We’ve been back for just over a week now, and I still can’t accurately describe some of the things we saw and experienced on this vacation.
I plan on writing a breakdown for each place we visited, but in the meantime thought I’d give a rundown on where we went and what we did.
Our trip started with a major crisis: my dog ate my passport two hours before we were set to leave for the airport. I sincerely wish that was a joke. We came home from work mid-afternoon with a short list of last-minute things to wrap up before flying out, and found my passport chewed to pieces on the living room floor. Naturally, we couldn’t leave on Friday night as planned, so we spent the next few hours figuring out how to salvage our trip (amidst a LOT of tears on my end, and an entire bottle of wine later that night). After a lot of negotiation (all done by my wonderful husband, while I had a breakdown), we managed to piece our trip together, losing the entire three days we planned to spend in Buenos Aires and one of our days in Ushuaia. Arguably, if we had to cut something, these were the best parts for it to happen to: my company has a location in Buenos Aires I may get the opportunity to travel to, and Thomas is set on going back to Ushuaia for a cruise to Antarctica.
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon. We flew to Atlanta and spent the first half of Monday getting a same-day passport. We then killed the rest of our afternoon at the Georgia Aquarium, had a light dinner at a German-style beer garden, then grabbed our things and head to the airport for a 10:40 departure to Buenos Aires.
Tuesday morning we arrived in Buenos Aires. We got a fast 30 minute tour of the edges of the city from a cab taking us between airports. Cest la vie. We flew out for Ushuaia that afternoon, and by early evening we could see the mountains of Tierra del Fuego and we were back on track.
We spent Wednesday hiking through Tierra del Fuego National Park (just the beginning of the outrageous number of miles we put in over the next two weeks). We saw snow-capped mountains across the Beagle Channel, send postcards home from the End of the World Post Office, and snacked on empañadas and wine in between trails. We had an excellent dinner at an Argentine asado and swore we’d be back someday. The landscape is like something out of a movie, and the constantly-changing weather adds to the mysterious effect.
Thursday we left Ushuaia for the heart of Patagonia: El Calafate and El Chalten. We rented a car in El Calafate and drove to El Chalten, the self-proclaimed trekking capital of Argentina. We grabbed dinner and a few supplies from the local grocery store and went to bed early. The next day we got up before sunrise to head out on our two-day trek to see Cerro Torre, camp at Poincenot, and make the hike to see Fitz Roy at sunrise. By far the most exhausting, physically demanding, and amazing experience of our trip. My fitbit tracked 32 miles in those two days. We stuffed our faces with pasta and beer after getting much-needed showers on Saturday night.
Sunday we drove back into El Calafate, and went on to see the Perito Moreno glacier. At this point we’d learned the scale of everything in Patagonia is unbelievable; this glacier was no exception. The face of the glacier is almost as tall as the US Capital dome, and when pieces of ice fell off it sounded like thunder. We had one of our best dinners of the trip that night: calamari, lamb for Thomas and risotto for me, wine soaked pears with two helpings of calafate berry ice cream, and the best Malbec I’ve ever had, all for $50.
Monday morning we said a sad farewell to Argentina. Our next place, Hotel Las Torres, picked us up at 7am and drove us to the famous Torres del Paine National Park. The next four days were a wonderful mix of hiking and pampering. We rode horses up Cerro Paine our first afternoon and started my new obsession with pisco sours. Tuesday we hiked part of the famous W trek to see the iconic towers and enjoyed another lamb asado for dinner. Wednesday Thomas hiked another portion of the W to Glacier Grey; my body was done with hiking, so I did a little horseback ride to Lago Nordenskjold and then spent the afternoon at the spa. Thursday morning we saved the best views for last, and took a quick hike to a lookout of the Horns and Paine Grande.
Thursday night we arrived in Santiago, the capital of Chile. We took a tour of Cousiño Macul and tasted some AMAZING Chilean wines. Friday night in Bellavista was one of the most vibrant scenes I’ve ever seen, and I wish I had the energy to join in the fun! Saturday we got up early and rode the funicular to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, a large hill in the center of the city. The smog was pretty thick, but we could just see the snow capped Andes that surround the city through the haze. We walked around the city until late afternoon, the headed to the airport for one last round of pisco sours before flying home.
It’s hard to describe a two week adventure vacation in less than a thousand words, but I think I’ve just made it. I’ll followup with detailed posts about each of the places we went, but I’ll leave you with this: Patagonia is amazing. If life ever gives you the opportunity to travel to the southern ends of South America, take it. And take me with you, please!