A Travellerspoint blog

El Bolson and Cerro Hielo de Azul

hippie towns and hiking

semi-overcast 18 °C

I happily left Bariloche and made it a bit further south to El Bolson. This town is known in Argentina as a hippie community where everyone makes crafts and homebrew beers and sells them at a big market held 3 times weekly. The main reason I came was to hike the the Hielo Azul circuit- the Blue Heaven circuit. Luckily, Beatrice, who I met at Jakob Refugio, also planned to hike the same circuit, so we met and shared a taxi to the trailhead. She´s been travelling and hiking for 2 years and has been to a lot of places Miri and I will go to on this world trip. She worked in a corporate job for many years, then bailed out and started travelling. Says it was the best decision she ever made.

The hike around Hielo Azul was the least spectacular so far of the trip. Maybe this is why they give it such an over the top name. The weather also was mostly cloudy, so perhaps this took away from some of the views. Day one was a long climb up to the tree line at Refugio Hielo Azul. I loved the Refugios on this hike, even though I always camped near the Refugio in my tent. On day two everyone staying at the Refugio climbed up to the Hielo Azul glacier and checked out the views from this alpine viewpoint. I haven´t seen the blue ice such a big glacier since New Zealand. We continued back down the valley and past another Refugio all the way to Refugio Cajon del Azul, which is situated at a deep gorge in the River Azul. The path there was VERY steep and not much fun, but again the Refugio was very relaxing with friendly staff and free tea. I really loved the free tea at all the huts, since the weather was always cloudy and a bit cold. I love that this refuge was called ´cajon´. I´m not sure of the proper meaning, but Í´ve heard ´cojones´ used a lot in movies and I´m pretty sure it´s not the same picture they´re going for with this refuge name. On the last day we walked down river to a 4WD track and back to the road where we called a taxi to take us back to El Bolson.

The more southward I travel, the more I notice facilities are diminishing. Already in El Bolson there is no internet cafe with skype. I also can´t upload pics here, so hopefully soon I can share pics of the hikes around Bariloche and Hielo Azul. I feel like I´m headed more and more into the wildnerness. The strange thing is nearly every cafe and hostel have free wifi. I feel a little out of touch because most tourists have i-phones and netbooks. I feel like I´m using smoke signals in these rickity old internet cafes.

Today I´m off to Los Alerces, my last stop in Argentina before crossing back into Chile. Now transport starts to becomoe a challenge since buses don´t run frequently and not many tourists are around these days.

Posted by ichbinmatt 06:57 Archived in Argentina Tagged el cerro bolson azul hielo Comments (1)

Nahuel Huapi hiking

refugios and bad weather

The scenery around Bariloche is much diferent than that of Pucon. Here is much more like the European Alps. Everywhere are glacialy carved valleys and stony peaks and ridges that extend as far as the eye can see. I started by taking a bus to Cerro Cathedral, where there is a skiiing village. I hadn't eaten lunch, so I stopped in a sausage stand and ordered a bratwurst and beer to energy up for the hike. The ski village is alpine themed and they even played Karnivals music while I ate. That 10 minutes was plenty for me this year.

Also like the Alps, there are systems of huts in the mountains here. Sometimes they are connected by good trails, but my route took me over rough ridges with no trail and only paint markings to signal the way. Day one was sunny and the scenery was wonderful. I started by climbing to to Frey Refugio which many local climbers use as a base for climbing routes. The weather was so good I decided to keep hiking and climb up to a secluded lake before crossing a ridge then decsending into a valley and eventually camping along a stream with no people anywhere close. The next morning I woke up to blue skies, which soon turned cloudy as I broke camp, which turned into menecing overcast skies as I drank tea, which turned into a steady rain during the first hour of hiking, which turned into pelting rain and strong guts of wind by the time I had climbed the next pass. Luckily the next hut was only a 3 hour hike from my camp, so I took refuge there and got warm and dry again. I had wanted to do a challenging crossing across an unmarked route, but the weather forced me to just chillax in the hut all day, which is not a bad thing. I talked a lot to the other hikers there, waiting out the bad weather. There was a British couple on their honeymoon, a German woman who has climbed Aconcagua, many local Argentines and of course a team of Israelis that accompany me everywhere.

