Torres del Paine day 3 – Refugio Paine Grande to Campamiento del Frances (Chile)

Hi !

The third day is all about climbing to the Valle del Frances, which sits between the Paine Grande and the Cuernos. First, a 7.5km walk through a dead forest, tragedy of the 2011 accidental fire, passing a few lakes, with beautiful views on the Cuernos (seen above). Then, it’s a 5.4km climb with 900m of elevation gain to reach the Mirador Britanico.

As you climb, a first stop will offer spectacular views on the Glaciar del Frances, a hanging glacier on the Paine Grande hill. We could hear the lound sound of avalanches, but all seemed to be happening on the other side of the mountain (don’t worry though, the path is far away enough to stay safe).

Glaciar del Frances

Then, a flat section at around 500masl opens on the Valle del Frances, with an amazing scenery. The vegetation here is amazing, not just because it offers some protection against the wind, but for resisting harsh weather conditions all year round.

Valle del Frances

I would love to show you the view from the Campamiento Britanico, but a combination of fitness issues and strong winds made us turn back. We were told later that the view would not get much better (if anything it would give less change to grab the panorama).

The only regret was that as we started to descend, the bad weather was clearing and the wind started to reduce. But on the other hand, with another two days to walk, it was probably better to avoid a few kilometers.

Enjoy (or not) and stay tuned !

Torres del Paine day 2 – Refugio Lago Grey to Refugio Paine Grande (Chile)

Hi !

The first day of trekking started with an 11km journey from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande, along the Lago Grey, through a vegetation that is not really living the dream, weather condition wise. Here winds are strong and cold. The weather is changing constantly, wet for a few minutes, sunny for a few other. If you consider the rocky sandy soil that sucks water in no time, every single green thing here fights for saving water.

We started by doing a 2km (each way) detour to the first hanging bridge to get a view on the Grey Glacier before we would leave it to reach the Refugio Paine Grande, our overnight stop.

Grey Glacier from the W circuit

Even though the wind wasn’t the strongest, it lived up to the expectation. All the way to the shelter we were constantly pushed by gusts of 60km/h to 80km/h, sometimes deciding for us where our feet would land. It may sound risky, but apart from a short fall, nothing life threatening here. However the cold feeling was insane. I would say that the air temperature was between 15°C and 18°C, but the wind made it fall below 10°C easily.

As an example, Laguna Los Patos would be the most peaceful still water lake, if the winds wasn’t creating waves like you would have on a sea.

Laguna Los Patos

As we progressed, we reached a low pass that connects the Lago Grey side to the Lago Pehoe side, where the winds seemed to accelerate even more. This part was actually fast to cross, with such a push in the back.

Lago Pehoe

Once we reached the Refugio Paine Grande (which is another five-stars hotel more than a shelter), we were rewarded by an insane view on the Paine Grande and the Cuernos (the top photo).

I would add that walking in strong winds with the big backpack proved to be a bit more tiring than I anticipated. It took a while to get used to being push left, right and front (luckily not back, that would be actually very frustrating). Good gears (GoreTex soft shell in particular) are required to keep warm, which makes a huge difference. But that first day been short, with not a lot of elevation gain, it ended up been a pleasant introduction to Torres del Paine famous weather.

Enjoy (or not) and stay tuned !


Torres Del Paine day 1 – Approaching via Lago Grey (Chile)

Hi !

An epic journey to Patagonia has to be with a stop to Parque Nacional de Torres del Paine, a true natural wonder of world. But before I dive into the adventure we had there, I’m gonna start with approaching this visit, one that need planning and understanding what you going to put yourself to.

Our initial plan was to make the O circuit, a 120km trek, 8 days of walking in unpredictable weather conditions and 7 nights of sleeping in what can range from the five-stars shelters to the miserable campsite bashed by the winds and soaked by the rain. Our fitness level and fear of living 8 days in wet clothes made us change to the W circuit, a 65km trek over 4 days and 3 nights.

If this costed us una pasta (a lot by Spanish standards) to make that change, it offered us a perspective on the park we forgot completely about: taking time to also visit the rest of the park. And we realise that when taking the boat from the Hotel Lago Grey to the Refugio Grey, during with we received long explanations and enjoyed beautiful views of the Grey Glacier itself (part of the largest ice field of the south hemisphere, making it the largest non polar fresh water reservoir in of that same hemisphere).

