Patagonia

Here is our account, with photos, of a wonderful holiday in Patagonia in November 2016. To enlarge any picture, just click on it.

Santiago

We landed in the morning at Santiago. After a short delay to report our lost luggage we went on a tour of the city starting with the impressive Santa Lucía park from where we had good views over the city. We walked around the centre where we were shown the buildings from the time of Allende, which were very cubic in design, the cathedral, which is not a cathedral, the museum and the fish market. At the fishmarket we had a good but rather chaotic late lunch. Our guide, Roberto, told us quite a lot of history including that of the Mapuche people who had resisted the Spaniards. We also heard about the earthquakes and how often they occurred. In the evening we enjoyed a meal with good views of the mountains behind the city. Despite a hopeful text our luggage did not appear.
Statue, Cerro Santa Lucía
Statue, Cerro Santa Lucía
Araucaria, Cerro Santa Lucía
Araucaria, Cerro Santa Lucía
View from Cerro Santa Lucía
View from Cerro Santa Lucía

El Morado

We drove up the Maipo valley until the road became a bumpy track used by lorries building a hydro electric plant. Our walk was through a spectacular valley and up to the El Morado lake which is dominated by a hanging glacier. We saw some interesting birds including the Patagonian sierra finch with its yellow and green plumage. As we walked up to about 3200 metres and on snow for the most part the walk was quite tough but very rewarding. Camilla was grateful to our second guide, Macharina, for the loan of her poles. We returned to the hotel, stopping twice, once to watch a condor and once for a barbecue dinner. No sign of our luggage.
Patagonian Sierra Finch
Patagonian Sierra Finch
Estero El Morado
Estero El Morado
Estero El Morado
Estero El Morado
Cerro El Morado
Cerro El Morado
Cerro El Morado
Cerro El Morado
El Morado
El Morado
Going down
Going down
View down Estero El Morado
View down Estero El Morado
Maipo valley mountains
Maipo valley mountains

To Puerto Natales

We went to the airport for our flight to Punta Arenas, hoping to pick up our lost luggage. The Iberia office, which took some finding, were unable to help us in the time before our flight. We were met at Punta Arenas by Francesca who took us shopping for necessary equipment as there was no sign of our luggage although some promises! We then drove to Puerto Natales where we met our guide Claudio and were told about the boat trips planned for the next day. He did admit to a plan B if the wind was too strong. The group were very patient about the delay we caused in having to go shopping. Camilla now had a waterproof coat and David had walking trousers. We could cope!

Puerto Natales and the journey to the Ecocamp

One glance at the sea told us that it would be plan B! Although we were all ready for an early start we no longer had to make one and so were able to walk along the shore and enjoy the bird life and some interesting sculptures. We saw black-necked swans with cygnets, various types of duck (Chiloe wigeon, speckled teal, crested duck). We also saw tern, possibly Arctic, a couple of Magellanic oyster catchers (black and white with red beaks like their northern hemisphere counterparts but with pink legs and bright yellow eyes), Southern lapwings, and rock cormorants and were serenaded by a chincol or rufous-collared sparrow.
Black necked swans
Black necked swans
Mylodon statue
Mylodon statue
Sculpture, Puerto Natales
Sculpture, Puerto Natales
Oyster Catcher
Oyster Catcher
Rufous-collared sparrow
Rufous-collared sparrow
Rainbow, Puerto Natales
Rainbow, Puerto Natales
We then got on the bus and went to the Mylodon cave which is huge, has good stalactites and was home to the now extinct mylodon a scupture of which we had seen in Puerto Natales. We learnt about the three main local trees, two of which are a type of beech and have an attractive parasitic growth which consists of yellow and orange threads. We then went to an Argentinian border village where we bought a useful wildlife guide. On the drive from there to the Ecocamp we saw a rhea, some black faced ibis, some beautiful Chilean flamenco, lots of guanaco, lots of upland geese, Andean condors, and black-chested buzzard-eagles. After an excellent lunch and finding our domes we went out again to see the impressive Cascada de Paine and a large herd of guanaco. On the way we stopped to see some Austral parakeets. Walking to see the guanaco we also saw austral negrito, also known as schoolboys, which are small dark brown birds with a rufous back, the strangely named black-headed ground-tyrants, Chilean swallows, Southern crested Caracara and a South American grey fox.
View from outside Mylodon Cave
View from outside Mylodon Cave
Chilean Flamingos
Chilean Flamingos
First view of Torres Del Paine
First view of Torres Del Paine
Austral Parakeet
Austral Parakeet
Cascada de Paine
Cascada de Paine
Guanaco
Guanaco

