The Atacama Desert is the driest place on earth (photo 1). The landscape is Luna like and I meet some Yanks who were testing NASA robots there. With absolutely no fauna it was amazingly quiet like I have never heard before. With no rainfall for centuries there's no clouds, not 1, its a bizarre sight, but makes it a great place for space observation which I went to one night (photo 3).
Chile is a very very long country and there was a few massive bus journeys, so I broke the journey up stopping at La Serena and Valparaiso on route to Santiago. I soon found something was missing though, for all the hardships, challenges and frustrations Ecu, Peru & Bolivia had thrown me, they were actually a big part of the experience, the stories, and without realising it at the time - the fun, and Chile is so western, so modern. It was going to be more about the landscapes and natural beauty rather than the culture history and people.
Santiago was a nice city (apart from being attacked by a pack of street dogs one night!), I meet a few old faces from earlier country's, and after the best part of a week there it was time to head south to Patagonia. I had heard about a spectacular journey by cargo ship which takes you right down to very southern Chilean Patagonia so I went to Puerto Montt and got on board for the 4 day trip. It was brilliant possibly one of the best journeys I have done (photos 7-12). It was no Med or Caribbean cruise, far from it, it was cold, wet and windy but it was an incredible journey through the fjords and channels of southern Chile, with snow-capped mountains all around, and dolphins and other sea-life. The moody Patagonian skies and weather all added to the charm though.
Torres de Paine (photos 13-18) - This promised to be one of the highlights of Patagonia, a huge National Park with incredible mountain ranges and peaks, so with a few other from the boat journey, we spent 5 days trekking there. It was probably the hardest trekking so far mainly because you had to camp & cook and carry all your own gear, but this created a good team spirit and atmosphere with other groups you meet along the way.
I entered Argentina and went straight to Los Glaciers Nat Park. The main attraction is the Moreno Glacier (photos 19-22) which is still growing and has regular chunks crashing off it. Rather than just view the glacier from a far, I went trekking on it wearing crampons, great stuff.
From here I made the final 500 odd km south to the final point of the continent, Tierra del Fuego and the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia (photos 23-27). It was a tiny, chilled and relaxed city, a nice spot to recover after all that trekking. Its here the Andie's finally finish, after dominating my trip so far.
Well what a month, travelling 5000km by buses & cargo ship, from desert to glaciers, great stuff.