Patagonia in lovely April

Old May 28th, 2018, 06:31 AM
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Excellent trip report and superb photos althom1122 ! You are causing me to reevaluate my carefully laid travel plans for next year!!
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Old May 28th, 2018, 07:29 AM
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Last morning in TDP; back to Puerto Natales

Thanks, crellston. We'd planned this trip for several years before we finally decided to pull the trigger (or "frigger" as the puma sign said). So glad we did! It's an amazing place, unlike anywhere else we've been.

Since we’d gotten gas the night before, we decided to head back to the Mirador Cuernos hike for our last morning in Torres del Paine. It was overcast today - no blue skies - but the mountains were visible and there was no rain and virtually no wind, so we were in luck.

From the parking lot we passed Salto Grande again (no rainbow this morning) and continued on. This trail is wonderful. It passes beside a couple of lakes, through an area of burnt forest from the severe forest fire of several years ago, with the Cuernos always in front of you and getting closer with each step.

We passed only a few people on the trail (I’m guessing it’s much busier during peak season) and thoroughly enjoyed the near solitude. A couple of times we heard a loud cracking sound, which someone told us was likely a glacier calving. It did sound similar to what we’d heard at Perito Moreno glacier, so that was probably right. We wondered if it might have been avalanches. Not sure.

After about a mile, we came to a small lake, which thanks to the lack of wind created a perfect mirror of the peaks. You had to get off the trail onto the little black beach and walk around to the left in order to see the fabulous reflection. It was one of the “wow” moments of the trip. We continued on to the Lake Nordesnskjold viewpoint - with a sign declaring, in Spanish, end of the trail.

A few people were there, including two American couples. We asked one of them to take our picture, and as Tom walked over to retrieve my cell phone, the man said to me, “Don’t move.” My first thought was, yikes, a puma. He repeated the command, so I stood still. Then I saw a couple of other people smiling and pointing and realized there was no danger. A guanaco had come up the hill behind me, a ways back, but just close enough to photo-bomb me.

After a good laugh about that, we headed back to the car and set off for Puerto Natales around noon or 1. Because the main road was again closed for construction, we had to backtrack via the detour - arriving in Puerto Natales around 3:30. I’d wanted to try a hostel (but with a private room) so we stayed at tiny Hostal Treehouse Patagonia for about $70 USD. It was fine for one night with a reasonably comfortable double and a teeny tiny bathroom.

We spent the remainder of the day strolling around town, although there’s not much to see - we were so glad we’d splurged to stay in the Park. We did have a wonderful dinner, though, at Lenga Restaurant. The service was excellent, and our server patiently explained all the dishes on the small but outstanding menu, in English. We ordered, I hesitate to say it, guanaco medallions and a corn cake appetizer - both of which we shared - and which was plenty of food, although smaller portions than we’d become accustomed to in Argentina. This was a small restaurant with very high-quality food and definitely worth seeking out. It ranked up there with the steak dinner we’d had in El Calafate.

After dinner we found a gelato shop for dessert before heading back to the hostel to sleep. Tomorrow - big travel day back to Buenos Aires.

Last edited by althom1122; May 28th, 2018 at 08:08 AM. Reason: Omitted something.
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Old May 28th, 2018, 08:04 AM
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Pics

An unusual way to get gas... but thank goodness we got it!

View from our room at Rio Serrano.


Pisco sours on our last night at Rio Serrano.


On the trail to Mirador Cuernos.



As you can see, the water was like glass.



Photo-bombed by a guanaco.



Guanaco for dinner (I felt a little guilty - but it was really good!)

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Old May 28th, 2018, 08:09 AM
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One more

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Old May 28th, 2018, 12:21 PM
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Nice!
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Old May 29th, 2018, 07:20 PM
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Thanks for this delightful report!
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Old Jun 1st, 2018, 10:56 AM
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I will never be able to do this trip (physically) but thank you for taking us on your wonderful journey! Your photos are fantastic and I ALMOST feel like I'm there!
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Old Jun 1st, 2018, 11:28 AM
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Final days of trip - back to BA

Thanks, progol, crellston, tripplanner, avrooster, yestravel, Kathie, mlgb, xcountry, sf7307, and NorenePalmer - and anyone I may have missed - for following along. Nearly done...

