Futaleufu, Chile- the place where three adventures converged into one. It was there that we met up with our good friends George and Teresa of Road Adventure and our new friends Joe and Kylee of Patagonia or Bust. George and Teresa began their trip in Seattle, Washington a year and a half ago. We first ran into them back in Columbia and met up again in southern Ecuador. Joe and Kylee are from Hood River, Oregon and have been traveling in a cool custom made truck since October 2012.
We wasted no time in finding a lovely campsite along a river, popping open a box of wine, and cooking up a scrumptious campfire macaroni and cheese dinner- the first of many delicious meals shared.
And so began our joint adventure down the Carretera Austral through wild Patagonia. We caravaned along the dusty dirt road, through forests, past rivers, lakes, and waterfalls, camping wherever we pleased amidst the spectacular scenery.
Each day we would do a few hours of driving while stopping along the way to fish, pick fresh berries, and to marvel at our surroundings.
On the Chilean side of Lago General Carrera, an enormous lake shared by Chile and Argentina, we slowed down for a few days to explore. Most visited in this area is the famed marble cathedral- an incredible formation of soft blue caverns sculpted by water. Finely ground glacial silt gives the lake its unbelievable azure color as it reflects dazzling light onto the walls of marble creating a surreal spectacle.
Then came one of the most beautiful stretches of the Carretera Austral- the road to Glaciar Exploradores. We drove the dusty road to its end, past mountains, glaciers, and spectacular scenery until we reached a river where we had heard whispers of giant salmon in the waters.
Aron, George, and Joe caught a ride across the river in a little boat to a tiny dock while the ladies hung back in hopes of fresh fish for dinner. We were more than a little surprised when the guys came back with an enormous salmon! After cooking it up on a fire that evening the three of us couples had more salmon than we could eat for days. Salmon sandwiches, salmon pasta, salmon and eggs, even salmon sushi- we really lived it up in Patagonia.
We followed Lago General Carrera all the way around until we crossed the border into Argentina where the lake is known as Lago Buenos Aires. Once in Argentina, we had our first taste of pampa- flat, dry grassland that stretches as far as the eye can see. The comical shrubs and the abundance of wildlife kept us entertained during a two day drive to El Chalten, a base town for the remarkable Mount Fitz Roy. We saw armadillos, hundreds if not thousands of guanaco– a sort of llama type animal, and rheas which are like small ostriches.
When Mount Fitz Roy came into view in the distance we were in awe. The granite towers stood out spectacularly against the blue sky.
Upon arriving in El Chalten we packed our bags and hoped for good weather as we set out for a three day hike that would take us to the base of Mount Fitz Roy. Through mossy lengua forests and up wind blasted ridges we wandered until we were right below the rock towers. The water in the rivers along the trail is sparkling clean as it flows directly from the glaciers that top the mountains. It was a blissful experience to be able to drink pure water directly from a stream. It reminded us of how precious these last pristine places in the world are and how important it is to preserve them.
Luckily the weather held up during our hike and then unleashed with torrents of rain and wind as we arrived back in town. With not much to do in the rain, we hopped in ours cars after a much needed hot shower and some pizza and headed south for El Calafate, the gateway city to the famous Perito Moreno glacier. We slowed down a bit and found a nice campground in the center of the city where we grilled empanadas and more of Argentina’s famous meat- lots of ribs in particular thanks to George, the rib master.
We were blessed with another gorgeous day when we set out to see the glacier. The Perito Moreno glacier is famous for it’s size, the enormous ice chunks that break off and thunder into the lake below, and for its accessibility. You can get right up close and appreciate the massive size of the twenty story glacier, and that’s just whats above the surface of the water. The glacier moves forward up to two meters per day. As it creeps between the mountains enormous pieces of ice, some the size of houses, come crashing down creating huge waves in the lake.
We spent all day gawking at the glacier, strolling along the walkways and hanging out at the different viewpoints. Seeing such beautiful, diverse, and awe inspiring landscapes just doesn’t get old. Even after fourteen months of traveling, nature never ceases to amaze us.