Three and a half weeks sounds like a long journey, but Patagonia is huge. In order to experience the diversity of this part of the world, we covered 5800 km by jeep. Every single one was worth it, we think! In short, our conclusion is: nice, helpful people, a varied landscape and an impressive animal world. Anyone who is playing with the idea of going to Patagonia: Just do it! But before that, definitely learn a little Spanish!
We zigzagged through Patagonia from north to south. Our first destination was the lake district. Following the recommendation of “Lonely Planet” we drove the “Ruta de Siete Lagos”, a fantastic route that – as the name suggests – leads past seven lakes. Again and again there were great vantage points, sandy beaches that invited to a picnic or a dip in the water, nice little mountain villages that were worth strolling through, and even a bit of Patagonian jungle. Our suspicion that we would not see many flowers in this landscape, which looked so dry from the plane, vanished in no time. Bright sunshine and t-shirt weather in November made the holiday feeling perfect.

We learned the rules of the road very quickly: who has the right of way is decided by instinct, signs are not of the slightest importance, Argentines do not shy away from overtaking in any situation and you always have to reckon with four-legged friends on the slopes. When we picked up our rental car, we were directly advised not to forget one Spanish word: Gomería. Loosely translated: tire saver.
We stayed in Bariloche, a lovingly designed tourist stronghold. If you look beyond the town center with its cute wooden houses, you can also learn something about “normal life” here. Outside the tourist center, gravel roads replace the asphalted roads, instead of rented posh jeeps, there are rattling boxes and horses in front of the houses, which are often unfinished.

From the foot of the Andes, our route led across the country to the east coast – 900 km, on which nothing was marked on our map except for two tiny little villages. We wanted to know what’s in the big nothing. The answer: a surprising much! And much of the nothing has thorns.

On the other side of the big nothing we found a true animal paradise – the Península Valdés. Except for the large dry salt lakes in the middle of the peninsula, the landscape is a monotonous steppe, but full of life. In just one day we saw armadillos, elephant seals, penguins, maras, rheas, guanacos, sheep and a few other more or less fluffy fellows.

And that’s not all. In the evening we stayed for the sunset at a vantage point above Playa Pardelas, at the Mirador Ballenas. While we waited for the sunset, we used the time to look up what “Ballenas” means in the guidebook – it said “right whale”. We looked up and at that very moment a fountain of water spurted out of the sea and a huge dark ridge appeared between the waves. It wasn’t the only whale we saw that evening.
Our tour then continued south along the coast, stopping at Trelew to refuel the car and our food supplies. When we were looking for our night’s quarters, we almost despaired because we couldn’t find the house number. Only after a few laps through the one-way street system did we realize that the street we were looking for exists twice – of course we were on the wrong road. In the end, however, we managed to find our way to the “Casa de Paula” and we were rewarded with a really cozy night.

Animals, animals, animals were on the agenda for the next few days. We visited the nature reserves “Punta Tombo” and “Cabo dos Bahías”, where numerous penguins live side by side with guanacos. It was great to see the black and white colleagues up close, even if the hustle and bustle of tourists didn’t give us a real sense of nature. 

On the other hand, we experienced pure nature when we came across a colony of elephant seals on the coast. At first the imposing animals reared up threateningly as we approached. However, after we had slowly and persistently sneaked up on them, they didn’t seem to care about our presence anymore and we were allowed to watch their lively goings-on.

After paying a visit to all the sea creatures, we drove further inland to admire the petrified trees “Bosque Petrificado José Ormachea” at Sarmiento. The area could well serve as a setting for a science fiction movie. What is treacherous about this landscape is that nothing grows here that would sway in the wind, so you are never prepared for how stormy it is on the other side of the car door. It was stormy enough to fly. But the wind is part of Patagonia, and with temperatures above 30°C we didn’t find it tragic at all.
A second petrified forest was marked on our road map near the first one, but we couldn’t find it even after several attempts. Instead, we drove through a seemingly endless landscape of oil rigs, learned that you can live in a car in the middle of that nothingness, and were attacked by hordes of hungry mosquitoes wherever there was greenery. In the solitude we got out every now and then and took a closer look at the flora. Not infrequently we found really beautiful little flowers.

