Archive for the 'Andes' Category
This article is the first of a two part story – where TotalAdventure explores the southernmost reaches of the inhabited world. TotalAdventure was invited by the Adventure Travel Trade Association and SERNATUR ( Chile Ministry of Tourism) to joining two expeditions – one in Torres del Paine National Park – more detail in the next article and another engaging in other activities on Estancias and in the vast preserves of nature. SERNATUR paid for air travel and other essentials. The trips I joined were run by Chile Nativo. Besides exploring the incredible nature of the region – we met with 25 companies chosen to work with us to sell their packages on TotalAdventure. 32 other buyers , along with press , were invited to promote the pristine unspoiled remote areas of Chilean Patagonia , the Strait of Magellan – the Gateway To The Antarctic.
TotalAdventure has been commuting to the Southern Cone this year. First, 8 hours to Santiago. Then another 4 hours down to Puerto Natales.
To El Fin Del Mundo – The End Of The World.
From Summer To Winter.
Where The Guanacos Roam.
Stripped Clean By Pumas.
Rheas, A Smaller Version Of The South African Ostrich.
Argentina Border. In order to drive to other parts of Chile, one must drive over 1600 km through Argentina. Chile is almost all islands or impassable glaciers and forest from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. Relations between the two competing Latin giants are cordial ,but not always friendly.
We spent the day at Estancia Cerro Guido, very near the Argentine border crossing at Río Don Guillermo. The Estancia has huge herds of sheep, and allows visitors to experience daily life on the Patagonian steppes.
The sheep are very wooly by winter’s end.
It’s time for a haircut. While the ewe is mildly annoyed, there is no pain. It can be dangerous for the wool to get too thick and heavy. In freezing rain and heavy snow, the animals can’t move and can die of cold. This past winter ( May to October) was the coldest and snowiest in many years – the Estancia had to rescue some herds .
The wool is shipped all over the world to be made into high quality sweaters, dresses, socks and hats.
Lunch at Estancia Cerro Guido. Parilla del Cordero. ( Lamb ) A guest might enjoy this daily.
View From On High – Towards Torres Del Paine.
The next day, outside of Puerto Natales we rode horses up Cerro Dorotea. The outfit was not totally my choice. The horses were well tempered and responsive to more experienced riders, such as myself.
Led by Guachos – Born In The Saddle !
A warm fire at the mountaintop. It was sleeting at the top.
Patagonia Before The European Settlers.
On the final day, before sales meetings began, we boarded a cruiser for an expedition through Fjord Ultima Esperanza to Glaciar Balmaceda, about 50 km from Puerto Natales.
The saltwater fjord extends a long way from the Pacific.
Seals live in caves along the cliffs.
Mother And Pup.
The days are spent fishing and getting some late winter sunshine.
A low flying bird . The caracara ? Ornithologists please let us know..
I’ll Have A Grant’s . On 3000 Year Old Glacier Rocks Please.
The Explorer At Work.
Glacial Waters spilling into the fjord.
Purest Water Anywhere !
Down From Glaciar Balmaceda.
Bandera de Patagonia.
Magellanic Penguins Live On The Cliffs – Safe From Seals.
Outdoors Adventures Concluded – At the Hotel Rio Serrano we were greeted with an incredible Parillada de Cordero. The next two days were spent meeting with 25 local adventure providers – all of whom we hope sell adventures on TotalAdventure Chile Nativo already is !.
Beautiful warm pool, with nearby saunas, whirlpools and gym to warm up after a day on the glaciers !
All too soon, the adventures came to a close and it was time to head to the airport. Observed outside at a roadside cafe – two sheepdogs entertaining themselves.
From Punta Arenas it’s a 4 1/2 hour flight to Santiago, where I had a 7 hour layover, so went into the city to have dinner with a friend. After a connecting flight through Bogotá on Avianca, I was back in Miami the next afternoon. Punta Arenas is the second most southerly commercial airport in the world – with actual flights to Antarctica – about 800 mies south.
