Author Archives: Isabella Bird

My tips for Torres del Paine NP

Standard

To start with I would just like to say there are loads of much better blogs on how to get there, how to book your accom and what to pack. These are just a few extra trips.

1. You can easily avoid paying the NP entrance fee. This can save you quite a bit of money especially if you are doing day trips as it is only valid for 3 days entry including the first day you pay for it. When the bus pulls up the park ranger gets on the bus and gives a big speil about paying your fees and the nudes to take. Then everyone gets off and lines up to pay their fees. Instead of lining up just look busy taking photos and then head to the toilet and hide there for a little. Then exit the toilet and walk around the back way to the other side of the ranger station and get on which ever bus you need to. They never ask to see your park entry ticket. I did this my second time in the park as I refused to pay the park fees again! I would just suggest don’t take the early bus (Bus Sur) if you plan to do this as there aren’t as it gets there quite a bit before all the other buses and there aren’t as many people to blend in with but I still managed.

2. You don’t have to do the W or the O! Before going I thought this was the only way to do it and talking to people they make you feel like you have to do one of them. You don’t!! Do whatever you want! Even go for the “ll” if you want or just do the “l” or hire a car and drive around and do none of them. Some of the prettiest scenery is on the drive in so I wish I had done this one day.

3. If you are doing the O don’t pack 14 bananas and 14 apples as 2 French girls in my dorm did.

4. If you have time study the weather. Everyone says in Patagonia there is no point coz it changes so frequently but I think they just say this to make you feel better about having a shit day. I found that if it said it was going to be a nice day it was a nice day. Walking in the rain and wind is miserable don’t be a martyr.

5. If you have your heart set on hiking and camping the whole thing I strongly suggest being organised and booking it a few month in advance. It is possible to organise when your there but you have to be really flexible or be willing to part with a bit of money and stay in Refugios. There were people winging it and just going without bookings but I never actually met anyone who did it this way and it kinda just felt like old wives tales and I personally wouldn’t enjoy that kinda stress, but if your ballsy enough go for it!

6. This one sounds random but wear bug spray!! After the Torres hike I was covered in mosquito? bites and it was snowing!! I dunno what the fuck is up with the bugs there but they are hardy and I am super itchy. The same thing happened to Jo on the Torres trek so wasn’t just me.

7. Final tip it is all totally doable. I am by no means fit or an avid hiker and I managed. Obviously don’t make it hard on yourself by packing everything plus the kitchen sink (seriously you should have seen some of these bags) and just go at your own pace. You will easily make it in the times you have. They are hard hikes but you never want to kill yourself (except maybe the last part of the Torres). Chocolate helps!

How I feel about hiking

Advertisements

I’m in love with a Glacier!

Standard

I had met a lovely English girl named Hannah on the Torres trek that was also heading to el calaftae so we decided to head there togethere. Again being disorganised backfired on us. First we didn’t get to stay at the hostel that everyone recommended (America del sur) but we also missed out on doing the glacier trek the day after getting there. We spent the morning at the Hielo y Adventura office trying to decide which tour we wanted to do, the mini or the Big ice. We finally settled on the Big Ice tour and handed over a bucket load of money. As we knew the weather wasnt going to be great the next day we decided to check out the glacier that afternoon.

We frantically ran around trying to get some snacks/lunch and then we were off to the glacier. We paid the extortionate park entry fee (AR 500 ($32) only valid for 1 day) and then started our walk only the boardwalk to see Porito Moreno glacier. I had already seen glacier grey and was in complete awe so I had pretty high expectations. We rounded a corner and got out first glimpse or Porito Moreno. It was spectacular! The best part was you could get quite close to it compared to Grey and get a real feeling of its size.

After taking 100 photos at different view points we settled down to have our lunch and box of wine while just watching the glacier “calving” (where big chunks of ice break off forming icebergs). I could have watched it all day!

The next day we had booked a very expensive tour that let us walk on the glacier! We started the tour off on the balconies again. We really didn’t have much time here and the weather wasn’t that great so I was really glad we went the day before as well (even if it was expensive!). We then hopped on a boat that took us to the other side of the river to the starting point of the glacier hike. We started the hike off by walking along a dirt path for around an hour. It was so windy that I keep getting a face full of dirt. So far it wasn’t too enjoyable. Finally we were at the point where we could get on the glacier. We put our crampons on and set off. The crampons were kinda hard to walk in at first and were quite heavy but we soon got used to them.

