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Torres del Paine - W Circuit

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Next was the experience I had been looking forward to the most. In all the articles and reviews I had read or seen, the pictures looked stunning, and this did not disappoint! On starting the W circuit I realised just how fit the rest of the group are! With my energy levels down from my stomach bug the previous day, I struggled a little on the first day. Our mini bus dropped us at Hotel Las Torres and we hiked to the Torres viewpoint (Base de Las Torres). As I was climbing the final stage I was questioning what I had let myself in for as the views had not lived up to my expectations at this point. Rodrigo, our tour leader was keeping me positive however (singing I believe I can fly, and generally taking the pressure off me re the time) and shortly after this, my fear was resolved with the most spectacular view ahead. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and I could see a beautiful lake in front of the towers, just like in the photos. It was incredible. This set me up well for the return journey as I was back on a high and feeling much more positive. We set back for the hotel where we were then transported to our campsite for the night. The 18km walk had been worth the effort for sure, and much to our pleasure, we were welcomed with a feast in a heated cabin, and warm showers to set us up for our first night of (civilised) camping. The wind was fierce and there was a little rain, but we all slept well, energised ready for the next day...

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Day 2 started reasonably. We had a nice breakfast, and spirits were high despite the rain. Fortunately for us though, the rain cleared before the porters arrived and the weather turned out well for us. We each had a 5kg limit for the porters to carry for us, and at this point I was pleased I had brought my own sleeping bag as it was 700g lighter than the ones provided to us. More comfortable too to use my own. Today we had a shorter hike of around 9km to the Refugio y Campamento Los Cuernos. Much flatter, and very picturesque the whole route as we walked beside Lago Nordenskjold. I felt so happy I was smiling inside (and that was before I realised it was payday!!). We finished our hike for the day around 5pm and rested up, fed and watered and played a game. Dolf and I volunteered to sleep in the camping pod with the guide and a couple of others as the dorm was full. I was happy with this decision as it saved me climbing to the top of a triple bunk! The only disadvantages were Roberto (the guide) snoring, and having to go outside to use the facilities in the night. When I saw the clear night and the amazing view of the stars, this became worthwhile too!

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The third day of the circuit was the Valle des Frances (the French valley). We walked via the Italien campsite where we could leave our bags whilst we trekked up to the French viewpoint. This walk was around 16km. The walk was very enjoyable, and we saw many an avalanche as we gently (and sometimes more steeply) climbed to the viewpoint. The 360 degree view at the top was breathtaking! We stayed for 45 minutes to snack and take photos before descending, picking up our packs and continuing to Refugio y Campamento Paine Grande for our last night of camping.

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Our final day of trekking was a return journey to Rio de Las Piedras, the viewpoint beside the Lago Grey, around 7km. We understood the name in that the colour of the water was a grey tint. Small icebergs were in the lake, and the final viewpoint this day was the Glacier Grey. The weather was not quite as kind, although still dry, and the view was still very impressive. We returned at lunchtime and caught the boat across Lago Pehoe at which point we caught our mini bus back to Puerto Natales. I had pulled pork in a bun with chips for dinner which was so appreciated and made a nice change!

In summary the W circuit was a unique and amazing experience. We were told we would be lucky to have one sunny day, so to have had such good weather, someone was definitely looking out for us! :o)

Posted by KJ1978 02:40 Comments (0)

Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales

Another short flight and a short bus journey ended us in Punta Arenas. We had some rest time ready for our challenging days ahead. I joined the others for lunch and a very quick look around Punto Arenas (very small town) then headed back to Patagonia b&b to rest before heading out for dinner. I tried the local ale - Fin del mundo Shackleton pale ale - I recommend no one ever tries this! Three of us ordered it, and I am not sure still whether this is what caused my dodgy stomach that night!!! We then had a 3 hour bus ride to Puerto Natales (another small town - very windy) and our briefing with our local Torres del Paine guide.

Posted by KJ1978 13:13 Comments (0)

Bariloche and Puerto Varas - back again!

