Archive for the “Chile” Category
Posted by Dan in BlogSherpa, Camping, Chile, Hot Springs, Road-tripping, tags: Chaitén, Driving the Carretera Austral, Driving to Villa O'Higgins, Puerto Yungay, Rio Bravo, Route 7 Chile, Termas de Amarillo
After a few days of intermittent rain, I’m happy to see perfect blue skies when I begin moving North from Villa O’Higgins. My fishing gear is all-but useless, so I camp with a hardcore Dutch fisherman, and together we cook a fresh brown trout in the coals of our campfire – possibly the best “camping” meal of the trip.
Looking out over Villa O'Higgins
Lago General Carrera
I meander my way North, camping in road-side pullouts and exploring tiny local villages as I go. Arriving in Chaitén I can’t believe the level of destruction caused by a volcanic eruption three years earlier. Locals explain it wasn’t so much the eruption itself (though that did produce enormous amounts of ash), but more-so the re-direction of the river that washed away half of the town. So much sand and ash washed down that the “beachfront” is now 500 meters back from the original line. Woah.
Rivers and mountains
I camp within site of the volcano, still spewing smoke, though heavy rain in the morning prevents me from hiking closer. Maybe that’s for the better.
Mountains of the Austral
Attempt at The Southern Cross
For my last night on the Austral I camp at the hot spring of Termas de Amarillo, soaking long into the night and chatting with locals and ex-pats alike.
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Posted by Dan in BlogSherpa, Chile, Hiking, Road-tripping, tags: Chile Chico, Driving the Carretera Austral, Driving to Villa O'Higgins, Lago Buenos Aires, Lago General Carrera, Puerto Yungay, Rio Bravo, Route 7 Chile
I’ve met more than a few overlanders who call The Carretera Austral (also called Route 7) in far Southern Chile the most beautiful road in the world – obviously it’s been on my radar for while now.
The two ferries and tiny mud track that connect El Chalten in Argentina with Villa O’Higgins, at the southern terminus of the highway in Chile, are barely large enough for backpackers and bicyclists. The only option for motorbike and car travelers to reach Villa O’Higgins is to enter the highway further North, and meander South along the dead-end road, before returning the same way.
Sitting next to Lago General Carrera
I cross the border at Chile Chico and am immediately rewarded with spectacular views of the amazingly blue Lago Buenos Aires / Lago General Carrera, named differently in the two countries. The road is gravel, windy and narrow and closely hugs the mighty lake while passing through tiny farming communities. The Austral proper is continuously surrounded by snow and glacier-capped peaks, dotted with amazingly clear lakes and often winds along next to gorgeous rivers and streams.
I take out my fishing gear for the first time, and discover the $2 reel is broken beyond repair. I try my luck in a few lakes but give up quickly due to the frustration of manually winding the fishing line onto the reel. Small turn-outs on the side of the road are abundant, so I camp for the night, enjoying the extreme remoteness.
The mighty Carretera Austral
Narrow canyon on the Austral (spot the Jeep)
In the morning I catch the free, military-run ferry at Puerto Yungay / Rio Bravo and soon discover why this road is so highly regarded. The road becomes narrower, windier and in places quite steep as it climbs up and over small mountain passes. Somehow, the scenery gets more beautiful too.
In the tiny Villa O’Higgins I post up at the beautiful hostel “El Mosco”, and splurge to sleep in a bed for the first time since Buenos Aires.
Lakes and mountains everywhere
Fantastic Austral scenery
I hike up to a very remote and peaceful little cabin above the village, and pass the rainy and cold afternoon and evening sitting by the fire reading and drinking tea. Spending the night is amazing, and it’s for sure one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been.
Which way to the refuge?
There’s nowhere I’d rather be.
The refuge above Villa O'Higgins
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Posted by Dan in BlogSherpa, Camping, Chile, Hiking, tags: Campamento Italiano, Campamento Los Guardas, Campamento Los Perros, Campamento Torres, Grey Glacier, Paso John Gardner, Puerto Natales, Refugio Dickson, Torres Del Paine Circuit, Torres Del Paine National Park
Over the course of day four I hike with John and Bernie past Refugio Grey, take a refreshingly chilly swim in Laguna Los Patos, continue to Lago Pehoé and Campamento Paine Grande for lunch then push a few more hours to the free Campamento Italiano. The long 22.6km day sees us arrive footsore and tired to a very crowded campground where flat, rock free tent space is non-existant.
