... Bruce Meets World ...

Patagonia
when things got real...

Otherworldly. Connected. Empty. Rich. Colossal. Jewel. Beauty. Gift.

This is how we roughly would describe Patagonia by only using keywords.

 

Travelling through Patagonia has given us a `deep-dive` in travelling by bus, our Bruce. Because we drove through Patagonia in the off-season, we didn't have the most ideal circumstances but we were fine with that because our adventure had started. At least, that's what we thought.

 

During the trip from Peninsula Valdes to Ushuaia, we were fortunate that the weather was fine because the Ruta Nacional 3 is one of the most boring and endless roads to drive on. Imagine you are driving 300km with a speed of 80km p/h on a two-lane road with one-way traffic.  You are literally staring into the void and don't encounter anything, not even a chicken! 

At that very moment, we did not realize how special it all was because we had just started our adventure, so everything was new, exciting and pure fun! Argentina, the roads, driving in Bruce, finding places to sleep in the wild and of course living on the bus.

 

Once we arrived in Ushuaia, we quickly headed for Antarctica. This indescribably beautiful voyage lasted two weeks, after that, we continued our journey with Bruce. Unfortunately, the weather changed for the worst and it started pouring. The adrenaline of this new lifestyle soon faded. Besides, the last two weeks we were surrounded by lovely people and spent most of our time outside to see the most amazing things. Upon our return, the bad weather forced us to stay more inside and that hit us quite hard. At that moment it was really difficult and we both didn't understand what had changed. Looking back on that period, we should have realized that the weather and different environment were the cause of our worries. We continued our adventure and said to ourselves that it wasn't crazy to have this thought after our "Antarctica high".  For us, continuing the trip meant driving on and visiting the known places described in the Lonely Planet or advised by other people. But meanwhile, the atmosphere in the bus changed and we both wondered if this was the adventure we wanted, without discussing it with each other to avoid disappointment.

 

We've hiked a lot in Patagonia, together we admired the most beautiful lakes, peaks and views. We wanted to keep our new hiking gear tidy as long as possible so we often walked clumsy and that gave us the giggles. Like ballerinas (read elephants), we struggled through the thickest mud pools. We jumped from branch to branch without falling and in our heads, we tried to compete against others. Nevertheless, slowly but surely, the uncertainty started to grow. By now we were so spoiled by all the beauty surrounding us that at some point we began to think it was "normal". We took Patagonia for granted.

 

Only once back in the civilized world, we realized how incredibly special it was. Where can you park your bus in the middle of the highway and then let your drone fly up to see on the camera that there is nobody else, just endless stretches of roads? These thoughts were not present at that moment, we got tired of each other, were snappy and it even made us forgot we were a team, both trapped in our own thoughts, doubts and uncertainties. Unfortunately, this went on for a while without talking about it.

 

Until that day, a beautiful sunny afternoon, a fine glass of Malbec, a thick sweater, a beanie and a colourful sunset. We finally started talking, no chitchat, real talking. We realized that this needed to stop, it would shatter our dream and probably even our relationship. This was not our intention when we left the Netherlands and started this journey. We decided to talk about our own thoughts separately with family, our best friends and a coach. We realized that we had to do things differently and decided to change course.

 

Patagonia has given us insights, love, made us feel more connected, but above all the refreshing Patagonian wind gave us inspiration for the continuation of our adventure.

 

We are thrilled to share all the beauties that we encountered in Patagonia. Let’s take you on a journey to discover our highlights;


 

Peninsula Valdes & Puerto Deseado

 

Puerto Madryn is the gateway to Peninsula Valdes. Here you have the opportunity to watch an abundance of wildlife, such as sea lions, birds, whales and killer whales. The Peninsula is a National Park and the only location to stay overnight when travelling by motorhome, is Puerto Pyramid. However, the people who live here did not seem to be keen on motorhomes camping in the wild. The roads on the island were challenging for us as they are mainly washboard roads. We ended up spending three full days on the peninsula, hoping to catch a glimpse of a killer whale and on day three at 10 am we succeeded!  

We visited Puerto Deseado after hearing great stories about visiting Isla Pinguino and seeing rockhoppers up close. We went on an excursion with Darwin Expediciones. We had an amazing tour guide, named Roxanne. Her knowledge about all the animals and nature on Isla Pinguino was so extensive, we could listen to her for hours.

