Patagonia trip plan

Many friends asked about our trip so I thought I would share the details of our trip here. We spent three weeks in South America from Dec 30, 2017 to mid January 2018.

Day 1

Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, a 3.5 hours flight, and a 3 hours drive to El Chaltén.

Day 2 Cerro Torre Trek

Full day hike to Laguna Torres. This hike ends at Laguna Torres with Glaciar Torre and view of Cerro Torre which we didn’t see as it was shrouded in the low clouds.

Day 3 Monte Fitz Roy Trek

Let me share with you what we actually did and what I recommend you do instead.

Hired a car to take us to the starting point, El Pillar, 17Km north of El Chaltén. We started at 3am, hiked two hours to Point Poincenot to catch sunrise on Mt Fitz Roy. Instead of hiking up to Laguna de Los Tres at the base of Monte Fitz Roy, we took the easy flat trail to Lago Madre e Hijo then turned back. http://www.tanyeeming.com/the-best-day-hike-in-el-chalten/

In hindsight, I would do the following instead. Start from El Pillar to Campo Poincenot then go all the way to Laguna de Los Tres. On the way back, at Poincenot, take a different route and walk all the way downhill back to El Chalten town.

Tips at El Chaltén

1. The sun doesn’t set until around 9.30 or 10pm. You can still go out and explore El Chaltén after a full day hike. If the weather is good, make sure you go outdoor, walk to the river Rio Fitz Roy (entry to the town) and you get panoramic view of the mountain range with El Chaltén town in the foreground.

2. The best restaurant here is La Tapera. Their Locro, a Argentinian hearty stew and vegetable rice wok, a very wet fried rice with vegetable is surprisingly good.

3. Internet is very slow and no cellular signals.

4. We stayed at the top hotel Los Cerros which is so so and it is at the highest point in town. I would just be happy to stay in the cheaper places below and get a better view of Fitz Roy instead.

Day 4

Transfer from El Chaltén to El Calafate and from there 30 mins drive to our next hotel Eolo Patagonia. Gorgeous little hotel in Estancia Alice with views of Lago Argentina on the north and Torres del Paine mountain range on the south.

Day 5
Glaciar hiking at Perito Moreno, a full day excursion.

Day 6 

On the road. Travel by car from El Calafate on Ruta 40, stopped at La Esperanza, crossed the Argentina and Chilean border to arrive at our next hotel Tierra Patagonia. Beautiful five hour drive across Patagonian steppe. We arrived at Tierra in time for lunch and joined the afternoon excursion to Laguna Azul. Saw plenty of wildlife and waterfall on the drive to the lake. A stroll on the shore of Laguna Azul ending with a nice picnic while admiring the view.

Day 7 Paine Tower full day hike 

Read here for details of the hike and pictures. http://www.tanyeeming.com/the-best-day-hike-in-torres-del-paine/

Day 8

Enjoy the day at the hotel. Woke up early to catch the sunrise on Torres del Paine mountain range, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, catch up with emails and reading, hang out with new friends, explore Lake Sarmiento right in front of the hotel and surrounding. A glorious day indeed.

Day 9 French Valley full day hike

A long day. A 45 minutes drive, then an hour or so on the boat and we finally got to Refugio Paine Grande to start the French Valley trail ( the middle leg of W).

Day 10 

Depart hotel for Punta Arenas airport, which is 4 hours drive away.

if I were to do this trip again, I would do either of these two things.

1. Spend one full day or stay one night in Punta Arenas. There are several amazing hotels here and visit the penguin colonies here at Isla Magdalena (half day tour).

2. If I have more time, I would tour Antarctica. There is a an 11-day Antarctic fly and sail cruise adventure from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Or fly to Ushuaia then go to Antarctic from there as more cruises leave from Ushuaia.

From Ushuaia which is in Argentina, fly back to Buenos Aires. This will make the international airfare much cheaper as you would fly in and out of Buenos Aires.

