2004 Journey Chile Erik's Travels

The last week of Chile… And the beginning of Argentina!

Last week Thomas and I went on a tour to Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine. We left Friday morning (April 30th) a little after 8am. There were nine of us in total, including two couples who had been on board the Magallanes with us, a pair of crazy Italian guys and a cute Japanese girl. First we went to the Monumento Natural Cueva Milodon (The Milodon cave) which is a cave where the remains of a 10,000 year old giant sloth were found a while ago but today all their is is the cave and a big fiberglass replica of what the Milodon looked like. After that we drove for about an hour or so to get to the national park. We were supposedly behind schedule and our driver was really putting the pedal to the metal, which scared some of the old people on the tour. But I think he just liked to drive fast anyways. Thomas and I were in the front seat of the van right behind our driver and our tour guide, José. They were talking to us the whole time and cracking jokes. They shared their Mate with us too.

Mate is originally an Argentinean drink and is a a strong tea. The tea leaves are put in a mate cup (or a gourd is used traditionally) and then filled with just a little bit of hot water. Then it is drunk out of a metal straw that has a sieve on the bottom which just allows the water to get sucked into the straw. Then more hot water is added and the cup is passed along to the next person. I liked it a lot.

The park is just amazing though. It was definitely the best day I have had on my whole adventure so far. All over Chile there are huge mountains but the mountains there were just spectacular. We had perfect weather too and could see everything. We made lots of photo stops at various look outs and got out to check out the Salto Grande (Big Salt) Waterfall. It was super windy there! After that we headed to this super fancy hotel in the park to have lunch and then after that walked across a suspension bridge to the Lago Grey (Grey Lake). At the other side of the lake from where we were there was the Grey Glacier which just comes right down off the mountains and into the lake. Amazing! After visiting the lake we started our drive back to Puerto Natallis and got back around 6pm.

On Saturday we took a tour to the Parque Nacional Bernardo O´Higgins on board the boat 21 de Mayo. We left at 8am and took about four hours to get to the main attraction, The Serrano Glacier. We docked at Puerto Toro and walked along an easy 1200 meter trail to get pretty close to the glacier. Both Thomas and I thought it was a little disappointing compared to the scenery we saw the day before. But overall it was ok. On the way back we stopped at a Estancia (Farm) where most of the people had lunch, but Thomas and I just hung out for the hour we were there because the lunch was a real rip off price. We got back to town about 5pm.

Sunday we took the bus south three hours to Punta Arenas, which lies on the Straight of Magellan. The “beach” along the straight was about the most disgusting and filthy beach I have ever seen I think. Arriving on Sunday almost all the stores and restaurants were closed but we found a place to eat that had empanadas(which are a Chilean baked burrito sort of thing). Later that night I went out drinking with some travelers I met at the hostel. An English guy and a couple from Greece. We had lots of fun and ended up finding a small restaurant open on the way back to the hotel after the pubs closed and had a delicious sandwich called a “Boca Loco,” which is like a steak sandwich with cheese and mayonnaise.

Monday we caught the bus to Rio Gallegos. We decided to forgo Tierra Del Fuego and instead spend more time in (hopefully) warmer climates. We were in Rip Gallegos just for a few hours, hit up the ATM to get some Argentinean money and had a big feed. Then we hopped on the night bus north and got off at small town (13,000 people) of Caleta Olivia. We got here this morning at 7am and my guidebook only has two paragraphs about the place, mostly talking about attractions that are over 100 Kilometers away from the town. For the first time in South America we had a problem finding a hotel. We got a taxi from the bus station and he took us to three different hotels that all told me they were full. I think they just were scared of gringos or something though. We got lucky on our forth hotel though. It´s nice and sunny here today and I think it´s further north from here tomorrow probably.