Round the World 2003

Travel time: January 2003 - January 2004  |  by TatiMatthias FreirePetri


Chile & South Argentina = Patagonia

Ai ai ai .... So long time that we didn't write!!!! It is getting tougher and tougher to keep our reports updated!!! It is amazing that we find it difficult to give ourselves time to stop and write a bit, something that we like doing so much!!!

So.... hold on and ... there we go:

Last time we wrote was from Costa Rica, we had already our Rice and Beans overdose and were ready to go and try some Chilenian specialties!! )

The flight from San Jose (Costa Rica) to Santiago del Chile was ok, but the part from Santiago to Punta Arenas... MAN!!!!!.... what was that!!! With a perfect blue sky and full visibility of the mountains and glaciers it was a full 4-hour try-to-keep-our-mouths-close in front of such beauties! It was the perfect appetizer, making us even more interested in exploring that country!

Fire & ice..

Fire & ice..

We could clearly see the settings changing while our metal-bird was taking us south, as south as you can - before arriving to the Antarctic area! Santiago region with its Andean white tops and sharp edged mountain range, passing through the Lake District, near Puerto Montt with its colonies of volcanoes!! And there are so many volcanoes that after a while you start to be picky and try to peak only to the most astonishing ones... the ones that are smoking on the top, or with beautiful craters, and then you arrive near Puerto Montt and see the Osorno one, with its steep and harmonically shaped, totally white top.... Gorgeous.... As the gentlemen sitting next to me would say: "only missing a strawberry on the top to be perfect!!!" )))

Matthias was sitting next to a German couple, he 70 and she 65 years old, that have such an eager to travel that made us feel old! They just came back from Australia, one day of packing in Frankfurt and next day they were already sitting on the plane going to explore the Patagonian fiords! The funny thing was that the lady got mad with her husband because he had planned this trip without telling her. Then we thought... well... probably she would have liked a bit of a rest before the next trip, right?!! Wrong!!!!! She got mad because she wanted to go skiing and when they arrived in Germany the snow conditions would have been perfect for a skiing week!!!

This is energetic... with a full Australian Jet lag, there they were; flying to Patagonia!!! And they mentioned: It is a pity we won't be able to see the same Patagonia as the young folks, too old for some hikes. Life is too short, they would add, the only thing we know for sure is that soon we would not be able to realize some dream trips anymore... Peru... Colombia... Africa... Brazil... so much to see and they are getting old. Regretfully telling us their life story saying that he had worked non-stop for 30 years, no time for family or for any free time! He had worked 24-hours a day in many different countries while she was raising the kids in Germany. Nothing would bring him the time away from his family, he would say with eyes full of pain. So together they had to run to enjoy as much as they could in the time they had left!

From the volcano area of Puerto Montt to the far south Punta Arenas, our final destination, it was a succession of blue Glaciers (Tati was totally surprised to realize that Glaciers can be that blue) Crystal clear baby blue! Unbelievable!!!! Some pampas and some rocky areas, but we couldn't see so much due to upcoming clouds.

And after such a vision we arrived in Punta Arenas, a small city considering Brazil standards, with its 115,000 inhabitants, but huge for Chilenian Patagonia-standards: here are 135,000 in all Chilean Patagonia!!! Well, there is not much left for the others.... As you can see!
But this is pretty representative of the Patagonian spirit... a huge amount of land, filling the eyes of any traveler... you drive hours without seeing much of a civilization.... But this comes next... first, Punta Arenas!!!!

After finding a super cozy Hostel (small inn) we established ourselves and enjoyed three days exploring this new environment while we were waiting for Manon (Matthias friend from Canada, now living in Argentina, Mendoza, enjoying learning Spanish and Tango.) We were super-happy with the fact that Manon managed to join us in our Patagonian adventure!!! .

Chile: Different currency, people, Spanish, culture, ...well.... Food!!! Different weather also!! ... :-/

Spoiled with the for-ever-sun of Costa Rica and Mexico, we had to take our 2 fleeces out of the bag and together with our Gore-Tex make a winter set-up to face that windy, rainy and 12 degree temperature weather!!! Nasty, we must say.... )))

Even more nasty when LAN Chile loose your luggage and you have not all your clothes to make you warmer... not to say cleaner... )))

That was Matthias' luggage situation: all lost, no clue where it could have been, San Jose, Miami, Santiago, Puerto Mont??? Well, the lady of the lost-luggage-counter said: wait for it in the next two days, and then it is no way to find it before Monday!

The good part about it was the allowance of US$100 to buy some first necessity items!!!! We went happily to explore the city center and its shops to find out that with less than US$50 Matthias got himself a new winter jacket, full set of underwear, T-shirts, socks!!! All we needed to buy anyways to the clothes-destroying-washing-machines of Costa Rican and Mexico plus the aging factor of 12-years-with-the-same-underwears-and-Tshirts!!!... Let's put it like that, they indeed needed a replacement! )

Chile - different organization also... in contrast to Costa Rican mess and no-organized-information-source-society, we found ourselves with a well-organized tourist information center that was financed by the government and had impartial and well-structured information about whatever you would like to know. Of course... wouldn't include Argentinean Patagonia.... sure not... as they fight as rivals for everything... we guessed it was the neighbors complex in action! Who has the best port, the most south city, the most beautiful part of Patagonia... and so on!!

But with the leaflets we got from them it was easy to have an overview of the possibilities. We also found out that we had arrived one day before the closing of the boat season to Island Magellan's, the big Penguin Colony Island. Taking our luck, next day we took the last boat of the season to the Penguin colony!!