Back to Buenos Aires

From Puerto Natales, we caught a cab to the bus station and the bus back to El Calafate. Same long border stop as before, although to enter Argentina we didn’t have to get our luggage off the bus for inspection as we’d done to enter Chile. Nonetheless, it took over 2 hours total for the two borders. Interestingly, at the exit to Chile, a fox hung out close to the immigration building, obviously in hopes of a hand-out. A few of the bus riders obliged and he stayed pretty close. I’d never seen a fox do that; he’d obviously been “trained” by thoughtless tourists who think it’s cute.

We arrived back at the El Calafate bus station (again!). Although our flight was several hours away, we decided to go straight to the airport and see if there was a chance of catching an earlier flight. No such luck, so we had a fairly long wait. We finally got to our hotel, Sileo in the Recoleta area, around midnight.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Sileo. It has a terrific location just across from the Recoleta Cemetery and in a great walking neighborhood. It was a different vibe from Palermo - we’re so glad we tried both areas. Palermo is more funky; Recoleta is more elegant. Both are fascinating.

The next morning we took the hop-on-hop-off bus tour to get an overview of the city. I’m glad we did so, but in hindsight, I’d have done a better job of researching where we wanted to stop such that we could have made better use of our time. We got off at the Floralis Generica (tulip statue) and enjoyed taking some pictures before heading to lunch. We crossed a busy street in a crosswalk and as we stepped up onto the sidewalk a woman bike rider rode right into Tom. The bike path to the right of us, ended just before the crosswalk, but she ignored the lines and plowed straight through. Fortunately, he wasn’t knocked over, but he did do a series of acrobatic twirls and dips to somehow stay on his feet. He sustained a large abrasion on his arm, from her tire, and another on his leg. She and her boyfriend were quite apologetic. Tom, as he always is, was gracious and good-humored - and lucky it wasn’t worse.

After lunch, we decided to head to back to the tulip statue - and it was there on the sidewalk that were hit by the bird-poop (or mustard) scam. I felt a sudden spray on my back and immediately noticed a foul smell. Right away we were approached by a man wanting to “help” clean me off. He produced napkins and took my arm, trying to help me off with my bag, so he could wipe off the supposed bird poop. He tried to get Tom to take over cleaning me up, but my savvy husband grabbed my bag and said, no thanks, we’re going back to our hotel right now. He said when he approached me, he felt the man’s hand on his front pocket, where he had his wallet. Fortunately, we escaped with nothing more than dirty clothes (some had gotten on Tom, as well).

That put a damper on the remainder of the afternoon and we took a quick nap before getting ready for the tango show we’d booked. Yes, it was touristy. But, hey, when in Buenos Aires… The steak dinner was fine if not excellent and the show was enjoyable. We were really glad we went - probably wouldn’t do it again.

The next day was our last in BA. We spent the morning in the Recoleta Cemetery and the afternoon shopping. (I found a lovely pair of leather shoes.) That evening we headed for the airport and the long flight back to Baltimore.

It was a fabulous trip - one of the best ever (yes, I probably say that after every trip).

Thanks for joining me as I relived the days! Will add a few final photos momentarily.

Karen
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Old Jun 1st, 2018, 11:47 AM
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Pictures - BA




Eva Peron's grave site


The "tulip statue"



A delightful ice cream place. This was in Palermo at the beginning of the trip, but I decided to post all the BA pictures together.


Also in Palermo



The bird-poop scam






The street art was amazing.


