Blog 4: Patagonia (English)
We recently took a 9 day excursion to Patagonia, in Chile and Argentina. Most of the traveling we have done prior to the excursion has been between larger and smaller cities. We needed a more rustic experience in the great outdoors. AL especially wanted to get back in touch
with his Franciscan soul. This was also the third part of a honeymoon dream for the both of us, Ilha Grande and Iguaçu Falls being the first 2 parts.
We started out by booking a roundtrip flight from Buenos Aires to Rio Gallegos, 3 hours straight south. A red-eye flight arriving at 3am saved money and time from the alternative buses, which take two days to arrive. Stepping off the plane was a cold wet slap in the face: 30mph winds (gusting), freezing rain, pitch black and no umbrella. We held on to each other tightly for fear of being swept away or knocked over as we went down the steps onto the tarmac and several dozen more meters into the drafty airport. A few hours of sleep on a bench or the airport floor sufficed to recuperate from disembarking. A taxi eventually took us to the nearby bus station where we discovered our favorite supermarket right next door: Carrefour. Two and half hours later we exited the marvelous French store with enough food for lunch and snacks for the bus to Perito Moreno glacier in El Calafate.
Arriving shortly before dusk we found an affordable hostel called Huemul, which is also the name of a native Patagonian deer-like creature that is a favorite snack of pumas. Someone ate our leftover soup and left the dirty remains in the kitchen for someone else to wash. Shame on
him, her, or them. The following morning we entered Glacier National Park. It has raised paths to walk on that take you right up to the face of the glacier and could keep you walking for hours. It is so quiet and calm in the morning that the occasional thunder claps from falling ice echo like canon fire. You’re lucky if you see the fall before hearing the thunder. Beholding this natural wonder up close is indescribable. You feel so small standing in its shadow, but so appreciative of that perspective that you wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. The turquoise Lake Argentina on either side in front of the glacier almost invites you for a swim, but most people just catch a
boat that takes you even closer to the glacier face. It’s very amusing to watch the boats turn tail and run the other way when large chunks of ice suddenly break off, creating really big waves. We spent 6 hours walking the trails.
The next day we bused to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, a few hours south of Perito Moreno. This park surrounds a huge mountain formation that juts up out of the Patagonian steppe. It has more turquoise lakes, glaciers, rivers & streams, snow capped peaks, waterfalls,
and enough trails to keep you hiking for 5 days. You could see huemuls, guanacos (llamas), pumas (they’re just mountain lions), foxes, and condors all in one day with only a little luck. We like to call this place God’s Country.
We took a day to plan a 3 day hike. We stayed 2 nights in refuges at opposite ends of the park. We hiked a few hours to glacier Grey in a cold and windy hail storm on day one. This one is a little different from its Argentine counterpart to the north because it looks like it’s swallowing a small island. That night we stayed at a warm and comfortable refuge about 15 minutes from a good spot to view the glacier. The next morning we got out early for a 9 or 10 hour hike to the other side of the park for a great view of Los Cuernos (the horns). We stayed at a more rustic refuge with the horns just outside the window. It was awesome to wake up the next morning with hues of crimson and gold shining on the horns. That day we walked another 4 hours to finish the W (the shape of the trail within the park). On our way out of the park we finally saw the Torres (or towers, from which the park is named). Three rock formations that stand so tall and sheer that
snow only collects on the very top and at the very base. A herd of guanacos waved goodbye to us as we left.
We returned to our staging point in Puerto Natales (still in Chile) for the trek late that night. This small city is right smack in the middle of nature. To the west one can see the snow capped peaks and fjords that cut between them to the Pacific Ocean. To the east is open steppe, which makes the place quite breezy. Smaller mountains cap the northern and southern city limits. During the planning phase of our trek in this city, we saw a sign for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at 6pm in the small church at the central plaza. We couldn’t pass up the chance for some alone time with Jesus, and then we stayed for Mass afterward. A French woman with a lot of faith found us there and after a brief chat decided that she would try to find us in our hostel late a night after the trek for an interview. We did get back to the hostel before the prearranged hour, but she never came. After seeing God’s great outdoors in Patagonia, it would’ve been icing on the cake to return with an interview from that far south as well. But we really can’t complain, we were blessed with safety and awesome experiences along the way. God is very good to us.