Thursday, December 25, 2014


Bouncing between Argentina and Chile, back and forth across the border, we have experienced incredible variety of environments throughout the Patagonian region.
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field (Spanish: Campo de Hielo Sur), is located in the Southern Patagonic Andes between Argentina and Chile, is the world's second largest contiguous extrapolar ice field. The ice mass feeds dozens of glaciers in the area and we have had the experience of seeing several.  Viedma, at the base of the Mt. Fitz Roy range just outside El Chaltén, Perito Moreno in the Los Glaciares National Park, and we will see Grey when we return to Torres del Paine. There are also 2 known volcanoes under the ice field; Lautaro and Viedma. Due to their inaccessibility they are among the least researched volcanoes in Chile and Argentina. - info from Wikipedia

Incredible cloud formations over the Andes as we leave El Chaltén and head back across the desert for El Calafate.
Perito Moreno and Los Glaciares National Park come into view.

Perito Moreno Glacier

It's one of the largest glaciers not only in Los Glaciares National Park but in South America, with a wall of over 200 vertical feet or roughly the size of a 15-story building that goes back 3 miles. Of course, part of the beauty of the glacier is that it's constantly changing and unlike just about every other glacier in the world, this one is swelling and growing steadily at a rate of up to 7 feet a day, not counting the massive chunks of ice that fall off the wall into the Canal de los Tempanos as well.

Perito Moreno Glacier is one of three Patagonian glaciers that is not retreating.  This important glacier is part of the ice field that accounts for the world's third largest reserve of fresh water.  The other two being Greenland and Antarctica.

And it is majestically blue.  I love blue.  Has anyone ever told you that?  The deep glow of glacier blue is intense in its realness.   It's not just a color painted on my car, or a dye in my favorite scarf, or the glass of my dishes in my kitchen.  It's a glow that can't be imitated or recreated by man.  The blue color is caused by the weight of the ice squeezing out the air particles and leaving ice that has more density and that absorbs the other colors in the spectrum and reflecting blue.  Pretty awesome.

Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales camping sunset welcomes us to the Torres del Paine region.
FJORD : a narrow inlet of the sea between cliffs or steep slopes.  Yep.  We are there.
Puerto Natales - gateway from the fjords to the glaciers and Torres del Paine.
Cave of the Mylodon - for those who have read Bruce Chatwin's entertaining travel book and unique view of Patagonia history, "In Patagonia", you will recognize this reference.  The cave is notable for the discovery in 1895 of skin, bones and other parts of a giant ground sloth called Mylodon.

Punta Arenas

Straits of Magellan.  Punta Arenas - our base of travel for a few days as we fly to Rio and try to get some more van repairs done over Christmas!  The weather here is rugged.  Tearing wind with sun and driving rain all at once!

Christmas in the van.  Thinking of our family and friends.

Heading back to Argentina - across the Strait of Magellan to the island of Tierra del Fuego


Throughout Argentina, there are red shrines on the side of the road with red flags flying around them. These are shrines to Gaucho Gil. Although Gaucho Gil is not an official saint in the church, he is revered throughout the country of Argentina as a "defacto saint". Gaucho was a deserter of the military who evaded capture for quite some time. During that time, he was a sort of "Robin Hood" figure, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.

And, we reach the bottom of the world!
Flickr Photo Album: Mountains to Desert to Ice


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mountains to Desert

Back on the road again after a few days of van repair in Coyhaique! South to hike into the Cerro Castillo wilderness and see some stone and ice castles!
Cerro Castillo, the hanging glaciers and the Ibáñez River Valley
Lake at the foot of Cerro Castillo that used to be a glacier.
Cerro Castillo (2675m, 8,776 ft) is the highest and most distinctive peak in the central Patagonian Andes
The road got a little wet...
From Cerro Castillo, we journeyed further on the Carretera Austral as far South as we had time to go - Cochrane, which is the last district crossed by the Southern Road.  The drive was a rough dirt highway, but incredible scenery and beautiful places to pull off the road and sleep in the van!
Beautiful rivers are our constant companions -and make for awesome campsites!
Camp for the night, here?  Yes, please!
We begin to see signs of leaving mountains and entering desert.
The lakes and rivers never cease to amaze!
I don't think that wall is really holding any rocks back...just an observation.
Chile Chico, Chile - we pass through the gates to exit Chile and enter Argentina.

Chaltén, Argentina - Mt. Fitz Roy in the background.
Bush camping on a wind-whipped lake.
Patagonian Ostrich - the rhea - roam the Patagonian steppes and deserts.  Here is one with her babies.
Mt. Fitz Roy peak
We approach the Fitz Roy range
Wow!  The Germans have us beat!

Van Updates:
1. Fuel pump is repaired.  Mike the Mechanic discovered that the wire had not been installed property (Weird!  Things on our van weren't installed properly? Huh!) and it had become disengaged.  It has been re-engaged and fuel is flowing.
2. A support bar has jarred loose and is banging around under the van.  It sounds awesome.  Mike went for the tried and true method of duct tape and hose clamps for the first attempt.  Immediately fell out again.  Next is to build a new rubber gasket/bumper thingy from a bike tube that will be tighter. And stay in. Hopefully.
3.  Anti-lock brakes are groaning.  Unclear on the problem.  Other than the fact that they are apparently deeply distressed.  I think they're depressed, personally.
4.  There has begun a random, occasional tapping in the engine region of the van.  It goes away after a few minutes of revving the engine.  In the list of triages this is currently a hang nail, because it goes away.  I hope that is an accurate assessment.