The next morning, we set off for Torres del Paine National Park. It’s got two multiple day hiking treks, but since we have the car (and no tent), we decided to just drive around and do short hikes instead. Our first stop was Lago Grey, with view of Glacier Grey (and an iceberg floating in the lake!).
Two other hikers were very lucky that Wicked had given us a jump start cable because they had left the light on (you have to have your light on at all times in Chile and Argentina) and their battery was flat. Could just as easily happen to us, because the van doesn’t warn you when you’ve left the light on…
After Lago Grey, we did another short walk in an area with strong winds (they’re not kidding when they say that, felt in danger of being blown off my feet at times!).
A ticket to the park allows you to stay for up to three days and with a van like ours you an overnight in one of the parking lots (whereever there are bathrooms). Unfortunately, we stayed near a river with a lot of mosquitos! The next morning, we did part of the walk to Mirador del Torres. With hindsight I really wish we’d planned better and done the whole hike… But hey!
In the afternoon, we left the park and crossed into Argentina (there are no roads going North in Chile at that point). We stayed in El Calafate and enjoyed our first hot shower in days at the campsite… 🙂 We also took a drive to the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares for Perito Moreno glacier. We went in the afternoon to avoid the crowds, but unfortunately it was a bit rainy. Still very impressive to see (and hear!) a glacier up close though!
Our next stop in Argentina was El Chaltén, which is actually in the same national park (but this time we didn’t have to pay stupid amounts of money like we did for the glacier). We took a hike to Laguna Torre in beautiful sunshine.
As we left El Chaltén that evening, we took two French/Basque hitchhikers who have been making their way through Argentina and Chile, playing the guitar and slacklining in bigger cities to make some money. We said we’d drive until about 9pm and then just stop on the side of the road somewhere……….. And we should have stopped when we saw a sign announcing resurfacing of Ruta 40 for the next 72km! It wasn’t fun driving across gravel and mud while it was getting darker and darker (no street lights). But there wasn’t really any good place to stop either, so we kept going and got stuck in the mud at some point (good thing we had taken those hitchhikers to help push us out!). When we finally finished the 72km around 11pm, we just pulled over and slept (best thing about the van). The next morning, we said goodbye to the hitchhikers and continued on to see the Cueva de las Manos, which are 9000 year old handprints and paintings on the side of the rock in a beautiful secluded canyon. Once again, the road leading up to and away from it were rather challenging (steep inclines this time, plus also gravel).
We made it to the town of Perito Moreno in the evening and stayed in the municipal campsite, where we met a Canadian couple who’s been driving down from Canada! We were planning on crossing back into Chile to see Laguna San Rafael, but they told us the roads were really really bad (and it was quite far), so in the end we decided to keep driving in Argentina. They also suggested that we could try and get a boat from Colombia to Panama and then fly to the US from there – we were hoping to have enough money at the end to go to the San Blast islands and apparently these boats go via them as well, but for less money than a special cruise. Let’s see if that works!
Staying in Argentina meant that we would pass by Bariloche and the Lake District. But before heading there, we decided to spend the night in another national park close by (Parque Nacional de Alerces). Funnily enough, on our way there we picked up the same French hitchhikers again – which was handy, because they’d forgotten a jumper in the car (I was ready to claim it, but was also happy to be able to give it back). Plus, they gifted us a little Bluetooth speaker after having to listen to our tiny one for a while. Result!
The park itself was beautiful, full of trees and lakes. We camped near the lake and enjoyed a very starry night (also full of mosquitos though). We had breakfast near the lake, watching the sun come up…
Before driving on, we went for a little walk, hoping to see a puma (we didn’t).
On our way north, we passed by the cabin in which Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lived after fleeing the US.
A rather aggressive police control later (including a sniffer dog!), we found a nice campsite in Colonia Suiza near Bariloche. The owner Ana put on the Chile vs Argentina game in the evening and we watched it together with her and some other guests, including an American couple in their late 40s/ early 50s who have “retired” to travel around the world for the rest of their lives. It’s always interesting to hear these stories and how people realise their dreams.
The next day, we did the Circuito Chico, which is a circular route around Lago Moreno. We started with a 30min hike up a rather steep hill for a view of the lakes. The rest of the day was very relaxed as we drove around and stopped occasionally, but we didn’t want to leave the car alone for too long as we had been warned that there are a lot of break ins in that area.
We got back early on and Oscar decided to try to slow cook some meat like we had eaten in the hostel in Florianopólis (it turned out well).
Next day we started driving up via the 7 lakes route. We gave a lift to a Spanish hitchhiker on her way to Chile as well. This particular border crossing is in a national park and so we had some nice views even after the lake district. Chile is very strict about what you can bring into the country and we were advised to declare stuff rather than them fining us if they found anything. We had to get rid of onions and other vegetables we had in the car, but they also pretty much took everything apart (including checking in our dirty clothes….). I don’t think the van design does us any favours in those cases!