Author Archive: Brandon

El Calafate

After hiking the “W” in Torres del Paine, our next stop in Southern Patagonia was El Calafate. The primary draw of El Calafate is the Perito Moreno glacier. The glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (which is the 2nd largest contiguous extrapolar ice field in the world), and is in Los Glaciares National Park.
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We took a day trip to the glacier from Calafate, which was roughly a 1.5 hour bus ride away. We spent much of the day just watching the glacier. Watching ice may not sound like the most riveting thing to do, but it became a bit of a hobby for Erin and I while in Patagonia.

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You can occasionally catch the glacier calving, which is when chunks of ice fall from the end of the glacier.

The park featured miles of raised walkways with viewpoints, so that you could view the massive glacier from varying angles.
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We also celebrated Thanksgiving whilst in Calafate, and did so with some delicious Patagonian Lamb.

Puerto Madryn and the Valdes Peninsula

After Bariloche, we went to Puerto Madryn, which is the main stopping point for any activities on the Valdes Peninsula.

One of the big things to do on the Valdes Peninsula is to take a day trip driving around the peninsula to check out some of the local wildlife and then going out on a boat to see the Southern Right whales.

Erin had already visited the area when she studied abroad in Argentina in 2007, so she hung back at the hostel while I went on the tour of the peninsula.

I saw a variety of wildlife on the tour, from Magellanic Penguins to Elephant Seals to Rheas to Armadillos to Whales and a few other animals.

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The main attraction was certainly the Southern Right whales. They got their name from early whalers who considered them the ‘right’ whale to hunt, probably due to their docile nature. Another interesting thing about these whales is all of the marks you see. This is from the seagulls who hang around in the water waiting for the whale to come up for air to then start eating away at it. Apparently this is causing an increase in the mortality rate of the Southern Right whale, and the whales are slowly modifying their behavior when coming up for air. Cursed gulls (shakes fist in the air)!

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The day tour of the Valdes Peninsula was our primary reason for visiting Puerto Madryn, so we didn’t do much else save for walking along the coast.

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Pucon – Summiting an Active Volcano

After Santiago, we headed to Pucon, which is approximately 11 hours south of Santiago by bus. It’s a pleasant little town located in Chile’s lake district, and was the start of the Patagonia leg of our trip. The main attraction of the town is to trek to the summit of Villarrica, a snow-capped active (and one of Chile’s most active) volcano which can be seen from pretty much everywhere in town with smoke coming out of the top.

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We did the trek on our second day in town. We were equipped with a bunch of snow gear from the operator we went through, which included ice axe, crampons, helmet, boots, gloves, pants, jacket, and a sled…
[Sadly, I forgot our camera for this hike in the rush to leave their office, so we had to rely on one of the guides’ 3 megapixel smartphone camera to prove that we in fact did make it to the top. Enjoy the grainy photos.]
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We were quite lucky in that the weather obliged for our hike, since the hike is a no-go when there is any inclimate weather. Given the agreeable conditions, we didn’t necessarily need our cramp-ons. We relied heavily on the ice axe to brace ourselves as we were zig-zagging up the snowy/icy volcano. It was fairly steep in certain spots, so it required a bit of focus on each step to ensure we didn’t find ourselves sliding off of the side of the volcano.


We were able to get to the summit in approximately 5 hours, which featured an imposing smoldering crater at the top. We hung out at the top for a little while to take in the expansive views of the area and to fuel up for our exciting next leg of the trip: sledding down. I have to say, this was the most fun I’ve ever had on a descent. It tooks us roughly 30-40 minutes to sled down what took us 5 hours to hike up. There were a lot of little sledding lanes to go down.

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Outside of the volcano hike, we just hung out in town and explored the general area. There is a lake with a beach in town which was pretty nice.

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And we lucked out with our accommodation, we ended up getting a little cabin all to ourselves that came equipped with a television. We may or may not have watched a bit of HBO on our lazy post-hike day.


Mendoza – Wine and Mountains

We were pretty excited to head to Mendoza after leaving Cordoba. Mendoza is the 4th largest city in Argentina and is in probably the most popular wine region of South America. In addition to being a popular wine region, Mendoza is also quite close to the highest mountain peak of South America, named Aconcagua, which is the highest non-Himilayan peak in the world. So Wine + Mountains were our main objectives in the Mendoza area and we were able to check out both in our 4 night stay in the area.

It was on our second day in Mendoza that we took a day trip out into the mountain range that contained Aconcagua, and it was absolutely gorgeous. Below are a smattering of photos of the mountains that do not really do justice to what it looks like in person.

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On our fourth day we went out to the Maipu region (small town outside of Mendoza where a lot of wineries are) to do a bike tour of some of wineries in the area. We rode our bikes to 3 wineries that day. A couple of which had distribution to the United States (and one which we have had before, from ‘Trapiche’). While the region is famously known for its Malbecs, our favorite wine of the day was a Torrontes.

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Outside of mountains and wineries, Mendoza is a charming little city on its own, so we spent the rest of our time exploring the area (and drinking the free wine provided by our hostel 🙂 )

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Iguazu Falls

It was a bit of a journey to get to Puerto Iguazu (town near the falls) from Salta. It took 3 different buses and 25 hours of bus riding before we finally arrived at our destination.

Our main objective for visiting this area of Argentina was to check out Iguazu Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world (6th largest in terms of average annual flow). We ended up heading to the national park that contained the falls on our second day in Puerto Iguazu. The park was approximately 30 minutes from town, so was pretty easy to access.

The park contained a few trails which you could take to get different views of the falls and the surrounding environs. Here is a selection of the photos of the falls we took:

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Apparently the water hasn’t always been this brown. The color of the water is a result of deforestation along the river. So when the water level is high, instead of passing over nearby vegetation, it is passing over soil, giving it its brown color. When Erin had visited in 2007, the water was clear. Here are two pictures that show the stark contrast in color, and in general water volume. (Erin’s photo from 2007 is first, and our recent trip is second):

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While ‘soiled’ water isn’t as picturesque as crystal clear water, the falls were still massive and well worth the visit. I was even able to capture a mystical double rainbow on one of the side waterfalls!


We didn’t do much outside of our visit to the Iguazu Falls in Puerto Iguazu. The only other thing we checked out was the ‘Tres Fronteras’, which was a viewpoint in Puerto Iguazu where you could see 3 countries at once: Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil.


Here is me with my hands in Paraguay and Brazil, while standing in Argentina: