The Bumpy Road to the Crown Jewel of Patagonia - Day 447
Updated: Feb 20, 2019
Yeouch! Our long journey today was in a large 4x4 truck. It started on a pleasant, smooth tarmac road from #ElCalafate but soon turned into very bumpy gravel. It was as if every bone of my body was being shaken either in place or out of place. Often we would fly up into the air and came crashing down on our bottoms. It was fun, to begin with, getting a fairground ride as an added extra; however, after a time of many hard landings, it wasn’t so entertaining. We are sure that the driver had never experienced sitting in the back of the truck when it was being steered on these roads. If so, he may have driven differently.
Eventually, after 3 hours along the legendary #Route40 we reached the Argentina border, and after passport control, a quick bathroom break where the door nearly fell on top of me!
Back in the truck for a couple of kilometres, we reached the Chilean border (Hurrah, another country). Border control is a lot more stringent here. We had to complete a form and were informed that no fruit or seeds must be taken across the border. “Quick Tim, eat the apple” As we stood in the queue, we both munched the apple just in time. As we were retrieving our bags from the x-ray machine, a sniffer dog entered the building. I suddenly thought that the dog was going for Tim’s nuts ….he had some almonds in his bag. Luckily, I think the dog was taught to sniff for other vegetation. Phew!
On the bus, we got chatting to an amiable and interesting guy, Tercio, from Porto Alegre, which is right at the bottom of Brazil. In my ignorance, I thought this would be near Iguazu Falls. It’s 1,000km away! He is a professor of journalism and fascinating to chat with, luckily for us, Tercio has excellent English.
We talked a lot about the politics in Brazil and learnt about some of the changes that the Right-wing President Bolsonaro, nicknamed “Trump of the Tropics” is making. Having done some research since it is worrying that he is abolishing the country’s human rights ministry. Instead, he has now named a conservative evangelical pastor, Damares Alves, to run a newly created ministry overseeing women, family and human rights with the LGBT community excluded. She has rather old fashioned views and some to be concerned about. As well as Bolsonaro being known for his homophobic views, Alves recently tweeted: "Attention, attention! It's a new era in Brazil: Boys wear blue and girls wear pink!" It seems that in some places of the world, morality is sadly and concerningly going backwards.
Back to our tour. Why had we come on this long 14 hours trip? To see the crown jewel of Patagonia, the #TorresdelPaine, a dramatic mountain range with the famous massive peak formations above the turquoise lakes below.
I can imagine that for trekkers and rock climbers, this place is like being in a candy shop, with great renowned circuits taking from 4 to 10 days amongst these stunning rocks. I prefer to look and gawp in wonder.
We stopped many times for photo opportunities, seeing beautiful waterfalls, but sadly seeing all the trees dead from a fatal fire in 2011.
Driving around we saw different viewpoints of Torres del Paine. It was incredible to see the contrast of rock, with light grey granite sandwiched between the dark brown sedimentary rock. Our guide explained that this was from lava over 12 million years ago finding a gap between two sedimentary rock layers, as the weight of a colossal glacier hindered it from escaping to the surface. This Magna took 2 million years to cool, which turned into the granite that we can see today. As the glacier melted and eroded some of the sedimentary rock, this is how the layers were revealed.
Up until now, the weather was gorgeous, with some white fluffy clouds and the sun beating down on us, but Patagonia’s weather is unpredictable. From looking at the forecast, we were expecting cloud and a much lower temperature. Suddenly this is what we got, together with rain, just as we were going on the 4km trek along the Salto Grande at the base of the Mountain. Have no fear, our macs are here!
We were absolutely blown away…not only by the scenery but also by the wind. Crikey, I don’t think I’ve ever been in such strong gusts of wind, I had to stop walking at times; otherwise I would have blown over! Bizarrely, it was all good fun. The long and bumpy journey back home, with a soggy bottom, wasn’t so much fun!
Was the 14 hour long trip worth it? Definitely.