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Following on from @@pomkiwi excellent report of their trip here is the story of our first visit to South America. Being avid African fans we knew the trip would probably not include a lot of wildlife but we were quite impressed with the animals and birds we saw but even more so by the astounding scenery.

 

After a lot of research we decided to use Argentina as the destination country rather than Chile and made all our transfers in and out of Buenos Aires. We got an excellent Business Class fare that was almost the same price as Premium Economy!

 

We flew from London to Buenos Aires via Amsterdam with KLM and arrived at 8am on 19 February 2017.

 

We used the Mine Hotel in Palermo Soho as our base in Buenos Aires for the trip returning there before our visit to the Iguazu Falls and again at the end for a three day stay which allowed us to explore Buenos Aires at a more leisurely pace. A great little hotel. We were able to leave luggage there as the flight to El Calafate and onward to Bariloche had a reduced luggage allowance compared to our international flights.

 

We had booked our trip ourselves, as we usually do, and planned a week in southern Patagonia, 12 nights in the Argentinian/Chilean Lake District especially to see the active volcanoes and 3 nights in Brazil at the Iguazu Falls. Booking the accommodation, hiring the cars and communications were very easy despite our lack of Spanish. Everyone spoke excellent English and we felt very welcome everywhere.

 

The following morning we flew to El Calafate and picked up our hire car. We planned a trip into Chile where we would stay in Torres del Paine NP. First of all we put a day aside to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier which is only 100kms or so from El Calafate. We used Posada Karut Josh as our base in El Calafate, at only US$ 60 per night B&B it is a beautiful little family run place, and the host Frederico cooks amazing food.

 

After a good nights rest we set off for the glacier. A fuel shortage in town caused some anxiety as we knew if we made the 200km round trip we might not have enough fuel to get to Chile the next day. Fingers crossed it would all work out we set off.

 

It was wonderful to be self driving on a new continent and the roads were well maintained and easy. We soon started seeing snow covered mountains in the distance. The sun was shining, the sky blue and there was hardly any other vehicles on the road.

 

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A stop on the way delivered our first Caracara, a very relaxed and photogenic bird.

 

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Edited by penolva
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@@penolva Great start. I'm looking forward to this as we hope to go back to South America next year to revisit the Atacama and get up to Iguazu.

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We arrived at the Perito Moreno Glacier and ate our packed lunch. We could see it clearly across the lake and decided to take a boat trip to get closer. It was stunning. Blue ice that made our little boat look like a toy. We could see people walking on the glacier. Every now and then huge chunks fell off and it made the most astonishing cracking noises that sounded like thunder.

 

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I'm glad that you have decided to share your report with us. Absolutely stunning.

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I'm glad that you have decided to share your report with us. Absolutely stunning.

Thank you @@Chakra I do feel that it's not of much interest here but I will carry on! Pen

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From the boat we drove down to the boardwalks that take you right up to the glacier on another side of it. These boardwalks were very wheelchair friendly, beautifully maintained and easy to walk. We were very impressed. After spending a couple of hours we drove back to El Calafate for the night. The following morning we set off for Chile and Torres del Paine NP.

 

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Love the glacier pictures! A report I´m really looking forward to. :)

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Thanks @@michael-ibk your trip reports have inspired me as you know :) Pen

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I'll be following along too - after our self-drive African adventure next year we want to do an extended drive through South America a few years later.

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Thank you @@JulieM hope it helps. Argentina Chile and Brazil are fantastic if rather expensive. Pen

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Holy Glaciers! You were nose to beak with the caracara.

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Thanks @Atravalyn. They were very relaxed around people. Beautiful birds, we saw a lot of them.

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@penlova

 

Contrary to your remark to Chakra, this report is of great interest here. The glaciers and scenery are stunning. Thanks in advance for sharing your experience with us to a place I hope to visit myself someday.

 

Can't wait for more!

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@@Alexander33 thank you and everyone else for the encouragement :)

 

We didn't have enough fuel to get to Chile! The fuel stations in El Calafate had no petrol only diesel. If you ever rent a car in El Calafate get a diesel one as there are often fuel problems there but diesel seems to be pretty much OK. My other half got up at 4am as there was a rumour of a delivery. Didn't happen.

 

I loaded the Chilean police emergency number into my phone. We might need them :unsure: Surprisingly there is no fuel station at the border!! There was one small fuel station at Espiranza around 200km from El Calafate that sometimes has fuel so we headed there. Our fuel gauge said we did not have enough to get us to Puerto Natalas in Chile, the first place there was definitely fuel.

 

Trying to keep to an even speed we hit this! and had to slow right down. (Yes there is a big crack on the windscreen. Every rental car seems to have at least one. "It's normal" we were told.)

 

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We got to Espiranza and turned into the village. Miracle they had some fuel and were limiting everyone to 10 litres. It was enough to get us to Puerto Natalas. Saved.

 

After crossing the border, easy and quick, we filled up at PN and then headed for the small road that leads to Torres del Paine National Park. You have to have a full tank as there is no fuel for sale in the national park and its illegal to carry jerry cans. You have to plan carefully if you self drive.

