Lake Crossing continued

I enjoy a lazy day at the hotel, which began with a scrumptious breakfast. Harold heads out to the little cemetery and other jaunts. I imagine a planter like this in my front yard. Wow. It’s time to say farewell to this pretty spot…the old hotel next to the newer hotel. We embark again at 4:30, on the way to Petrohue, navigating Todos los Santos Lake.The views of Volcan Osorno and other volcanoes is lovely. She’s a perfect cone, comparable to Japan’s Mt. Fuji! And she’s active.

Then we continue by bus while bordering the Llanquihue Lake (yankee-way lake) and make a stop at this stunning site….Petrohue Falls. Molten lava hardened above a glacier (a long time ago) which is resisting erosion from this fast flowing river.

And then we arrive at Puerto Varas.

This visual shows the full 2-day Cruce Andino (Andean Cruise). This German school is the first structure we see as we enter this Swiss and German-influenced city. We are staying at this bed and breakfast, Chilean-owned. A very clean and comfortable brightly lit bedroom with bathroom. Staying for 6 nights. A city that boasts they have the best quality of life in Chile. Should be pleasant! Feeling spoiled, again.

An overnight in Puella, while crossing the lakes

We have nearly a full afternoon and all evening to explore Puella, a remote little place in amongst the lakes. We are told there are horses we can ride, and there is a 4X4 that will take us into the mountains. And there’s a little zip line too. But we choose to walk. We have several destinations…This is the cool open-sided 4X4 that trucked on by.With rain jackets and rain pants on, we walk to a waterfall. A beautiful walk in the forest. It’s the very first and only time we’ve worn our rain pants….time to put them to use. Next to the hotel, there’s also the old hotel, with a charming little bar still in use. It will open later at night. And there’s beautiful gardens on the grounds to walk through. We walk to the dairy farm we passed with the bus, on the way to our hotel. There’s rarely anyone traveling these roads except for the tour company who brought us here. These foxgloves are prolific in the ditches. Our Natura Hotel in the background.

After reaching the farm, we return and walk in the other direction, through the tiny village of Puella, stopping at the tiny store, and then on to the pier.

And back to the lovely hotel. We have a meal in the glass roofed solarium with a wall of windows overlooking the peaceful landscape. It’s a very relaxing location! The oversized fireplaces are burning, and it’s cozy. Temps are very comfy for us….roughly 15-18.

Cruise: Lake Crossing to Chile

We had the most relaxing and beautiful 2 days/1 night! We cross the Andean lakes partly by boat and partly on bus through various unpaved passes to the other side of the Andes, to Chile.

We are taken to Puerto Pañuelo, near Bariloche, where we board the Gran Victoria catamaran to sail the Nahuel Huapi Lake (about 1 h). There is a group of teenagers on the boat for the first hour; they are a fun bunch and we all feed the seagulls from the boat; the gulls work hard to conquer the air streams so they can manage the feeding from our hands. At the end of the lake, we take a 10 minute bus, and then once in Puerto Blest we continue aboard the South Victoria catamaran by Lake Frías (about 30 min). The water is a beautiful green. Then by bus to Peulla. In Peulla, we enter the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park that is absolutely special…a narrow gravel road through a large native forest! The guide on the bus offers to take our photo. Of course, we never “get ready” for these portraits, and later I regret that my pockets are stuffed with my phone and all sorts of stuff, and I’m wearing my fat money belt around my waist (LOL) as our luggage is in transit with the boat crew. Anyway, we find ourselves in picturesque locations alright, but with a single point and shoot photo, there’s usually something that’s not quite right. Sigh. Yes, my perfectionism surfaces in these comments.

We cross the border into Chile. We spend one night at the Natura Hotel. All the woodwork is so warm and welcoming. The bus leaves us here (at 2:30 pm) and will return for us tomorrow in the late afternoon. This lake crossing will be continued. We have most of the afternoon and most of tomorrow to do a variety of explorations. Although it’s cloudy, and misty or raining at times, it’s gorgeous! So picturesque…..more photos to follow.

