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Tierra del Fuego - Chile

Tuesday, 20 December 2011 15:29

Tierra del Fuego is with its 47,000 square kilometers the largest island of South America and it is located at its southern end: Fin del Mundo - the end of the world. It is shared between Argentina and Chile, approximately two third belong to Chile. The Argentine part is much more populated, but only a little more than 100,000 people live in whole Tierra del Fuego. Its is a harsh island with two different geographical regions: North and East is the windswept pampa; South and West are the Andes with steep pinnacles, huge glaciers, remote fjords and numberless islands in front.

The first people came 10,000 years ago to Tierra del Fuego and were able to deal with the hard conditions. But the European immigrants exploited and eradicated the native people at the end of the 19th century. Hernando Magellan gave Tierra del Fuego its name - Fireland, because he saw a lot of fires on the island which were used by some of the native tribes for their communication.  

The Chilean part is a little bit sleepy with only one bigger town: Porvenir with just 5,500 inhabitants. Therefore the nature is more or less intact with abundant flora and fauna but non endemic animals like innumerably Sheep, Rabbits or Castors disturb the balance of its nature.

We crossed the strait of Magellan directly from Punta Arenas to Porvenir in the morning of December 4th 2011. This was a pleasant 4 hour trip in calm waters on a sunny day - nobody got seasick.

Our first impression of Tierra del Fuego

 

Punta Arenas and its surroundings

Wednesday, 07 December 2011 23:17

Punta Arenas is with 140,000 inhabitants the biggest city in southern Patagonia and the capital of the XII region Magallanes y Antartica of Chile. The busy industrial town is located on the Strait of Magellan and it is the most important port in this area. It is also a famous cruise and tourist destination.

Its environment is beautiful with forests, mountains, lakes and the Pacific Ocean. Few kilometers West of Punta Arenas is the National Park Reserva Nacional Magallanes with a lot of nature including hiking capabilities and viewpoints. But there are also a small skiing area, many radio transmitters and a military station on its highest point Monte Fewton.

South of Punta Arenas at the very end of continental South America is a remote area on the Strait of Magellan with superb trekking possibilities like Monte Tarn (825 meters), or the lighthouse Faro Cabo San Isidro. 

Punta Arenas and the Strait of Magellan

 

   

Torres del Paine - Circuito Grande

Wednesday, 23 November 2011 23:21

The Torres del Paine Park in southern Chile is probably the finest and most famous National Park of South America. Rising close to 3,000 meters above the Patagonian steppe, the Torres del Paine dominates the landscape with sensational granite pillars, spectacular glaciers and marvelous lakes. It provides excellent hiking possibilities like the more than 100km long Paine Circuit, which can be done in 8 to 10 days. All needed facilities like campgrounds with hot showers, mountain huts or food stores are available. but the weather is very changeable. It is located 150km North of Puerto Natales, the second biggest town of Chilean Patagonia.

Puerto Natales is on the windswept shores of Seno Ultima Esperanza - Last Hope Sound. The 16,000 people city is the bustling hub for the Torres del Paine National Park. Both, the city and the park, are very crowded with tourists between mid of December and end of February.

We crossed the Chilean border in the late afternoon of November 5th 2011 after a long drive. We were eager for some sport activities and suddenly we saw a sign Mirador Sierra Dorotea 5 km before Puerto Natales. We were a little bit irritated by the expensive fee of 10 bucks per person an elderly Lady charged from us, but she told us it is including tea or coffee. But we wanted to walk to the viewpoint. It became almost dark, when we arrived at the top after 1.5 hours walking, but the views were still outstanding.

Puerto Natales and Seno Ultima Esperanza seen from the Mirador Sierra Dorotea

 

   

Penguins and more - Atlantic Coast of Patagonia South of Puerto Madryn

Friday, 18 November 2011 22:10

South of Puerto Madryn are several highlights like the Museo Paleontologico Egido Feruglio in Trelew with stunning life-sized dinosaur exhibits, the Natural Park Cabo Dos Bahias with rich wildlife, the Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados with its fossilized gigantic trees and the Parque Nacional Monte Leon with more than 75,000 breeding Penguin pairs in springtime and early summer.

Trelew is a midsized town of about 100,000 people, located 65 km South of Puerto Madryn. Its origin is Welsh and its name is a homage to Lewis Jones, who promoted railway expansion in the province Chubut: tre - town and lew - Lewis. We arrived in Trelew in the late afternoon of October 26th 2011 and spent the night on the shore of the Parque Recreativo Laguna Cacique Chiquichano, close to the planetarium.

Trelew is famous for its outstanding natural-history museum Museo Paleontologico Egido Feruglio with more than 1700 fossils. It is the paleontological center in Patagonia with the university of Trelew.

