Friday, 16 February 2018

More Glaciers, Mountains and Canyons.

The title says it all. If non of these subjects interest you then your on the wrong blog. If however, beautiful scenery is your thing then stay tuned. 

The National Parks in this area are beyond belief. Some you have to pay an entrance fee and some are free.  Camping is nearly always free.

Having got the Glacier bug in Torres del Paine we drove to the next Glacier which is called the Perito Moreno Glacier. As the crow flies the two glaciers are only 40km apart but  it was over 300km to drive it and involved a border crossing.

We waited several days , in the nearby town of El Calafate for the weather to be right then hit the park at 8am . 

The weather was amazing and our first glimpse of the glacier told us that this was going to a great day to remember. 

We had booked a boat trip to the glacier and an organised walk on the ice itself.

Having recovered from this incredible day we made our way to the town of El Chalten . This is a touristy town nestled in the foot of a huge mountain range whose star feature is a peak named after a local guy called "Fitzroy"

We have noticed that lots of South American landscape features are traditionally named after locals called O'Higgins, Moreno and Fitzroy 

Pat and I did a couple of local walks up to the lesser peaks that overlook the town. Neither of us are great walkers and the longer more serious walks appeared to be slightly out of reach . However :

Two things happened here that we will remember for ever. 

Firstly, we met 4 young people who camped next to us who were truly inspirational and amazing ( you know who you are ). 

Secondly the adopted us as their temporary parents and took Dad out on walks that I wouldn't ordinarily do, and for this I am very grateful. 

We went for two days and stayed for 6 .

Still heading slowly North we set off and the Argentina Ruta 40 . This is one of the main roads that runs up this part of the country. Bearing in mind its a main artery to local towns, you think they could have put a bit of tarmac down.

One section of about 70km is the worst. Its Ripio and shakes everything to death. Half way along this section my brakes failed and my fluid warning light came on . It was instantly apparent that I had lost all the fluid in the rear brakes so we limped into a town called Gobernador Gregores in search of a mechanic , only to discover that they were in the middle of a three day national holiday. We arrived at 8pm Sunday and saw that the Tourist info was still open. I enquired about a mechanic and the tourist adviser quickly rang one and we drove around to see him. After a quick examination he saw that a stone from the Ruta 40 had severed a hydraulic brake pipe.. 
He asked us to return the next day and after 1 hour we were all fixed and £15.00 lighter. What a great service.

Back on the road we headed further up Ruta 40 to see a local point of interest called Cueva de los Manos. 

This is a collection of human hand prints on cliff walls that date back to over 9500 years ago. 

We did the tour , the heat that day in the canyon was nearly unbearable for us but made even more unbelievable by the fact that all the Guides were wearing overcoats and body warmers .

 Now Archaeologists spent 25 years interpreting these pre historic hand prints and came to the conclusion that they didn't really know what they mean. ( I bet that was a long 25 years ) 

However, their best guess is that they were some sort of ancient version of kids using a magic marker to write their name on the bus stop. 

You will notice in the last image that there is an image of a person. 

Their best guess is that this is a Dancer by the shape of his limbs . Then again it could be a bloke who has managed to get a wasp up his arse..... Who knows .

What is apparent is that Man has survived on our old friend the Guanaco for thousands of years .

Just down the road out of site was Canadon Caracoles Chico. An incredible night stop.

Now this was Valentines day so who could have picked a more romantic overnight stop. What could possible go wrong 

The flat base of this canyon has a dried up salt bed , or so we thought .

As you can see the base of the canyon had the consistency and texture of Apple Crumble . Crusty on the top and pretty wet underneath.

Pat, who has always wanted a foot treatment on Valentines day tested the crust.

It took 20 minuted to find the flip flops and another half an hour scraping the mud off her shredded legs.

My fault obviously 

 Heading west over the Paso Robellas back into Chile we joined the the imfamous Ruta 7, The " Carretera Austral " 

The choice was head North or go  South again...... I wonder 

Now a few post ago I rather unfairly critisied the Misfit animal called the Guanaco. 