In the cemetery

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Old Jun 1st, 2018, 12:47 PM
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Thanks for taking the time to write a wonderful TR. And sorry you got hit by the bird poop scam...how annoying. Our trip 7 years ago to most of the places you visited was one of our favorite trips. Your pictures are encouraging me to go back, maybe combined with the Chilean Desert where we didn’t go. Also gorgeous pictures.

pS are you in the DC or Baltimore area?
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Old Jun 1st, 2018, 04:14 PM
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Thanks for sharing. I very much enjoyed reliving some of my experiences through you and learning about some of the places we haven't touched. Sorry about the scam; we were victims too - across from Casa Rosada on our first full day in BA.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2018, 11:26 AM
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Yestravel - we live in Columbia - between DC and Baltimore. We want to go back, too, and would definitely like to see some new areas - desert, wine country, and Iguazu Falls. Maybe not until we retire, though.

Tripplanner - wow, can't believe you were victims of the same scam. It seems to be really common. Glad you enjoyed my report.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2018, 11:38 AM
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IF is fabulous if you are a falls fan and the NW of Argentina is pretty spectacular too
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 05:49 AM
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Great report and photos..glad you survived Buenos Aires..more dangerous than Patagonia!
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Old Jul 30th, 2018, 06:56 PM
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Thanks for taking the time for writing this awesome trip report and posting the gorgeous photos. I love mountains (Austrian, Swiss, French, German and Italian Alps and we just returned from the Canadian Rockies) I have always had Patagonia on my wish list and despite being independent travelers I always thought I would need to take a tour of that region. You have given me confidence that it can be done with research and planning ahead. What do you think your savings was over a similar tour from your research?
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Old Aug 4th, 2018, 08:21 AM
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Thanks, mlgb.

Hi deladeb - we spent just over half of what a budget to moderate tour would have cost. Going in April definitely saved us a bit as some of the prices drop in shoulder season. I keep a spreadsheet of major expenses, so I can give you a good breakdown (all in U.S. dollars). All the costs are the total for both of us:

Lodging - about $2,100 for 14 nights. Most expensive was Rio Serrano in Torres del Paine, $861 for three nights, worth the splurge.

Domestic flights - just over $1000 (total for both of us - if we had booked earlier, I think we'd have done better). Flights were from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, from Ushuaia to El Calafate, and from El Calafate to Buenos Aires.

Buses - about $240 - I didn't enter the exact amounts but that's close. That included the ride from E Calafate to El Chalten and back, plus the ride from El Calafate to Torres del Paine and back.

Car rental - $280

Excursions - about $400 (a bit less). That included the penguin tour in Ushuaia (worth it!) and the trip to Perito Moreno Glacier.

Breakfasts were usually included at the hotels. I didn't keep track of lunch and dinner costs. Food wasn't cheap - but not terribly expensive, either. And for dinner, we often got an appetizer and shared an entree. (Portions are very large and lots of people seem to do that.)

We used frequent flier miles, so minimal cost there.

All told minus meals - just over $4000 for the basics for two people. A similar trip to ours with a UK company (sorry, I don't remember which one) was about that per person.

Last edited by althom1122; Aug 4th, 2018 at 08:24 AM. Reason: Spelling error
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Old Aug 11th, 2018, 12:37 AM
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Wonderful Report. Looking forward to our trip next March.
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Old Aug 15th, 2018, 05:37 AM
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althom: Thank-you for that breakdown, it will be helpful.
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Old Nov 16th, 2020, 10:17 AM
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Tatio geysers

As a semi-professional photographer, Chile is one of my favorite travel destinations - primarily because of its unique flora and fauna!

One of the most impressive natural spectacles in Chile are the Tatio geysers in the high valley of Tatio at 4321 meters above sea level. It hisses, bubbles and steams enormously up here at the highest geyser field in the world. Getting up early in the morning is essential because, especially against the light of the first sunrays, you can take fantastic pictures of this natural spectacle. You have the feeling as if you were on a foreign planet. With a bit of luck, you can watch vicuñas and guanacos grazing, the wild relatives of the llamas. For their fur, which is considered the finest wool fabric, these dainty little animals have been hunted almost to extinction in the last decades. In Chile, vicuñas are meanwhile under nature conservation and reproduce magnificently again.
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