We spent a couple of days wild camping outside Punta Arenas, however the town held little of interest for us and we moved on to Puerto Natales, the gateway to the National Park Torres De Paine. Here we stocked up on groceries and then headed straight for the national park, planning to camp at a lovely campsite just outside. Unfortunately it was full and we ended up outside the rangers station at the entrance to the park after hours. We knew it was OK to camp here in the car park, so we put the roof tent up and climbed inside. We had not really had huge issues with the infamous Patagonian wind to date, but that was about to change! The wind was wild and howled around the roof tent, with us rocking around inside! There was no way we would be able to sleep up there and we were also worried it could damage the roof tent. At midnight, we were outside in our PJs wrestling against the wind to get the roof tent down! Unfortunately, we don`t have a system whereby we can sleep inside the landy, so Gav made me a little bed by folding down the front seat and I lay very curled up over the second and front row and Gav slept in the driver`s seat! We managed some sleep and woke up early, paid and entered the National Park where we headed straight for the official campsite where there was good wind protection for the roof tent! We also had our own armadillo, who was very tame, who we called Arthur!
Torres De Paine is a beautiful national park in Chilean Patagonia full of mountains, turquoise lakes, icebergs, glaciers, rivers and forests. The Torres del Paine are the distinctive three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range or Paine Massif. They extend up to 2,500 meters above sea level, and are joined by the Cuernos del Paine. We spent a lovely few days doing some short walks, as Gav`s ankle is still healing and driving around the park. On our last morning-we were in bed when we heard a thumping sound at the front of the landy. We thought it was a vehicle parked in front of us and I was merrily cursing them for the noise, when we suddenly also felt the landy shake. Gav got out to find a southern crested caracara bird (bird of prey) on the bonnet, tearing the rubber from our windscreen wipers! Gav shooed it away but it had managed to take both of them! Luckily we had replacements and fitted them before we left!
We crossed back into Argentina and headed to El Calafate, a small town which serves as the gateway to Los Glaciares National park which houses the Perito Moreno glacier. We found a lovely campsite and stayed a few days, doing some checks on Ruby and replacing the UJs on the rear prop shaft. We also met a lovely British couple called Polly and Sam, driving a mazda Bongo, lovingly referred to as " the Bong-alow"! We also visited the national park and Perito Moreno glacier. The ice formation is 250 square kilometres and 30 kilometres in length and was a spectacular sight. The terminus of the glacier is 3 miles wide, with an average height of 74 metres above the water of Lago Argentina. There were a series of long walkways, at different levels, overseeing the glacier which meant you could view it fairly closely from a variety of angles. The sounds were also interesting-with it creaking, rumbling and crashing, as pieces caved off into the surrounding water. We witnessed some huge pieces break off and crash into the water-leaving multiple pieces of floating ice. We spent a few hours here just staring and listening to the glacier.
After leaving El Calafate, we had planned to head to El Chalten and spend a few days hiking in the Southern part of the Los Glaciares national park, in the famous Fitzroy mountain range. We arrived there, however, and it was incredibly windy and we drove around a few camping spots to see if there was any wind protection. We could not find any, and still scarred from the windy night before we entered Torres, we decided to keep driving and save the park until another time!
We slept at a sheltered camp spot in Tres Lagos and then headed 350 miles to the last town before the Chilean border, Los Antiguos, set on a stunning turquoise lake. We headed for the municipal campsite and were pleased to find there was space and that it was relatively quiet. That was until midnight when the music went on and it was really loud until about 5am the following morning! I am now generalising, however it has been our general experience that the people in Argentina like loud music and also want to generously make sure that you can hear it very loudly too!! After an interrupted nights sleep, I woke up fairly cranky and cross with some of the people on the campsite. It was not too long before the music began again, this time from about 3 or 4 different groups of people! However, within a short time, we realised that we can forgive the people here such a lot because of their incredible warmth and friendliness. A lady bought us a pile of cherries to eat (this town is the cherry capital of Argentina) and then a lovely couple bought us some empanadas over and later a huge sausage sandwich! They were also fascinated by Ruby and we did the guided tour of her and posed for many photos with them! "Now turn that music down!" Said no Argentinean ever!!