Patagonia here we come

At the end of our Antarctica cruise last Wednesday, we flew to El Calafate because this was the fastest, most direct way to get to Puerto Natales which is where we would get ourselves organized for our big trek in Torres del Paine.  We were pretty tired after our cruise and needed a few days to just chill and get caught up on our blog.

We spent four nights at Hosteria Patagonia which was the most inhospitable accommodations we have endured thus far.  The establishment was quite new and the rooms were spacious and comfortable enough, and the place was absolutely spotless (just trying to be fair). The problem was in the way they ran the place – more like a prison camp than a hostel – rules for everything, such as forbidden to open the fridge without authorization.  I was chastised repeatedly (in Spanish of course) for all my transgressions – going into the kitchen to clean my dirty dishes (I know, the nerve of me), for putting a sweater on a railing to dry, for using the microwave without permission, etc. etc.  Ah well, the town was booked solid, so moving wasn’t an option.  We sucked it up, what else can you do?

Hosteria Patagonia looked good on the outside,
and even the inside too; too bad it was so unwelcoming.
Notice the two beautiful lavender bushes in front of me –
lavender grows prolifically here in this inhospitable climate. 

During the four days we spent in El Calafate we did a couple of interesting activities, namely, a “mini trekking” tour to Perito Moreno Glacier and a visit to the recently opened Glaciarium, a museum about glaciers.  We just couldn’t resist visiting the world’s largest reserve of fresh water!

The mini-trekking tour included transportation to Perito Moreno Glacier which is located in Los Glaciares National Park. We learned that this was one of a very few number of glaciers in the world that maintained its size over the years – it extends and contracts but remains a fairly constant size. The terminus of the Perito Moreno Glacier is 5 kilometres (3 mi) wide, with an average height of 74 m (240 ft) above the surface of the water of Lake Argentino. It has a total ice depth of 170 metres (558 ft).  This glacier is renowned for the rupture that occurs every few years.  It is due for another rupture at any time.  Click here if you’re curious about what the rupture is all about.

In the morning we walked along the walkways to observe the north end of the glacier. Every now and then we would hear an explosion as the glacier calved and huge chunks of ice cascaded to the lake below.  In the afternoon, we took a boat ride along the south face and then, after lunch, hiked with crampons for a couple of hours on the glacier itself. We continued to hear the glacier and see it calve several more times.  It was an amazing experience.

(Coming Soon) Video:  Walking on a glacier with crampons.

The Glaciarium Museum was very modern and the exhibits were well presented.  Since all exhibits and videos were offered in both Spanish and English, we learned a lot more about glaciers during the couple of hours we spent there. Located in an open field a few kilometres outside of town, the building rattled and shook under the force of the Patagonian wind – I thought the whole thing was sure to collapse at any moment.

We arrived in Puerto Natales on Sunday afternoon by bus, passing through the Argentina/Chile border once again without any problems.  We lucked in on our accommodations this time; a lovely B&B called Pire Mapu Cottage.  It is a little two bedroom guest house with two bathrooms, common kitchen and living area.  The owner, Brendon (an ex-Brit) and his wife, Fabiana (who is Chilean), have completely and lovingly renovated this house and just opened it up for business this season.  It is a charming home, with so much attention to detail that you feel like you’re visiting a friend’s cottage.  They have thought of everything to make their guests feel comfortable and at home, such as a well equipped kitchen, flat screen tv’s (with english stations) hanging on the walls of each bedroom, the fluffiest towels in South America, home baked cookies and tea to greet you. I could go on and on.  As soon as we stepped into the house, we booked a third night on the spot.  And we were tempted to stay even longer.

The service they offer is impeccable.  They picked us up at the bus station and bent over backwards making sure all our needs were taken care of throughout our three night stay.  For example, when Chris asked where he could find a barber in town, they insisted on driving us to the hair salon and Fabiana served as translator to explain the new hairdo Chris wanted.  I think he looks awfully cute in his new “do”.

Our cottage mates on the first night were a couple of ladies from the US (Deb and Lisa) who were heading out early in the morning to go trekking in Torres del Paine for two nights.  We really hit it off with them and decided to collaborate on dinner that night.  Well, actually they did all the grocery shopping and pretty much most of the cooking; Chris did the clean up.  I didn’t do a heck of a lot, but nobody seemed to mind.  We had a wonderful meal – those girls know how to cook – and great conversation over three bottles of Chilean wine.  We talked into the wee hours of the morning.  They were so relaxed about their trek; this was their fourth week of trekking in various parts of Patagonia so I guess they were pretty organized (unlike us).

