A Travellerspoint blog

´The big Treck´- Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine

all seasons in one day 5 °C

9am to leave Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales. We try to decide on the best way to visit Torres del Paine. We decided to try and treckin the famous "W" circuit that would take 4 days to complete.During the bus journey we had a few technical hitches. "All outside the bus" the driver said. The assistant told us that the engine had "failed," while we suspected that it was a distinct lack of Diesel that was the problem ... and we were not wrong. We ended up waiting by the side of the road for a little over 2 hours while another bus was called out to "fix" the engine. We should have arrived in Puerto Natales at 11.15, but we actually arrived around14.15, ruining our plans to go into the national park that same day those.

The last coach to the Torres del Paine was at 14.30, but we still had to reduce the weight of our backpacks and buy food to take. We Decided to stay in the Puerto Natales that night and go early to the Torres del Paine. We walked around the small town until we found a small hostel where we stayed the night. We also washed our clothes and her son, who spoke English, gave us some tips about the journey and the weather that was heading our way....

The next day we went very early, to leave for the Towers. We arrived at the park enterance around 11am, got another mini-van from there to the start of the trail. We began the treck with our bags for a steady climb up to around 750m up the mountain to the first camp. However the 2 hour treck took almost 4 hours, but we finally reached the camp where we set up our tent for the night.

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The next stage started in ernest. However this stage of the hike was without our bags so the thought of more hiking was less worrying. The journey should take 2h45m between our camp and the Mirador Torres .. but as always you could almost double the number. This hike was much better than the previous one because it had not so many ups (it was more balanced) and the landscapes were fantastic.

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However the last part of the hike up to the towers was a different matter, it was very difficult, but after an hour of hauling ourselves up huge rocks and boulders finally got to the top of the lookout!

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While we were on top the rain started.... hampering the return to our camp (other 3 hours of walking ...). We arrived around 22h, put on dry clothes and made dinner. That night we were so tired that our whole bodies felt like they were about to shut down! It rained all night with strong winds ... it was horrible, the tent leaked at the enterance, soaking our bags and it was so cold i dont think we slept very much at all!!In the morning when we woke we had some breakfast, packed our wet,dirty tent and began to walk back down the trail we had fallowed up to the camp the day before (again with bags). We were supposed to continue the famous "W" circuit but Adrianas ankles started to hurt a lot and so we both decided to return to the road and try to catch a bus back to Puerto Natales. Chris and Sylvia continued on without us. Looking back we made the right decision as soon after we left the park the winds and rain started to pick up... just as the guy from the hostel had predicted they would...

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Around 22:30 we finally got back to Puerto Natales and returned to the hostel where we booked in for a futher two nights. Back to a warm and comfortable bed ... bliss!!

The next day we wanted to see the glacier by car, but the weather was terrible so we decided to have a day of rest and update the blog. That night the Dutch couple returned as well, they made it to the next camp where they stayed the night but the weather was too bad and they also turned back for a warm bed. We decieded to travel together again to El Calafate the next day to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier....

Posted by Themoffats 11:48 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Puerto Montt-Punta Arenas and the Isla Magdalena Penguins

Patagonia

overcast 8 °C

We left Santiago to Puerto Montt at 9pm, reaching Puerto Montt at 10am. When we arrived we found a bus that was leaving for Punta Arenas in just one hour (11am). We decided that we wanted to get as south into Patagonia as we could and then work our way back up so we could visit as many places as possible before our flight to New Zealand left on the 26th of Jan. We both agreed and went for a quick shop before heading on to Punta Arenas.The bus would take 30 hours!!!!!, the seates were very uncomfortable and we were separated by an isle for the whole journey. In total we were on the bus for 43 hours!!!!!!

We got to Punta Arenas on the 9th of January at 5pm. We looked around for a Hostel until we settled with the Hostal Calafate. We asked at reception about the colony of penguins that were found off the coast and Booked a place on the boat to the colony the next day. That night in Punta Arenas we went down to the Strait of Magellan, and went to dinner at a local place called "Luna"(great steaks).