Torres del Paine

Before breakfast we saw a striped woodpecker and were entertained by a pair of caracara flying around and doing what caracara do in the spring. We then set off at 8:30 for a 21km walk up the Ascencio valley to the 'look-out' of the Torres. Our second guide at the Ecocamp, Marie, joined us. Like Claudio she was a great addition to the group. The sky had a good deal of blue and there was not too much wind though we could see cloud around the Torres themselves. We soon saw a flicker, another type of woodpecker, as well as southern lapwing. There were many wild flowers and we particularly liked the firebush with its bright red honeysuckle-like flowers. We had a superb walk up the valley with the river beneath us. We stopped for lunch at the refuge where lots of rufous-collared sparrows were pecking around and then proceeded through woodland to the base of the final climb to the view point. The climb was rocky but we managed well despite our inadequate footwear (still no luggage). At the top we had a superb view of the creamy turquoise lake and towers although the towers did have some mist clinging. On our way down we met a red fox and had two good sightings of torrent ducks, the second sighting included male, female and duckling. On the final stretch back to the campsite we had to stop for a large herd of horses to cross the track and we saw black-chinned siskin in the trees. An excellent day but still no luggage!
Inside our dome
Inside our dome
Southern Crested-Caracara
Southern Crested-Caracara
Southern Crested-Caracara
Southern Crested-Caracara
Striped Woodpecker
Striped Woodpecker
Chilean Flicker
Chilean Flicker
Fire-bush
Fire-bush
Rio Ascensio
Rio Ascensio
Rio Ascensio
Rio Ascensio
Waterfall Plant
Waterfall Plant
Cerro Nido de Condor
Cerro Nido de Condor
Waterfall on the way up
Waterfall on the way up
Lago Torres
Lago Torres
Lago Torres
Lago Torres
Dark-faced
Ground-Tyrant
Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant
Torres Del Paine
Torres Del Paine
Lago Nordenskiöld
Lago Nordenskiöld
Male Torrent Duck
Male Torrent Duck
Female Torrent Duck
Female Torrent Duck
Torrent
Duck and Duckling
Torrent Duck and Duckling
Horses
Horses
Austral Thrush
Austral Thrush

Cave paintings and views of Cuernos del Paine

The day started with a walk via Laguna Goic and a cave with remnants of hand paintings. The views of the mountains, with their differently coloured bands of granite and sedimentary rock, were stunning. On the bird front, there were more flamingos, two white swans, some red-gartered coot, though we never saw their garters, and a long-tailed meadowlark. Why the latter is named for its tail rather its spectacular bright red breast is a mystery. We also enjoyed the flowers including patagonian pea, guanaco bush, sand ladies slipper, common yellow violet, wild geranium and escallonia.
Sand lady
Sand lady's slipper
Wild Geranium
Wild Geranium
Common Yellow Violet
Common Yellow Violet
View on the way
View on the way
Cave Painting
Cave Painting
Layers of granite and sedimentary rock
Layers of granite and sedimentary rock
Wild-blue Pea
Wild-blue Pea
Chilean Flamingos and Coscoroba Swans
Chilean Flamingos and Coscoroba Swans
Mountain View
Mountain View
Pumas may be here
Pumas may be here
Guanaco Bush
Guanaco Bush
Austral Negrito
Austral Negrito
We were met by the bus at the end of the walk and taken to the Lake Pehoé viewpoint from where we had a view, across a turquoise lake, of the horn of Paine.
Lago Pehoé
Lago Pehoé
Lago Pehoé
Lago Pehoé
Cuernos Del Paine
Cuernos Del Paine
The second walk of the day was past a superb waterfall to a viewpoint across Lago Nordenskjöld. This walk had great views but was occasionally very windy. Still no luggage but a promise that one bag may reach us tomorrow. We have been told that before!
Rio Paine waterfall
Rio Paine waterfall
Rio Paine
Rio Paine
Lago Nordenskjöld
Lago Nordenskjöld

