Monday, October 24, 2016

Patagonia - Punta Arenas to El Chaltén Road Trip - Part I

I've dreamt of visiting Patagonia for years, and I can honestly say I was not disappointed. This is definitely a trip that could have been a lot longer, but I'm so glad I took the chance and visited for a few days. I do hope to return, but even now picking just a favorite part of this trip would be difficult. The weather was tremendously variable; we got everything from warm, sunny days to snowfall - once both at the same time.  

We wanted to take in as much of the place as possible, so I decided to rent a car. We had a great experience with Adel Rent a Car, a local outfit that owns only a few cars. The car we got was brand new and never let us down. While there were some gravel roads in the parks, thankfully the roads were good quality. We set off from Punta Arenas on Chile's Route 9Route at the End of the World - Ruta del Fin del Mundo. This was one of our most incredible road trips.

Always a good idea to fill up on gas while you can, there are lots of wide open spaces.

Crossing the border was no trouble for us at all! I was so pleasantly surprised, coming and going, by how efficient and speedy the process was. Below is the Chilean border crossing.

I made a nice new friend at the border. You can also see our trusty Renault at left.

The border agents were professional and courteous and we had no trouble getting by with limited proficiency in Spanish. A few spoke English. Of course our papers were in order and they were thoroughly checked, and for US citizens, all free.

Looking back to Chile, and ahead to Argentina...

 As we got further north the scenery continued to get more dramatic. We were making good time.

We stopped to take a photo at what I think is the end of Lago Argentino/Lake Argentina. The scenery was stunning.

We were seeing lots of guanacos - the Patagonian relative of the llama.
They're adorable.

Above and below, this is part of Lago Viedma/Lake Viedma.

We arrived in El Chaltén in excellent time and got to spend the evening resting before we'd start our hike to Cerro Fitz Roy the following day.

El Chaltén is a cute little mountain town with some gorgeous scenery. Here, I would normally be describing our hostel/hotel stay but I've got nothing good to say. You win some and lose others - this one was a loser. There were some good points, like friendly staff, but other claims, like wifi (never worked) and free breakfast (free piece of bread and coffee) were dubious. It was a loud, cramped place and we were glad to leave it - Condor de los Andes - in the rearview.

But we were not here for the hotels. We were here to hike. At the end of town, after about a two minute drive, a little parking lot sat at the start of the hike to Cerro Fitz Roy. It was quiet, so we just parked and went on our way to the clearly marked trail.

As we made our way up the hills, a few last looks back at town before we were into the mountains.

There were so many views on the amazing trip..

Check out other parts of it here
Patagonia Trip Report


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