Matthias put his new waterproof jacket to be tested during our Penguin exploration under constant rain in Magellan's Island. But it was worth it!!! It is so cute (the penguins ) )!!!! All that little Penguins, just looking at us, as if we, instead of them , would be the tourist attraction!

Funny guys these Penguins, the newborn still with the rest of their baby feathers look so funny! The colony with 10,000 penguins is quite impressive. It was beginning of March and the Penguins are starting their migration process.... No wonder... with such weather if we would be Penguins we would also migrate... to Brazil probably!!!

Where is the way to Hawaii???

Where is the way to Hawaii???

After 2-hours by boat to go, one hour going around that Penguin Island with their funny cave-nests... thousands of them.... And another 2-hour boat ride back to Punta Arenas we were back to the mainland at night. Funnily enough... we were so distracted chatting that we haven't seen the boat arriving! Woken up by the crew, telling us that we should leave the boat, we got out just in time to see the boat already leaving again!!

Dark night, raining... of course... we were at the port, far away from the city and we have just realized that the last collective-taxis were simply... ALL GONE!! Well, we thought... let's wait if another taxi eventually would come... hopefully...

2 minutes later... a pick-up van arrived and a guy parks the car, goes out, looks around and comes in our direction. After asking if the boat was already gone and explaining that he had come to fetch some material that should have arrived with the boat, he offered us a ride downtown.

We couldn't believe our luck, this guy was a park ranger and more than giving us a ride home and saving us to get soaking wet during a long dark waiting time, he told us the full story of the Island and its Penguin colony. They were almost extinct in the 90´s. These pacific animals offer no resistance to hunters that go to the island and kill as many as they could carry! There were only a few hundred left when it was declared a National Patrimony and park rangers were hired to guarantee the safety of the survivors. It took them 13 years to reestablish the population. If that wouldn't be enough for our daily luck quote, as we said that we were going downtown to look for a nice place to eat, he took us directly to his favorite restaurant, where Matthias could eat his firs Argentinean-like barbecue for less than US$2!

The next day Manon arrived, time to share stories and enjoy our new company!! So nice to have her with us!!! Time to make some planning together and head to Puerto Natales (the entry city to the Torres del Paine Park).

Manon in Chile!

Manon in Chile!

After 3 hours bus ride we got our first Patagonian impressions.... Infinite pampas... golden colored, sheep and ostriches (nandus) from time to time and some mountain ranges in the background.... Beautiful!

During the ride we got already the hint of what would come next: the weather this season was no so good, it has been raining non stop since January, not common in this time of the year... everyone would tell us.... But fact was that all of the travelers coming back from the park were saying the same.... Soaking wet!!! that's the summary of the story!

We got in Puerto Natales just in time of making reservations in the Refuges of the park, getting Manon a rain-set and buying some food for the trail. We had decided to stay in refuges on the trail and not to camp. The refuges of the park would allow us a nice trek without the need of carrying camping gear and food for the entire trek. We wouldn't be able to make the classic 7-day trek around the park as it was closed due to Floods. We ended up experiencing the Amazing visual of the Park in the most diverse weather conditions... lets put it like that... we really tested our Gore-Tex material in all extremes of its performance: hard winds, soaking wet days, sunny from time to time and finally a mix of solid rain and snow when we were just about to see the Towers itself... which we of course haven't!!!

Endless land..

Endless land..

But, we tell you what, it was quite funny to arrive everyday in the refuges... with our underwear totally wet... to say the least, take out our shoes and get out the water out of our socks... and exchange with the other travelers our daily experiences and see that after all your day hasn't been so bad.... As there is always somebody that had faced a trail more flooded that yours and got lost for full 2 hours trying to find a way out of that lake and got the legs all scratched with the spikes of the bushes.... At least, we would think... we could see the beautiful British valley with its incredible mix of glaciers and towers and different kinds of stones... mind blowing!!

- But, talking about the Patagonian image that you are totally on yourself on the wildness and endless fields and treks and pampas... well... Torres del Paine is not exactly the place to experience that. The trails are full and so are the refuges and camping places, which is fun to meet other travelers and get tips from all over the world experiences, but is was not exactly what one can thing about the end of the world. ))

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine

But the food of the refuges.... This is a chapter for itself... these guys cater excellence for meat eaters as well as for vegetarians and at the end of our 6 days trek we had the impression of having got some kilos, or at least to have a really happy stomach!!! ))

But unfortunately the weather was not really helping the trekkers this season and we would say that the impressions we got from that park were beautiful, it must be even more beautiful with sunny warm weather )

Most impressing was Manon's high spirit, with not exactly professional weather gear ( a plastic raincoat and pants of the yellow bag material..) She showed us what hiking is about: having fun in sub-optimal conditions! is now June 12th, we ARE late with this part of our story.

In order to get this part out to you we make it brief:

After our adventures in the Torres del Paine Park we went to the Argentinean side of Patagonia, visited an incredible glacier, saved a cat kitten of 1001 hungry dogs and returned to Chile.

We flew 1000km north to hit warmer weather in Santiago and spent 1 beautiful week with our top highlight 6-day hike and the visit of Val-Paraiso, a magic historical city.

Then we flew out to Brazil!!!

You are here : Overview The Americas Chile Chile
The trip
Our dream trip
Start of journey: January 2003
Duration: 12 months
End of journey: January 2004
Travelled countries: Mexico
Costa Rica
New Zealand
The Author
TatiMatthias FreirePetri is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 15 years.
Picture of author