I first came to the Far South of Patagonia in February, 1991. I drove to Puerto Natales from Rio Gallegos, Argentina. I was one of 5 cars to cross the border that day. This photo is on Glaciar Moreno in El Calfate, Argentina. 31 years later, I am happy to report that the nature has not been changed much – due to strict and well planned conservation and sustainable tourism. Of course there are many more hotels, restaurants and tour companies catering to adventurous travelers from all over the world. Also technology is far more advanced. That’s a Sony Hi-8 video camera – considered quite advanced for the time with 480 lines . I had a custom made battery belt that powered it all day. To edit, I had to rent a $ 200 per hour studio in New York. Now I shoot on a GoPro 10 with up to 5300 lines and edit on my MacBook Pro. It was great to be back – stay tuned for TotalAdventure’s return to Tierra del Fuego and onwards to Antarctica next month – December 2022 !
In Late July TotalAdventure was invited to take part in AdventureNEXT Patagonia by the Adventure Travel Trade Association and SERNATUR – the marketing section of the Chile Ministry of Tourism. 32 Adventure Travel marketers were invited from all over the world to experience far-off, far South Chilean Patagonia.
12 of us were chosen to participate on the rugged World Famous – “W Trek” an extensive 4 day hike through Torres del Paine National Park. The trip was with Chile Nativo.
The adventure began the night of Labor Day . 8 hours on the LATAM flight bought us from a humid 90 ( 32C) degree night in Miami to a bright late winter morning in Santiago. There, it was 38 (3C) degrees.
4 hours more on Sky Air bought us to Puerto Natales. Latitude 52 South . As we go off the plane it was snowing, with fresh snow on the ground and 0 C 32F. After a night relaxing and dining at Hotel Lago Grey , we we boarded a ferry to take us about 15 km to Grey Glacier at the other end of the lake.
Grey Glacier is a tongue of the Patagonian Ice Sheet – the world’s third largest after nearby Antarctica and Greenland.
The lake it melts and calves into is a constant 2 C – a person will die in just a few minutes if they fall in – losing consciousness after 2 minutes.
After we left the ferry ( see video) our Group dropped off our things at camp. The tents were already set up. It was super-cold – note the frost signifying subfreezing temperatures at mid day.
Above us and about 20 km distant, are the Torres del Paine. 9800 feet 3015m high, formed by magma ejecting upwards from under the Earth. Many think these mountains and rock formations are the end of the Andes. They are not ! This is the Paine Mountain Range, formed just 1 million years ago, not 64 million like the Andes.
A glacial tongue/
We ate our excellent lunch, packed by Hotel Lago Grey on top of a rock escarpment overlooking the glacier.
After lunch it was time to kayak. Everyone got suited up and went off exploring the icebergs. Big Foot Patagonia runs the excursions with all equipment. Credit:
We endured a very chilly night in the tents. Even with down sleeping bags it was cold. We had a hearty breakfast in the morning inside the camp shelter. The sun does not rise until almost 9 AM in September , so it was still like night.
Thursday, September 9th, began with a 5 hour trek across Glaciar Grey. Followed afterwards by a 12 km hike to the next camp.
Under the guidance of Big Foot Patagonia. Credit:
It is a long rocky uphill hike just to get to the glacier. Credit :
Across the crevasse . Credit :
After getting off the ice, it was time to hike to the next camp. The group did not arrive till evening and then it was off to sleep.
The third day was truly magnificent. The skies were mostly clear, with warmer temperatures.
At The Foot Of Cuernos del Paine. Credit :
Onwards & Upwards ! Credit :
Los Torres From Lago Pehoe.
Los Torres From The Lookout Point, after an 18 km hike.
Imagine Skiing Through The Chute – could be done with a hang glider for the cliff down below. The tallest of the Cuernos del Paine was only recently climbed for the first time ever. The rock is soft and chalky – making it very dangerous to hammer in pitons.
Te final day led to a luxurious hotel – welcome after camping out.
Sunset In Puerto Natales. There For A Night Before Exploring The Fjords.
This past July,2022 I flew from the sultry tropics of Miami to the cool windy streets of Buenos Aires and on up to Salta, where I met a very good friend from São Paulo. Above are winter vineyards – resting from the warm months of producing amazing Malbec.
We met in Salta and spent the night there. As it was winter vacation, the city was packed with tourists from colder parts of Argentina, though it was pretty cold there on the day of arrival.
The High Desert. Just over the Andes from the Chilean Atacama, it’s a very dry part of the world. See the video above for the real experience.
In addition to excellent Malbec, grappa is produced by fermenting whole grapes.
