1000 Millas Race

We’ve just accidentally found ourselves participating in a classic car race! Our car is a VW Gol (no, not a Golf, very much cheaper and tackier than that, certainly no classic).

There’s a circular road round the beautiful peninsula where we’re staying. We drove out and on to the loop road, and a few minutes later I was surprised to notice a couple of classic cars seemed to have appeared from nowhere behind me. They backed off, but then there was a cone in the middle of the road and a car waiting, before starting off again. We wound down our window to speak to a guy who’d been talking to the other car – no idea what he said, so I just asked if we were allowed to drive on, and he said , “si, adalante!”  (which kind of means off you go).  So we did, but there were more cones occasionally with what I assume were timing strips on the road. After a while we stopped at a view point over the lake to watch what was happening – every minute or two a Merc or MG or old Porsche would go by (though not all that fast). A couple of cyclists also stopped at the view point and explained they don’t bother to close the roads, they just do time trials on the roads anyway, and that the cars don’t go too fast as they have such narrow wheels and it was raining. We carried on at a decent speed so as not to hold them up, but found ourselves again behind a car waiting at a checkpoint, a couple more came up behind us and signalled for us to use the other side of the road, i.e. don’t cross their timing strip, now I get it! But too late, we’ve driven through a few…

We’ve since found out that we have unintentionally taken part in the 1000 Millas race ( ref http://www.1000millas.com.ar) in which former Le Mans and Dakar winners compete. This year Sean Connery’s stepson is taking part as well as us!

We had a nice relaxed day yesterday. We took a chairlift up a small mountain, a great vista of literally dozens of snowy Andean peaks. And we had a walk to a tiny beach by the lake. There was a school party, they must have been about 7 years old; when they realised we were English, they asked us endless questions about what the English for different words were, how old we were, Val was really enjoying it! One of them brought us biscuits. The chorus of “goodbye” seemed endless when their teachers decided it was time to go.

It’s rained pretty much all da today, but to be fair, it’s the first time we’ve had such a wet day all trip (yes, cold with plenty of gales, but not rain). Fortunately, the hotel has a DVD library, we watched Argo earlier and it brightened a little for our drive too. Tomorrow is supposed to be very sunny, so we’ll just have to pack two days sightseeing into one. We fly to Buenos Aires early on Saturday.

Time to chill

I’d booked 3 nights in a hotel near Bariloche from the UK, but we’ve got here a couple of days early. We’re staying in town for these extra couple of nights, and got a good discount for a late booking at a nice hotel right in the heart of town. It’s a chance to relax, our main objective for today is simply to eat chocolate! Bariloche is famous for its chocolate (thanks to some Swiss immigrants a long time ago), and the place is just full of chocolate shops, some the size of a department store! Mamuschka is reputed to be the best, we went this morning. You grab a numbered ticket when you go in, and wander round looking at the chocolates until your number comes up, then chose a box size and get the assistant to fill it with your choice of chocolates. So many to chose from! Needless to say, they are indeed delicious.

It’s blowing a gale here (which is what we’ve got used to over the last ten days anyway). But as usual, the sun is still shining. Down by the lakeside (where the hotel is), it’s hard to stand, but a road or two back in town it’s OK. The weather made for a very bumpy descent yesterday too, which I didn’t much enjoy, applause broke out when we landed safely. Before our flight, we’d spent the morning at the Glaciarium, with interesting displays and features on glaciers, as well as a bar with ice sculptures where your drinks come in glasses made of ice.

We also booked a car this morning, for the next three nights, and got some info on places to visit. We’re in the Argentinian Lake District, there are beautiful snow capped mountains across the lake. We’ll do some nice walks in the next few days, but most of our trip has been pretty fast-paced, we don’t think we’ll push ourselves too hard…

Greg

On an Estancia

Him and me on our faithful steeds

Him and me on our faithful steeds

A munch break!

A munch break!

How hard can I squeeze?

How hard can I squeeze?

imageWe’ve had  a day out on an estancia i.e. a ranch/farm today!

Lunch!

Lunch!

It was an hour from town in a beautiful setting with mountains and lakes.

I had a go at milking a cow.