I will let you google the Refugio Grey if you would like to see how we spent our first night. Let me say that this is not a shelter, but a five-star hotel… The people doing the O circuit would arrive here after passing the Paso John Gardner, more likely after fighting strong winds and rains that would feel like gravel been thrown at your face, must even rate it a million-stars hotel at that point.

That night in that refugio, it was clear that just going there to walk the circuit (which ever) is not enough, and that we’ll have to comeback to make more small hike and more tours to fully enjoy the park.

Enjoy (or not) and stay tuned !


Patagonian roads, Argentina side (Argentina)

Hi !

I know it has been said and written a billion times, but driving in deep Argentina is not the most entertaining part of traveling there. But when you reach the south of Patagonia, driving on the Ruta 40 is an all different story: every road seems to lead you to a beautiful snow-covered mountain range.

Here you are far from everything that makes up for civilization. It can be 300km between two service station, most of them in place that would barely qualify as a settlement. Almost nothing would reveal a human presence, maybe an estancia every 100km, and most of them just because a sign says so, for the farm itself are usually away from the road.

It actually made me wonder if there was really a point of wasting that much fossil energy to discover this land of a few souls, where climate condition would make it a hell for most of us. Sure you have stunning landscape, and then, why disturbing it for the selfish goal of seen the world.

It is not so much intended to make every one of you a concerned ecologist, just a realization that I have ventured somewhere where thing should have been left as they are.

Enjoy (or not) and stay tuned !

El Calafate (Argentina)

Hi !

Though it wasn’t a long stop on our way to the End of the World, El Calafate has been the first spectacular stop since El Bolson, some 1500km north. Not much to be said though, this is just a quick capture of the evening scenery, but you can see the beautiful lake, the magnificent snow-covered mountains and the vibrant green vegetation, which by themselves summarize the beauty of this place.

A longer stop to El Calafate is planned later in January, when we’ll head back to Santiago. But I rather stay on this first impression.

Enjoy (or not) and stay tuned !

Laguna Negra (Argentina)

Hi !

Great hikes are always about the rewarding views, quiet places you can reach and some challenges along the way. For all of the above, the trail to the Refugio Laguna Negra, at the early season (late November / early December) lived up to these expectations.

Located in the Parque Nacional de Nahuel Huapi, this is not the busiest trail and shelter around. And for that reason mostly we decided to give it a try, instead of the more common Refugio Frey trail. It starts from Colonia Suiza, a lovely former Roman Swiss settlement that is now a hippie village, busy twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays (so plan the hike to finish on either of these two days). From there, a 14km trail will take you there, starting with a 9km mostly flat section along a little river and finishing with the climb to the Laguna Negra. The climb is challenging (it is a rapid change of pace), especially when the snow is around. But the reward is reaching a quiet little lake, with just a few other hikers. All in all, a very nice 2-days walk.

However here comes the lecturing part of this post: if you are planning on making the climb when the snow is around, here is what you need to ask the Club Andino in Bariloche prior to doing the walk, because they are not really clear about it. I think that we were actually lucky to not suffer from the snow situation, as we didn’t really know what was there waiting for us.

First, check the situation about the snow for the day you are climbing. Though avalanches aren’t a big risk if you are taking the trail from Colonia Suiza, you’ll have to walk through some snow section, with the risk that the snow is actually ice (very slippery).

Second, check what will be the weather overnight. A cold and windy night may turn the snow into ice and you’ll have to wait that it start melting before leaving the shelter, or take with you the equipment to safely descend.

Third, take a sleeping bag even if you don’t plan to stay overnight. The condition may change and it may be difficult to leave the shelter on the same day. The round trip is 28km, and it can easily take 4 to 5 hours to deal with the climb and the descend, in bad conditions. The shelter offer a safety net, you should take advantage of it.

These three points should not cool you down, the hike is really worth it and just take some basic planning.

Enjoy (or not) and stay tuned !

Lago Perito Moreno (Argentina)

Hi !

The Perito Moreno name can be found on many different landmark in Argentina, all  in Patagonia, one of them been the Perito Moreno Glacier, the most famous of all. The reason been that Dr. P. Moreno played an important role in setting the border between Chile and Argentina, using the Andes and its geological feature to build rules to split the land, lakes, mountains and river in two.

You will find very little reference to Dr. P. Moreno in Chile, for Chile probably did not find the rules fair, having the less habitable part of Patagonia, with the worst weather… However for most people this is the most incredible part.

