Where the last roads end
A Patagonian Adventure
It’s ASMALLWORLD. That’s what everyone thought when eight people from the community with the same name met in Buenos Aires for the first time. Ahead of us a journey across breathtaking Patagonian landscapes to where the last roads end.
After taking in the atmosphere of this beautifully melancholic city, adventure begins early next morning. After a 3 hours flight we land in El Calafate right next to the blue waters of Lago Argentino, Argentina’s biggest lake. A short and scenic drive past town brings us to Eolo, the stunning lodge in the vast Anita Valley we call home for the next couple of days. Pedro, a glaciologist who accompanies us for this stage of the journey advised us to explore the Perito Moreno Glacier that afternoon instead of day 3 where the weather forecast predicted strong winds.
Dealing with the circumstances is what wilderness travel is all about and so everyone enjoys the spectacular hike along the shores of Lago Argentino offering glimpses of this magnificent natural monument from different angles and heights. As we finally get close, a huge chunk of ice suddenly breaks off the 60m high wall and goes thundering into the water. A perfect end to our first day of Patagonian excursions.
A long day hiking ahead of us, we start out early this morning on a 2 hour boat ride on Lago Argentino towards Estancia Cristina. There, a 4x4 jeep is waiting to take us to a magnificent viewpoint where strong winds and rain coming straight at us give everyone a good first impression of what Patagonian weather really can be like. We start our 5 hour trek down through a magnificent fossil canyon as the weather gradually improves. Back at the Estancia the wind has died down and our boat is able to sail up towards Upsala Glacier on the way back, silently passing beautiful ice formations that shine in many different shades of blue.
Everyone is exhausted and hungry when we return to our Lodge in the fading evening light. The Relais & Chateaux cuisine at Eolo is fabulous and we enjoy dinner and panoramic views on what is already our last evening in Argentina.
This is transition day and everyone can sleep in a bit. On the way out towards Chile our driver Gabriel is taking us to the Glaciarium, an information center that Pedro helped build and is a Director of, putting everything we saw and learned about the Glaciers here in to perspective. After only 2:30 hours we arrive at Cerro Guido. The working Estancia bordering the Torres del Paine National Park greets us with hearty chicken stew and Chilean red wine for dinner. The moon is almost full now and lightens up the impressive Paine Mountain Range as we head to our quarters around midnight.
The new day awakens with blue skies and the sun turns the Paine towers in pink light. Today is our ‘Gaucho’ day and I sense a certain nervousness around the breakfast table as a full day of horseback riding is on the agenda.
Although no one has any notable experience the group feels at ease right away as we ride along a Mountain ridge towards the Sarmiento lake. On the way we encounter Guanacos everywhere - live ones and carcasses from recent Puma kills. At a small hill our head guide Luis invites us to join him on a canter and after a good two hours that seems to pass in no time we stop for lunch that has already been set up for us.
We continue riding towards Torres del Paine and enjoy the spectacular views and calm weather as yesterday’s wind has vanished almost completely. Luis ends the day demonstrating his Gaucho riding skills.
For our day within the park we planned a 7+ hour climb up to the base of the Paine Towers. The weather turned inclement though and having done just that in bed weather last year, we happily let the opportunity pass and opt for a number of shorter hikes in different areas of the park including Glacier Grey where we hike along a beach and across an Island to get the best view of the Glacier front that has receded a few kilometers in recent years.
Most memorable is ourstop at a waterfall, where the wind blew so strong that the girls in our group had to kneel down to prevent being blown off their feet. The light is intense as there is a mix of dark clouds and sunny patches, which makes the yellow Pampa grass shine even brighter than it already is.
We arrive back at the Estancia just in time for an exceptional roast lamb cordero dinner, the staff had been preparing for the past 4 hours. After an exhausting day full of impressions and true Patagonian weather everyone is happy to retire early that evening.
Navarino Island is where literally the last roads end, a short charter flight from Punta Arenas across the Beagle Channel South of Ushuaia. From Lakutaia, the world’s southernmost Lodge, we embark on a hike on the Cerro Bandera. The next day we charter aboat and set sail to Wulaia Bay. A group of Dolphins accompanies us as we take in the otherworldly beautiful scenery in historic territory Darwin once sailed.
The shared experiences of the past days have brought about a unique sense of community and friendship within our group. One of the benefits of wilderness travel is that it takes away distractions, helps us open up and connect to the world and people around us in a special way. It also shows: our world is not so small after all.