I let Greg persuade me to do a horse ride with a Gaucho. Luckily my trusty steed  was endowed with a sixth sense and picked up that my favourite speed is slow! We plodded along at our own steady pace, stopping for a munch of luscious Spring grass ( him not me) every now and then. I managed to embark and disembark from the horse graciously!

We saw a sheep being shorn and  a cute lamb.

We then enjoyed a beautiful lunch of barbecued lamb. All fine til I munched on a kidney!

Perito Moreno

Wow! That’s something we’ve been saying a lot on this trip, but the Perito Moreno glacier is something else! We’ve see lots of glaciers before, but not like this. It’s 3 km wide when it gets to the lake, and as tall as a 12 storey building, and moves at 2 metres a day. We viewed it from a boat first, which was impressive, but better still was the “balcones”. The glacier faces the opposite shore of  the lake, and there are several kilometres of walkways zigzagging up and down the slope.

Noises like thunder or gunshots abound as the river of ice grinds down hill, and occasionally a big chunk falls off. We watched one precarious-looking spire at the front on and off through the morning, and when a small piece of ice fell nearby undercutting it,it looked doomed. Sure enough we watched a few minutes later as it tumbled with a roar. It’s difficult to judge scale, but it may well have been the size of a house. I took an absurd number of photos, and got some video clips of the glacier calving.

The weather was good, unlike yesterday. Our bus left Chile in heavy snow, which was settling at the border. There was a road sign saying the Malvinas belong to Argentina at the border, but we had no problems. We’d booked up some accommodation  here in El Calafate the day before, it’s a 10 minute walk to town, but very nice, Annalia has been very helpful arranging trips. a coach ride to our next stop, Bariloche, would have been 32 hours, we’ve managed to book a flight instead. No availability the day we wanted, but we won’t mind having a lazy time in Bariloche ( and it’s famous for producing chocolate…).

Photos to follow.

Greg

More Torres del Paine photos

It’s just such a “wow” place that we can’t resist showing you a few more photos!

We woke up to another glorious view of the mountains. But it was much colder today, and a snow flurry at lunchtime surprised us. The clouds were rolling in as we left the park and for a while we were going through driving snow. But it didn’t settle and we’re safely back in Puerto Natales, ready for our coach trip to Argentina tomorrow.

Bye bye Chile! It’s been 17 wonderful days!

A view from our hotel this morning

A view from our hotel this morning

One of the "horns"

One of the “horns”

The lake we had reflections in a couple of days ago

The lake we had reflections in a couple of days ago

Torres del Paine

TDP is one of the top hiking destinations in the world. People often come to do “the W”, which takes about 4 days. Which definitely isn’t for us! But there are a few hikes to viewpoints that are in our league.

The weather forecast wasn’t great, but that is to be expected in spring. It was raining as we made the hour and a half drive from Puerto Natales, but it dried up and we had some sunshine. The Torres (towers) are breathtaking jagged peaks, the clouds wouldn’t release them all, but they still looked great. Then we drove round a corner and found amazing reflections in one of the glacial lakes. Better still, there was a little bridge out to an island, we could effectively walk out into the lake and get reflections in all directions. It was a fantastic 10 minutes snapping away (Val has posted some of the results) and enjoying the views, then a breath of wind made the water ripple, the reflections vanished, and the moment was gone. We were just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Today there were even foam-flecked waves there, making us realise just how lucky we were yesterday.

We did a walk across the end of a glacial lake, to a spot where icebergs beach themselves having drifted the length of the lake, but the rain then returned and we headed for our hotel. It has great views across the park, and there was one final treat when the clouds lifted at 8.30pm, I had to go and grab my camera part way through dinner to get some shots.

We did a 4km (and back) hike this morning to the lake at the foot of the Torres, condors circled high up, a guanaco grazed unconcernedly as we walked past. In the afternoon, we did a boat trip the length of the lake to the glacier face, sailing past icebergs on the way. It was choppy and windy, inside the boat it was like being in a car wash, the waves drenching the boat. It calmed a little as we approached the glacier, and we were allowed upstairs (outside). Although mostly cloudy, there were enough sunny breaks to show off the amazingly deep blue of the ice, stacked up in piles as jagged as the mountains behind.

Tomorrow we return to Puerto Natales, but we may spend most of the day in the park first, if the weather is OK.

Greg