Patagonia: Los Alerces National Park *Clouds*

Esquel is only an hour away from Los Alerces National Park via the local bus. We left at 8:00 one morning excited to spend a full day exploring the park. The park straddles the Andes and the western portion, which resides in Chile, is actually a rainforest. However in Argentina the park is dry, especially after a hot and nearly rain-free summer.

Bamboo Groves

We chose to do an eight mile round trip hike up the mountainside through a Cypress forest with a goal of seeing Lake Futalaufquen from the top. We walked through the hot, arid forest kicking up dust with every step. We were surprised to find that the trail wove through huge sections of bamboo groves. In Oregon I’m used to seeing bamboo sprouting vibrant green leaves all year round, so to be surrounded by towering dried-out stalks with brittle, feathery leaves was a really unique experience.

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The View From Up Top


It was so hot and dry on the mountain that we were actually surprised when the trail crossed a river with running water. The red flowers offered a pretty pop of color to the otherwise brown and beige landscape.


Lake Futalaufquen, Clouds + a Cat

After the long hike we recharged by the lake and were delighted by the spectacular cloud formations above. Later we walked four miles on a path along the edge of the lake to another beach area. We happily indulged in a few treats from a little tienda at the end of the trail and relaxed on the shore with our new pal. I named him Cloudy.


When the bus returned to pick us up at 8:00 PM we were tired and happy. What a great day in Los Alerces National Park, Patagonia!

Patagonia: Esquel

It was nighttime when our bus departed Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic Ocean and headed west across Patagonia to Esquel. Located in the foothills of the Andes, we were curious to see what this mountain town had in store for us.

I’m sure you’re surprised to see us on a bus again so soon, just four days after we barely survived our 24-hour bus ride. Well, the ride to Esquel was only nine hours (ha! only nine hours), so we weren’t worried. We decided to save a few bucks and reserve semi-cama (partially reclining) seats. Our seats were located on the top level of the double-decker bus in the very front row, guaranteeing us great view of the stars in the Patagonian sky. We endured this overnight trip like pros and arrived as the sun rose above the town.


{Can you see Harry’s smiling face? He’s to the left of the two drunk German guys.}

Liliana and Gregorio

Up until this point our accommodations in hotels have felt fairly isolating and we were ready to stay with an Argentinian family. We booked a room through Airbnb and were curious to meet our hosts. Our expectations were exceeded and we had three great days with Liliana, Gregorio and their two extremely affectionate cats. Frank, a retired teacher from Wales, was also renting a room in the house. Liliana speaks five languages and we found her incredibly insightful and interesting. Gregorio, who practices Chinese healing medicine, spoke only Spanish. He and Harry connected over a beer our first day there and they quickly became good friends. Dinner each night was spent around the kitchen table, full of good conversations in both languages. Lots of laughing! It was really sweet when Gregorio toasted Harry’s upcoming birthday on our last night in town.


Esquel – Chubut Provence, Patagonia

Famous for its powdery snow, skiers flock to this Welsh mountain town in the winter months. Luckily for us we were there the end of summer so we didn’t have to worry about snow or cold temperatures. The rest of the year outdoor enthusiasts use Esquel as base camp while they explore Los Alerces National Park. Residents have been in a long battle to prevent a gold mine from going in nearby and we frequently saw “no mining” signs. I liked knowing that the relaxed and friendly locals could put up a fight when they needed to.


Esquel was full of surprises at every turn. It is a cute and charming town surrounded by mountains on all sides. Flowers, decorative light posts and art installations along the streets were a visual treat. There’s a strong Welsh influence which can be seen in its architecture and language schools. We were thrilled to find a hippy woman who makes and bakes (not fries) specialty empanadas. Harry’s were stuffed with beef or chicken, and mine had eggs or cheese and onions. Yes, we ate all eight of these for lunch one day!


We were also impressed to see such a public display of support for alternative lifestyles. IMG_5883IMG_5884

We definitely recommend visiting Esquel if you’re ever in the neighborhood.



Patagonia: Punto Tombo *Penguinos*

When I think of penguins I imagine a cold and snowy habitat, like Antarctica, with lots of slippery ice for the cute little penguinos and their pals to play on. It’s fun to be a penguin! Imagine how surprised we were to learn that penguins also live in the desert region of Patagonia. Given that 80% of Patagonia is actually comprised of the desert steppe I shouldn’t really have been surprised by this information, but it was still a mental adjustment to see it in person.

Punta Tombo

With an incredibly knowledgeable English-speaking guide named Faubion leading the way, we drove south of Puerto Madryn to Punta Tombo where the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in South America live. After a dusty, dry and visually mundane two hour drive through the desert, seeing the Atlantic Ocean in all its blue glory was a welcome site.IMG_5801

Magellanic Penguins

A well-designed wooden path wound its way for several kilometers across the barren land lending great views of the penguins and their habitat. There were thousands of penguins! Many of them were hanging out right next to, or underneath, the path so we were able to really see them and study their movements (or lack thereof). Such funny little creatures! Watching them walk was incredibly entertaining, and hearing a few yelling matches regarding territory was pretty amazing, too.

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Diverse Ecosystem

In addition to seeing thousands of penguins we were also lucky to see other wildlife as well. There were a number of birds in the area but seeing a rhea (a member of the ostrich family) was definitely the most remarkable. Guanacos are related to camels and it was really awesome seeing a bunch of them walking around coexisting with the penguins.

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Photo Bomber 

At first I yelled at Harry for stepping in front of my camera, but then I gave him a high-five when I saw what a great photo he inadvertently created.

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We truly had an incredible day chilling with the penguinos! They are amazing little guys, that’s for sure.