Campanario, Llao Llao Hotel, native forest walk, lake views

Another 1/2 day outing with Karen through the Kawen Adventure company. Freddy’s kids are graduating today so we have a new driver. I’m pleased we are getting to see the west side of Bariloche….that Llao Llao park/loop looked interesting on the map, and we are…going to explore it. Chair lifts up Campanario Hill. The pano view is stunning…these photos don’t compare.The famous and elite Llao Llao hotel. What a cool looking structure this is!! The original chapel for the Llao Llao Hotel. The altar made of one solid chunk of wood, and the pieces of art and stained glass all exquisitely crafted by well-known artists. We could only drive by it; entrance within is not allowed, unless you’re the likes of Eisenhower, Clinton, Obama; the G20 was held here 3X. It’s a national monument. With the imprint of Switzerland, inaugurated in 1938. They chose this site with great care, at the foothills of the Andes, with the highest Chilean peak behind them and stunning lake views before them. We could vaguely see the moose antler hanging lamps (chandeliers) inside, and I thought of my good hunter friend with his many skills. Perhaps Germ could wire-up one of these beauties?! And this native Arrayan forest (a type of myrtle) is super special! It’s orange because of the tanin in it’s bark. This plant that starts as a bunch becomes a tree in one of three ways – it produces a 5-petal flower and a sapling grows, saplings graft onto it, and branches in close proximity graft onto it. It has a super thin bark and is exceptionally COLD to the touch because it contains so much water. Some of the trees are 500-600 years old, or even older. There’s an interesting story about how this legendary, elite, world-class hotel got it’s name. An edible fungus called Llao Llao grows on beech trees in Patagonia (southern Chile and Argentina). The fungus affects the tree internally in it’s sap ducts and so the tree reacts and defends itself by generating galls (growths) to bypass the sap blockages. The fungus expands out of the galls, sending out its fruits that look like golf balls (with dents). The natives ate the fungal fruits and found them to be very sweet, and in the native language, sweet is “Llao”. When it’s very sweet, or extra sweet, the natives repeat the word, and called it “Llao Llao”. And so…the legendary, elite hotel is named after the taste of a fungus! We smelled the sweet fruits that were laying all over the forest floor but no photo. The pebble beach where we had our lunch prepared by an accomplished chef. This Chilean and Argentinian travel is more upper-end than our norm!! We shall bring things “down” in the new year! Loved traveling with this Singapore family today! Had another awesome day out and about Bariloche.

Road trip – lakes, waterfall hike, picnic, village, and so much blooming broom!

We head out in a small van with Kawen Adventure company, with driver Freddy, and guide Karen (of Danish and British origin). They are fun and fabulous! We didn’t hire a private tour, but we were the only two, so all attention on us, haha! We head east along Lago Nahuel Huapi (Na-whale Wha-pee) seeing Bariloche and the ski slopes across the water, and then head north on the gorgeous 7 Lakes Route # 40 alongside one of the lake’s 7 arms, past pretty little Villa la Angostura, to a small parking space to enter the forest. We take a hike through the woods, witnessing a natural phenomenon, where a cane-family plant related to bamboo goes to flower and seed once in every 60 years after which it dies and begins again. The branches are hanging heavily with seed that looks and smells like wheat, and we are covered in it. Although it is not raining, it is wet, and therefore the rain jackets. After a 45-minute walk, we confirm that every forest has a hidden mystery to reveal…..we are delighted to find the gorgeous Nivinco Waterfalls. We spend some time here before hiking back and then look for a sheltered picnic spot, next to the brilliant blooming broom and a river. Our lunch is gourmet, prepared by an excellent chef, including roasted vegetables, smoked salmon, a special red wine dedicated to Che Guevara, quiches, tarts, fruit, etc. It’s more than we can eat in one sitting. Karen shares a WEALTH of info about the landscape, the geology, the history, and I don’t know where to begin with the highlights. She is well-educated and passionate about the area, knowing precisely where the rivers drain to, how far they flow, when and where we enter a new province, what the province is rich in, the age and height of the mountains that surround us including their native names, the number of guanacos that roamed here before the arrival of the Spanish, how the Pacific and continental plates affected the land formations, and so on! We have a ton of fun, talking about “regular” stuff too…our families, the best drinks and eats in town, and such. 2A367C0C-8B6A-40BB-9779-6B06C4E0DA8EWithin 15 minutes of hitting the road, Freddy stops for a view and shares mate with us. He stuffed the cup with the picked/dried/ground mate leaves, first consumed by the natives. We are his guests, so the cup is passed to us first. I am to return the cup to him, without saying thank-you, as that would imply I don’t want any more. Usually, the person finishes the cup, and then he pours in more hot water and passes it to the next. This is repeated, where people have seconds and thirds, until they are satisfied. I acquire a taste for it easily….I know that “bitter” is healthy.

If it were clear out, this could be a mirror! It is called “mirror lake”! Karen has brought water shoes for us to cross the glacial streams, and fortunately they are not flowing too quickly, as it’s not raining! Yeah. There are more falls to the right and more down below! We can feel the spray. The forest is lush; it’s a rain forest!Our picnic spot.

The broom is going crazy. Yellow, yellow with orange or red, and yellow with white.

Too bad it’s not a little sunnier as the color of the water would pop! But the day is calm and comfortable with a hoody. This is the lakes route. We see Espejo and Correntoso Lakes. Returning now and passing through Villa la Angostura once again.