Tierra del Fuego

 

We drove to the southernmost city on our planet, Ushuaia aka the end of the world. We entered Tierra del Fuego by crossing the border with Chile and took a ferry, the trip lasted 30 minutes. After one to two hours of driving into Tierra del Fuego, the scenery completely changed, from empty dry landscapes to mountains and glaciers. Absolutely stunning and a great starting point for our hiking adventures.

Torres del Paine

 

We were really looking forward to Torres del Paine. It is promoted as one of the main highlights of Chile, you can read it everywhere and indeed, the park is beautiful and the sceneries are absolutely breathtaking. However we left the National Park calling it "Torres del Pain" & "Disneyland". 


 

People from all over the world come to this place and do the "O" hike (110 km) or "W" hike (71km). Doing these hikes means you either have to camp or sleep in one of the "refugios". Three companies (Vertice Patagonia, Fantastico Sur & national forest service CONAF) own these refugios and they have a monopoly. Since you have no choice and already made your way up Torres del Paine, you pay the absurd prices on top of the entrance fee and ferry. Due to bad weather conditions, we did parts of the "W" hike as a day trip and returned to Bruce to spend the night. We slept one night in a refugio. The total price we paid for the entrance fee, roundtrip with the ferry, two unmade bunk beds in a refugio and dinner was 240.000 Chilean pesos (375 euro) and this was "shoulder season". Our friends @thismustbethepace did more research regarding what happens with all the money, unfortunately not enough is going back to the local economy. 

In high season the trails have traffic jams because it becomes so crowded with visitors. The higher the urgency is, in our opinion, to create a positive experience among its visitors, for example to keep everybody mild and tolerant to one and another and keep treating its nature with respect. 

In the high season, there are so many visitors that there are even traffic jams and in our opinion, there is not enough focus on treating nature with respect and giving the visitors a positive experience.  (ik weet niet of je akkoord gaat met hoe ik de zin herschreven heb)


 

The whole experience gave us mixed feelings. Focussing on profits is fine as long as it is in balance with the overall experience incl. nature and culture, we felt that this balance is not right. To quote our friends: " Visitors and the local community of Puerto Natales deserve better, but most of all, the park deserves better and Chile can do better..."

 

Torres del Paine is a beautiful and a special place, and if you want to visit it, just GO! We felt we had to share the other side of the story as well.

 

We hope that people who share this feeling will spread the word and maybe it will, one day, change for the better.

El Calafate

 

On our way to El Calafate we picked up three French hitchhikers at the border between Chile and Argentina. This was our first time doing this, and we ended up really liking each other, hung out a few days in El Calafate and made a trip with Bruce to Glacier Perito Moreno. This glacier is the world’s third-largest freshwater resource and is one of the few stable glaciers in the area. It is amazing considering the many glaciers that are not stable today, due to climate change.

El Chalten

 

After visiting Torres del Paine, El Chalten felt like heaven on earth. The Fitz Roy mountain range is jaw-dropping. The infamous Ruta 40 to El Chalten is the most beautiful road we drove on so far. The town itself had a chill and relaxed vibe. We fell in love with this beautiful place and most definitely will come back to do the hikes again.

Parque Nacional Perito Moreno

 

Not to be confused with the Glacier Perito Moreno, this national park is one of the most beautiful, oldest and remote of Argentina. It is located on the border with Chile and named after the explorer Francois Moreno aka Perito Moreno. The park attracts about 1200 visitors per year, which gives you the feeling that you are alone in this 1150km2 park. 

 

To get there, you drive about 100km off-road (dirt road) to the entrance of the park. In the park itself, you drive another +/- 100km to see as much as possible. The next proper gas station is about 250km (going south) or 320km (going north), from the entrance of the park. 

 

You understand the importance of having enough gas, water and food. We thought we had enough gas incl. back-up, but ended up tapping fuel from another car in Bajo Caracoles. We were super lucky! 

Carretera Austral

 

The most beautiful road through the Chilean side of Patagonia. We entered the Carretera Austral at Coyhaique towards Puerto Mont. Unfortunately, it was off-season and were kind of in a rush to get to Puerto Mont as soon as possible. Winter was on our heels which meant that the roads would get flooded or just disappeared. We dealt with a lot of rain, had a leakage in the bus through the roof above our bed and had to wait for two days at a ferry station for better weather. Once we got on the ferry, we got rewarded by sailing through the Chilean Fjords, an astonishing view to make up for the past few days. As for the Carretera Austral, the road is so beautiful and special that it deserves to be crossed during the right season ;). For us, it simply means that we have to come back, someday.

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