The glacier was pretty amazing and it was nice to see it up close and learn a bit more about it. There are so many rivers and caves all over the place. I filled my waterbottle up at one and it was the nicest water I have ever drunk! In total we were on the ice for roughly 3 hours. It was an awesome experience but by the end I was kinda over it and the weather had turned to shit so we had to trudge back in the pouring rain. We were rewarded with an amazing ice cave under the glacier though at the end. They said that the cave isn’t always there so that made it extra special. If I was to have my time over I would have done the mini tour but still loved the tour and can now say I have walked on a Glacier!

Are you doing the W or the O 😒?

Standard

I was finally in Puerto Natales and it was time to get my hike on. I thankfully had met Jo in Pucon who disliked hiking as much as I did and had waited for me to get there to do an overnight hike to Grey. Well I like to think she waited but really she was too tired to do it the day after the Torres hike and everything was closed on Sunday for her to book anything for Monday. Yay for me! We had decided to do what we like to call the “ll” or the highlights tour, walking to grey staying a night and then doing Torres as a separate day hike. “Unfortunately” the only thing they had available was a fully made bed so we had to book that as it was the only option… We also decided we didn’t really want to carry food so we bought something for lunch and then treated ourselves to the meals at the Refugio.

With the lightest packs I think anyone has ever taken into Torres on our backs we set off on our 11km hike. It was a perfect day. The first part of the trek was quite uphill with a few flat bits thrown in between and had really nice views of snow-capped mountains and a lake. After a bit more of a climb up and a few more hours walking we reached the mirrador. As it was such a clear day we got an amazing view of the glacier. We had lunch and then took a few pics. It’s safe to say Jo is a terrible photographer and I’m not going to become instafamous.

It was then a very long way down to Refugio Grey. At one point we were basically climbing through a waterfall. By the time we got to the Refugio we were pretty done with hiking and extremely happy to be staying there the night and not camping or having to trek all the way back. We settled in for the night having a few vinos for happy hour and then had a delicious dinner. The beds were really nice but still sleeping in a 6 bed dorm. Still it was prob one of the nicest place I had stayed since being in Chile thankfully as it was also the most expensive place I had stayed ($US80)!

Breakfast wasn’t nearly as good as dinner but was still better then cooking. We went to get a closer look at the glacier so walked to the mirrador which was as close as you could get without jumping on a boat. It was amazing!! It looked like blue meringue. I think I took around 100 photos of it and none of them did it any justice. We then walked further up the trail which was part of the Infamous O trek. We got to the first suspension bridge and got one last view of the glacier before turning around and heading back for lunch.

The walk back was no where near as enjoyable. It was nearly all uphill and the weather was a bit overcast and drizzly. The walk seemed to never end!! We made it back for the 5pm ferry and we’re planning on walking to a waterfall close to where the ferry drops you off, but once we were there we couldn’t really find the path plus also didn’t really want to walk anymore. Randomly there was some American fitness guy filming a workout near the lake so we sat there and ate pringles while watching him work out.

After a day off bumming around town and eating loads of food I was off on the second leg of the “ll”. Jo had finally gotten out of Puerto Natales as she had done the Torres hike before I got there. I was really worried about time as they say the hike takes 8 hrs and I’m not the fastest hiker and with the buses I only had 9 ish hours. The first bit was awful! It was straight up a dirt/mud mountain with paths going all over the place. I wasn’t sure of I was on the right “path” but figured as long as I was heading up I was going in the right direction.

After an hour and a half I had made it to the Refugio. I felt like I was making good time. The weather on the other had wasn’t looking so great. I was really questioning whether it was worth continuing or not as I prob wouldn’t even see the towers. I then ran into Jersey (I still don’t know his name…) he was a guy we Jo and I met in her hostel that was on a crazy whirl wind tour of the world and didn’t seem to have much of a clue. He convinced/bullied me into continuing. Apparently we were now walking buddies. It was actually quite nice as he distracted me a bit from how shit the weather was and how hard the walk was.