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The next day, in the morning we went to the Tax free zone, a zone of shops without tax charges where we replaced our broken camera (the screen cracked in the Pantanal) with a brand new one (same model) to use for the rest of our trip. In afternoon we returned to the hostel to go see the penguins (the boat left at 6)on Isla Magdalena, an island where over120,000 breeding Magellanic Penguins....simply amazing!!!!

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The next day we planned to take the ferry at 9.30 am to Tierra del Fuego to find some way to get to Ushuaia (the most southern city on Earth),But will we be able to get there?

Posted by Themoffats 14:15 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Destination: Santiago

sunny 26 °C

On the bus towards Tacna we met an American couple, Rodrigo and Laura, who are currently teaching English in Santiago. We soon got chatting with them about our experiences in Peru and Bolivia (where they had also been). We also talked about California and the United States (adriana now wants the next trip to go down the East coast of Canada and North America). when we finally reached Tacna, we crossed the boarder with them into Chile to the town of Arica. Once there we booked our next bus (a 30 hour journey to Santiago which left the next morning). Until then we were taken to a hostel with Rodrigo and Laura where we spent the rest of the day checking out the beach that was nearby andeating in a local restaurant.

Arica was a spectacular stop because after almost 2 months without being by the sea, you could go take a dip in the Pacific Ocean with the Atacama desert as a backdrop!! we had finally crossed all the way across South America!!!!!

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The next morning we started our 30 hour journey to Santiago. Not a bad trip in the sense that we chose the best class where the seats are go all the way down, with a tv screen right in front of us. It felt like a hotel on wheels..bliss!!!

We arrived in the morning in Santiago so Rodrigo and Laura guided us around the very clean subway system to a hotel we could stay in near where they lived and the centre. As we were going to be here for my Birthday, we decided to splash out on a nice hotel with a Jucuzzi!!!

That afternoon we left Rodrigo and Laura to explore the city by ourselves.

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That night we met up with the the American couple and they took us on a little tour of the area around where we were staying, stopping briefly to show us a house that was used to torture and kill people during the Pinochet era in Chile. The house is closed but has many graffiti lining its walls saying things like: "Here is Torture" and "never again"among others. The rest of the night we did a little bar crawl trying out the Chilean beer!

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The next day we went with the Americans a mall on the outskirts of Santiago. As it was my birthday we had lunch in a nice restaurant (Tony Romas) then went shopping. However it was Adriana that ended up getting a top for our next trip down to Patagonia. That night we left the Americans to go out for a few cocktails and some snacks in a nice restaurant. Adriana had one too many Caipirinhs so we went back to the hotel to get a good night sleep!!

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The next day we had time to have a nice breakfast and a walk around the city before our bus, however we found out that when we were walking someone had managed to open one of the pockets on our bag and steal Adrianas phone....we quickly cancelled it but it wasnt what we needed right before the next leg of our trip down into Patagonia!!
Later that day we took another bus this time 12 hours to Puerto Montt ...

Posted by Themoffats 14:13 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Cuzco and Machu Pichu

semi-overcast 16 °C

On arival in Cuzco we had read in Lonely Planet that Loki Hostel was the place to stay for backpackers, therefore we decided to use this hostel as our base while in Cuzco. However after only one night we decided to find another place to stay. The problem with the hostel is that each day you need to find out if you are keeping the same room you had the night before. This wasn´t exactly what we needed or wanted. As well as this the hostel was full of young groups of men and women and as we were travelling as a couple, the atmosphere towards us was not great. This uncomfortable feeling coupled with the prospect of changing rooms every day forced us to leave the hillside location of Loki, to look for a place closer to the town centre. After a morning of looking around we found a very nice little hotel just off the main square which was actually around the same price as Loki, but without the hastle!!