I sugested that God was maybe in some sort of experimental stage when he knocked it up.

I would like to retract this statement and intriduce you to a visitor to our door every night for 6 nights in El Chalten

I have come to the conclusion that God must have dreamt this one up the day after inventing the hedgehog and the Crusty Meat Pie. 

Hasta Luego

10th december 2017

Argentina.. Have you seen how big it is ?

We entered Argentina from Frey Bentos. The Border crossing was relatively painless and only took about 30 minutes . I did note however that the last stage of the process involved me handing a small piece of paper to a girl who looked about 12 who was hiding behind a curtain in a plastic booth. Pretty impressive security I thought. 

The landscape instantly changed and became greener with many miles of wetlands either side of the road. A veritable Twitchers paradise.
We had arranged to meet up with an Israeli family who have been on the road with 4 kids for about 8 months.Their truck was arriving in Buenos Aries that day from the United States. Tuval had identified a camp site  in an area called Tigre , a suburb of Buenos Aries on the Rio Lujan. Sounded fantastic . Upon arrival it was in fact a Gypsy Camp and locals told us that if we went their we would be robbed at gun point . So we ignored all this and went anyway. And yes they were right so we left pretty quick and ended up further down the river in the parking area of a Riverside YPF gas station for boats . It was perfect and we got to know Tuval and Michals wonderful family. 

The following day we drove to South to Talpaque and set up camp in a park area by the river. 

By Chance we met an English woman called Jane who has settled in the area and owned a large Estancia ( Ranch ) about 10 km out of town. ( we will come back to Jane shortly )  It was perfect in the park until about 11pm. At this point the park turned into a party for the locals who had amazingly managed to turn their entire cars into speakers . The party ended about 9 am the next day. 

Plan B was hatched and after a few messages to Jane we headed to her place.  The drive to Jane’s place was 10 km of what is normally dry , dusty , gravel road.  However, just be before we hit this track it started to rain quite heavily so we turned up at Jane’s with most of her drive attached to our vehicles. 

The next day Jane gave us the tour and the hospitality and kindness she threw at us was unbelievable . Tuval and Michal’s kids were treated to a couple of hours of horse riding . I cannot sing Jane’s praises high enough , what a wonderful lady. Look her up if your passing , you will be well received that’s for sure .

The next couple of nights on our own were very peaceful staying on the shore of a large lake and the yard of an Olive farm.
We had arranged to re meat Tuval and Michal in a large camping area on the shore of Laguna de la Salada . We arrived a day before them. Upon arrival it was beautiful and tranquil with a few locals enjoying the sunset sipping a beer. Not for long. Within an hour of arrival I had created an international incident and operation “ Drag the stupid Brit out of the Mud” was in full swing.  Yes I completely misjudged the firmness of the lakes edge and within seconds had the truck resting firmly on its differentials, tipped over by about 20 degrees.

Now this could have been a disaster but actually tuned into one of the best highlights so far. The locals turned up , had a good laugh, and then rallied round to get us out. We had about 20 people there , all of which had a plan. None of the  plans worked and then the local police turned up. This guy had a friend with a tractor who saved the day.  The reason it became a highlight was that we were gob smacked with the unbelievable desire to help us. We offered payment and were nearly pushed back in the lake for thinking about it. The night ended with everyone hugging and kissing each other, exchanging presents and  group photos. We stayed here two more night, a few meters away from the lake though.

The next day our camp became a rally. Firstly we were joined  by a fantastic young Brazilian couple , Nicholas and Elis , who had given everything up, sold all their possessions and bought a roof tent to go on top of their small hatchback and were trotting around South America on a budget that is unbelievable.

They make videos about their journey and post them on Youtube and apparently if enough people look at it they get a few dollars back to help them travel . So if you would like to support them please look at their site at

Tuval and his crew showed up and then to everyone’s surprise our German friends Ellen and Perry showed up. They had managed to drive in 2 days what had taken us a week. 

We all headed further south to a town called El Condor, parking on the promenade. We had come here for two reasons, one was to meet some fellow travellers at a Horizons Unlimited Hubb meeting and the second was to witness the spectacle that is approximately 35000 Burrowing Parrots , that live in a cliff . Both of these events were good.