After those days in the dusty, dry steppe, it was a welcome change to drive back to the sea and have a leisurely lunch break on the beach. Then continue south to the “Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados”. This petrified “forest” looked different than the one at Sarmiento, we found the tiny lichens growing on the trunks particularly exciting. But all in all, we weren’t sure afterwards whether the long detour here was worth it – especially because we had to tremble quite a bit whether our fuel would last to the next gas station. Luckily we made it to Rio Gallegos!
Then it went across the country again; we wanted to go to Chile. Our plan: Cross the border at Cerro Castillo – easier said than done. Because the border crossing was neither signposted nor particularly easy to find. When we saw a hut appearing in the distance, we decided to ask. It wasn’t until we were inside that we realized that this farm was itself the border post; here, too, communication was only possible in Spanish.

Then it went across the country again; we wanted to go to Chile. Our plan: Cross the border at Cerro Castillo – easier said than done. Because the border crossing was neither signposted nor particularly easy to find. When we saw a hut appearing in the distance, we decided to ask. It wasn’t until we were inside that we realized that this farm was itself the border post; here, too, communication was only possible in Spanish.
We drove through pink meadows in the direction of the Andes to the Chilean national park “Torres del Paine”. We rented a hotel in Serrano Village for a cheap US$ 290 per night. If you don’t want to camp, you have to look for accommodation in this park in good time, spend a lot of money, but don’t expect too much for it. If you want to go camping or hiking, you have to be prepared for unpredictable weather that you just don’t see in Germany. One moment we were walking in light clothing in bright sunshine, the next moment it was hailing horizontally in our faces. The weather changed so quickly that it was almost impossible to change in time. It was like someone was turning various weather phenomena on and off at the touch of a button.
Unfortunately, during our four days in “Torres del Paine” we had much more bad than good weather, especially very bad visibility, so that hikes to viewpoints were hardly worthwhile. But when the sun did come out, we threw ourselves outside immediately. We mingled with a herd of guanaco, watched condors soaring imposingly, enjoyed the view of the park’s mountain massif and its emerald-green lakes and caught a glimpse of “Glaciar Grey”. In any case, we were glad that we only did day trips and didn’t have to spend days outside in this weather.

On the way to “Los Glaciares” we first took the route via the notorious “Ruta 40”. We had read a lot about the street but obviously didn’t believe enough. After 10 km on this tire killer track we turned around and decided to take a big asphalt detour instead.
From El Chaltén we first took on the northern part of the national park. The little village obviously only exists for the tourists, but it’s lovingly made, with plenty of cozy bars and nice restaurants. In glorious sunshine we hiked to “Laguna Torre” and actually experienced how all three peaks of “Cerro Torre” emerged from the clouds.
Weather-wise we weren’t that lucky the next day; the view at “Lago del Desierto” was modest. But on the way there we discovered a beautiful waterfall and a very friendly tree…

Luckily, the gray sky only followed us for one day. When we moved to El Calafate, the gateway to the southern part of “Los Glaciares”, the sun pampered us again. Of course, our destination was the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, a must-see for any Patagonian traveler. Via a branched system of stairs and paths, we came pretty close to the 30 m high ice wall. The constant creaking and cracking reveals the forces at work inside the huge mass of ice. And if you have just a bit of patience, you have a good chance of seeing huge blocks of ice crashing into the water.
A great way to see the Perito Moreno is by boat. Although we had already seen the glacier from land, we invested some money in the seven-hour three-glacier tour with the travel agency “Hielo y Aventura”. That was worth it! Our captain first maneuvered the catamaran through numerous icebergs to the “Glaciar Uppsala”, then we visited the “Glaciar Spegazzini” and the “Perito Moreno”. On the way back via the “Lago Argentino” to El Calafate we were even allowed to take the rudder into our own hands! By the way, in “Torres del Paine” you would have paid more for a shorter tour to just one glacier.

And suddenly our last day in Patagonia had come. We explored the surroundings of El Calafate a little, found ourselves in a wide flower meadow in a herd of horses and enjoyed the evening sunbeams on the beach of the surrounding lakes. We then strolled a bit through the streets of El Calafate and looked for an inviting-looking restaurant – but we didn’t try the mutton that was displayed in the shop window.
Since we still had a bit of time before we had to go to the airport, we stopped by the bird sanctuary “Laguna Nimez” – nice place for bird lovers. We especially liked the numerous flamingos.

The return trip with “Aerolíneas Argentinas” did not go as smoothly as we would have liked. Our flight took off on time, but had been transferred to another airport outside of Buenos Aires, where we wanted to spend our last night of vacation. It took us three hours to get to our hotel by minibus – because the power in the traffic light system in the big city had gone out again. And since traffic lights seem to be the only thing an Argentine motorist respects, pure anarchy broke out on the streets. But we made it back to Germany. By the way, our postcards arrived 51 days after us.