Cuzco turned out to be one of our favorite cities so far. It was located in the mountains, with a beautiful main square, shops and narrow streets lined with places to eat. It turned out to be an ideal choice to see in the new year!! An ideal choice for the passage of years!

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New years itself was spectacular .... the people of Cuzco begin to sell all kinds of fireworks and new years junk . The kids sold rockets, sunglasses in the shape of 2009, yellow panties (and it seems that for good luck) and also yellow Hawaiian flowers everywhere. Then as midnight approached everyone congregated leave the Plaza de Armas (the main square) to set of rocket after rocket. Neither of us actually heard when it was midnight ... as there were always rockets and firecrackers going off in all directions. Suddenly everyone began running around the square ( it seemed like a tradition), and so we fallowed! It was very fun, even with the rain, running around the square with the rockets and fire crackers going off around us was an amazing way to see in the new year.

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The day after we went to Machu Pichu ... and I will make a statement here: Machu Pichu in Peru is South Americas answer to Disneyland .. This is because ... Cuzco operates as a tourist (and money) collection point before you have to head off on a packed 4 hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, the last town before Machu Pichu.

- The train round trip (economy class) are $ 96 (around 60pounds)
- The train only goes up to the town of Aguas Calientes. You then have to get a coach up to the site which was about $ 14 (around 8pounds)
- To enter Machu Pichu itself you will then have to pay $ 40 (around 25pounds)

As you can see, you have to pay a ridiculous amount for a visit a day (around 100 pounds, per person) .. We were both angry with this price level, and along the journey we met travelers who felt the same.

But finally, after all the hastle of getting there we were finally at the "must see" sight to visit in South America...Machu Pichu!!!

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When We came to the top (take the steep path to the left when you first enter the site), we finally got the sight we had been waiting for....and what a sight it was, u suddenly forget for a second all the money that we spent and sat down to take in and enjoy the view.......something special!

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The next day .. the 2nd of Jan we started off again to the town of Tacna on the boarder of Peru with Chile, as there were no buses that travelled across the boarder!! It was time to say goodbye to Peru and try to find a way south to Santiago (chile).

Posted by Themoffats 14:12 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Puno and the floating islands

Finally in Peru

sunny 20 °C

From Copacabana, Bolivia, we continued to Puno, Peru. These two towns are situated on the shores of Lake Titicaca. What makes this city special are the islands of the Uros that exist on the Lake. These islands are made of totora reeds which only grow in this area of the lake. These islands are inhabited by the Uros, which existed before the Inca civilization. The Uros who lived on the continent, fled to live on these islands on Lake Titicaca when the Inca people came along. They then lived on the islands after the Incas were defeated to avoid Spanish taxes that existed on the mainland.
These islands are about 30 minutes by boat from Puno, and we decided to make a visit to the Uros and the island Tanquille. We were very well received by the Uros who currently live on tourism from all the tourists that visit their island homes. They also make local crafts that are then sold to tourists. With this money, the head of the island goes to buy food in Puno as they can`t grow crops etc on the islands.

After these reed islands we went to visit the Uros Tanquille, on Lake Titicaca. This island also lives on Tourism, but also agriculture. The landscapes of this island that look down on the lake are magnificent. We stayed on the Island for a few hours after hiking up to the top (which is quite a climb with altitude as a factor (remember you are still at around 4000 metres above sea level here). At the top we were taken to a little place where we were served local river trout. Atfer this it was the long walk down to the boat, then back to Puno for a well deserved rest.

The next day we booked to travel with Cuzco Inca Express, instead of going directly to Cuzco (5 hour journey), this tour stops in places they think is important ... or maybe not. One of the stops was Raqchi an archaeological site in the region of Cuzco which is the largest surviving Inca temple, sadly the tour was let down by having a terrible guide whose Spanish was as good as his English, and the fact we had to pay all the time to see any of the sites we stopped at (these were not included in the tour).

Finally, around 7pm, we arrive in Cuzco, the city known as the gateway to Machu Pichu ... but is it?

Posted by Themoffats 14:10 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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