Traveling is not always easy. It's not like the eternal vacation we all had in our minds when planning things out, and sometimes it can beat us down.
After having a slew of bike issues in the flat and windy far reaches of Patagonia, we were just about ready to give up and go home. Tim and I weren't exactly enjoying ourselves anymore, because if you could see our faces from inside our helmets as we strained against the relentless wind, you would've noticed that we were grimacing and probably swearing with every bad word we could think of.
Intense winds are awful, but our motorcycle falling apart brought us to a whole new level of frustration. The worst was the day after I wrote my last blog, March 3rd. We'd just spent $1,000 on bike repairs, got new tires, a new chain, an oil change, and we were thrilled to be back on the road again... until we got to Puerto Natales, Chile, and noticed oil dripping out of every spot on the engine that it could find. It was a disaster, and we felt defeated.
Being in the middle of nowhere, Tim made a last-ditch attempt at fixing the worst leak with some silicon, waited a day for it to dry, and then as we set off with fingers crossed, miraculously it worked! The major leak was fixed, and the smaller ones were something that we could live with. We were thrilled that we could now continue on our adventure, and lucky for us, our next stop was the picturesque Chilean National Park of Torres del Paine.
Torres means “towers" in Spanish, and Paine (PIE-neh, like apple pie) is a local Tehuelche word which means “blue". So these mountains are the Blue Towers, and it's a fitting description, especially since when we were there, it was all blue skies reflecting in the glacial lakes at the base of the snow-capped peaks of the torres.
The park is not cheap to enter (21,000 Chilean Pesos per person for a day-pass, ~$31.50), and it's an extremely popular destination, especially with hikers who pack the place throughout the summer. But for us, it was worth every penny because the traveling gods had finally decided to give us a break from our string of misfortunes by treating us with a glorious day. For the entire week prior it had just been clouds and rain up there, but as we wound our way along the dirt road that snakes through the park, we were greeted with beaming sunshine, breathtaking views, and believe it or not, barely any wind.
At one point we pulled over to snap some shots, and as the road cleared, we found ourselves to be alone. The breeze quieted, the ducks in the pond were quacking, and Tim and I turned to each other and practically both said at the same time, “Now this is more like it!"
Just then, I heard thunder. Roaring, crumbling, crescendoing thunder. I looked back at the mountain peaks with only crystal blue sky behind them, and as I started to wonder where the storm was coming from, it hit me. An avalanche.
Actually the avalanche didn't hit me, the snow was way off in the distance, which I'm thankful for. But Tim and I took that moment to appreciate the sheer immensity and force of mother nature. And we were simply happy to be experiencing life to the fullest once again.
After Torres del Paine, our excitement for traveling had been restored. And before we knew it, we were at a place that I will forever cherish: the glacier of Perito Moreno in Argentina.
Now there are tons of glaciers in this world, and for someone who doesn't like the ice and cold, visiting glaciers is not high up on my list of things to do. But Perito Moreno is special because of its position.
The glacier is slowly spilling into a lake, and directly across from this cracking edge of enormous ice is a hill which makes for a perfect viewing platform. To get to the glacier, you have to pay 700 Argentinian Pesos per person ($17.50), but it's a small price to pay to see a natural wonder so impressive, I would absolutely say it's like the Patagonian version of the Grand Canyon.
Like the Grand Canyon, what you really come for is the awe-inspiring view, and it is out of this world. As you stand there, marveling at the 230 foot high wall of ice (70 meters), you can hear cracking as pieces crash into the water below, and it sounds as loud as explosions. It's like watching a slow-motion battle of epic proportions between ice and water as the lake eternally consumes the never-ending charge of the flowing glacier.
And like the Grand Canyon, you feel time in all its vastness, as you realize that you are just a mere blip in the age of this earth. You are nothing compared to the amount of time it took for this glacier to form way up there in the mountain. And then slowly flow down to the lake. And then finally crumble into it. Just like the Colorado River took millions of years to create the Grand Canyon, you feel small, insignificant, and at the same time, so appreciative to be able to witness it all.
Perito Moreno Glacier is located just 45 minutes away from the cute town of El Calafate, it has handicapped accessible lookouts, miles of boardwalk trails, and for the extremely adventurous, is next to Los Glaciares National Park which is free and full of hikes to many other glaciers. I would highly recommend coming here for anyone.
Our Patagonian tour of bliss was not yet over. The next stop was a mountain peak that is famous throughout the world: Fitz Roy. Also known as Cerro Chaltén, this jagged vertical rock is a rock climber's dream come true. Since we are not climbers, or even really big into hiking, Tim and I appreciated the mountain from afar. But the road coming to it was worth the trip in itself and turned out to be one of the most enjoyable rides of my life.
Once again we lucked out with the weather, and we couldn't have been more excited to watch those peaks grow bigger and bigger, like they were giant granite crystals shooting into the sky. It took us way longer than normal to get to the nearby village of El Chaltén, simply because we kept stopping for pictures. Again, Tim and I would tell each other, “This makes everything worth it."
After El Chaltén, we took Route 40, which is the major artery that runs the span of Argentina north to south. And although most of it is paved, there are a few rough sections, and we hit one of them, a 45 mile stretch (72 km). We had been warned about this bit, because when it rains, this section between Chaltén and Gobernador Gregores notoriously becomes a slosh pit of mud. So we had to time things right, but luck was with us once again, and we got through it.
Our time in Patagonia was coming to an end as we journeyed north, but not without one last hurrah. We took a little dirt road that weaves close to the Chilean border called Route 41, a road that many people had recommended to us. And somewhere along it we found a perfect camp spot between the cliffs and beside a bubbling stream.
And then out of nowhere we heard the sound of a motorcycle. But not just any motorcycle, our motorcycle! Even though we thought we'd camped out of sight from the road, it turned out that a fellow KTM 1190 rider had seen us, and came zipping down the field to greet us shouting, “Notier's Frontiers!".
This was Roberto from Italy, also known as The Biker Chef, and we had been internet friends for a while. So it was thrilling to get to meet him and spend the night camping together (plus it's pretty awesome he's an Italian chef!).
Okay, so technically his bike is the R version, and we have the S, but whatever, same bike basically, and for me it was an incredible experience not just because of the gorgeous locale and Roberto's great sense of humor, but also because he brought fishing gear. So we spent the afternoon catching trout in the river, and Roberto showed us his culinary skills as he gutted them and grilled them on the fire. And this was seriously the most delicious fish I've ever had. What a night!
Unfortunately, our paths had to split the next day, and it has been nothing but wind and more miserable wind ever since. But as we make our way north to the last and final leg of our Great Americas Journey (I know, it's sad, we'll be leaving South America soon), at least we have incredible memories of Patagonia to look back on.
Our final route to end our South American adventures will include the Lake District of Argentina, and at long last, Buenos Aires. But don't worry, our world traveling isn't over yet, not by a long-shot. Because our next continent to explore is Africa.
As always, we'll keep you posted here. You can subscribe to our blog, and follow us on facebook and instagram. Also, check out Tim's book about our humble beginnings and how this whole thing got started.
Also, come see us at the Overland Expo West on May 17-19! We'll be speaking and we'd love to see you there!
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