Northern tip of Taiwan: Jinguashi 金瓜石

This is an amazing area on the north coast only about 45 mins drive from Taipei. It is a place known to tourists primarily for the old mining towns of Jiufen and the geological features here. It also offers great hiking trails and amazing views of the nearby Teapot Mountain and Keelung Mountain.

I hope to hike up Teapot Mountain one day, heard it is quite a hike though.

This place is famous for its Golden Waterfalls due to the high mineral content of the rocks in this mining town.

http://thirdlifeindulan.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/img_9264.mov

24 hours in London: Ottolenghi Spitalfields

終於吃到我最喜愛的以色列廚師Yotam Ottolenghi的素食。他自己並不是素食者,但因為素食做的很棒,被邀請為衛報寫「新素食」專欄,在倫敦開了六家餐廳。本身是甜點師傅,他的素食是非素食者都會愛上的。

Extremely lucky to get a table for one for lunch today at Ottolenghi Spitalfields. The restaurant closed at 3pm today for renovations and will reopen on September 18. I am a fan of #yotamottolenghi especially his #vegetarian recipes. His approach to vegetables makes a non-vegetarian like me fall in love with non-meat dishes. I ordered English roast beef with two salads, #roastedaubergine with cumin yoghurt and #roastedcauliflower with sour cream and pickled mustard seeds. Accompanied by s glass of Palestine white wine, Dabouki, which works really well with the flavourful vegetables. Next time must check out his new restaurant Rovi in Fitzrovia. Also looking forward to his new cook book Simple.

土坂

聽說土坂是排灣族文化保留最完整的部落。因為在山裡面,外人很少會進去。這一次因為南迴【 南迴地方創生生命力計畫】我們倆冒雨來到土坂,深入了解這山裡的部落的故事。

南迴不再只是讓人車經過的地方。

ARI!出發南迴!大鳥

Ari(讀音阿累)是排灣族語走吧!的意思。

南迴, 一個多數台灣人記憶中既陌生又遙遠的一隅。

探訪南迴的這幾天,正巧遇上西南氣流,台灣南方有一團雲始終不散去。南迴公路雲霧繚繞,看不到藍藍的海,天空蒼白,雨一直下,沒有陽光。

朱平開著車,我坐在副駕駛座,放了加拿大民謠歌手Leonard Cohen的音樂。滄桑的嗓音唱著我們最喜歡的Anthem

There is a crack in everything.萬物都有裂縫
That’s how the light gets in 那是光照進來的契機

如同這趟南迴的旅行,你無法說這是完美的旅程,但正因如此,南迴的真實與樸實的生命力,才映照出了它的美。

南迴,是一段連台東居民都未必熟悉的地方,因為人煙罕至,所以有好多神秘的故事還藏在這,獵人追蹤師、部落奇女子、排灣族巫師的話、靦腆的植物雕塑家、凌晨時分補著魚的網、荒蕪盡頭的海。南迴處處有詩,安靜地存在著許多純粹的事物。

南迴像是一座有機的森林,沒有刻意的鑿痕,人事物都保持著原始的樣貌。我喜歡這樣的旅遊(Off the beaten track),一種探索及深度的旅行,能深入地方,看見當地人真實的生活。

第一站:大鳥

台東大鳥有個笆札筏布工坊,由部落媽媽所組成,我們來拜訪負責工坊營運的經理王曉彤她希望布工坊能成為部落中心,自給自足。這裏沒有所謂的盈餘,多出來的是給小學、運動會、社區發展用的。

王曉彤做了一件事,讓全校大鳥國小的小孩都背媽媽設計的書包。每一個小朋友的書包上,都有自己媽媽袖的十字繡,小朋友看身邊的人都有了,也會催促自己的媽媽,久而久之,所有大鳥國小的小朋友,都有了來自工坊的包包,建立大家對工坊的認同感。工坊常常都有人在,小孩放學後可以來這找媽媽,寫寫功課。老人家可以教刺繡讓文化傳承下去。媽媽在部落有工作做,拿得出早餐錢,很有成就感。布工坊做出來的包包未必是我喜歡的美感,但它的價值不是產品的銷量和市場,而是成為部落的心臟,聯繫老中青三代。這就是社會企業,真正解決部落生活的問題。