2.5 million years old Rhino or Hippo

   

Whales and more - Atlantic Coast of Patagonia North of Puerto Madryn

Saturday, 29 October 2011 19:53

The 3600 sq km big Peninsula Valdez in the province Chubut is one of the nature treasures of Argentina. It bustles of abundant wildlife: Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Guanacos, Rheas, Penguins and different kinds of birds. But the star is the nearly 12 meters long and 27 tonnes heavy Southern Right Whale. Female bear young and breed in springtime in the shallow waters of the bays between the peninsula and continent. Peninsula Valdez is a World Heritage and consequently protected accordingly. In its center is one of the lowest depression in South America with salt lakes up to 42 meters below sea level. 

Few hundred km North and 40 km East of the city Viedma is the village Balnerio El Condor with maybe the largest Parrot colony of the world: More or less 35,000 dens of parrots are in its cliff faces. Close is an outstanding Sea Lion colony in La Loberia with several hundred animals.

Pair of Parrots

   

Sierra de la Ventana

Sunday, 23 October 2011 01:33

The Sierra de la Ventana is the highest mountain range in the vast province Buenos Aires few kilometers North of Bahia Blanca and 800 Southeast of the capital. There is also the tallest peak close to the Atlantic coast of Argentina, the Cerro Tres Picos with 1239 meters sea level. Ventana means windows: There is a huge one (approx 8 by 5 meters) close to the summit of the Cerro la Ventana. These mountains are supposed to be the oldest in Argentina, but they are relatively rocky.

This region is one of the top holiday destinations with a lot of nature and outdoor activities like hiking, but sometimes a little bit crowded. Some parts of these mountains are protected by the Provincial Park Ernesto Tornquist and consequently regulated by rangers. Ernesto Tornquist is the founder of the biggest town Tornquist in this area.

 Cerro de la Ventana with the window (top right part)

 

   

Buenos Aires

Thursday, 13 October 2011 23:48

Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina and it is supposed to be one the ten most populated urban centers of the world. According to Jorge Luis Borges, one of the greatest and famous writers of Argentina, Buenos Aires is breathtaking ugly. On the other hand it is an overwhelming cosmopolitan metropolis with unbelievable nice people, marvelous places and stunning buildings.

We spent 3 days in Buenos Aires mid of August 2011 before we flew to Germany and 2 days after our return beginning of October. We parked our camper in Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, close to the ferry port. Colonia is on the other side of the Rio de la Plata and there is a  frequent  ferry boar service to Buenos Aires. We found the very nice hostel San Telmo (Peru 708) in San Telmo, one of the most exciting quarters of Buenos Aires.  

Our hostel San Telmo

 

   

Uruguay - From Salto to Colonia

Monday, 05 September 2011 11:24

Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America, but still twice the size of Austria. It is located east of the large Rio Uruguay, which is the other big conflux of the Rio de la Plata. Uruguay is called the Switzerland of South America due to its stability, prosperity and wealthyness. A lot of banks are in its capital, Montevideo. The landscape is hilly, green and grassy with many cows. In addition Uruguay has nice coasts on the Atlantic Ocean, Rio Uruguay and Rio del la Plata.

We visited the west part of Uruguay on the shores of the big rivers between the second biggest city Salto and the ancient, picturesque town of Colonia del Sacramento. Colonia lies opposite of Buenos Aires on the Rio del la Plata. It is a good place to park the car if you fly from Buenos Aires to your home city. 

The dam of the hydroelectric power plant Salto Grande is the most northern street  between Argentina and Uruguay. The Uruguayan customs was very strict in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables, so we had to eat our bananas and tangerines before we could enter Uruguay. Unfortunately we had had a rich breakfast few minutes before, so we had to to scrap some food.

The first city Salto is a pleasant town with a nice main square named after the Uruguayan National hero Jose Gervasio Artigas. He had been the first in South America 1764 who had performed an agriculture reform to the advantage of the local people. He had been defeated by Argentine and Brazilian troops 1819 and he had to move to Paraguay into exile. His reform had been removed to the benefit of the European rich landowners, which had exploited the local people.

Plaza de Artigas of Salto

 

   

Northeast Argentina and the Cascades of Iguazu

Friday, 05 August 2011 01:12

The Northeast of Argentina is a little bit different to the other parts: Lush and dense vegetation with some forests thanks to lots of water due to huge rivers and swamps. The absolute highlight is the Cascades of Iguacu in the very North of the province Misiones. The Southern part belongs to Argentina, the Northern to Brazil. Enormous amount of water is falling 70 meters down in more than 250 hundred cascades from a flat Basalt plateau. These waterfalls are ones of the top destinations in South America; thus many tourists visit them and there is a good infrastructure.

Interesting are the ancient Jesuit villages like San Ignacio Mini in Misiones, some other National Parks like Rio Pilcomayo in the province Formosa on the border to Paraguay and hot springs in the county Entre Rios.

