also spent the following day.

After bariloche we had 5 drive days to get down to Ushuaia, the most southerly town in the world. We cAmped the whole way, sometimes in campsites and occasionally bush camping at the side of the road somewhere.

The drive and camping was very tiring and the scenery was pretty boring but we had a lot of fun along the way and made
The best of things. It would all be worth it when we hit Ushuaia!

Posted by selson 13:38 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

New years eve madness

Volcano madness


We arrived in pucon on 30th December with enough time to sign up for an early morning trek up villarrica volcano and to shop for new years day roast dinner feast. We were staying in a very cute little hostel which we had to ourselves so it was a proper home for a few days.

At 4am the following morning - new years eve - we were donning our very sexy trekking gear and packing our crampons and other random clothes into our backpacks ready for the 4:30 departure to the volcano. After a short argument over a missing water bottle (which was stolen by crew) we crammed our irritable morning selves into the minibus for the drive to the volcano. Fortunately by the time we arrived at the volcano everyone was feeling more awake.

We straight away got off the minibus and donned the trousers and jackets we were given to wear and then were straight away told that we'd be too hot and to take it all off. Obviously we didn't listen so five minutes into the hike we were all roasting. 

The hike to the first stop point was ok, on gravel although pretty steep. But as soon as we hit the Snow it all changed. The guides explained how to walk on the ice. With the ice pick as a prop on the highest side of you, and to dig your feet into the snow.  We were not allowed robust the crampons we had been given. It was really tough going. Very steep and in places no loose snow to dig your feet into. I'd love to say it was enjoyable but it really wasn't.  As soon as we reached the next rest stop and looked back on what we had hiked, we all started panicking about how we were going to get back down. It was at this time that I started to feel a little bit of vertigo kicking in and could only look at my feet whilst hiking.

On the next stretch i slipped in the ice and realised quickly how dangerous this walk was. There was literally nothing to stop you once you started falling. Especially if you were a little bit
Useless with your ice pick. 

After the next rest stop things started getting seriously steep and with people constantly falling and taking all of the grippy snow off leaving only thick ice to walk on, I was seriously considering giving up. I was genuinely hating every minute.

When we were close to the top, jo started feeling feignt and was
Told she coolant continue. I decided straight away to turn back at this point too. I couldn't face anymore and just wanted to get the hell out of there.

The guide dug two little seats in the ice for jo and I to sit on to regain some composure. We quickly sat down and it was freezing.  We were supposed to sit on our backpacks. We got on our backpacks and then were told to put all of the gear on that they had given us. Easier said than done when you are sat on ice with a sheer drop and all your clothes are in the backpack that you are currently sitting on.

I didn't have the ability to stand at this point and neither did jo, so there was a slightly awkward moment when we were both digging around in our backpacks whilst sitting on them.

First up was trousers. I managed to get my legs in but they were quite tight so getting them over my bum was tough. Eventually the guide, who was stood over me trying to stop me from sloping down the volcano suggested that I stand up to get them on. He was starting to get slightly frustrated with the two useless women freaking out on the ice.  Eventually I got them on.

Next up, pampers. Or the padded thing we had to put on to protect our bums for the descent. I could not work out how to put these on, and the guide finally broke and realised he was going to have to step in and dress us. After lots of "open your legs" we were finally pampered up.  Gaters next. He explained how to put them on, hooking them onto your shoes and velcroing up your leg. I finally managed this myself. But apparently I did it wrong and they were quickly whipped off and put on again by the guide.  

All that was left to do was to clip on the little bit of round plastic to our belts. This would be what we would slide down this almost vertical drop on in some shallow runs. When we realised this again we freaked. How the he'll we were going to do this in a controlled fashion when we couldn't even stand on the ice was beyond me.

The guide attached the plastic to my waistband at the front and then shoved the circular by through my legs so that it would be possible to sit on it.

He then got in the run and explained how to sit to best avoid snapping your legs or flipping round and breaking your neck.  We had to sit upright, legs in front and together, using the ice pick as a break to control speed and digging your feet in to stop yourself.

Jo and I very awkwardly got ourselves in the run and then we were off. It was the best thing ever! You went so fast and controlling speed was pretty easy. It was amazing and we got down the first section in no time. Unfortunately for our guide, I forgot how to stop myself, so whilst I could control speed I couldnt stop so at the end of the run I went smashing into him. He did not look impressed.  Especially when jo reached us and crashed into both of us.

We walked the short distance to the next run and then we were told that we couldn't use the
Plastic for this one as we couldn't control the speed. After much sulking because we wanted to go in this run, we realised that what he meant was, that we would still slide down but this time just on bums as it was really steep and if you do it on the plastic you're likely to pop or of the run on the corners.

This run was wicked as it was really bendy, and very fast. When we got to the bottom I really lost control and went hurtling into the guide again. When jo hit us, I managed to go between the guides legs, hit him in a very sensitive place and knocked him over so we were all piled on top of each other.  Fortunately by this time he was beginning to find the whole ordeal quite funny.

He then got us ready for the next run. Getting plastics in place and sitting us in the run. He then told us he was going to
Speak to some other guides and
Would be back shortly. About 30 minutes later, jo and I were bored and hungry so decided
To tuck into our roast chicken sandwiches. A tricky operation when one hand is holding the ice
Pick which is the only thing holding you on the volcano and
Your sandwich is tucked away in your backpack which is still
On your back.