南迴都是山區,即使有 Google Map 也很容易迷路

我們早到,約見的人還沒到,就自己先逛逛。大鳥部落就兩條道路,兩邊都是矮房子,最高兩層樓。這一家最吸睛,外面有隻三條腿的黃狗。主人就是圖中左邊的女士。後來才知道我們要見的人就是她,王曉彤。

大鳥街景,四處都是色彩繽紛的壁畫。

大鳥街景,色彩繽紛的壁畫。是山豬嗎?

大鳥街景,這一條是彩繪街道,難怪到處都有彩繪。

色彩繽紛的街景。

大鳥街景。

布工坊,也是部落的中心。阿嬤們有機會傳承織繡手藝,媽媽們在這裡工作,自己賺錢又有成就感。孩子們下課後家裡沒人過來這裡肯定有人會照顧。

布工坊外面的一架縫衣機,戶外工作涼快視野又寬廣。

排灣族的圖騰與色彩。

布工坊部落的經理,部落熱血媽媽王曉彤。

大鳥部落有兩家名宿。沒機會進去,不曉得裡面的裝潢如何。外面看來挺有味道的。

大鳥部落有兩家名宿。沒機會進去,不曉得裡面的裝潢如何。這家外面有個菜園。

部落唯一的餐廳。

The best day hike in Torres del Paine

The W Trek is Patagonia’s most famous hiking route, with the granite towers that give the park its name. In full, it’s a 4 or 5 day hike that can be walked without carrying gear or food, between refugios or campsites. It can also be broken up into day hikes from comfortable hotel bases, or incorporated into longer, wilder treks. To make the four-day trip accessible to all hikers, serviced campsites along the route hire out tents and on-site canteens provide nutritious, three-course meals.

The O or Full Circuit is a 7-9 day route that adds a northern section on to the park’s famous W Trek.  Circling the Paine Massif (the towers) and exploring much more of the national park, this 129 km route, delivers on all of the park’s most celebrated sights. The extra distance and absence of refugios on the northern side, meaning you’ll definitely be doing some camping, make it a tougher trail, as you will be carrying your own camping equipment.

Remember, well-meaning guides will talk you into taking the easier hikes, unless you come prepared knowing specifically what you want to do. This time we insisted that we are ready for the challenge. 

We knew we wanted to walk to the base of the towers(the pink route on the map), about 20km and 9 hours to complete. It is the toughest of all day hikes but is also the iconic trail in Torres del Paine National Park. With its landscape of aquamarine glacial lakes, and the skyrocketing granite torres (towers) from which the park takes its name, Torres del Paine has captured the imagination of trekkers from all around the world.

The walk started easily enough with a flat stroll across the open grassland from the Eco Camp,  then we began to hike up a steep ascent next to the Ascencio River until reaching the Paso de los Vientos (Pass of the Winds).

After passing through dense forests at Refugio Chileno, we reached the most challenging point of the trail. This last section, a 1.5km moraine section of loose rock and boulders and 500m elevation,  requires total focus and often using our hands as well.  

Having ascended through this difficult terrain and battled against the winds we arrived at the lookout where we were face to face with the classic, breath-taking view of the Torres del Paine. What the pictures cannot show is the biting Patagonian winds of Torres del Paine, so strong that it will knock you off your feet. We all settled down to our well deserved packed lunch. Our guide Thomas whipped out from his heavy backpack tea bags and hot water for a nice cup of tea. Just what i needed after the long hike.

Trail head, near Hosteria Los Torres[/caption]

The last section, approximately 1.5km and 500m elevation,  is the toughest part, a strenuous scramble over the moraine, often using our hands to climb the huge boulders. 