As soon as we set off it started to snow! Not only had the weather turned shit the path had also stepped it up a notch. We were clambering up rocks for over an hour with no end in sight. I was well and truly over it and was seriously questioning why I keep spending my holidays going on stupid hikes! Finally we were there!! The snow had started to calm down but as suspected we couldn’t see anything. I was starving so we decided to sit and wait a while to see if the Torres would come out while we were eating our lunch. Thankfully 5 mins in the clouds started to clear just enough for us to see the famous Torres peaks. Everyone was so excited as we really didn’t think we would see them and it really made the effort worth it! Although I still hate hiking it was pretty spectacular plus I managed to smash it out in 7 hours!

Should start checking the weather

Standard

I was having a great time in Pucon but it was time to move on as everyone I had made friends with was leaving after climbing the volcano. As I had booked a flight out of Puerto Montt I decided to head to Puerto Varas, as everyone had said Puerto Montt was a shit hole.

Soon after I checked into my hostel I met a rather odd mix of people that were all travelling together. There was a very bubbly Irish girl, a very chilled French guy that was super hard to understand and a very loud and excited Philippino guy. Then after I had decided to go for a walk around town with them a very annoying over sharing weird German girl that they had met in Pucon joined the group. I was worried I was now going to be stuck with them for the whole time in Puerto Varas.

After a lovely dinner cooked by Sarah I headed to my room and tried to decide if I wanted to go to Chiloe or not. I then met a lovely dutch girl named Vera. After chatting to her I decided I couldn’t really be bothered heading over there as the weather was going to be shit and I really hadn’t heard great things about the place. Instead we decided to do a hike in the National Park close by. Yay! I didn’t have to hang out with the crazy German chick all day!!

After a nice sleep in and finding out I had to change hostels as this one was full we jumped on a bus headed for the park. I happened to sit next to an old lady that proceeded to talk to me the whole way about god knows what. I managed to catch mariscos and vino so I think she was talking about cooking or eating…. The bus dropped is off at a beautiful lake where we started our hike.

The hike thankfully wasn’t too hard but it wasn’t all that pretty either. We basically walked in a big loop that took 4 hours and occasionally got glimpses of the volcano when the clouds cleared and then glimpses of the lake. The rest of the time it was just shrubby bushes and the path was pretty sandy which made it a little harder. Out of all the things I have done so far in Chile this could Def be missed. But at least it got me out of the hostel and doing something.

My new hostel, Casa Vieja, was really quite cute and only accommodated 12 people. It was a really odd bunch of people staying there and they had all seemed to be there for quite a while. There was an older Chilean guy who was working as a tour guide and an older English guy that was volunteering there. It rained the whole next day so none of us did much.

I kinda felt like I wasting my time in Puerto Varas and really just wanted to get to Puerto Natales but I had to wait for my flight. It was really similar to Pucon but not as cute. My final day was Saint Paddy’s day and for some reason the owners of my hostel decided to have a big party. There weren’t even any Irish people staying there! They had bought 2 kegs of beer and put on a BBQ for everyone in the hostel. The food was amazing and the beer was even better. Needles to say we all got very drunk and decided to go to a club/pub to dance. We were there until 4 am and only left coz the older guy working at the tourist office started getting really handsy. Was still an awesome night but made travelling the next day a struggle!

Another town, Another Volcano.

Standard

After one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had on a night bus (I splashed out for a cama seat) I was in the adventure capital of Chile, Pucon. I had booked into apparently the best hostel in all of Latin America, Chili Kiwi. It was a really nice hostel but I dunno if I would say it was the best in all of Latin America…. I really didn’t get up to much on the first day. I had made friends with an American guy named Carlos that surprisingly didn’t speak Spanish and 2 Irish guys, Dave and Augustus. We spent most of the day playing cards and drinking wine. Was a pretty nice chilled day.

As I’d been so lazy the day before but also hadn’t woken up early enough to go to the National Park, I decided to go for a walk to a waterfall that was apparently close to the hostel. I rounded up a crew and set off on the “short” walk. Soon after we started I found out it was a 3hr walk one way mainly along a road. I was so ill prepared. Of course the Germans and Dutch had brought lunch and sun cream and enough water for a 6 hour hike. All I had was a little water bottle. I hadn’t even brought a bag. Thankfully we found some blackberries on the side of the road to snack on and Bernard shared some of his snacks. The waterfall was pretty impressive and at least it got me out of the hostel.