After another 30 minutes or so, the guide came back with a very hysterical and rather large Israeli lady, who would be joining us for the rest of the descent. After the same palaver getting ready for the slide she started properly getting hysterical saying she wasn't getting in the run and wouldn't slide. This went on for ages and you could tell the guide was getting really angry with her. We all tried to calm her down but she was having none of it so he
Told jo and I to go on without him. This time I started panicking. So far I'd only been able to stop by using the guide and now I was at the front with nothing to stop me hurtling off the side of this thing. Eventually he managed to get then israeli in the run so he could go at the front again and off we went with Israeli at the back.

It was a fairly easy run and the guide, jo and I had a safe landing at the bottom of it.  However when we turned around we saw the huge Israeli lady hurtling at us face first with absolutely nothing controlling her speed.  We all shot out of the run so we didn't get smashed by her but she still managed to crash into the very angry guide. 

He sat her in the snow to recover and se scooped all the snow out of her cleavage whilst
Properly sobbing. It was about this time that she realised that shed taken the skin off of both elbows and really started screaming about it. We were all
Losing patience with her and a couple of brazilians arrived and found the whole situation hilarious and laughed in her face, which made it even worse. She was crying for us all to stop laughing at her but it was too funny.

There was one run left on the steep stuff. The Israeli was playing up again and when she stood up se slipped and kicked the guide in the back of the legs and really hurt him. So jo and I were now sat in a run with a hysterical Israeli and a guide who couldn't walk.  We were told to go ahead so this time jo and I went alone. This one was fine and we made a safe landing at the bottom.  We ditched the Israeli at the chairlift and did the final run with just the three of us.

All that was left was the final walk down to the minibus with a limping guide and then we were back on safe ground listening to music and eating our leftover lunch whilst we waited for the rest of the group to get back.

We got back to the hostel and had a little sleep ahead of the nights activities.

New years eve night mainly consisted of lots of punch and a BBQ. The BBQ was amazing, lamb, beef, kebabs - yummy!! No plates though so lots of burnt fingers along the way.

After the BBQ we headed to the harbour for the firework display. It was the best firework display I've ever seen and it went on for ages. Lots of bubbly, photos with locals and general happy new year type activities, we made
Our way to the square to listen to the live music that was playing there.  Lots of lovely dancing and some
Stage invasions later we headed towards a club to carry on with the party.  Along the way the guide from the volcano who had spent the evening with us, asked
Me if the person in the street was one of my friends. I looked over and saw that one of our group was just stood swaying in the street. He had no idea how he got there or how long he'd been there but he insisted on joining us at the club as he didn't have a card for the hotel. It seemed to make sense at the time so off we went carrying him with us to the club.

We went to the worst club in the world, complete with foam machine, but it was good fun. Lots of dancing and general stupidity until I realised that Ut was 4am and I'd been up for
24 hours and I needed my bed. Back to the hostel for tea and cake and then to bed for a well deserved rest.

Probably one of the funniest new years ever and definitely one to remember!!

Posted by selson 13:29 Archived in Chile Comments (1)


Sushi and shopping!!


On 27th dec we hit the road again and made our second entrance to chile, destination Santiago where this leg of the tour ended.  We were all happy to be greeted by Rudi the tour leader who'd spent a couple of months waiting for the new truck to clear customs. It seemed like a good time to celebrate but we arrived late and jaded after all the Christmas antics so an attempt to go out in the very ropey bar next to the hostel for food and drinks was a bit of a disaster. Raw egg soup and a dodgy beer later, and it was home to sleep.

The following day I went on yet another mission to replace the stolen camera and this time there was success!! After replacing that I spent the day walking around the city centre, had the most amazing sushi ever and had a good old shop.

In the evening it was back to welcome meeting time. We had a few people leaving and 6 joining so naturally this led to a group dinner which weirdly wasn't a total organisational nightmare for a change. We went to a new part of town with rooftop restaurants which was nice as Santiago is hot! Few beers later and we found ourselves in the kraaoke bar next to the hostel which I hate so I made a quick exit to my room to pack my things ready for our departure the following morning.

I had a great time in Santiago but as with some of the other cities, there wasn't a great deal of tourist stuff to do there. It's very clean and pretty and worth a visit for sure.

Our next proper stop was to be pucon in chile where we would see the new year in but we had a stopover on the way at salta de laja. 

We left Santiago without a campsite booked and as a result our expectations were pretty low. How wrong we were.

Our campsite was located at the very top of the most beautiful waterfall. It was amazing. You could take a short walk down to the bottom of the waterfall, which I did.  Unfortunately, a massive bee like creature took a liking to me and decided to bully me for the whole walk down, the whole time I was down at the edge of the waterfall and the walk back up. It wasn't very pleasant so that was the end of that lovely experience!

When I got back to the top some of the group were bathing in the water and others had found little "islands" to sit on and catch up with the other truck. I joined them for a little while, getting covered in waterfall slime the whole way across.  Sitting at the top of a waterfall was so nice, although we did get drenched when the wind decided to blow the spray all over us.

All that was left to do was to enjoy cook group dinner, have a few glasses of Chilean wine and go to sleep to the sound of the waterfall.

The following day we headed off to pucon to prepare for our new year celebrations. Much fun was had there, so it deserves it's own blog entry. You can expect mass
Shopping, volcano climbing, volcano tobogganing, Israeli accidents, BBQs, fireworks, hot pools and roast dinners! Until next time .....

Posted by selson 19:08 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

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