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Saturday, 01 July 2006

Land of Ice and Fire: Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego - Page 3

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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We began our journey deep into Patagonia from Carretera Austral with a three-and-a-half-day journey past fjords and glaciers on NavimagNavimag is a large barge that carries all the supplies down to the southern part of Chile.  The trip used to be solely for transport, but occasionally backpackers would hitch a ride until it became so popular that the company built many cabins where there used to be cargo; now their business is largely a tourist enterprise.  It is the cruise for those who can’t afford to cruise.

perito morenoThe next morning we took the bus to El Calafate, Argentina, and then caught an afternoon tour from Calafate hostel to Los Glaciares National Park to see Perito Moreno Glacier, the largest advancing glacier in South America.  We stopped at a lookout where we could see the length of it, but we couldn’t really get an idea of its size until we were in a boat on the lake.  We had been given an hour to either take a boat ride, which takes you right up to the glacier, or hike around on our own.

After the boat ride, we hiked from the lakeshore up to a lookout at the top of a hill for some great views.  Then were given another hour to explore along the impressive system of stairways and lookouts on the cliff across from the glacier that made the glacier accessible and much more dramatic. With each flight of stairs we descended the glacier would rise further above our heads.  It was unbelievable watching this very active glacier as pieces calved off and plunged into the lake, sounding like cannons firing.  I only wish we had had more time there. glaciar

We stayed at America del Sur hostel which was a very friendly and clean hostel with a panoramic view.  The staff was the best part of the experience.  The dorm rooms are small, only 4 to a room and there are also rooms with double beds.  We had one night in each kind of room.  It was a good value at $10 per person for a dorm bed, although breakfast was not worth getting up for (cracker-like toasts, jam, and coffee), so if you feel like sleeping in this is a good time to do it.

For dinner our first night we went to the excellent restaurant next door Don Pichon and were given a small discount as guests of the hostel.  We had the lamb kebob for 2 which was perfectly cooked (and with so much overcooked meat around was a great find!).  The next day we got up late and walked around, went to one of Calafate’s trendy cafes, wrote postcards, visited a few of the numerous galleries in town, and spent quite a while in the artists alley looking at handmade jewelry, woven articles and gourd cups for mate, the traditional drink of this area, a bitter herbal tea that is passed around and drunk communal style from a single metal straw.calafate

In the evening, we went horseback riding up a small mountain at Estancia Alice for a great view of the Patagonian steppe.  We were novices to the sport, but had no problem because the horses seemed to know exactly what to do, and the guides made sure we stayed on course.  On this tour we had a choice of horseback riding, hiking, or taking a ride in a 4X4 up the hill.  At the top we drank mate with our guides.  Back at the ranch, we ate a traditional lamb barbeque served with pitchers of wine before driving off into the sunset.  We really enjoyed this excursion and, at $33 each, it was a good value.Image

The next morning we took a flight to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire), “The City at the End of the World,” as it likes to call itself.  It was a great flight with incredible views.  When we arrived at our Bed & Breakfast, La Posada del Fin del Mundo (“The Inn at the End of the World”), its lively owner offered us her famous croissants and tea, and then we were off to explore.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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