A Travellerspoint blog

February 2013

It's the end of the world as we know it!!!!!!

Patagonia Argentina

After quite the journey from New Zealand to Buenos Aires, we arrived for the last section of our journey around the world. That is South America. We were also extra excited because one of our best friends Maire was joining us for 2.5 weeks while we make the journey to Patagonia.

From Buenos Aires (ill post about this city later) the three of us we took a flight to a town called El Calafate and this is where the adventure began. Its difficult to know how to begin describing patagonia. We had heard from people that it was amazing but i think all 3 of us were in for quite the shock when we finnaly arrived. The first thing you notice about Patagonia is the space. There are masses of landscape that seem quite barren but have spectular features such as rivers, mountains and of course glaciers. Patagonia itself is over 3,000km for Buenos Aires and its spans across the very south of Argentina and Chile. Because of this, we were never going to see everything so decisions had to be made. In the end I think we made some pretty good ones. We arrived in El calafate and got a bus to El Chalten. It is located within the Los Glaciares National Park at the base of Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy mountains. It is a popular area for trekkers similar to its Chilean counterpart the Torres del Paine National Park. We booked into a apartment for 5 nights and set about planning our treks. Trekking in El Chalten is very easy to plan in that you are given a map as you enter the national park of all the possible routes. The routes are very well maintained. They have no real facilites on them and you need to bring all your own food etc but as a result, the parks water resources are spotless and the water is drinkable from source. The other thing about Patagonia is the weather, it is super changeable. I have never seen anything like it. It can also get very windy but we were so lucky in our time in El Chalten. Over the course of the days we did nearly all the day treks there were to do which meant we done 3 x 1/2 marathons over the course of 4 days plus a few shorter ones. It was a lot but oh my are they worth it!!! They are amazing beyond words. The first trek, the Laguna de Los Tres led us up to near the base of Fitzroy where we sat above two glacial lakes looking at the fitzroy peaks and condors flying past every now and then. It was a beautiful sunny day and I think its one day that the 3 of us will hold in our memories. The other two long treks were of similar sights with the last trek bringing us 1,000m uphill to a viewing point that looked over both the mountains of Cerro Torre and Fitzroy. It wasn't quite as sunny as the first trek and the height meant we couldn't hang around too long on top but it was worth the climb. Here are a few pics from El Chalten. fitzcompresssed4.jpgfitzcompressed5.jpgfitzcompresssed3.jpg

We were quite sad leaving El Chalten with all of us realising that we were very lucky to have seen such sights but we had more of patagonia to see so we made our way back to El Calafate to see one of its famous tourist attractions the Perito Moreno Glacier. We decided to do the mini-trek on this as we heard it was worth the money and so it was. This glacier is a major tourist attraction and as such you dont get much privacy there but i think that there is more than enough glacier to go around. Tourists aside, on first glancing this glacier from the bus window i think my words to ger were 'Holy F**k'. I was really awe struck by the sheer size and formation of it and when we went to stand on the viewing decks beside it, you could hear it cracking. This glacier is of particular interest to glaciologists because its one of the few glaciers that is growing in size. We normally tend to hear of receding glaciers but in winter time this one grows which will hopefully ensure it lives on for some time yet. The trek itself was interesting as we had never used crampons before so it was different experience trekking on ice. We got use to it quickly and just to ensure we enjoyed ourselves, we were all given a free whisky " whisky on the rocks' as they call it. Ok so its a bit of a touristy gimic but we enjoyed clinking our glasses none the less.

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Apart from the glacier, all the other trips out of El Calafate were a bit beyond our budget so we booked a bus to where else but the 'end of the world'. The city of Ushuaia on the Island of Terra del Fuego. After a 19 hour bus journey with a few hold ups at the chilean border we made it to the end of the world. Ushuaia itself is a popular tourist spot for a few reasons but the one I was jealous of was that its a popular port to begin your journey to Antartica. Realistically we could never afford one of the expeditions but it was cool to watch the massive ships and imagine what it would be like to arrive in Antartica just 48 hours from Ushuaia. I think all 3 of us resolved we would be back to try it out when we had more money in bank!!! While we ddn't board one of the antartic ships we did do a boat trip around around the area of Ushuaia and it was really enjoyable especially getting to view a sealion colony on a nearby Island.