French valley

The weather was not so good today. It had been very windy overnight but was calmer by breakfast. We drove to a catamaran pier and took the boat across Lake Pehoé to the beginning of the track up the valley. There were two foxes and a Chimango Caracara near the beginning of the walk. The walk took us to a viewpoint over Lagu Skottsburg and then past a small lagoon to follow the river up the French Valley. We went through large areas of dead trees that resulted from a huge fire in 2011. There were various wild flowers including the very pretty dog orchid. After a bit over 7 kms we reached the 'Italian camp' via a bridge not too unlike Carrickarede rope bridge. This was where Italian climbers based themselves before climbing some of the peaks. After lunch we climbed a bit further up the valley to two viewpoints. Although it was not completely clear there were good views of the glaciers ahead and the turquoise lakes behind. We returned the way we came. The weather had improved and Lagu Skottsburg was now bright blue but with strong gusts of wind blowing across its surface. We had a very good view of a fire-eyed diucon where we could clearly see its red eye. It flew before the camera was quite ready! On return to the ecocamp we found one of our bags and the news that the other was being returned to the UK! Not good.
Lago Skottsberg
Lago Skottsberg
Waterfall Plant
Waterfall Plant
View across Rio del Francés
View across Rio del Francés
Green
lake in French Valley
Green lake in French Valley
Layers of granite and sedimentary rock
Layers of granite and sedimentary rock
Prickly Heath
Prickly Heath
Chimango Caracara
Chimango Caracara
Native Anenome
Native Anenome
Fire-bush
Fire-bush
Lago Skottsberg
Lago Skottsberg
Wind on Lago Skottsberg
Wind on Lago Skottsberg
Our dome
Our dome

El Calafate

There was an early start, so as not to have to queue too long at the border. There was also a hiccup as three pieces of luggage (including our - just returned - one piece) had been put on the wrong bus. Fortunately we were able to reclaim them at the border. On the way to the border we saw some young rhea and some distant flamingos. We had to go through two crossing formalities, one to leave Chile and one to enter Argentina. After this we had a long drive across Steppe country until we reached a look-out with a view of Lake Argentina and El Calafate. We arrived in El Calafate in time for lunch and the afternoon was spent buying David various necessities including walking boots (hush puppies would you believe?) and walking to the nature reserve where we saw flamingos (some in flight), yellow =-billed ducks, a long-tailed meadow lark and a spectacled tyrant (sic).
Flamingos
Flamingos
Long-tailed Meadowlark
Long-tailed Meadowlark
Chiloe Wigeon
Chiloe Wigeon
Spectacled Tyrant
Spectacled Tyrant
Flying Flamingos
Flying Flamingos
Flamingos
Flamingos

Perito Moreno

In the morning we drove up to the Perito Moreno Glacier where we did a 'board walk' to view the glacier. The edges of the glacier are over a mile wide and there were frequent rumbles as ice fell into the lake. After the walk we took a boat trip that took us to within 300 metres of the glacier wall. We were then taken to El Chalten through quite a lot of steppe and with glimpses of turquoise lakes and rivers.
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Hole in Perito Moreno Glacier
Hole in Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Sierra-Finch at Perito Moreno
Sierra-Finch at Perito Moreno
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