The next day we went to see another  spectacle . Thousands of locals go nude sunbathing on the beach. It was packed and pretty smelly.

Wild camping places have so far been pretty easy to find and since we have crossed into Patagonia , the whole coast line is a wild camp. 

Some of the roads here are pretty interesting. Today we drove the first 150km off road on a gravel and sand track. I manged to make it and no tractors were used along the way..

We are now heading for the  Valdes peninsular to look for whales

 16th December 2017

No Whales but plenty of Elephant Seals, Penguins and Dead Trees

Yes the title says it all . 

We spent two days at two different locations around the Valdes Peninsular, in recommended locations and not a whale in sight . However, we always knew that we were right at the tail end of the season.

The locations we stayed at were absolutely stunning. Although the second one at Punta Ninfas was a bite remote and we didn't hang about the next morning as the sky was changing rapidly and we had a 50km drive over dirt road that had mud bath written all over it .

The wind here is incredible strong and sometimes as warm as a hair dryer. So much so that we managed to dry a full size towel straight from the machine in 15 minutes. 


You know it can get windy here when you see that they have attached guy ropes to a lighthouse. ( look closely )

Camerones, further south was a real highlight. Its a smallish coastal fishing town that in some places appears to be caught in a bit of a time warp.

The local store looked like something out of a movie, You know the sort where the explorers stock up just before being murdered. It sold everything from fruit and veg to parts for you trawler. The cash register ( Still used ) was in itself a magnificent antique.

Another great thing about this town was that it had a small Fishmonger that doubled up as a shed in someones back garden. Here you could buy 1 Kilo of king prawns for 80 Argentinian Pesos , which is about £3.43. Well it would be rude not to have a prawn fest so we bought a kilo and so did our Brazilian friends Nicholas and Eliss ( pronounced Eleese ) We cooked both kilos in a bit of a cook off style event and then ate the lot, Fantastic. 

We have picked up another two kilos for our freezer .

Just about 20 km down the coast is a natural Magellanic Penguin breeding colony. Its a great place and you can get within a few inches of them. We were slightly too early for the chicks to leave the nest but we could see them down their burrows. 

Ellis, who is from a warmer climate, found the wind a bit cold. We just sweated it out.

A few interesting facts about the Magellanic Penguin to help you sleep.

They can live for 30 years
They usually pair for life
In September the male arrives and finds his old nest and tidies it up .
A couple of weeks later the female arrives and does nothing. ( Except the necessary )
The male sits on the eggs and gets the food and keeps it all tidy.
The female does nothing
The chicks fledge in February and the next September it all starts again.

If however, the male turns up and his female doesn't the male will sit on a stone in the nest in a deep sad  depression. he might do this for the next 3 or 4 years 

If however, the female turns up and her male hasn't, she gives it about 10 minutes and then finds another male. Typical.

The journey back was fun  

The Sunset was incredible 

Elephant seals are pretty common around here and some of them can weigh 300 kg's. They don't appear to do much, lots of lazing around slapping each other and farting. Must make a note of this come my re incarnation.

Large colonies are dotted along the coast

With exception films like Lord of the Rings , who ever heard of a petrified Forrest. Well I hadn't, let alone seen one for real.

The Bosque Petrificado  is a really interesting place.

Apparently about 150 million years ago a large ash cloud from a volcano buried  a forest of fir trees.
The trees absorbed the carbon and hardened, turning them to stone over a long period of time.

This left an entire forrest of petrified trees buried under ground. Millions of years of erosion has now exposed them and you can now see plenty of them lying around. They look just like wood, well I suppose they would wouldn't they .

The road south , "Route National 3" is incredible long, straight and in the main quite boring. 

The wind is incredibly strong and relentless. Its a constant battle with the steering to keep in your narrow lane and the trucks heading the other way pass by only inches. It can be very tiring and sometimes a bit dangerous.