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We spent 2 nights in Bariloche and I now have a new roomie as I am on my 2nd tour. Hester is from Rotterdam. This time in Bariloche the sun was shining and so the views were stunning. The storms really had not done it justice last time. The first day we arrived late lunch to the Soft Bariloche hotel - not the best, but at least the bed was comfortable! After arrival we had free time to explore the town. Sui Ping (a fellow traveller) and I took the Teleferico Cerro Otto cable car up to 1,405 metres to take in the views. Then 6 or us joined our rep, Rodrigo, for dinner. Rodrigo seems very friendly and organised, so first impressions there are positive. The next day 6 of us went kayaking and horse riding at Los Baqueanos in Bariloche. A great day and their hospitality was fantastic, although I ached in a few places the following morning! We then had a fabulous steak in a restaurant called El Bouche de Alberto. Probably the best steak of my trip so far! We decided it was also time to try the ice cream - yummy!

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When I first heard of the 6 hour journey by public bus (which became 8 taking into account the 2 hour process at border control), I was dreading it. Truth be told though, the local buses put the comfortable Kings Ferry commuter coaches to shame! We had comfy seats with extra leg room, which converted almost into beds... Despite having travelled from/to the same destinations in my previous tour (in reverse), the bus journey was a fresh change of scenery as we travelled through green landscapes which I hadn't seen by boat previously. We arrived into Puerto Varas and stayed at the Park Inn. Comfortable enough, and on the 4th floor, so no noisy streets like the previous 2 nights. We settled in and returned to the restaurant I had already been to before - it was a lovely restaurant, so this was fine by me! The group all chose to take the 14km trek the following day at Osorno Volcano. I had trekked a little in the area, but had plenty of new views and much closer sights of lake Petrohue (which I had travelled from Puerto Varas to Bariloche)... We then had a very short boat journey across to have lunch in a local before returning to the hotel. In the evening, Hester and I discovered Cassis - a shop/restaurant which sells the best cakes and crepes (as well as great looking pizzas). We were in heaven!

Posted by KJ1978 13:13 Comments (1)

Buenos Aires - between tours 1 and 2

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So, Rio ended my first trip and I am now in Buenos Aires. Tonight I meet my fellow travellers for my 2nd trip, but just prior to this I thought I would update my blog with my last couple of days. Yesterday was a very relaxed day. I caught up with a few chores (!) and contacted home. My biggest adventure for the day was my Valentines lunch for 1! What better than Argentinean steak and wine?!I had a reasonably early night to catch up some energy. Today I had a gaucho day trip booked to Santa Susana Ranch. I had a ride on a horse and then by horse and carriage, followed by a bbq feast (the service was excellent and pretty cute!), a quick tango performance, and finished up with a show of their horse skills. Saw the little fella pictured whilst on the horse and carriage. The trip was fantastic, although the guide could have learnt to smile! She was so miserable!

Posted by KJ1978 13:17 Comments (3)

Rio de Janeiro

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The early start was worth it... We arrived in Rio midday, 34 degrees, and right beside Copacabana beach. Needless to say that is straight where Daniella and I headed! A few dips in the sea, which was much rougher than Paraty but still really warm. I purchased a sarong - nice and colourful as expected in Rio! We then thought we would check out the hotel pool (rooftop) and the local lager (Cerpa). Time then to go back to the hotel rooms and sort ourselves for our last meal as a group. The next day, Amanda and I had booked a City tour. I recommend these to anyone who visits Rio, although suggest booking locally as I paid a hefty booking charge in comparison! Stunning views across Rio - not to be missed! We took the cable car up Sugar loaf, and the cog train through the Tijuca rain forest up towards the Christ Redeemer statue, and took the 200 steps to the top. Much needed exercise to burn off our intake! On the train back down we saw monkeys in the forest playing in the trees. En route the rest of the city tour we passed by the Sambadrome, the metropolitan Cathedral (a rare pyramid shaped structure which was stunning inside). Another event not to be missed was a soccer match at the Maracana stadium. We watched Flamenga thrash Cabofriense 5-1. Despite only a third of the stadium being full (mainly our end), the atmosphere was amazing. So glad I managed to fit a game in whilst I was there.. A shopping and beach day followed this before starting my final day in Rio on a Guanabara Bay Cruise with Daniella. This gave us yet more different views of sugar loaf mountain. We sailed along the beaches of Niteroi and under the Niteroi bridge, and passed the Santa Cruz Fortress. The whole time there were planes taking off from the International Airport. From some places it looked as though the planes were landing in the water as the runway was so close to it! My final activities were a quick trip to the Rio Sul shopping centre to use up my Brazilian Real, and a final dip in the rooftop pool before heading to the airport for my flight to Buenos Aires...

Posted by KJ1978 09:26 Comments (2)

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