The third day was once again rainy, but not so bad as the previous day, so I got a late start and hiked out to a road to hitch back to Bariloche. Some locals picked me up almost immdeatly so I got some good Spanish practice on the ride. Being back in Bariloche is not very relaxing. It reminds me a lot of those pretentious Colorado ski towns where they don´t want people around unless you´re rich. I think the number one activity is to try and look chic and go out to clubs. I´m happy to stay here for now and get cleaned up though. I even found a drop off laundry service, so everything will be clean.

Posted by ichbinmatt 11:32 Archived in Argentina Tagged patagonia nahuel huapi Comments (0)

Bariloche, Argentina

first of many border x-ings


I made the long bus trip through Osorno and across the Andes to San Carlos de Bariloche. I was here 9 years ago, but my mind has no memory at all of this place. The bus trip was a lot better than I expected. I transfered buses in Osorno, and both buses had plenty of leg room and were pretty comfortable. The bus to Bariloche only had 15 people on it- an ecclectic mix of Austrailans, Columbians, Ecuadorians and the required Israelis for every journey in South America. I had heard horror stories about the border crossing taking 4 hours, but we were in and out of both border stations with minimal waiting. The biggest problem is the border control agents can´t ever find the stamps they are looking for in my passport because there are so many stamps and visas all mixed up in there. ¨No, back, back another page... next the Russian visa... no, now forward...¨

Bariloche is a lot different than Pucon. My initial feeling is that the town is too big and too touristy. Plus there is the constant issue of trying to make change. Stores won´t accept large bills, so everybody wastes time walking around trying to get change for the big bills that come out of ATMs. At least my hostel is very friendly and welcoming. I´ve worked out a plan to get out of town this afternoon and go hiking up in the mountains above the city. The weather forcast doesn´t look so good for the days to come, so its a preparation for the rain and wind further south. I plan on being out until Thursday or Friday. One very positive thing about the mountains here is there is a fine network of huts, so I don´t have to worry about getting caught in awful weather too much.

Bis ein paar Tage!

Posted by ichbinmatt 06:12 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Villarrica Traverse

volcanos, volcanos, volcanos

sunny 26 °C

I´m back from a 50 mile (80 km) hike through Villarrica National Park. The park is named for Volcan Villarrica, which is contantly puffing out smoke, just like I pictured volcanos as a kid. The hike does a half circuit around Villarrica, then opens up to amazing views of 4 other big volcanos in the area. If you like hiking along exposed volcanic rock and old lava fields, this is for you. About 2/3 of the hike is out in the open, so there were plenty of views, but the sunsreen was essential.

I started on Thursday, March 3rd and got lucky with a ride up to the national park. Tours to climb the volcano start at the same place the hike starts, so I woke up early in the morning and just went around to tour agencies and asked if anybody had an empty seat for the tour. After a few tries I found one. I´d like to plan things like this in advance, but this is Latin America- all part of the adventure. A French/American backpacker who had been denied access to climb because he didn´t have a guide set off with me and provided good company through the first few hours before he turned back. Later in the day I saw a French couple, but that was all as far as people on the trail. It was easy and good hiking with constant views of Villarrica. The trail occasionally dipped into a forest of monkey puzzle trees for some much needed shade. The only problem was water. There was a lot of glacial melt, but it looks like dirty dish water and I´m too good for that, so I pushed on until about 4pm before finally finding a stream that was clear. I felt betrayed at my planned camping spot, at the Rio Pichillancahue, which was again full of glacial melt water. So I hiked on and used my special water finding skills to find fresh water only 15 minutes away, then went back and camped for the night. Amazingly, the next morning, the river was running clear.

Day 2 was mostly exposed and very hot for elevations above 1500m. I met an Isreali man early in the day and hiked on and off with him through the amazing volcanic, moon-like landscapes. We met another French couple coming the opposite direction, so we all stopped and ate lunch together looking back at Volan Villarrica. The last hour of the hike was the most scenic as I approached my campsite at Laguna Azul. This is a lake which was created because lavaflow blocked off a stream. I went swimming to clean up after the hot, dusty day, but the snowmelt water was barely above freezing, so the swim didn´t last long. Another Isreali couple camped with us and I convinced them to travel to America and gave them a plan to visit national parks and do some hiking.

