When we left Denmark almost 11 months ago we had one single wish for South America: We wanted to see Patagonia! So even though we ran really short on time, we simply had to go. We caught a plane down to Santiago, and after sampling the local wine we continued down to Punta Arenas to pick up a rental car.
Together with Tine and Frederik we have now been touring Patagonia back and forth between Chile and Argentina in our Toyota Hilux rental car, and it is amazing! The nature is wild, the weather is tough, and the distances are huge.
We started out by picking up our car and do a whole lot of grocery shopping in Punta Arenas. It took a lot of time — we found a really great supermarket and couldn’t handle the joy over all the opportunities. We may have been travelling a bit too long when a supermarket can excite us like that. 😀 But when you have the chance of getting Danish classics like “rugbrød” and “leverpostej” you definitely have to buy it! 😜
Torres del Paine
We soon learned, though, that even with a pickup truck there are not much space for four people, all of our baggage, and food for several days. 😁 The first day got a little cramped on the back seat, and as we had spent hours in the supermarket we had to make a stop for the night before even reaching the next town. We found a secluded spot and pitched our tents. First night wild camping — we celebrated with spaghetti bolognese and red wine.
The next day we made the long drive to Torres del Paine National Park. We expected it to be beautiful — we had been told so. But the stunning landscape surprised us anyway! We arrived late in the afternoon, and only had time to drive through the park. Also, the weather was cloudy and rainy — but anyway, we had to stop the car several times and take pictures of this amazing place.
It is really expensive to rent a car in Patagonia, so our unspoken deal was that we would wild camp as much as possible. So we headed out of the park and found a nice spot with a view over Lago del Toro. It looked idyllic, and we were ready for another night with cozy cooking. But as soon as we parked the car it started snowing! We got really wet and cold, our (summer) tents got really wet, and we had an awfully cold night. Life on the road is not only great views! 😅
After such a night it was time to warm up again, so we headed back to the national park to do the famous trek to the base of Torres del Paine — the impressive granite towers giving name to the national park. It was very windy, and there where heaps of other tourists doing the hike as well. But we got our Danish favourites “rugbrød” and “leverpostej” for lunch, and the view of the towers was amazing!
All in all, a very successful 20+ km hike!
We treated ourself with a night at a proper campsite in the national park — got a hot shower and hung out in the cooking shelter. We spent the full following morning making pancakes and relaxing. Only activity: Drive to Cascada del Paine and Laguna Azul to snap a few more pictures of the amazing landscape of the national park.
Ready to do our first border crossing with the car we headed to the small border town of Cerro Castillo and found a place for the night. There is free “city wifi” in this tiny town! Impressive. We used it as much as we could before we huddled into our tents for another extremely windy night. For the second time we could not use our gear shed for the tent, as it is too sensitive to the wind! Way too much of a summer tent for Patagonia. 😄
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares
The following morning we hit the border and crossed into Argentina with absolutely no trouble. Slightly surprised about our luck we drove on towards El Calafate for more grocery shopping — and to locate a great camping spot.
Our next stop was the Perito Moreno Glacier. We hadn’t done much research — just planned to go and have a look. We were very surprised to find an extensive network of metal footpaths taking us down to the small canal between land and ice. Here, we found the biggest glacier we have ever seen! And even a glacier that calves several times per hour. We spent half a day sitting on the platform watching huge chunks of ice fall off!
The glacier is between 40 and 70 meters high and 5 kilometres wide. From 300-400 meters distance we were able to watch ice chunks up to 40 meters tall fall down into the glacier lake. Amazing! You can see it for yourself in this short video Ulrik has made of the many calvings we saw.
However, a glacier is also some kind of very huge outdoor freezer, and in the end it got too cold to watch it. Instead we headed to El Calafate for a cup of well-deserved coffee accompanied by cake. 😋
Our final destination in Patagonia was El Chaltén and the amazing landscape around Mt. Fitz Roy. We planned to stay for a few days, so we booked a campsite and enjoyed another round of hot showers — and a kitchen!
Early morning we headed out to hike to the base of Mt. Fitz Roy. Apparently, we had hit the only day with good weather in more than a week, and we enjoyed the most beautiful hike. Even after 11 months we are suckers for a hike with great views! It added up to 27 km, but it doesn’t feel that bad when the sun is shining. 😉
This also marked the end of our Patagonian adventure. Time to drive back to Chile and return the car. In one go it was a really long drive! But we made it almost to Punta Arenas, and after a good nights sleep by the sea we could hand over the car and rest in the small guesthouse we had booked. We even had time for a small afternoon sightseeing tour of Punta Arenas.
We went to the local cemetery and found what can best be described as tiny apartment blocks. It looked so different and foreign — and caused a good discussion about ways to be buried. 😛
Last stop in South America: The End of the World! Ushuaia is the southernmost settlement in Argentina, and according to themselves the southernmost settlement in the whole world. We are not entirely sure why Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino in Chile does not count — but Ushuaia definitely do what they can to claim the title. 😁
We went on a boat trip to watch sea lions and penguins — the worlds longest boat trip just as a day tour by the way — but the animals where great. We saw both Magellanic Penguins and the more rare Gentoo Penguin. We also saw the southernmost light house in the world according to the Argentinian guide, although rumours goes that there is another one in Chile further south. 😀
As we started our trip in New Zealand back in January searching out penguins as well, it seemed perfect to end our trip in the same way. 😀
We also went to the Tierra del Fuego National Park — the southernmost national park in the world. To our knowledge this is actually true. Only weird thing is that there are several trails in the park advertised for their possibilities of spotting beavers, although tour guides says there haven’t been any beavers for years. 😛 We did not see any beavers, but we found the end of the Pan-American Highway (another end of the world spot), and had a lovely walk in great nature.
On our last half day in South America we went to the local museum/wax gallery telling the history of Ushuaia. They are really claiming to be the southernmost settlement in the world, and they are extremely proud of it and the fact that people manage to live here!
We just noticed to ourselves that Chile has a settlement further south, and that the native people (with a habit of only covering themselves partly in clothes) lived even further south before the European settlement in Ushuaia. Neither did we tell about Denmark or our northern neighbours living considerably further north than Ushuaia is south, and therefore survive even darker winters.
Ushuaia may have grown into a bit of a tourist trap, but nonetheless it was the perfect end of our round the world trip. Now, it is time to see friends and family — first in Norway, and then in Denmark. We look very much forward to see everybody again!
Luckily, we are both coming home to great workplaces and exciting jobs. We feel extremely lucky to have travelled and experienced this much — and that we can come back home to friends, family, and good jobs as well.