Pliegue Tumbado

We left the hotel at 8:30 and made our way slowly and steadily upwards. We passed across steppe, then forest and finally rocky moraine. There was some snow on the trees and some lying. We reached a viewpoint overlooking a glacial lake. It was too windy to climb the final hill so we had lunch and then returned the way we had come, pausing for a successful fossil hunt on the way. The views all around were great.
Solo
Solo
View on the way up
View on the way up
View looking back
View looking back
View on the way up
View on the way up
Climbing up
Climbing up
The hill we were meant to go up
The hill we were meant to go up
View from the top
View from the top
Fossils
Fossils
Looking back to El Chalten
Looking back to El Chalten

Walk via Fitzroy base camp

We woke to clear blue skies and little wind. A day for sunhats, sun cream, and sunglasses. After a half-hour drive along a bumpy road, we set off on a lovely track through woodland but with great views of the mountains. There was a steep climb to the main viewpoint for Mount Fitzroy and the turquoise Lago de los Tres where we took lunch. A few of us did an extra bit in order to view a second lake, Lago Sucia, which was a deeper turquoise. It was a wonderful walk. Let the photos show it!
Fitzroy
Fitzroy
Mountain view
Mountain view
View to the East
View to the East
Fitzroy
Fitzroy
Snowy mountain
Snowy mountain
Fitzroy
Fitzroy
Fitzroy and Poincenot
Fitzroy and Poincenot
Lago de los Tres
Lago de los Tres
Laguna Sucia
Laguna Sucia
Both lakes
Both lakes
Lago de los Tres
Lago de los Tres
Mountain above Lago de los Tres
Mountain above Lago de los Tres
Ashy-headed Goose
Ashy-headed Goose
Laguna Capri
Laguna Capri
Rio de Las Vueltas
Rio de Las Vueltas

Laguna Torre

The walk today followed the Fitzroy river up to the glacial Laguna Torres, which we had seen from above two days earlier. It passed through various types of forest and crossed moraines left by glaciers from various ice ages. The lagoon itself had a fair number of small icebergs that had broken from the glacier.
Fitzroy and Poincenot
Fitzroy and Poincenot
Rio Fitzroy
Rio Fitzroy
Morraine ahead
Morraine ahead
Information board
Information board
Cerre Torre, Torre Egger
Cerre Torre, Torre Egger
Solo
Solo
Laguna Torre
Laguna Torre
Close up of Torres
Close up of Torres
Icebergs on Laguna Torre
Icebergs on Laguna Torre
Morraines
Morraines
Above Laguna Torre
Above Laguna Torre
Fired-eyed Diucon
Fired-eyed Diucon

Transfer to Tierra del Fuego

We drove back to El Calafate airport, said our goodbyes to most of the group who were heading home and flew down to Ushuaia with Mel and John who were also doing the extension to Tierra del Fuego. Awaiting us at Ushuaia airport was our second bag which appeared to have visited most of the airports in Chile and Argentina and had not in fact gone back to the UK. On arrival at our hotel, there was a king penguin standing on the shore. He was apparently lost following migration and he moved on when the tide came in.
Southern Lapwing
Southern Lapwing
King Penguin
King Penguin
Lost? King Penguin
Lost? King Penguin

Penguins and Gable Island

The weather forecast was not very good but the actual weather was cloudy with occasional drizzle rather than seriously wet. We drove to the Harberton Estate, east of Ushuaia, and donned wellies, red waterproof trousers and life jackets. After a brief description of how to use a paddle, eight of us boarded an inflatable canoe along with our canoe guide. We canoed down a river and out into the Beagle channel where we were lucky enough to see some Magellanic penguins swimming nearby. We then landed and shed our waterproofs to then board a small boat which took us to Penguin Island where we could observe the antics of the birds from close by. After a sumptuous barbecue lunch on Gable Island we spent the afternoon walking across the island and were introduced to some of the vegetation, some beaver dams and descriptions of the Yamana people who originally inhabited thse parts.
Wind blown tree
Wind blown tree
American Kestrel
American Kestrel
Rio Lasifahaj
Rio Lasifahaj
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Another lost King Penguin
Another lost King Penguin
Magellanic Penguins
Magellanic Penguins
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguins
Magellanic Penguins
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguins
Magellanic Penguins
Lunch place on Gabel Island
Lunch place on Gabel Island
Azorella compacta
Azorella compacta
Azorella compacta
Azorella compacta
Beaver Dam
Beaver Dam
Beaver Lodge
Beaver Lodge
Campanilla
Campanilla
Indian Bread
Indian Bread
Winter
Winter's Green
Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture

The national park

The weather today was glorious with blue skies and sunshine. We started with a coastal walk. This was a real pleasure with clear sea, beaches and occasional diversions into the forest. We saw various birds including a type of parakeet. We were hoping to see a Magellanic woodpecker and had almost given uo hope when Loretto, our guide, spotted one right at the end of the walk. After another sumptuous lunch and suitably tanked up with red wine, we headed out to canoe once more, this time in 4 person canoes. There were not enough guides for each canoe to have one so the British, that is Mel, John and ourselves, were assigned to one canoe and pushed out into the lagoon. We canoed for a while but soon realised the others were going in a different opposite direction. We caught them up and canoed down a river, narrowly avoiding being grounded on a sand bank, and had to portage the canoes a short distance onto a faster flowing river leading to Lapataia bay. We all took some time out from paddling on this part of the trip, enjoying the sun, the wildlife and the views. After this we returned to Ushuaia and a lightish dinner.
Chile across the Beagle Channel
Chile across the Beagle Channel
Dolphin Gull
Dolphin Gull
Post Office at Fin Del Mundo
Post Office at Fin Del Mundo
Green rocks
Green rocks
Primula Magellanica
Primula Magellanica
Sandy bank
Sandy bank
Chimango Caracara
Chimango Caracara
View from the coastal walk
View from the coastal walk
Rock cormorants
Rock cormorants
Flying Steamer Duck
Flying Steamer Duck
Upland Geese
Upland Geese
Magellanic Woodpecker (female)
Magellanic Woodpecker (female)

Navigation

We woke, again, to blue skies. In the morning we had a boat trip (Navigation) on the Beagle channel out to the lighthouse Faro Les Eclaires. This was much enjoyed by all and had good views of sealions, great petrels and cormorants as well as a short visit from some black-browed albatros. We then had the afternoon to wander round Ushuaia before heading for the airport and Buenos Aires. We visited the prison museum which, in fact is a collection of museums, which we found quite interesting.
View from the boat
View from the boat
Ushuaia from the boat
Ushuaia from the boat
Cormorants
Cormorants
Imperial Cormorant and Arctic Tern
Imperial Cormorant and Arctic Tern
Imperial Cormorant
Imperial Cormorant
Imperial Cormorant
Imperial Cormorant
Sealions
Sealions
Sealion
Sealion
Sealions
Sealions
Sealions
Sealions
Young sealions
Young sealions
Sealions
Sealions
Female Kelp Goose
Female Kelp Goose
Beagle Channel
Beagle Channel
View from where we landed
View from where we landed
Black browed Albatross
Black browed Albatross
Les Eclareurs Lighthouse
Les Eclareurs Lighthouse
Cormorant
Cormorant
Kelp goose (male)
Kelp goose (male)
Flying Cormorant
Flying Cormorant
Cormorants near lighthouse
Cormorants near lighthouse
Kelp Geese
Kelp Geese
Les Eclareurs Lighthouse
Les Eclareurs Lighthouse
Great Petrel
Great Petrel

Buenos Aires

Our last day was spent exploring Buenos Aires. It was good to meet up with Gordon and Elisabeth who had been there for a few days. They were excellent guides! We partuclarly liked the Plaza de Mayo, the Floralis Genérica and the murals and colured houses in La Boca.
Plaza de Mayo
Plaza de Mayo
Jacaranda in Plaza de Mayo
Jacaranda in Plaza de Mayo
Black cat mural
Black cat mural
Four windows, La Boca
Four windows, La Boca
Floralis Genérica
Floralis Genérica
Mural
Mural

Maps and details of walks

We tracked the walks using Viewranger, a mobile app, and Open Cycle maps. The pictures below are screenshots.
Maps © www.thunderforest.com Data © www.osm.org
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