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The other main attraction in Ushuaia is the Terra del Fuego national park. We headed out for an afternoon and done a 3 hour coastal trek which was really nice except we were all dying with hangovers so probably didn't appreciate it to the fullest. We were proud of ourselves that we made it out though!!!! The following day was a little more sucessful and it was one that I was most excited about. It was a trip to Martillo Island to see the penguins. I had Ger driven mad wanting to see penguins since he mentioned patagonia and now it was finally a reality. We got a tour to the islands with a group 'Pira Tours' that allowed us to walk around the Island for an hour. It was really brilliant and we all loved it. There were so many penguins!!!! The main two species are Magellanic and Gentoo penguins although we were lucky enough to see one 'tourist' king penguin. Needless to say the camera was snap happy as seen below.

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The penguin trip was our final destination in Patagonia and the day after we sadly boarded a flight, waved goodbye and headed back to Buenos Aires. I think there was a bit of tear in all our eyes!!!!

Dodging Mosquito Status: Yipee -none at all, it looks like the end of the world is the place to escape to!!!

Posted by ofenelon 15:23 Archived in Argentina Tagged el patagonia chalten Comments (1)

Volcanoes and the Great Walk in the North Island

It was hard to imagine that the North Island of New Zealand could be much more scenic than the South Island but we were soon to discover that in parts it was every bit as spectacular. Unfortunately we had only 10 days left in New Zealand so while our time was short on the North Island, it was certainly memorable.

We began our journey by visiting the city of Wellington. It's a really cool city and reminded me of a mini melbourne with its cool cafes, shops and one of the best museums I've ever visited - the Te Papa. I'm not really someone who loves museums but this one is very interactive and after about 3 hours we hadn't even left the ground floor.

Following wellington we headed north to the most famous day trek in New Zealand. The tongarino crossing. It is now more noteably famous as it is home to the lord of the rings 'Mount Doom' or Mount Ngauruhoe. It's not just this mountain that makes it so spectacular but more the region in general. The crossing is a trek that takes you through and up several volcano's, across dried up craters, view over emerald lakes and you can summit both Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongarino although Mount Ngauruhoe is v steep in parts and very tricky. We went to the summit of Mount Tongarino which I'd highly recommend as its not too difficult and it give s a great view of the overall region. We were lucky enough to get a spectacular day and sitting there on Mount Tongarino was something special. The region is still active so unfortunately we couldnt cross the full way as one area had erupted the year previously and was still dangerous. It's also not a trek for you if you want to be alone. There are lots of people doing it. I think its still worth it. Its also tough enough trek (probably about 6/7 hours) but the landscape is very unique. It's definitely one of our highights of New Zealand.

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After the tongarino crossing we drove to the volcanic town of rotarua. We were primarily here to stock up on supplies for the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk but Rotarua is an interesting place in itself. First off, the whole town smells of suplhur. It is really noticable as your driving into it. It makes the most of its volcanic activity and has lots of hot springs, mud baths and geysers you can visit. Unfortunately we didn't avail of these as our time here was spent preparing for the next big trek - The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk located in Te Urewera National Park. This is one of New Zealands great walks but its probably not as popular as some on the south Island. I would imagine because its a little out of the way to get to. The national park is about 3 hours drive from rotarua and most of that is on very windy gravel roads. Once we got near the park, we left the car at a guesthouse and paid for a transfer to the start point.

The trek took us four days to complete but it we loved it. It was difficult with some serious climbs in it especially the first day when it was 700m uphill through forest. Doing it with full backpacks adds considerably to the difficulty. The one thing about these great walks is that you need to bring all your facilities/food with you for the full 4 days. There are huts along the way that you can book into and sleep in but there are no cooking facilites so they must carried with you. The huts themselves are basic but are some of them are really nice and they can be located in the most beautiful areas. We were so lucky and got beautiful weather so when we arrived at the hut, we could relax usually beside a lake and maybe go for a swim.

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If there was one thing I would recommend doing in New Zealand then a great walk would be it. There are nine walks in total located in both the north and south Island. They can be booked easily through the DOC website and you can camp or stay in huts. They can be physically tough going but you can spread out the walking to suit your needs. I think the best thing is that apart from the senery, you can switch off and completely relax.

After the walk, a very tired Ger and Ollie returned to Rotarua for a night and then to Auckland where we sold our camping gear, returned our rental car and got ready for the nect big part of the trip - South America.

Dodging Mosquito Status: Not much sign of them in the North Island or their horrible relative 'the sand fly. I'm guess they are not lord of the ring fans!!!

Posted by ofenelon 06:13 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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