We enjoyed a stroll through this mountain village. This village is a leader in the country, abandoning the use of plastic bags, for one example only. They have bike paths and construction codes that restrict high-rise buildings, and building must be concealed behind the trees. It’s first industry was the sawmill, back in the 30s, but now it’s skiing/tourism. A few years back, the village was covered in a thick layer of ash, 2.5 meters, from a volcanic eruption that went on for 10 months! There are about 11,000 inhabitants although it looks smaller. I think 1/2 the population left after that eruption. Harold and I will likely return another day when we have a car rental, as we’re back in this area again later. There’s Bariloche again, in the center of the pic, across the water. Entering Bariloche. Yellow lupins and broom. “Home”

San Carlos de Bariloche in Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi

This pretty city in Northern Patagonia is known for it’s artisanal chocolate! Bonbons (choc) and tourism leads it’s economy. Skiing is big here at Cerro Catedral, Argentina’s oldest skiing resort since the 1930s (we see the snowy ski slopes in the distance). The first director of this Nahuel Huapi National Park visited Banff (did we know that Banff was the world’s first national park??!!), Yellowstone, and Switzerland and he wished to create an alpine imprint, a Swiss-ville imprint, in this part of the world. He succeeded….the very large, picturesque Nahuel Huapi National Park was established in 1934.

Moreno…..the geographical surveyor, scientist, biologist, explorer….HE was the father of National Parks; he played a significant role in defining/establishing the border in the Andes between Chile and Argentina, so that the government paid him in land which he re-donated to the country when he died, thereby creating the first national park.

The Swiss came here in 1880, crossing the Andes in wagons pulled by oxen, deforesting the mountains and farming…imagine that journey?! They brought the pine trees, and the eventually the architecture etc. Bariloche is very cosmopolitan now…..along with the Swiss colony, came the German, Danish, Austrian, Italian, Croatian, Lithuanian, Basque, Slovenian, Russian, and also the Indigenous, Chileans and Argentinians. The civic center!Mitre Street above….THE street with more chocolate shops than one would think is necessary! And they were filled with buyers! I don’t recall the price per gram that we are paying….but 4 small pieces of chocolate cost about $3.25 Cdn. And if you throw in one larger piece, which I have been known to do, it would total to more like $5.00 Cdn. It is DELICIOUS! Rapanui is the best, but there are countless companies. (They import the cacao of course.) Nearly irresistible tablets of gourmet chocolate….Santas galore. Mate, mate, mate. We are encountering the most well-behaved, sweet, adorable dogs on the streets. They are treated with respect and well-fed! We also found THE place for a delicious craft beer (or two)! This micro-brewery was exceptional…the outdoor patio spaces were packed, as was the bar, but there was ample seating upstairs too, and we had an enjoyable dinner here too. Tapas are popular, especially smoked cheeses and smoked meats. And the seafood is excellent too and that was our choice! Of course, we also hear about the “to-die-for” rib-eye and tenderloin but we are abstaining from the red meats, as per usual. I might want to fashion me a willow basket such as this for the front yard; I love it! It would be fitting with our prairies, and unique. I gather gardening ideas, regularly. Beautiful Bariloche on Lago Nahuel Huapi, as seen on one of our long walks along the lake, and from our hotel window! We spend three nights in Bariloche; on our arrival day we orient to the new city, and on the following two days we do excursions into the surrounding areas with evenings back in the city. Having a really great time!

Bariloche, Argentina

Distances are great in Patagonia. It would take DAYS to travel by land. Flying is the only way to go really. We have been in the deep south from Nov. 21 to Dec. 10. On Dec. 10, we flew from El Calafate, Argentina to Bariloche, Argentina. Flying over so much beautiful pure clean water, full of minerals from the glacier action of years gone by. Varying blues and greens.

The ride from the airport into the small city of Bariloche was stunning. I have never seen so much beautiful “broom” in bloom along both sides of the road, mile after mile after mile, non-stop. Such a cheerful greeting to our new “home”.

And our new home is a tad embarrassing. This is not our norm! We booked our Patagonia excursions through an Argentinian agent who provided a selection of 5 accommodations in each town/city, and we made our 1st choice of the 5. Clearly, her list of options exceeded our usual standards. Anyway, we are more comfortable in less formal and less outrageously expansive spaces, but we had three lovely 5-star sleeps in our king bed.

Found a delicious inexpensive vegan restaurant the first night. We are located on the very large Lake Argentina, which we saw from the air, with it’s many outreaching arms.

Final day in El Chalten

In El Chalten after our climb to Fitz Roy, we take a free day for relaxation…so fun too…wandering into Patagonia gear shops and bakeries with handmade empanadas and pastries of all sorts. And mate is THE drink here! Locals carry specially fashioned cases to carry their hot water thermos, the mate, and one cup and straw….shared with friends throughout their day.