Breaking bread (and drinking wine) with new friends.

The next night we had the cottage to ourselves, with the owners popping in now and then to check if we needed anything.  One more comment about the cottage – they served one of the best breakfasts we’ve enjoyed thus far in South America.  Home made bread, eggs, ham, cheese, juice, two types of brewed coffee, and toast.  It kept us going til late in the afternoon.

Typical breakfast at Pire Mapu with the
hosts at work in the kitchen behind me.

We have spent the last couple of days still working on the blog (I hate it when we get behind because it is so much work to get caught up) and getting ourselves organized for our big trek.  We have decided to do the “Circuit” which is an 8-day trek – on our own, no guide or group.  Not only did we not have any camping equipment with us, we have never done this kind of camping before.  We’ve camped a lot, but always car camping.  I have to admit, I’m a little nervous – especially with a very bad weather forecast for the next few days (blizzards and very high winds – yikes!).  I’m most perplexed about the food we need to bring.  With regards to the camping equipment, we had planned on renting it all here in town until we ran into a couple of Finnish lads who were selling all of their equipment on a street corner. They had bought it all two weeks earlier in Ushuaia and were now finished with their camping trip.  We bought the whole kit and caboodle – tent, sleeping bags and sleeping mats – for $100.  All we needed was the kitchen equipment. Now we’ll be able to do a couple of more hiking/camping trips in El Chalten and Bariloche before heading to Buenos Aires – that assumes, of course, we survive this one.

Busy blogging, and organizing the trek,
while enjoying home made beef stew.

This afternoon we heard the weather forecast for the next few days:  Bad.  Very bad.  And late this afternoon guess who showed up at the cottage?  Deb and Lisa returned one day early because the weather was so bad.  So who knows, we may be back sooner than we planned.

Optimistically, we’ll be off-line again for the next 8-9 days.  Wish us luck – I’m sure we’re going to need it!  Before I sign off, just a heads up that we’re almost finished Part 3 of the Antarctica post but I’m afraid we ran out of time and it will have to wait until we get back.  Chao!

Eight days of trekking food.
It was a challenge finding the right food for a trek here
so you just had to be creative when you don’t find things
like protein bars or healthy granola bars.  Chris loved
the improvisation with the snickers bars 🙂 


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4 Responses
  1. Patti Spearman says:

    Chris and Christina
    Hello from a Sea Spirit friend! I loved reading your blog–caught up right from the beginning and then relived our voyage through your pictures and text. I made it back to the island finally after a huge thunderstorm in BA and 4 flights. First thing I did was meet with two friends who had done the same trip two days ahead with GAP–very similar as it turns out. Then I went skiing–fabulous, but I had to trade my sea legs for ski legs again. I am also back at the gym as I don’t have your advantages to the “slim down” game.
    I was quite inspired by your story, particularly the question of “What next?” in your lives. As much as I am enjoying my travelling life right now, I feel that something is missing. A lot of people refer to it as “giving back”. Now I am on the path to figuring out what that is going to look like.
    I will keep checking your blog to see how you are faring in your quest. Thanks for your friendship on board Sea Spirit, your video of the Polar Plunge (I can still feel the cold!!!) and your inspiration.

    • chris says:

      Hi Patti!

      Glad to hear you made it home safe and sound after our fabulous time on the Sea Spirit!

      It was a pleasure to meet you and John… hopefully we’ll be able to stay in touch… and hey… who knows, perhaps we’ll break bread on the island 18 months or so from now!


      Chris & Christina

  2. Jordan says:

    haha omg…camping??? this is what i call a challenge for my aunt and uncle! 😉 i wanna know how ur gonna get that tent up without your nephews help! well hope you guys are having a blast! love reading the blogs!
    Love you,
    Jordan 🙂

    • chris says:

      Hey Jordan!

      Yes, it was difficult enough putting up the tent without our trusty nephew present, let alone whilst dealing with gale force winds… ended up putting boulders IN the tent to keep it from flying away! We are indeed having a blast, and glad to hear that the folks in Sudbury are checking in from time to time! Congrats on winning the hockey tournament in Ottawa for the 2nd year in a row!

      Lots of Love,

      Uncle Chris and Auntie Christina