I dipped a ladle in the jar to sample. Real firewater !
Then back to relax at Estancia Patios de Cafayate. Our room was palatial – see it in the video above. Because of the strong dollar – it cost less than when I was here in 2008.
The washrooms are as big as an average New York apartment. With a whirlpool tub to relax after a couple hours on horseback.
A warm evening fire – set during wine tasting.
Before returning to Buenos Aires, we drove North to Punamarca in Jujuy Province. High desert at 2500 meters, but hot sunshine with temperatures near 25 C.
Flying South To Aeroparque Buenos Aires.
A classic Argentina scene . Soon to be on the dinner plates of the best steak houses in the world.
For Example, La Brigada in San Telmo , Buenos Aires.
Where the Bife de Chorizo is so tender you can cut it with a spoon.
And Don Julio – considered now the Best In The World.
The Dollar is King in Argentina. When I arrived the rate was 260 pesos to the dollar on the Blue Market. ( Official rate was 135) When I left 12 days later it was 340 – a 40% increase in value. The above steak dinners were as low as $ 15 to 20 ( not Don Julio) and taxi rides are about $ 2. The peso has since stabilized, but now is a great time to visit Argentina. You need to pay in cash – credit cards are charged at the official rate.
At La Rural – Annual Cattle Show in Buenos Aires. Photo – Daniele Puharre
La Rural. Photo – Daniele Puharre
We also visited the Evita Peron Museum. I have Argentine friends on both sides of the political divide, so I will not take sides here. However we still live in a world of personality cults and unrivaled power by one ( or two) person – this has no place in a democracy.
Roadside in Salta Province.
Incredible Apartment or Office !
A Beautiful Last Evening Before Heading Up To Paraguay.
Click To See And Book Adventures In Argentina
On the morning of January 22, 2022 , TotalAdventure left US territory for the first time in almost 2 years on a 3.5 hour flight from Miami to Medellín .
After a great weekend – it’s time to head south to Cali and the Colombian Pacific.
TotalAdventure flew from Cali to Santa Marta – from the Pacific to the Atlantic in one day. Arriving in Santa Marta at night I had a swim in the pool, then off to the Old City for supper. Now a laid back tourist town – where the barren brown Andes meet the Caribbean – Santa Marta was the main trans shipment point for cocaine to Miami back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In Santa Marta, I attempted to rent a 4X4 pickup tuck, but all that was available was a little eggbeater of some Kia sort of car. I then set off for the wilds of La Guajira.
Rafael Ortiz Art.
After 11 Days in Colombia, TotalAdventure returned to Miami on the 2hour, 45 minute flight. flight – around the same time as to go to New York from Miami. Note the plane boards from both front and back – 15 minutes total as opposed to 45 minutes in the States.
TotalAdventure explored Bolivia from October 8th to 14th – in the high Altiplano , Lake Titicaca , Lipiz Sur and Salar de Uyuni .We landed at El Alto – the world’s highest commercial airport at 14,000 feet. Getting off the plane, after a six hour flight from sea-level Miami – literally takes your breath away.
La Paz – sits at 12,000 feet – this photo is taken from 14,000 feet. As the city is vertical, instead of an underground Metro train, there are gondolas rising to all sections of the city – complete with different colored lines and transfer stations. Bolivia is really like two different countries . The cold dry ,sometimes snowy highlands with Andean cultire and languages – Aymara and Quechua. In many areas it is winter year around. In the hot humid lowlands it is summer year around – the Northern area being part of Amazonia. TotalAdventure was transported by two different guides, arranged by Pierre Lipiko . One arranged price included driver/guide, car, hotel and most meals.
Please read the articles below to follow a TotalAdventure in Bolivia !
After TotalAdventure left La Paz , driven by our driver/guide Juan , we drove past mountains towering up to 21000 feet, perpetually covered in snow. This area of Bolivia lies at 17 South Latitude – equal to Trancoso Brazil, with beautiful tropical beaches , or the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Elevation makes the transition from Tropic to Arctic.
After about two hours we arrived at Lake Titicaca. At 12,500 feet ( 3800 m) it is the world’s highest navigable lake.
Only six hours from Miami, TotalAdventure is in a very different world.
Fishermen can live on giant reed rafts for weeks – living on fish and fresh lake water.
The water never goes above 52 degrees. Only one kind of fish, a trout , lives there. On every restaurant menu.