Meanwhile, we’ve also shared the breakfast room with folks from the USA and Spain. This fellow traveler’s son was serving Mezner in Madrid, an alpinist from Austria and Italy, who showed up here in El Chalten today….and our fellow traveler met him incidentally at the bus depot/tourism office. It’s always fun to connect with other travellers and to share stories!

We were so pleased about the beautiful weather during all 4 days here. Windier than we’ve experienced elsewhere; but not a cold wind. It helped us feel comfortable under the warm sunny skies. We did not hike to Pliegue Tumbado from where you get impressive panoramic views of the Mounts Fitz Roy and Torre. Would have liked to!

We took an afternoon bus back to El Calafate, to spend a night before flying out from the airport there.

El Chalten – It’s still very outback, and a tiny gem we won’t forget!!

This is a photo of a photo that helps to get a fuller perspective of where we are hiking. The Torre, our first hike, to the left with two peaks immediately next to it, and FitzRoy just right of center. Several glaciers and Lagunas.

The mate culture is strong here in El Chalten, Argentina….really strong!

And there always seem to be an abundance of bakeries! Always! The “alfajores” sandwich cookies find us!

Patagonian chocolate cones to mimic the mountains, yes?

Great food all around, and opportunities to shop for specialty gear, and a spa I did not use!

Checked-in to our flight….leaving southern Patagonia to fly to northern Patagonia. Great memories.

Fitz Roy!

Hiked to Fitzroy and Laguna de Los Tres….the most spectacular viewpoints of this National Park!!! So glad we chose to do it! I enjoyed every step to get there (even though the last hour is a steep ascent!)

We take a 40 minute bus to the trailhead that will allow us to hike a loop rather than return by the same route. This small bus which easily fills to capacity had to be pre-booked the day before (there are just two departures daily, one at 8 and another at 9:30).

An hour or less into the hike, the sweat is running down my face, my heart is beating wildly, and my lungs are stretched nearly to their fullest. I talk to myself, convincing myself that this is my new normal for the next 7 hours….to just enjoy every moment, and know that it is completely possible to go beyond what I think is my limit….there is much more capacity than we think at first. Yep….from the start, I am thoroughly enjoying the choice I made to hike to Glacier Blanco and Fitz Roy mountain. 🙂

Way in the distance looms Fitz Roy…clouds above him, looks like he’s smoking.

I have the best video of these woodpeckers. They were so unbothered by us. And my were they busy….chop chop chop. Great entertainment.


Such cool cloud formations around here!

When we left this morning, we decided we’d wait and see how we felt when we got this far. We feel great so Laguna De Los Tres it will be!

Really, a video would more accurately capture the effort required.

Looking behind us to the right.

Behind us to the left.

We think we are arriving at the top.

But there’s more….moraine.

It was worth the effort!

The pano shots are WAY better (but too large to post). And being there tops every photo!

The return. After the steep one hour descent, the trail is new to us.

Fitz Roy is clear as can be during our descent.

We pass by Lago Capri and stop for some relaxation; it’s just too gorgeous a spot not to stop to soak it up.

We see the fox, a blonde/red one this time, rather than grey.

The entire day, we have been passing by reams of lady slippers.

Views during the descent.

Fitz Roy is seen from all angles, always looming in the distance.

I loved this entire trail. Much of it through the forest and on earthy paths.

One great pano! There are so many.

Just recalling how this day went:

9:00 – start the trail (where the bus left us off)

11:15 – arrived at the signage indicating the choices – to El Chalten or to the base of the mountain….that is the decision to be made!

11:15 to 11:40 took a break to pee and have a bite

11:40 headed on up – I was up for it! Harold is always up for it!

11:53 … another sign saying 1 h up

1:00 – we reach the top (4 h since we started) It is an impressive view of Fitz Roy and the whole massif of the Laguna de los Tres path. Multi-languages being spoken around us. Fitz Roy at 3405m is in the clouds. We wait…for the clouds to clear and for the tip to show itself. Take photos, have lunch, visit with a couple from Iqaluit. It is stunning, beyond photos!

1:45 – head down

3:05 – arrive at the river

6:05 – down to the bottom (4h 20m descent)

Chicken, salad, and bread for dinner “at home”. What a day! I felt the most “in-shape” today…I managed the ascents with much more ease.

A day of rest in El Chalten

It was a warm day! A short walk along the cliffs of El Chalten is all I cared to do today. Putting my feet in the cold glacier river was awesome. Last night Harold cooked lentils. Tonight we had red peppers and chicken breast in a mushroom sauce with tomato pasta and cukes. I especially love eating “at home” after a day out. Tomorrow we plan to hike again, and it’s going to be a beauty!