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Torres del Paine & Perito Moreno

Impressive The last time we gave you an update was from the city Puerto Natales in Chile. From there we have been cycling north to the national park Torres del Paine which is also located in Chile. This park is known for its wild life, extraordinary mountains, and hiking trails. Looking back, we can say that cycling to the park was in fact more interesting then the one week hike we made there.

As said, we started in Puerto Natales and took a small private road to avoid the main road with all its traffic. During a small break in the afternoon of the first day, we ly in the grass beside the road. Enjoying the sun and almost falling asleep we hear far in the distance the sound of cows mooing and dogs barking. They are probably on the estancia Complejo del Torres del Paine, which is just a few kilometres from here according to our map. Suddenly we are startled by a much louder sound of cows.

Goucho When we open our eyes we look right in the face of a gaucho (cowboy) sitting on a horse surrounded by four dogs. With his beret, dirty clothes, and beard he looks really rough and probably he has lived most of his life outdoors on the pampas. From a distance we see a complete cattle of cows coming over the road in our direction, thereby producing a lot of noise and dust. The cows are driven by four other gauchos and about fifteen dogs. We quickly gather our stuff and give the animals some space to walk before they will take it from us. It is fascinating to see the dogs doing their job. They seem to completely understand what to do to keep the cattle together, without the need of any orders from the men on the horses.

As we travel further we indeed reach the enstancia in a short time. From here the road starts to become worse every meter; the stones and rocks are bigger then ever before. Talking about cars, only a 4WD will be able to survive. Fortunately whe donīt have a car and continue to cycle this and the next day over the many many hills which are often very very steep. Iris measures a slope of 25 percent! In combination with the difficult road surface, we have no other choice then to push our bikes uphill now and then. By experimenting we found out that it is more effective to push a bike with two persons, walk back down, and push the second bike up again with two persons. Hmmmm, on the map the road looked so different: a nice flat road running just beside a lovely lake. Well, the lake is indeed beautiful. All the lakes are very special over here with their striking colours like green, blue, cyan, turquoise, and grey. They all look just a bit different and remind us of the various trips we made to the islands of DīNi during the last couple of years.

Camping During the second day of our journey to Torres del Paine, we twice have to cross a small river without any bridge. Walking on our slippers we can push the bikes through the water to the other side. We enjoy the trip! At the end of this second day we find a perfect camping spot in a beautiful scenery. During the last two days we were already able to see the characteristic mountain tops of Torres del Paine in the distance but now we are so close (just 1 km from the park border) that we can see them perfectly when lying in our sleeping bags in the tent. In the front we see a flat terrain where rivers meander through at an altitude of just above sea level. In the back the mountains rise just out of nothing up to an altitude of more then 3000 meters! Above us the condors make their circles in the air and in the evening and night horses graze around our tent. This day we havenīt seen a single person.

Bridge In the morning of the third day we are faced with a new challenge, as we stand not more then 100 meters in front of the park border. Between us and Torres del Paine runs a river of about 50 meters wide with a small island in the middle. There is a bridge. People in Puerto Natales already warned us that they had heard stories about the bridge being damaged, making it difficult and dangerous to reach the other side. The stories were more then true. Although the frame of the bridge is still intact, the road surface consists of nothing more than an area as wide as two boards of wood. It makes quite an interesting experience to walk on the left wooden board with the bike on the right board, seeing the water streaming violently under you and feeling the wind trying to push you into the cold water. We reach the other side and at the same time we enter the park. Because almost nobody (except some cyclists) use this park entrance, their is no administration office over here. Therefore we can stay in the park for free!

When we cycle on through the flat area with its rivers, we see three cows in the grassland. They are black and white just as the cows back in Holland. Suddenly we see one cow flying away. For us this is pretty weird because you must know that in Holland cows cannot fly. Then the other two also spread their wings and almost in slow motion fly away into the air. At that moment we understand that this can not be cows but are enormous condors. They are so huge! When they fly in the air it is difficult to judge their size, but now they are so close to us we can get a good picture of them.

Towers Gray Glacier The next week we spend hiking in the park with our backpacks and walking shoes. Although it is nice to walk to and see the large īTowersī of Paine and to see the Grey glacier with the icebergs floating in the grey coloured lake, we think it was nicer to cycle to the park. The reason is that during the walk you are too close to the mountains to see how beautiful they are. We also saw much more animals (like the nandu, a kind of ostrich and the gaunaco, a kind of lama) on the bike than on the trails. Maybe this is because it is relatively crowded on the walking paths in the park. We met a lot of cyclists; in the park alone we met 6, and during the last two weeks about 10 of them. Some of them also have a website. This is apparently a very popular route to cycle. It is interesting to see that every cyclist has their own way of travelling. Some combine cycling with riding on the bus to avoid the incredible winds which we already spoke about. In our way of travelling we probably would feel this as cheating. Although it is sometimes difficult to cycle and it makes you tired, the feeling afterwards is at least as good. But this is of course easy to say, when you have a lot of time to spend.

After the week in Torres del Paine we changed our mountain boots again for our cycling shoes and cycled in a few days to the (expensive) city El Calafate in Argentina. Like many tourists we would also like to see the famous glacier Perito Moreno.

The glacier is impressive! It rises 50 to 60 meters above the water level of the lake and moves about 2 meters per day towards the peninsula in the middle of the lake. It almost touches the peninsula which would divide the lake into two separate lakes. The front of the glacier remains at about the same position, which means that every day 2 meters of ice is removed from the glacier over a length of several kilometres. Every now and then a large block of ice with the size of a house falls into the water with an enormous sound like thunder and cannon fire. This creates large icebergs that float with the wind towards the east. The colour of the ice is so unnaturally blue. Before this trip to South America, we had only seen glaciers in Europe, but this one is of a completely different order.
Perito Moreno After watching this show of nature for one day we go back to El Calafate on our bikes, but the feeling is different than before. It is namely only the second time that we feel the wind in our backs. Wow, that makes a difference...

We will continue our trip tomorrow and go to El Chalten (Fitz Roy), which is also a national park where we want to walk. If it is possible we would like make a large tour partially over the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. This is the largest ice field in the world after Groenland and Antarctica. Also the glacier Perito Moreno that we have visited finds its origin in it.

After El Chalten we will cycle north for one month more in Argentina and cross the Andes to Chile and continue our journey on the Camino Austral. So, we will not visit any major town for more then 1.5 month. Therefore we already wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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This page was last updated on Friday July 29, 2011
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