Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2011, 8th - 11th October: Esquel, Argentina to Coyhaique, Chile

2011, 8th - 11th October: Esquel, Argentina to Coyhaique, Chile

Theme: Buses & Hitching through Stunning Scenery...(a ´Patagonian transportation learning experience´)

For all the photos, follow this link:


8th - 9th October: Esquel, Argentina

The aim overall was to get to Chile via the Trevelin (near Esquel, Argentina) to Futulueful (Chile) border crossing. Before heading for Esquel I could find no information on the border crossing bus (that´s the way the local bus timetables work here - it´s all local knowledge with pretty much no published timetables outside of the local town). So, I travelled from Puerto Madryn to Esquel overnight arriving in Esquel at 6:30am Saturday only to find the next bus to Chile was on Monday - nice. Not so bad as Esquel is pleasant and a chance for a few easy days.

Flora Near to Esquel

10th - 11th October: Esquel (Argentina) to Coyhaique (Chile)

Things got more tricky here as this part of Southern Patagonia in Chile is absolutely beautiful but very remote so really difficult for transportation and very slow (unless you do something (hitching) to speed it up).

I expected (along with Cecile (Norweigen) and Karo (Slovakina) who I met on the way) to spend a few days in Futaluefu (Chile) as it is very famous for rafting. Alas, we were a month too early and the season had yet to start so the town was dead. Options; wait till the next morning for a bus which will only take us part way or hitch...

First hitch, a lovely family from Esquel who set me down part-way at a junction where they were heading in the opposite direction - the trouble was the junction was in the middle of nowhere. So, waiting, waiting a car every 30 minutes nobody stopping - ok, maybe I´ll sleep in somebody´s shed tonight. Then, saved by two guys in a pickup truck - hurrah, freeze my bits in the back of the truck and admire the glorious scenery. The driver really shifted, so left part of my skeletal structure along the bumpy gravel roads.

Argentinian Border Post Near Trevelin

River Futaluefu in Chile

View of Chilean Southern Patagonia from Back of Pickup Truck

By hook or by crook, we got to La Junta which is on the ´Cerreta Austral´- this is the ´M1´of Southern Patagonia. The Cerreta Austral was built by Pinochet in the 1980´s - primarily a strategic move because at that time there were still border disputes running with Argentina. Most of the route through Southern Patagonia is very basic being gravel only. Prior to this road being built, people could only travel in the area by boat through all the inlets, rivers and lakes, so while it is ´only´ a gravel road it did make travel in the area somewhat more practical.

Me, Cecile and Karo spent the night in a rather basic trucker´s stop in La Junta (also rather basic) - couldn´t wait to get out. Up at 4:45am to try to get a bus to Coyhaique. It pulled up...."it´s full says the driver", "we´ll take the floor I reply" (one bus a day at best so I took whatever was available - I did not want to spend another day and night in that trucker´s stop). Then 6 bum-cheek-freezing hours on the floor of a bus, but through yet more of the unbelievable scenery of Southern Patagonia and; at last civilisation in Coyhaique.

The Chilean ´M1´ of Southern Patagonia
(a very rare dual carriageway section as most of it is only a lane and a half wide). The majority is not tarmac but gravel like this.

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011, October 4th - 7th: Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

2011, October 4th - 7th.
Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

Puerto Madryn, on the Atlantic coast of Northern Patagonia in Argentina is famed for a huge amount of sea life. While here I saw Elephant Seals, Southern Right Whales and Magellanic Penguins.

For a full complement of photos, go my Flickr account via the following link:


Click on the set called "2011, October 4th - 7th: Puerto Madryn, Argentina"

Elephant Seals
The males can weigh 5 tonnes. The male´s elephant-like trunk allows them to close their airways and dive to tremendous depths (1500 metres). I was told that the males can hold their breath for two hours (?). While living on the beach, they have to stay there to keep control of their territory and do not feed. Their weight then drops from 5 to 4 tonnes.
One male elephant seal has up to 40 females in his ´harem´ (busy guy). There must be a lot of lonely male seals out there.