A steep climb up the valley[/caption]

Taking a breather

This stretch is a wind tunnel. At one point, a gust of Patagonian wind literally stopped me in my tracks. If it wasn’t for the backpack, I would have been blown over.
Didn’t know what moraine is until I got here. Moraines are accumulations of dirt and rocks that have fallen onto the glacier surface or have been pushed along by the glacier as it moves. The dirt and rocks composing moraines can range in size from powdery silt to large rocks and boulders.
Refugio Chileno camp site, and others in the Park, are serviced camp site. Tents and meals are provided, saving trekkers the hassles of carrying own camping equipment.

When we got to Refugio Chileno, we were told Las Torres Lookout was close due to strong winds. I flew half way around the world for this and it was so disappointing. We were so close already! As luck would have it, the trail miraculously reopened just as we were about to turn back.

Here is another section of moraine, this time with bigger rocks and boulders.
The most grueling part of the trail, about 1.5 hours of navigating through rocks and boulders.
Euphoric moment of blue sky, warm sun and chilling Patagonian wind.
We made it!

Downhill is just as tough as the climb, really tough on the knees.
Hundreds of horses galloping across the creek.
Celebrating a hard day’s work in style, courtesy of Tierra Patagonia. Cold beer, cold cut and fruits!

6 hours layover in Santiago, Chile

Arrived Santiago at 2pm and the next leg of our flight will not leave until midnight, giving us a good 6 hours to tour the city.

Salt lake of Chile seen from the plane

Whenever I visit a new city, my must-do list includes checking out the local market, try a local dish, visit a museum and a jog in the park. This time I didn’t have enough time for a jog in the park but did visit a park, Parque Forestal, in the heart of Santiago City. Here’s my recommendations for Santiago if you ever find yourself with 6 hours of idle time.

Starts with Mercado Central de Santiago. It was opened in 1872 and its intricate cast-iron roof structure was fabricated in Scotland. Inside the market are mainly seafood stalls and food stalls and restaurants. The shops around the market sells cheese, fruits and vegetables. For a late lunch, Clarita Restaurant offers local dishes. Try their Cazuela, the ultimate Chilean comfort food. The version I had is a beef broth with potato, pumpkin, shell pasta, bell pepper and lots of cilantro.

Mercado Central de Santiago is the central market of Santiago de Chile, opened in 1872.
Skip the touristy restaurants in the middle and head for one of the tiny low-key stalls around the market’s periphery.
Mercado Central is primarily a seafood market, with touristy seafood restaurants in the middle section.
Go to one of the local restaurants at the peripheral of the market. This is where you get authentic local food.

 

Cazuela at Mercado Central
Local comfort food Cazuela at Mercado Central. The liquid in the bottle is fresh lemon juice.

After the market, head south to Plaza de Armas, the main square flanked by several museums. Then head east towards Barrio Lastarria, the hip and happening district.

Chess player at the square
Plaza de Armas. Great for people watching.
Tarot reading stalls

Barrio Lastarria is the old historic part of Santiago filled with European style buildings, now a bustling place full of cafes and restaurants. There are street markets selling artisan crafts. Check out Restaurant Bocanariz which is supposed to be very good for wine pairing. Unfortunately didn’t get to try it as they were fully booked.

Barrio Lastarria

Parque Forestal is a long and narrow stretch of park land in the middle of the city. Find a bench for your tired feet to rest or even better lie down on the grass, like the locals do. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is at the edge of the Park, and entrance is free. The museum building itself is spectacular but the exhibition at this time didn’t impress me, except for a bronze sculpture at the entrance hall.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is at the edge of the Park, and entrance is free. The museum building itself is spectacular but the exhibition at this time didn’t impress me, except for a bronze sculpture at the entrance hall.
Tótila Albert Schneider, Chilean sculptor 1892 – 1967
Parque Forestal at Santiago

Restaurant Castillo Forestal, housed inside a castle (tiny one) also inside the park, serves French food. In the summer time, the sun doesn’t set until about 9pm so guests can dine surrounded outdoor surrounded by green foliage.

By this time, my 6 hours is up, time to head back to the airport for my red-eye flight at 1am!