Modern Day Incas.
Sunset Over Peru.
Monday, October 9th, began with a visit to the Cathedral in Copacabana, the main town on Lake Titicaca.
We drove to the north of La Paz and El Alto towards the extremely high Andes.
Past a Shaman Burial Ground.
TotalAdventure spent the night at 4800 meters , 15,600 feet.
The accommodations were Spartan. There was no heat or fire as no trees grow in such high altitudes. The temperature dropped to 15 F , -10 C outside, not much warmer inside.
Coca Leaf Tea keeps us warm and healthy.
In the morning we drove up to Chacaltaya – until recently the world’s highest ski resort at 17,200 feet. Also at 17 degrees south, the closest ski resort to the Equator. However, the glacier disappeared by 2005, so the resort had to rely completely on snow and is more or less closed.
TotalAdventure was at the highest altitude we have ever been outside an airplane.
Skiers can climb up to about 18,000 feet to ski down.
In the afternoon we descended below La Paz ,driving six hours south into the desert.
In the distance is Salar de Uyuni.
Arriving in Uyuni Town. Here TotalAdventure switched guides and vehicles in preparation for Lipiz Sur !
On the final day in Bolivia, Friday, October 13, we crossed the world’s largest salt flat – the Salar de Uyuni – 11,000 square kilometers at an elevation of 12,000 feet, with no variation of more than a few inches in elevation – extraordinary flatness! It was once an inland sea hundreds of thousands of years ago.
There is no speed limit and nothing to run into. While it looks hot, the temperature was only in the 60s due to high elevation, thought the sun can burn severely ! The nights are frigid, with temperatures far below freezing.
The mountains in this photo are about 35 miles distant.
After driving at top speed for about an hour we arrive at Isla Incahuasi. The small amount of moisture received in December and January permits the cactus to grow.
Spring flowers on the cactus.
A Star Wars Experience.
Camping on the bottom of the sea.
Back on the move ,we stopped for an obligatory touristic shot.
Light As A Feather !
By mid afternoon the crossing is complete . Here, every January the Paris -Dakar Rallye moved from Africa because of terrorism, passes though here.
On a beautiful Southern Hemisphere Spring Monday,October 16, TotalAdventure took part in a Day of Adventure , a prelude to the Adventure Travel World Summit 2017 in the high desert city of Salta in Northwest Argentina. Our host was Salta Rafting – they really create an amazing experience!
First our group of 45 adventure company leaders climbed a small mountain in order to reach the first platform – where we flew through the air at 30 mph. ( 55 km) at 150 meters ( 500 feet ) above the river. There were a total of 4 crossings, as seen in the video above.
Afterwards we changed into wetsuits and and rafted the mildly challenging river we had just ziplined across. The rapids were Class 2 and Class 3.
Special Thanks to David Figereau of Ideia Tours in Recife, Brazil for always telling me if the camera ( strapped to TotalAdventure’s head) was rolling. TotalAdventure will soon return to posts from the Bolivia Adventure as soon as we have proper high speed connectivity for video upload.
October 11th , we left at 6 AM from Uyunyi Town to drive about 3 hours to the Lipiz Sur region, in the extreme Southwest of Bolivia, in the 15,000 foot range along the Chilean border. We left the paved road, which we would not see again for 2 days. Above is Laguna Verde, a beautiful lake at 15,000 feet. Laguna Verde is actually arsenic, and is deadly to all life forms.
Though it is early spring , the temperature does not go above freezing ,even in the day and at night falls to about 10 degrees F or about -14 C. Snow that fell in July and August is sculpted by the high dry winds. However ,TotalAdventure did swim in a 40 C hot spring. That is all on video. Unfortunately due to very slow hotel internet speeds, video will be added later. Even to upload still photos can take several minutes.
Thousands of years of freezing dry winds created this natural sculpture.
Before heading into the mountains , TotalAdventure took video of llamas.They are not wild, but do graze independently. THeir owners use them for wool and meat. Llama meat is tasty but tough – lean and high protein. Goes well with quinoa.
As evening approaches, the temperature drops rapidly. For astronauts heading to Mars, Lipiz Sur would be a perfect training venue. The night was spent at a comfortable lodge at 15,500 feet with hot water, hot meals and even a bar. Video to follow.