Because Bariloche has a bad reputation for overlanders (cars are being robbed too often), Colonia Suiza is a nice alternative. It isn’t directly on the Lago Nahuel Huapi, but instead next to the very small (in comparison) Lago Perito Moreno. It doesn’t offer a direct view on the snow-covered mountains, but the top can be still be seen, and when the sun set, they are suddenly painted red.

Enjoy (or not) and stay tuned !

Lago Nahuel Huapi (Argentina)

Hi !

The Ruta de 7 Lagos (the Seven Lakes Road),  a.k.a. Ruta 40, is what Patagonia is all about: snow-covered mountains, surrounded by blue lakes, lushly green vegetation, yellow flower bushes and snake roads. It is one of these roads one must drive on once in his life. The big star of the seven lakes in Lago Nahuel Huapi, a huge body of blue icy cold water, surrounded by gorgeous mountains.

Though there are more of Patagonia to discover, with highlights like Torres Del Paine, Ushuaia, Perito Moreno glacier, Fitz Roy and more, the Ruta de 7 Lagos is a good introduction. It goes from San Martin de Los Andes, a truly charming village with a beautiful background to S.C. de Bariloche (in the region Rio Negro), a less charming bigger city with just an awesome view you can’t get bored looking at all day long. German and Swiss German (in general I would say Alpine) influences are all over the place, with the Argentinian touch. But you don’t really get there to enjoy the cities…

Bellow are various other pictures taken in the Neuquén region.

Mirador Inalco
Mirador Inalco, the first view we got of the Lago Nahuel Huapi
Muelle Bahia Brava
Muelle Bahai Brava, looking at the nothern arm of the Lago Nahuel Huapi toward Chile
Lago Traful
Lago Traful, a quiet little lake
Lago Correntoso
Lago Correntoso, connected to Lago Nahuel Huapi by a small river
Ruta de 7 Lagos
Ruta de 7 Lagos, a really not boring drive
S.C. de Bariloche
S.C. de Bariloche, in the next province of Rio Negro

Enjoy (or not) and stay tuned !

Laguna Chaxa (Chile)

Hi !

Which picture, other than a peaceful lake and pink-ish flamingos, would be better suited to talk about a desert ?

The Desierto de Atacama (Atacama Desert) is the driest non-polar desert in the world, with some part having never received rain in recorded history. There are a few lakes, all overloaded with salt, coming from the higher plateaux when the snow melts and the water carries the salt down to the depression where the Salar de Atacama lies. Fortunately, the mild temperature (ranging for 0°C at night to 35°C during the day) makes it possible to enjoy this piece of desert.

Laguna Chaxa is the most popular of the lakes for those looking to observe some wild life, and appreciate the reflexion of the surrounding volcanoes.

Less postal card like, there was also a chance to spot the Andean Avocet, who likes the flamingo feeds on crustaceans, but don’t turn pink (so, less fashionable ?!).


Finaly, any sun-scorched place in the world wouldn’t be one without its resident lizard, who hunts the insects living on the surface of the salted water.




Enjoy (or not) and stay tuned !

Salinas Grandes of Tumbaya (Argentina)

Hi !

Whenever I’m talking about the places I’ve visited, there’s always somebody to tell me that I shoud have been to this other place, better for it is ignored by the tourists. Today I’m doing this by trying to sell you that these salt flats are better that the Salar de Uyuni. Of course there’s no point trying to make the comparison, but, on the other end, it would be crime not to talk about the journey that took me there.

There are multiple ways to reach the Salar de Uyuni from Argentina, by either going to Tupiza in Bolivia or to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. We picked the latest. It took us through an amazing journey from Salta (Argentina) to San Pedro (Chile), crossing the border at the Paso de Jama at some 4200masl. At first, the road took us to some high jungle, until we reached the Provincia de Jujuy. From there the rocky Andean landscape replaced the lush green vegetation, offering dramatic scenery. We then drove to the high plateaux, passing salt flats after salt falts, until we were between huge volcanoes (some reaching almost 6000masl), driving at some 4800masl. Then, the descend to San Pedro (at some 2400masl) started, but instead of the usual snake-like mountain road, the 2400m descend was nearly straight, with a change of altitude so fast I started to feel like one of my eye would pop out of my head. But it did not, just my imagination I guess.

Why these salt flats ? The road simply pass through them, which is actually unique, and convenient. Oh, and you are not surrounded by thousand of tourists, so way better 🙂

To finish, here’s a view of the sunrise…


Enjoy (or not) and stay tuned !

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