To get from Argentina to Puerto Natales is not that far by road but when you take the bus and have a double decker bus load of people to get through border control, FROM BOTH SIDES, it basically takes the whole day!
I think the bus is the only way to see Patagonia from both the Argentinian and Chilean sides, and it was a full bus of travellers. When you hit the Argentinian border, you need to queue to have your passport stamped, as you would expect. This took approximately one hour.
Then 20 minutes down the road, through what can only be described as no mans land, you hit the Chilean border. Again, you queue but everything needs to be checked for quarantined items, such as fruit, dairy products and honey. This means every day pack is taken from the bus (even though we weren’t told to take our gear with us) and every item of luggage is unloaded while the sniffer dogs do their thing.
When you add multiple buses, cars and private tour groups to the mix, plus only 2 customs people working, the whole process was incredibly frustrating.
All in all, we spent 2.5 hours just crossing the border! After leaving El Calafate at 8am, we finally arrived at the hotel just before 3pm – and drove 272 km.
We had pre booked two tours through our travel company; the first was to see the east side of Torres del Paine National Park (the reason for coming) and the next day to experience the west side, each a half day.
Upon check-in, we were told thy no longer offered these tours but if we were agreeable, we could have a full day doing everything and then on the second day, take a cruise up the fjord and see two glaciers followed by lunch at an estancia (ranch). Given it is a four-hour round trip to the park alone, this sounded like a great idea!
We were met in the morning by Eddie and had a wonderful day driving to all the key spots within the park. Morning tea and lunch was included and I am quite sure they thought they were catering for 20, not 2!
My photos do not really capture the colours of the different glacial lakes – they range from a cloudy olive to the most brilliant azure and then turquoise. They are truly breathtaking. And the mountains have a blueish hue; I have to say, my pictures look incredibly fake but that’s what you see!
It was so lovely being able to set our own pace, without having to consider a large group, and stop whenever I wanted another shot of a guanaco – pronounced “one a co”, from the camel family and similar to llamas.
That said, by the end of the day, I’m sure both Craig and Eddie were so sick of guanaco’s and my photo taking!