Addendum September 2014:
I always believed that memories are permanent. That an once beautiful moment remains forever as a positive experience in our mind. But that’s not the case.
When you hear a faint whimper, while being on a journey somewhere far away from any civilization, and you find an injured and emaciated stray dog in a hole in the ground, pull him out, dress his wounds and share most of your provisions with him, than this experience is only going to be a wonderful memory until that dog jumps in your face and, out of sheer greed and selfishness, makes off with the rest of your rations.

You can forgive this mutt. Animals act mostly instinctively and outside of our moral values. That distinguishes them from us humans.
In September 2014 I discovered Julia’s true colours. The person she was pretending to be had very little to do with her true nature.

Since then, I no longer consider this blog post as a record of my favorite memories of Patagonia, but only as a reminder to never forget that it is not important whether you share a beautiful moment with someone, but with whom. 

7 thoughts on “Patagonia 2012”

  1. Frank Fingerhuth

    Ihr Patagonien-Album hat mir sehr gut gefallen – umso mehr, als ich Anfang des Jahres diese Gegend der Welt einige Wochen lang mit einem guten Freund bereist habe. Dass Sie mit dem “Torres del Paine” – Nationalpark soviel Pech hatten, ist wirklich schade. Wir hatten alles in allem viel Glück und haben von dort herrliche Eindrücke mitgenommen. Allerdings war es lausig kalt!

    Das Glück, den Gletschersee beim Perito Moreno zu befahren, hatten wir leider nicht mehr: Mein Freund hatte 2010 Gelegenheit dazu, aber inzwischen scheint diese spezifische Fahrt an der Gletscherzunge entlang eingestellt worden zu sein – schade…

    Die Halbinsel Valdés war übrigens auch auf unserer Reise die erste Station – großartig.

    Ihnen alles Gute und weiterhin erstklassige Fotos! Darf ich fragen mit welcher Kamera?

    Herzliche Grüße aus Hamburg,

    Frank F.

  2. Es freut uns, dass ihnen unser Reisebericht so gut gefällt und vielen Dank für das nette Feedback 🙂
    Patagonien war wirklich ein wundervolles Reiseziel und es ist schön, wenn andere ebenfalls toll Erinnerungen aus diesem Land mitbringen.

    Alle Bilder auf dieser Reise sind mit Hilfe einer Nikon D700 entstanden.

    Beste Grüße,

    Florian & Julia

  3. dietmar kliebe

    Beim Anblick der tollen freuen uns schon auf unsren Trip, den wir Ende Oktober fest gebucht haben.
    Was würdet ihr denn für ein Weitwinkelobjektiv empfehlen, bzw. mit welchen Objektiven habt ihr die herrlichen Bilder gemacht??

    Gruß aus Bayern

  4. Hi Dietmar, danke für die netten Worte 🙂 Ich habe ein Nikon 16-35mm 1:4G ED für die Weintwinkelbilder und bin damit sehr zufrieden 🙂
    LG, Florian

  5. Weiler, te felicito por esta hermosa cobertura fotográfica, que con una mirada ajena a estas tierras refleja lo mas hermoso de ella. Grandes fotografías y hermosos lugares recorridos, nosotros los Argentinos amamos la Patagonia, un territorio mágico que nunca deja de sorprendernos, yo soy de Buenos Aires y este año realice un viaje por ella junto a mi familia,
    aquí algunas fotografías realizadas en film de 35mm.

    Aqui tambien algunas fotografias de las Cataratas del Iguazu.

    Nuevamente felicitaciones por tus trabajos fotográficos.
    Saludos desde Argentina.
    Alejandro Prieto.

  6. Echt schöne Fotos!!!!
    Eine Frage: Wo habt ihr den Jeep gemietet bzw wie teuer war er?


  7. Ein super Bericht und sagenhafte Fotos. Wir brechen auch als bald nach Patagonien auf, wollte aber eigentlich mehr auf der chilenischen Seite bleiben, doch jetzt wo ich die Bilder von der anderen Seite sehe, glaube ich, müssen wir da auch weniger mehr Zeit für einplanen. Habt ihr einen GPS-Track oder ähnliches, auf welchem man eure Route nachvollziehen kann? Wie sicher habt ihr euch im Straßenverkehr gefühlt?

    Danke für eure Antwort

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