 

We splashed out on two locations for our 4 night stay. Patagonia Camp and Hotel Torres. This would give us the opportunity to explore all the roads within the park and do some of the easier walks. We don't hike in mountains so the so called W route was not for us. We began to see scenery like this.

 

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After driving down a gravel road that reminded us so much of South Africa we checked into Patagonia Camp and our yurt. It is located on a beautiful lake with views of the mountains.

 

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Our first full day in the park. Patagonia is a short distance from the park gate. We were able to purchase a three day pass for £57 each. Quite a bargain compared to the park fees we have to pay in Kenya later this year!

 

Our first stop was Lago del Toro where we met some people from the next village to ours. Small world!

 

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Next stop was Lago Grey. There is a boat trip out to the glacier from the beach. It costs US$120 per person and after Perito Moreno which cost a fraction of that we decided just to walk on the beach instead. There were beautiful ice bergs floating just off shore. The blue was amazing.

 

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We had our lunch. There are no shops in Torres del Paine so we made lunch everyday from the breakfast buffet. As its so remote the cost of food at the hotels is expensive. We also brought snacks etc with us from El Calafate. You can not bring meat, cheese or dairy across the border into Chile.

 

Our next stop was Lago Pehoe and the gravel road leading to it was very well maintained. We saw our first guanaco. They are llama like animals that live in the park and surrounding areas. Very attractive and you can get quite close to them.

 

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A word about the weather. Before we left for Patagonia we had been warned of severe gales, sideways rain and freezing temperatures. At any time of the year! We brought down jackets, thermal underwear, hats and gloves and plenty of fleeces and even merino wool socks. We were told by a previous traveller that the wind had been so strong they couldn't even get out of the car. When we were there the sky was blue with fluffy white clouds, no wind and it was so warm we only need T shirts a lot of the time. Just shows you have to pack for every eventuality.

 

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Lago Pehoe has one of the most picturesque view points in the park. There is a small hotel across a bridge on the lake. Hosteria Pehoe. It looks the perfect place to stay but unfortunately has been allowed to run down and they still charge a lot to stay there. The hosteria makes for one of the most iconic photographs of the park seen in all the guide books etc.

 

 

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One of the many waterfalls in the park, Salto Grande. It was quite a way from the road but we could still hear the rushing water.

 

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We drove slowly back to Patagonia Camp and enjoyed the evening sitting on our deck trying to get good photographs of the reflections. During the night there was some gentle rain.

 

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Have you see any puma, armadillo or skunk?

 

My brother in law visited last week for a one day trip TDP and was lucky enough to spot a puma, 10 meters from the road!!!

 

Really happy to see you liked Patagonia!

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@@jeremie No none of them unfortunately. Fox, rea, guanaco etc. No sign of a puma although I looked where you told me. Pen

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Our second full day in the park took us north for our two night stay at Hotel Torres. The rain had stopped and the sun came out but we were still lucky enough to see this beautiful rainbow in the golden early morning light.

 

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Past Lago Pehoe again and it was very windy up there. We headed for Lago Armaga to see the flamingoes that are there. We were very surprised to hear about flamingoes so far south. The scenery changed and got much flatter with a beautiful river.

 

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We reached Lago Armaga and there were the flamingoes and also lots of guanacos. We parked by the beach and the guanaco first had a fight and then chased each other across the road down to the beach beside us. The Cuernos del Paine were clearly visible. Stunning scenery again.

 

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We checked into Hotel Torres. Its a motel like construction with comfortable rooms. The main restaurant and bar area are very nice. We enjoyed the food there, they roast whole lamb over a wood fire each evening. The location is stunning. Many people were using it as a base to hike the W route and several groups went horse riding with the gauchos.

 

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After dinner everyone was taking photographs of some strange, space ship like, cloud formations. Lenticular clouds. We could easily imagine a real spaceship.

 

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The landscape really is unbelievably beautiful, and those are the weirdest clouds I´ve ever seen.

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As if your scenery shots were not spellbinding enough, out pops a rainbow! You could have convinced me that was a flying saucer. Fantastic Page 1!

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The landscape really is unbelievably beautiful, and those are the weirdest clouds I´ve ever seen.

 

@@michael-ibk even more beautiful than Alaska and Norway we thought, but we did have exceptional weather. Those clouds reminded us of the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind especially the ones I am about to post. Pen

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As if your scenery shots were not spellbinding enough, out pops a rainbow! You could have convinced me that was a flying saucer. Fantastic Page 1!

Thanks @@Atravelynn for reading :)

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The following morning we headed towards Laguna Azul as we had heard the scenery was even more stunning there. We came to a big open area and it seemed to be full of guanaco. We were able to get out of the car and walk around amongst them. There were even some cute babies.

 

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Further on there were three foxes eating carrion. One posed very nicely for us amongst the flowers. Then we saw our first Rea a sort of Chilean ostrich!

 

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As we changed direction towards the lake there was a beautiful waterfall very near the road. We stopped for an early lunch. We could see the remains of the 'space ship' hovering over Los Cuernos. Amazing.

 

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It really reminded us of the Steven Speilberg film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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