Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Andes to Patagonia - A Tour of South America

Map of South America

This was my first visit to South America and two places high on my list to see were the spectacular National Parks of Torres del Paine and the awesome waterfalls of Iguazu. These two famous natural wonders are located in Chile (CH) and Argentina (AR), and The Andes to Patagonia Tour visited both Parks.

I selected Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) for their reputation of well organized adventure tours in small groups. The 3-week trip exceeded all my expectations and my traveling companions were a congenial group of 12 coming from five other states.

If I could have done the same tour independently, it would have taken me twice the time with double the headaches. There's a lot to be said about "leave the driving to OAT!"

The tour covered a tremendous amount of ground. AR is a very big country and very wide, CH is skinny and very long. The tour included four internal flights and several long bus rides (see map below for detail of tour route and destinations).

Click on pic for enlarged view

Our route and major destinations of the tour through AR and CH. The map does not show the flight from Buenos Aires to Iquazu.

Santiago "Santi" Giorgi

Our intrepid tour leader who guided us through 21 days full of fun, excitement and wonder. Santi's humor and easy-going personality made a great trip insanely great!

"Never pass up a banos!"

Santi's mantra, especially before and during long bus rides


I have to start the tour with a amusing sign seen in Chiloe Island. There's a job opening for a proof-reader.

The blog for THE ANDES TO PATAGONIA TOUR is organized as follows:

- Torres del Paine National Park
-Iquazu National Park
- Yacutinga Lodge
- Punihuil - Penguins and Birds
- Chiloe Island
- On the Road - Puerto Varas to Punta Arenas
- Las Glaciares National Park
- El Calafate
- Bariloche
- Guirga Animal Refuge
- Buenos Aires

At the end of each blog page, click on "older posts" at bottom of page to continue the tour

~~Next - Torres del Paine National Park~~

Torres del Paine National Park

A WOWZER Moment!

Our bus crests a hill revealing first view of Torres del Paine (Towers of the Blue Sky) National Park.

Seeing TdP was a priority for me. It was grand and spectacular. We spent 3 days and two nights at Hotel Lago Grey which offered breathtaking views of the "Towers".

Dawn hunkering down behind a concrete block to video tape the mountains

It's true what they say about the winds of Patagonia. The day we arrived it was gale force winds and we could barely stand without getting blown over.

The back of the bus provided some wind protection

Trekkers in the Park. A popular 8 day trail circles the main set of Towers.

Crossing the fast-moving Rio Pingo

First day . . . taking a hike to a major viewpoint

Through a forest of Beech trees

The white thing is a iceberg, not a ship

Hiking across a very long sand-bar on Lago Grey

Whipping winds creating waves and white-caps

At the end of the sandbar is an island with a viewpoint of the Horns and Glacier

Gnarly tree shaped by constant gale winds

In front of the Towers and Horns

Boat-shaped iceberg on Lago Grey

Clouds parting to reveal more of the Horns of Paine

Towers to left (white spires) and Horns (dark peaks) of Paine around 8,500' - 9,500' tall

A grand view from Lago Grey (west view) from our hotel

A forest fire started in December 2011 denuded the low ridge below the Horns

Cerro Paine Grande - 10,332', tallest peak on Lago Grey

Early morning photos

The view from hotel deck

Another view of Horns from Lake Nordenskjold (southeast view)

On Lake Nordenskjold

The different colors of the Horns are result of tectonic and glacial forces that carved the massif. During the ice-age, the dark colored rock stuck above the ice. The granite which was not covered by glaciation retained the dark color. The light-colored parts are result of movement of glaciers and wind erosion.

If you look very close and use your imagination, you can see the silhouette of cowboy riding a horse on the rock-face on the right. Even a lasso above the head . . .

Hotel Lago Grey dining room with big windows

Bar room

Dining room with grand view

Chin-chin!! . . . pisco sour time

Dinner at Hotel Lago Grey

Julio, our Chilean guide in native dress, jumped out of the bushes and told us a story of native people's life on Lago Grey

It was a surprising performance . . . very nice Julio!

Click on "older posts" below to continue tour

~~Next - Boat Ride to Lago Grey Glacier~~

Torres del Paine - Boat Ride to Lago Grey Glacier

Taking the shuttle boat to tour ship

On the 2nd day, we take a boat across the lake to view Glacier Grey up close

The tour boat

Jean and Ken from Kansas

Passing small icebergs

Getting close to Glacier Grey at the far end of the lake

Dawn from IL, the video queen, on the main deck

Cruising by the front edge of glacier for very close views

The glacier field looks like whip-cream
Striated rock shows effect of glaciation

The greater the compaction of ice, the bluer the ice, especially showy on over-cast days

A very nice day on the lake

We lucked out today, the winds were non-existent

Click on "older posts" below to continue tour

~~Next - More Scenes of TdP~~