The glacier stops here
The size of Grey Glacier
Over coffee in the early morning the three of us are excited by the idea of a rest day and agree to take it easy. At about 9am we hike, sans packs, up the valley to Campamento Britanico and the viewpoint showcasing Valle del Francés, complete with enormous glaciers and mountain peaks. For the first time the weather is overcast, and the low-slung clouds obscure the best of the views. On the way down we stop to “rest” every 10 minutes, dozing in the little patches of sunshine on offer, making the round-trip 11km take most of the day, before more coffee and food back at Italiano.
Infront of Grey Glacier
Anticipating a big one for day six I’m out of camp at 7.30am and make fantastic time around to Campamento Los Cuernos then make a big push further to Campamento Chileno for lunch. Another 45 minutes on the trail sees me arrive at the free Campamento Torres, completing the 20.4km stretch feeling great. The campground is small, uncrowded and peaceful, clearly my favorite of the hike and I’ve just finished setting up by a beautiful little stream when John and Bernie wander in, equally excited about the great hike after our refreshing rest day.
Darth Vader insect
Sunrise in the mountains
On the morning of day seven we wake before 5am, stuff our warm gear into a pack and hike 45 minutes up to watch the famous sunrise on the actual Torres (Towers). It’s wonderfully calm in the pre-dawn light and we sit quietly, anticipating the spectacle to come. Though the sky is perfectly clear and calm a band of thick black clouds on the horizon obscure the rising sun, killing any chance of us seeing the famous “red flash” on the towers. After waiting a couple of hours and seeing regular old sunshine strike the towers we call it a day and wander back to camp.
We feast on our remaining food before hot-footing it down the mountain to the waiting Jeep, and all things beyond.
Clouds at sunrise
The Torres Del Paine, with regular sunlight
A great hike with spectacular weather and new friends.
I later heard reports of relentless snow/sleet and nights of infuriating wind, making me more thoroughly appreciate the weather on our hike.
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Posted by Dan in BlogSherpa, Camping, Chile, Hiking, tags: Campamento Los Guardas, Campamento Los Perros, Grey Glacier, Paso John Gardner, Puerto Natales, Refugio Dickson, Torres Del Paine Circuit, Torres Del Paine National Park
I’ve been looking forward to hiking in world-famous Torres Del Paine National Park since the beginning of this adventure, and I’m excited to arrive in the little town of Puerto Natales where I attend a backpackers’ information session and stock up on hiking food & supplies.
Torres Del Paine
Arriving at Torres Del Paine National Park
Early the next morning I drive into the park and leave the Jeep at Hotel Las Torres before setting out counter-clockwise, taking enough supplies to complete the full circuit in eight days / seven nights.
A beautiful sunny morning through green forest sees me arrive at Camping Setón at about lunch time, and I decide to push on to Refugio Dickson, a stretch where I encounter some extremely strong winds and amazing sunshine while skirting around the mountains.
I arrive at Dickson a little footsore around 7pm after a long 28km on the trail for day one and am pleasantly surprised by the hot shower in the pay-only campsite. The plague of thirsty mosquitos is not so nice.
Setting out to hike the full circuit
On the backside
I lazily amble out of camp at 10am on day two, hiking through beautiful dense forest for the 9km around to Campamento Los Perros (another pay site), near a little glacier of the same name. I really have no idea what to expect on the “back side” and have been a little surprised by the remoteness and lack of people – I had been warned of many hundreds per day, and have only seen a handful on the trails, and about 30 tents at night in the campgrounds.
The campground at Refugio Dickson
The forests of the backside
In the morning I’m moving early with some friends from the previous night and we make good time up and over Paso John Gardner, the high point and hardest section of the trail. At the summit I’m dumbfounded by the unimaginably immense Grey Glacier, extending the width and length of the entire valley, looking more like an enormous lake than a glacier. Hiking alongside Grey for the remainder of the afternoon provides some stunning views and great rest-stops.
At the summit of Paso John Gardner
Immense Grey Glacier
I cook hot noodles at Campamento Paso before pushing on to the beautiful (and free) Campamento Los Guardas for a total of 18km for day three. Sitting above the glacier at the lookout is surreal, and although we hear plenty of activity, we don’t see a sizable chunk break off.
Nice spot for lunch...
Valley of giants
There’s a lot more to come on this one…
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