Female Elephant Seal on Punta Ninfas beach near to Puerto Madryn

Female Elephant Seal & Calf on Punta Ninfas beach near to Puerto Madryn

Southern Right Whales
Every year, the Southern Right Whales migrate from Antartica to spend 2-3 months in the Golfo Nuevo to mate and give birth. Inbetween times they feed in Antartica.
They favour this gulf because of the lack of wind (protected by cliffs), no Orches (Killer Whales) in the bay and an ideal water temperature. The mothers stay with the calf for approximately 3 years until it is independent.
The females are larger than the males, so the males get together in a group (of around 8) to mate with one female (kinky).

Southern Right Whale in Gulfo Nuevo near to Puerto Madryn


Southern Right Whale & Calf in Gulfo Nuevo near to Puerto Madryn

Magellanic Penguins
The colony looked pretty comical with penguins everywhere waddling around care-free, busy building their nests.
The male penguins do not fight for the females, but attract them with a finely constructed nest and a bit of courting.

Magellanic Penguin at Punto Tombo, near Trelew

Magellanic Penguin Colony at Punto Tombo, near Trelew

Southern Right Whale in Gulfo Nuevo near to Puerto Madryn

Monday, October 3, 2011

2011, September 25th to October 3rd: Bariloche, Argentina

2011, September 25th to October 3rd.
Bariloche, Argentina.

Bariloche is in the heart of the Argentine Lake District. The environment is stunning and full of snow-capped peaks and lakes. The area (which is very reliant on tourism) is suffering at the moment because of the erruption (ongoing to an extent) of Vulcan (Volcano) Puyehue the other side of the Andes in Chile. This has seen the airport in Bariloche closed for 4 months (hence I had to fly Buenos Aires to Esquel followed by a 4 hour coach journey). Pretty much everywhere is covered in volcanic ash (the first of the pictures below shows pumice floating on a lake).

In addition to a few extra Spanish lessons and some mini excursions, I hooked up with a local mountain guide (Luciano). We did two fantastic mountain treks, one to Frey and the other to a peak in the Lopez massive. The later was done in snow shoes (my first experience of these) as the upper two thirds of the mountain are covered in snow. We also wore tracer beacons in case of avalance - suffice to say I loved it and that Lopez accent is now in my top five mountain walks I have done over the years.

For a full complement of photos, follow this link:


and click on the set called "2011, September 25th - October 3rd: Bariloche, Argentina"

Bahia Lopez (Lopez Bay) in Lago (Lake) Nahuel Huapi):
Note the grey pumice floating on the water.

Luciano on a Ridge Above Frey:

Tim on a Ridge Above Frey:

Tim on One of the Summits of the Lopez Massive (abount 2,200 metres):

2011, September 11th - 24th: Buenos Aires, Argentina

2011, September 11th - 24th.
Buenos Aires, Argentina.

My first two weeks on the continent were spent at a Spanish language school in Buenos Aires. The city is vibrant and is perhaps best described as a cross between Latin America, Paris and New York. It is not blessed with a huge number of particular sights of interest, rather it is the atmosphere and character of the place that is the most enjoyable.

Verdict on learning Spanish.... I am flying the flag for the Bristish in being (a little) naff with languages. The amount of verb conjugation is vast, but at least they consistently pronounce it as it is written - unlike English pronounciation which is a bit random.

The following pictures give a bit of the flavour of the city:

For a full complement of photos, go to my Flickr account via the following link:


Click on the set called "2011, September 11th - 24th: Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Holywood Cafe:
The Holywood district of the Barrio of Palermo is pretty hip, with many quirky bars and cafes.

Puenta de la Mujer:
Footbridge linking the mainland to the (modern) docks district of Puerto Madero

San Telmo Cafe:
View through the window of a cafe in the historic San Telmo district.

Avenida de 9 de Julio:
This very broad avenue disects the city north-south (ish). The women speaking into the microphone on the building is Evita (they love her).

Cementoria de la Recoleta:
This large cemetery is in the very posh Recoleta district. In is full of mausoleums of important people, which I found rather ostentatious and pretentious.