After returning to Argentina and fixing our starter problems with the car (see article Samaipata and its environment) we visited the Laguna Blanca in the National Park Rio Pilcomayo. There was a lot of water because it had rained the last two days, but now the sun was shining on a clear sky and it was pleasant warm during the day. It was the first time this year we used our rubber boots and we were happy about them.

Laguna Blanca after sunset 

   

From Asuncion to Ciudad del Este

Sunday, 31 July 2011 18:28

Paraguay is one of the smaller and less populated countries in South America located between Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina without sea coast. Small means that it is a little bit bigger than Germany. Less populated means fewer inhabitants than Austria or Switzerland. It is divided by the river Paraguay into two major parts: The western Chaco, which is a flat, hot and arid lowland with very few people and the eastern green highlands with 90% of Paraguay's population. Paraguay was the first state in South America with two official languages: Spanish and Guarani of the indigenous people (also Guarani).

Asuncion is the capital of Paraguay on the huge river Rio Paraguay. It is also the economical center and with more than 1 million inhabitants the biggest city in Paraguay. The second one, Ciudad del Este, is located in the three border area between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. It is the boom town due to reduced taxes with many, many shops of all kinds like computers or dresses.

We crossed the Southeast of Paraguay, where some beautiful sanctuaries are situated. Our first destination was Asuncion, which is just 40km away from the Argentine border.

Skyline of Asuncion with Rio Paraguay

 

   

Samaipata and its environment

Monday, 25 July 2011 23:50

The village Samaipata is located in a marvelous environment in the first eastern ranges of the Andes. Its main attraction is the pre Inca fort El Fuerte de Samaipata, which is an UNESCO world heritage and one of the most important ruins of Bolivia and South America. The Incas used this fort as one their most outposts. East were and still are the very strong tribe Guarani, who defeated several times the Incas and prevent their further extension to East.

20km east of Samaipata are the Chorros de Cuevas, a paradise with three cascades, clean and cold water. It is an ideal destination on hot days to refresh and cool down. We drove on a rainy day from Santa Cruz to Samaipata mid of July 2011. The landscape became more and more mountainous and green.

The first ranges of the Andes from East

   

From La Paz to Santa Cruz and the National Park Amboro

Friday, 15 July 2011 15:28

The National Park Amboro between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz is situated on the lower slopes of the Andes to the Amazonas basin. It is famous for its density of game and insects, for beautiful waterfalls and natural swimming pools, and thick green jungle fauna. There are few camps inside this park, which can be accessed with a guide from the North via Buena Vista or the South via Samiapata.

Cochabamba is the third biggest city in Bolivia with more than 800,000 people. It is located in a nice valley of the Andes at 2570 meter sea level; thus it has a very pleasant climate. It is half the way between La Paz and Santa Cruz, the other two large cities in Bolivia. Its main attraction is the huge Jesus monument "Cristo de la Concordia" on a hill, more than 40 meters high.

When we left the Hotel Oberland in La Paz we heard a weird noise from the starter of our car. Besides that is was smoking like hell, again. So we decided to go to Eduardo, who manages the Bosch Diesel Service La Paz in El Alto the highest quarter of La Paz, around 4100 meters sea level. They revised the starter, the fuel pump and exchanged all Diesel tubes and the fuel filter. It was a lot of work; consequently we stayed 5 days in the service station. We had all comfort like electricity and hot shower. And we had enough gas for our heater, because it became very cold, especially in the evenings. The last morning we had some fresh snow. Thanks a lot Eduardo and the Bosch Diesel service team (GPS coordinates: S16° 31.944' W68° 10.483'). We used the time to visit the museums in La Paz; we like very much the coca museum and the masks in the folklore museum.

Eduardo and his little son

   

Cordillera Real 2011 and Yungas

Monday, 27 June 2011 23:36

The Cordillera Real is the mightiest mountain range in Bolivia with several peaks above 6000 meter. It is situated on the east side of the Altiplano and it gets in summer a lot of precipitation from the Amazon area. Thus the glaciations are heavy for this latitude; the permanent snow line starts at 5200 meter. We climbed in June 2011 Cerro Saturno (5006 meter seal level), Serranias Almillanis (5108 meter) and Cerro Charkini (5392 meter). To achieve the summit of the latter one we had to cross a glacier with huge crevasses.

On the ridge to Cerro Saturno

 

The Yungas are the lower slopes down to the Amazon basin. They have a rich flora and fauna, thanks to the clouds and rain coming from the Amazonas. A nice tourist destination is the village Coroico, which is accessible now from La Paz by a fully tarred road. But you have to cross the 4650 meter high pass Cumbre Coroico or La Cumbre. Few years ago the descent from this pass was horrible due to a narrow and dirty lane in vertical rocky walls. Many people died in the huge traffic and there are a lot of memorials. This old street is called the Camino de la Muerte, the Death Street. Now it is an outstanding mountain bike tour. If you start at La Cumbre, you have a vertical downhill distance of more than 3400 meters.

   

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