The weather forecast was pretty shit for the next day so we all decided to go to the hot springs. They were def some of the prettiest hot springs I have been too. It was absolutely freezing so we struggled to get change and run to the first pool. At least once we were in the pools we quickly warmed up. They ranged in temperature from 37-45 degrees. I could only stand in the 45 degree on for a few mins. It was actually kinda expensive to go which I didn’t realise as I still hadn’t worked out the exchange rate, but well worth it 🙂

On my 4th day there the weather was finally good enough to climb the volcano, the main reason everyone was there. I ummmed and ahhhed about it and even wrote my name down on the list but then decided to bail. Already suffered through one volcano climb don’t need to do it again. I think I made the right decision as most of the people looked completely wrecked when they got back and said it was pretty hectic and freezing cold. Instead I stayed at the hostel and had a lovely day kayaking on the lake with an Austrian guy named Samuel and 3 Irish people. Sam and I were terrible kayakers and zigzagged all I’ve the place covering twice the distance the others did. That night we celebrated our efforts with a lot of wine, it’s so cheap and good in Chile, and a platter of cheese!

Colourful Vapo

Standard

My flight to Santiago sadly didn’t get upgraded so still haven’t crossed fly business class off my bucket list. Thankfully there was a spare seat beside me so I had quite a comfortable flight. My first day in Santiago is a bit of a blur as I was so jet lagged. I managed to find an ATM and MacDonalds and that was pretty much my day.

After an amazing 12 hour sleep I woke up ready to explore Santiago. Crazily at breakfast I ran into an ICU nurse from Darwin that I had met once through Jess named Bec. We decided to do one of the free walking tours that went to the markets and cemetery. Our tour guide was great and I soon realised I know nothing about Chile such as they were under a dictatorship till the late 80s. The markets and cemetery were cool but pretty much the same as most places in South America. They did have the most amazing produce though and such a huge variety! Made me want to cook, but I didn’t.

The next day we were off to the port town of Valapariso. Some people had told Bec this was a must see and couldn’t be missed. My first impression of the place wasn’t great. Our hostel, La Joya, was really nice but seemed to be really far out of town. We headed to the market for a huge lunch and then went for a walk around our part of town. I still had no idea why anyone had recommended this place.

The next day we caught the bus into town and had a better look around. It was a lot prettier here but was still quite grungy. Valapariso is known for is street art and colourful buildings. There was street art everywhere and most of it was really impressive. We did another free walking tour and I finally started to see the charm of the place but I still don’t think it would be on my must see list. Maybe of we had been staying in a hostel closer to town and had a night out I would have seen it’s real charm.

While vapo was fun it was time to jump on my night bus, pop a Valium and hopefully catchch up on some much needed sleep!

Venturing off the mainland 🍷

Standard

After listening to everyones adventures in Tasmania and being extremely envious of their photos, it was finally my turn to travel to the little island. Libby had suggested going and the dates for in with Em’s wedding in Sydney and my trip to South America. As I hadn’t seen Kirsten in a while I convinced her to join us (plus I didn’t want to be a third wheel).

We decided to hire a car and turn it into a road trip. We were a little pushed for time as Libby had to get back for work but we managed to cram a lot in. Kirst and I got to Hobart a day earlier then Lib and Brad. We spent the morning exploring the very weird MONA. We prob should of had some drinks on the ferry ride over… All the “art” there was very weird and nothing you would really want in your house (except the wall of vaginas!!). You could spend forever here if you listened and read all the information on each piece. We took our time to begin with but then got hungry so rushed through a big section to find the fanciest resteraunt we ate at the whole trip. Our lunch at Pharos was expensive but worth it. It was a tapas place with views over the water. I felt a little out of place but it was fun to pretend to be fancy for an afternoon. We got the scallops, quail and octopus.

We then had to hussle through the rest of the museum as we were getting the ferry back at 3 to meet Brad and Lib to head up Mt. Wellington. Lib wanted to hike up it but thankfully let us drive. Halfway up I think she realised it was the right decision. The view from the top was pretty impressive! Def worth the drive (prob not the hike).

The next day we headed to Mount Field National park to check out some waterfalls. Libby obviously didn’t realise today was the hiking day as she was very nicely dressed in a cute summer dress and thongs. She still managed to do the hike around the waterfalls. The loop started at the very impressive Russell falls. Brad wanted to ditch us here but we convinced him to come to the next waterfall, horseshoe falls. After meandering through the tallest flowering trees in the world (Brad was not impressed) he decided he was done with the hike and headed back to the car but we continued on to the last waterfall Lady Barron falls. Russell falls was prob the most impressive but the walk was really nice. Sadly we didn’t see any platypuses.