It can also be very lonely for the driver especially when your Sat Nav says its not going to speak to you for over 300 km and your co pilot is snoring and dribbling for 295 of the kilometres . As shown in the next two photos.

We always new this part was a long slog but we plan to start the drive back north at a much more leisurely pace.

You can see a lot more detail of each place we visit on the "Places and Photos" page

28th December 2017

The Journey south has been a constant battle against the wind, fuel consumption is down about 30 % and at times ( as you will read ) it has become quite dangerous. 

Our goal was to get to Ushuaia in Argentina for Christmas. This is about the most southerly town of any size in the world. However to get there you actually have to enter Chile for a few hundred kilometres and then back out into Argentina. In effect Argentina has a small plot that is isolated from the rest of the country by a piece of Chile. 

There is also a ferry to get just after the Chilean border.

Border crossings are all very similar and you really need to allocate a few hours for each. So far our timing at the borders has been impeccably bad. We always seem to turn up just behind 3 coach loads of tourist. There is nothing more depressing than joining a very long queue and nobody joins it behind you. 

Pat did however, adopt a lone Swiss motorcyclist called Jan, who became quite a feature over the Xmas period .

Smuggling food across borders is now normal. The vehicle searches are brief, but I am sure we will get caught sooner or later. Retrieving 2 kilos of prawns and a pineapple out of your backside is however quite unpleasant for all parties involved

The ferry to the main part of Chile cost 680 Argentinian Pesos and took about 30 minutes 

We headed for the first sizable town called Cerro Sombrerro and a set up camp in the closed camp site, only to be quickly evicted by the owner. We then discovered a group of travellers all camped out in the garden of the Tourist Information building that had good wifi and heated toilets and showers for free.

That night we had 11 in the truck for a drink, from various nationalities including German, Swiss, Finnish and American. It was a really great night. 

What we didn't know was that the next day would be a disaster that we will remember.

As previously mentioned we had to leave Chile and re enter Argentina. For some reason the exit from one country to the entry to the next are about 15km apart so in essence its like doing two separate border crossings .

I have also mentioned the wind being dangerous, we it really caught us out here. 

At the exit from Argentina the force of the wind was such that we could hardly stand up. We had finished the exit procedure and had just got back to the truck . Pat opened the cab passenger door by about an inch and the wind caught it and flung the door open. This pulled Pat out of the cab and threw her horizontally to her landing site that was about 3 meters from the vehicle . She landed on her back ( she must practice her landings ) and we really thought she had caused some serious injury . A man stopped in his car to help us but couldn't actually get to us against the wind even though he was crawling on his hands and knees.

I couldn't shut the cab door against the wind and I really thought we would also lose the door. 

Pat was in agony and we managed to get her laying down in the lower bed and eventually continue the journey. The entry into Chile was interesting as Pat couldn't get to the border office . They let us in with a bit of persuasion .

Pat had to travel in the back laying down all the way to Ushuaia . It was like driving an ambulance .

The preceding 100 km before Ushuaia were really beautiful and scenic. You enter Ushuaia via a main gate to be confronted by the very disappointing view of an industrial commercial  dump. 

We did question at this point whether it was worth the journey. However, once you get through the commercial part the port area was really quite pleasant and we parked on the waterfront for a few nights . 

By now  Pats bruise had grown to  to about the size of Alaska . Ouch.

Whilst parked at this point we saw a small rowing boat come ashore full of King Crabs, so I employed my best negotiating skills and payed well over the top for a Crab. It was enormous and very much alive and hell bent on escape. Feeling sorry for him we took him for a drive round town to show him the sights  then converted him into lunch. He served his country well .


To make Pat feel better we teamed up with our Brazilian friends, Nicholas and Ellis, and hit the the local Casino, which was in fact a collection of posh slot machines . We completely blew about £5.00 but it put a smile back on Pat's face. 

We decided that this  wasn't the place for Christmas so we all moved to a really beautiful camping area just out of town It was set in a steep sided valley and you could catch trout in the river. 

Eight for Christmas dinner in the truck was a challenge but it was  a great night. 

We are not sure where we are heading now but I can guarantee it will be north.