Nostalgia over Ruta 40 in Patagonia

I’d like to share a little bit of nostalgia from an old man’s memory banks, before my batteries pass their use-by date. I hope you’ll like some of these photos, shot a decade ago, when I was blessed to have been able to drive around South America from Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires.  Insha-allah, next year we shall do a PhotoSafari to Patagonia, so you can join us, and see these mesmerizing sights for yourself. This is our appetizer for PhotoSafari Patagonia 2015, so watch this space ….

Here’s a rainbow over Route 40, (or Ruta 40 as the locals call it)  in Patagonia. Patagonia is one of the three places you must go to, before you return to your maker. It’s  probably not in many people’s bucket list because probably not many people have  even heard of Patagonia. But Patagonia is beautiful. Ruggedly beautiful. And I  know many people will fall head over heels in love with Patagonia if they ever  get to go to Patagonia.  This photo was shot through the windscreen of my truck, with one hand holding a camera, and another hand on the wheel …..

Rainbow over Route 40, Patagonia

Rainbow over Route 40, Patagonia

Ruta 40 in Argentina and Chile, has often been dubbed the loneliest road in the world. It stretches 5000 kilometers from La Quiaca in Jujuy Province in the north, to Rio Gallegos in Santa Cruz Province in the South. Running parallel to the Andes Mountains, Route 40 crosses 18 major rivers, and 27 passes in the Andes as it winds its way through 20 national parks ,with some of the most breathtaking landscapes I’ve ever seen.

This is the view through my windscreen as I approach El Chalten, one beautiful evening in 2006.

Mt Fitzroy, or Cerro Chalten, through my windscreen as I approach El Chalten

Mt Fitzroy, or Cerro Chalten, through my windscreen as I approach El Chalten

This reddish granite massif at 3375 meters, and towering about 2000 meters above the surrounding snowscape, is the ultimate challenge for all red blooded rock climbers. The sheer granite faces of this beguiling monster, presents painfully long stretches of technical climbing, which only experienced experts dare to attempt. Every year, hundreds of people successfully climb Mt Everest, the highest mountain in the world,  but every year, while hundreds attempt to climb Mt Fitzroy, only one or two succeed, and several perish ….

A closer view of Cerro Chalten, or Mt Fitzroy, in the Patagonia of Argentina

A closer view of Cerro Chalten, or Mt Fitzroy, in the Patagonia of Argentina

Patagonia is a vast region spanning over 1,000 miles from top to bottom, with the Pacific as its western boundary, the Atlantic on its East and the wilderness of Antarctica to the south. Patagonia straddles both Chile and Argentina, but Argentine Patagonia starts south of the Rio Colorado and extends to the Southern tip of Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn. In between, as you drive along the lonely and deserted Ruta 40, you will see amazing sights in spectacular surroundings. For instance, in the Lago Argentino area, you  can visit dozens of magnificent glaciers. The most famous glacier here is perhaps the Perito Moreno Glacier. Below is my panorama of the Northern Face of the Perito Moreno Glacier, which is about 5 km long. It’s height above the water surface of Lago Argentina is about 75 meters, and the ice depth is about 180 meters.

One of more than 40 glaciers in  Patagonia, the Perito Moreno Glacier is the most  famous because  it is easily accessible from Route 40.

One of more than 40 glaciers in Patagonia, the Perito Moreno Glacier is the most famous because it is easily accessible from Route 40.

Huge blocks of ice about the size of a 10 storey building will periodically crash into the lake at the face of the glacier. And as the glacier advances, its right shoulder will join the rock face in the left side of my photo below, creating an ice dam and dividing  this part of Lago Argentino into two halves. The streams streams that flow into the left section of the lake causes the water level to rise in the left section, until every three months or so, the ice dam collapses, and a huge wall of water rushes into the lower right side, making an amazing spectacle .

The Right shoulder of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia

The Right shoulder of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia

As you drive further south from the Perito Moreno Glacier, you then enter the Torres del Paine National Park, which has the amazing naked Tres Torres Towers or Three Towers, and also many snow covered mountains. There are  excellent hiking trails here, which will take you through forests, waterfalls and lakes, with fantastic views of the Campo de Hielo Sur, or Southern Ice Fields, one of the largest reserves of fresh water anywhere in South America..

Trekking in this area is a different experience compared to trekking in the Himalayas. As the altitude is lower than the Himalayas, it will not be so taxing. Here you can also see and photograph the local wildlife, which include guanacos,  foxes, huemuls and sometimes, even pumas.  And the best way to savour the Torres del Paine is actually to camp here, so that you will not miss the sunrise, when the horns of the Torres del Paine Massif turns initially a deep purple, and then gradually a rustic red. Truly a memorable experience like no other … Here’s my campsite below the Tres Torres. Unfortunately that morning, the clouds were unkind to me. So  I couldnt see the sun rise … which is reason enough for me to want to come back here …

My Campsite below the Tres Torres, or Three Towers in the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile,

My Campsite below the Tres Torres, or Three Towers in the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. All these cars, expt the car with the broken motor bike, are Malaysian registered cars which we shipped  from Port Klang to Buenos Aires for our little adventure.

Below are two more shots of the Tres Torres, and the third photo is yours truly, and the Malaysian Registered truck I drove around South America.

The Tres Torres or Three Towers in the orres del Paine National Park

The Tres Torres or Three Towers in the orres del Paine National Park

Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

Yusuf Hashim at the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile

Yusuf Hashim at the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile

In Patagonia, when the Gods are angry, they burn the skies ......

In Patagonia, when the Gods are angry, they burn the skies ……

Patagonia has two coasts; a western coast towards the Pacific Ocean and an eastern one towards the Atlantic Ocean. On the Eastern side, especially  off Punta Valdez, you can see spectacular breaching whales as they  make their  journey towards Antarctica. These are the endangered Southern Right Whales or Baleen Whales. Here, you can also shoot photos of giant killer whales leaping 10 meters into the air, chasing hapless seals. These Orcas, or Killer Whales often come right up the beach to snatch baby seals.

Breeching Whales off Punta Valdez in Argentina

Breeching Whales off Punta Valdez in Argentina

 

A Giant Sea Lion at the Beach  in Terra Del Feugo near Ushuaia. Hundreds of them laze on the beach soaking in the sun.

A Giant Sea Lion at the Beach in Terra Del Feugo near Ushuaia. Hundreds of them laze on the beach soaking in the sun.

Commorants in the Straits of Magellan, off Ushuaia

Commorants in the Straits of Magellan, off Ushuaia

Below is the route I took when I drove around South America from Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires. It took us more than two months to complete the circuit. We were probably the first Malaysian Team in Malaysian registered trucks to complete this journey.

Nostalgia - Around South America in 80 Days.

Nostalgia – Around South America in 80 Days.

When I’m old and grey, and I’m sitting quietly in a rocking chair on the verandah of my house, and you see a smile in the corner of my mouth, it will be because I am reliving an unforgettable drive round South America, and among other amazing memories I am seeing this rainbow on Route 40, the Perito Moreno Glacier, and Mt Fitzroy again, in my mind’s eye.

Patagonia is one of the most beautiful places in God’s Earth. It’s one of the 3 places you must visit, before you return to your maker. The other two are the North West Frontier of Pakistan, which is home to 120 of the world’s highest mountains, and the Himalayas where Qomolangma resides.

I’ll try and share more photos  in another instalment of my little drive around South America.

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