Port Arthur was the first stop of our road trip. We had booked onto a cruise that started at 10am so we left early enough to take the scenic route and see afew places on the way. Besides the arch none of them were all that impressive. I think I would rather of had the sleep in. We rocked up to the tour company at 9:30 thinking we had loads of time till the tour. Apparently not. I hadn’t read the email saying we were supposed to be there at 9:15. We were suddenly in a rush as they thought we weren’t coming so had cancelled one of the boats. Thankfully they let us go on the tour and we didn’t hold everyone up too much. The tour was amazing!! While the cliffs were pretty spectacular the highlight was def the huge pod of dolphins, seals and albatross in a feeding frenzy. I have never seen so many dolphins before so close. I could have spent the whole tour watching them.

We then headed over to the Port Arthur historical sight. I didn’t really know much about it except there was the mass shooting there. So apparently it is one of the oldest penal settlements in Australia and was where all the worst and difficult criminals were sent. It sounded like a pretty horrible place to be as a criminal but I’m sure all prisons in those days were pretty awful. We had a quick tour around the place but we’re really rushed for time as we needed to get on the road to head to Coles bay. I wish we had a bit more time here as there was so much to see.

The drive to Coles bay was adventerous/terrifying. We took a short cutt that Brad’s friend and Google Maps had recommended. What they both failed to mention was it was on a rough dirt track through a national park. Thankfully we didn’t get a flat tyre and we washed the dirt off later so the car company never knew we went off road. I’m sure we must have broke some kind of record for fastest time between port Arthur to Coles bay. Brad had decided he was a rally driver and we were flying. Surprisingly the speed limits in tassie don’t seem to reflect the windyness of the roads so I don’t think we were ever actually speeding.

Our airbnb was amazing! It had an awesome deck with ocean views. Def called for lots of wine and cheese which we obliged with. After a surprisingly boozy night we were off to tackle the 12km hike around wineglass bay. Brad had opted out as he isn’t much of a hiker. Neither am I yet I seem to constantly go on hikes. The stairs up to the lookout were a bit rough but not too bad and thankfully not that far. After taking some amazing photos and trying to teach Libby how to take a photo, we wandered down to the beach. It really was beautiful but a little to cold to swim in except for lib who quickly jumped in and out. It was then a semi flat long loop across to the other beach, along the beach and then back to the car park. I was pretty pooped but was glad we did the whole loop. We decided to reward ourselves that night with even more wine and of course cheese!!

The next day saw us heading off to our second last stop, bay of fires. Sadly it was a pretty overcast and gloomy day so the water didn’t look quite as blue as it had in photos but it was still really pretty. Again it was a bit to cold for Kirst or I to jump in but Libby braved the waters again and had another extremely quick dip.

Our final stop was Launceston. No trip to tassie would be complete without a trip to a winery or two. Kirst, Lib and I had booked onto a tour of the Tamar valley which is mainly known for its sparkling and pinot noirs. I wasn’t the greatest fan of the pinots but loved the bubbles. For lunch we went to the fanciest wineries called Clover Hill. At first I thought we were just getting a cheese platter but then then just kept out bringing plate after plate. All of it was amazing and Lib and I were the only ones who liked blue cheese so I ate it all! While the tour was good fun and we got to go to a lot of wineries it was the most sober I had ever been after a wine tour coz of their stingy pours and low alcohol percentage I guess. It was our last night with Brad and Lib so we went out for a lovely steak dinner. Little heads up, places book out on a sat night so maybe make a booking if you really want to go to a certain place.

Kirst and I spent the last day together checking out some places around Launceston. We headed out to the insanely cute town called Evandale to go to the markets. The markets were your standard country town markets but the town was beautiful. I fell in love with it and wanted to move there! We then headed back into town and checked out cataract gorge. It was actually really surprising. I thought it was going to be a little park and a short walk but after a quick walk along the river it opened up to a pretty big park with a lake and a swimming pool. I wish I had brought my bathers! To top the day off we finished with a romantic dinner for 2 and then finally got to watch an episode of married at first sight! All in all it was a great trip with loads of wine and food and great company!! On to South America!!!