I finished the hike on the 3rd day. The day started like day 2, with lots of volcanic rock and very little vegetation. Finally, after crossing the highest pass of the trail with views of all 5 volcanos, the hike got greener and shady. I also got my first good view of Andean Condors, which constantly soared above me and was a bit unnerving. On the descent, I went through hundreds of thousands possibly millions of lillies. I walked for about 30 minutes and the entire forest floor was covered. It was a bit like the poppies in the Wiz of Oz, only in a forest. I´ve never seen anything like it- pretty incredible, but impossible to capture in a picuture. At the very end of the hike I met another group of Israelis. They were a bit different than most Israelis travellers because they were a little older. I found out they were all older because they were all officiers in the army, so they serve longer than usual, and start their world trip a little later. They´ve been travelling in Patagonia for 6 months and gave me boatloads of info on hikes further south. I really liked hiking with them at the end of the day. I ended up campng alone again at the end of the hike in Puesco. CONAF (Chilean Natl Park Service) has a free campsite there, so I took a bath in the river and fed the chickens that wandered around my tent.

This morning was an eay hitch back into Pucon. A British man living in Patagonia for 35 years picked me up after 5 minutes wait on the roadside. I think I could fill as much time as I had in Patagonia. Along the ride, he pointed out local restaurants and little points of interest along the road to Pucon. So now I´m back in familiar Pucon for one last day. Tomorrow- Argentina!!

Photos here:




Posted by ichbinmatt 11:05 Archived in Chile Tagged patagonia pucón villarrica traverse puesco Comments (1)

Huerquehue Lakes

and monkey puzzle trees

rain 17 °C

I´m back from possibly the most relaxing backpacking trip I´ve ever taken. I hiked for 3 days around Huerquehue National Park, which is in the foothills of the Andes and includes many lakes perfectly suited for swimming. There are also monkey puzzle trees all over the park which look like something from a Dr. Seuss book. For the first 5 km of the park there were a lot of day hikers, but after getting past that, I had the park to myself. I did a lot of swimming and basking under the cloudless skies. The first night I camped with a mama and baby cow sharing the campsite. A local guy with a machete and a German shepard showed up and tried to talk to me, but he left after he realized I wasn´t catching what he was saying. I slept for about 15 hours to recover from all the travel exhaustion. The following day I hiked deeper into the park to even more remote lakes and spent most of the day swimming. When I arrived back at the campsite, it was filled up with groups of Germans, Israelis and Chileans. It was nice to have company after nearly 24 hours of solitude. On the 3rd day I hiked back to the park entrance on a slightly different route, passing along more beautiful lakes. I even found the German´s hat on the trail and caught up with him to return it. (Ein Jack Wolfskin Hut kann nur auf eine Deutsche gehoeren.)

For now I´m back in Pucon gearing up for the next hike. I enjoyed an excellent grill out at the hostel last night with some Brits and Aussies and Dutch people. The steaks here are very high quality and so tasty! I timed the weather perfectly since today is the first cloudy and rainy weather for me in Chile, but I´m in town the whole day, so its perfect. Tomorrow the sunshine returns. The next hike won´t be so full of relaxation and swimming in lakes. It´s a high altitide traverse across a string of volcanos. The intensity factor gets dialed up a couple of notches. I am tempted to start the hike by climbing to the top of Volcan Villarrica because there is a red lava pool inside the summit crater and I could do some awesome Lord of the Rings stuff up there, but you have to have a guide and people tell me the smoke coming out the top makes you feel really sick. It doesn´t sound so fun considering that. I´ve summited enough volcanos anyway.

I´ll be out in the wilderness for the next 5 days or so.

See photos here:

Posted by ichbinmatt 07:16 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

(Entries 31 - 35 of 41) « Page .. 2 3 4 5 6 [7] 8 9 »