Patagonia in April!

Discussion in 'Travel' started by matt_cooper|3, Mar 20, 2012.

  1. Hi folks,
    I am heading to Argentina for April and May, will be in Patagonia starting April 9, plan to hike the W in TDP, and hike around the Fitz Roy massif. I'm hoping to catch some of those iconic sights and bring back some serious images to build a portfolio.
    I'm posting for a couple reasons. One, I am always amazed by how knowledgeable and helpful folks can be on this site, and figured it would be worth it just to throw out my plans and see what advice or information people have to offer. Anything related to having the best experience and getting the best images possible is greatly appreciated! In Patagonia, or Argentina in general. My itinerary is to land in BA, head straight to El Calafate, spend 2-4 weeks in that area, then head north, possibly Bariloche, up to Mendoza, then across back toward BA, to Iguazu, and end in BA for 1-2 weeks. 8 weeks total.
    More specifically, I'm wondering about conditions specifically in April in Patagonia, eg wind intensity, sunset/sunrise orientations as they relate to the iconic images of the Towers and Fitz Roy/Cerro Torre, rain/snow, nighttime temperatures, and of course the clouds! Oh and as I understand, it is essentially Fall in April, so I might get to see the Lengua forests in changing color?
    Looks like I'll just be missing harvest time in the wine country...
    One other thing I would add...I really like to get off the beaten path. Even though I have mentioned all the most popular destinations, I would love to hear advice about more novel opportunities. A good analogy would be the advice I give to folks here in California, where I live. Everyone wants to see Yosemite Valley - and they absolutely should! It's breathtaking, and no trip to California is complete without it. BUT, if you really want to experience the Sierra Nevada, head for the Sequoia backcountry, or the John Muir Wilderness backcountry. If there is a similar analogy down in Patagonia, I would love to hear about it! I get the impression that perhaps one example might be to complete the "W" hike and make the full circuit as opposed to just the W.
    Thanks in advance!
  2. Can tell you only about parts of your trip, as I photograph very little of the sights in Argentina, I go mostly to visit family.
    First, do not miss Bariloche or the Siete Lagos (seven lakes) area. It's a good time to go, Bariloche can be full of vacationing students durings breaks, but that won't happen during the Fall.
    Second, the same area, but across the border in Chile, is supposed to be also very beautiful, I just never had time. Do find out if there are still problems for air travel in the region because of ash from the Chilean volcano that erupted in 2011. We went about four months after the eruption, and there were cancellations of air travel after some strong winds, which kicked up fallen ash. (Volcanic ash damages jet engines.) Airplane travel around the country is fastest, of course, but expensive if purchased in Argentina. Long distance buses there are far more comfortable than those in the U.S., with usable bathrooms, seat space comparable to business class air, seats that recline enough to sleep (into full beds on some lines.) We took a bus from Neuquen to Buenos Aires after our flight was cancelled. If you are traveling by air, and you give the airline your cell phone number, they'll call if there is a cancellation. (Been there, done that.)
    Third, although crime in Buenos Aires is no worse than in any other large city anywhere in the world, there is the biggest risk when you first arrive at the Ezeiza Airport. Avoid cabs there, use what Argentines call a remis, a hired car and drive that you arrange for on the telephone or at an office at the airport. The most trusted service, and probably the biggest, is called Manuel Tienda Leon. Arrange for them in advance or after you go through customs. (I have no connection with them.)
    Fourth, Iguazu Falls are beautiful, and best, I think, on the Argentine side. But it is better to see the Argentine Falls from Brazil (and the Brazilian ones from Argentina.) So make sure you can cross into Brazil. US citizens need visas to enter Brazil, so see if you still have time to get one. There are tours that can show you both sides (you still need a visa) but make sure to get the tour leaders to wait for you to do photography. Most of the tours don't contemplate setting up a tripod. If the tour that goes to the Brazilian side includes a visit to the dam and power plant, see if they can leave you at the Falls and come back for you after. What they show you of the dam, photographically, isn't worth a tinker's dam.
    Remember than Iguazu is pretty tropical. Take a hat (for falling insects) and insect repellent. They sell repellent there, but may not have the kind you prefer. There is an insect there, common name the vinchuca, which carries Chagas' disease. Most of those infected live under thatch roofs, where the insect likes to live, but I worry about the places where you have to walk under the forest canopy as well. If you take any boat trips near the Falls, make sure your camera bag offers excellent protection against water. We had one boat driver who relished getting us all wet. We all had ponchos, which you can purchase there, but I removed my poncho to wrap around my Domke bag.
    If you're a meat eater, don't limit yourself to steaks, have a parrillada. Most of the organ meats are amazing the way they are prepared, except for kidney. When you're in a hurry, you can have sandwiches de miga (like English tea sandwiches) of ham, cheese, etc., available almost everywhere, or even Filet Mignon sandwiches, less common now. In Iguazu, try palmitos, hearts of palm, with salsa golf (like thousand island dressing.) They are grown in the region, and are far more tender than those you get in the U.S. They're great in the tea sandwiches too.
    Have a wonderful trip. And get more photographs than I do there.
  3. While it is recommended that you have a visa to enter the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls, I did not have one when I visited about ten years ago. I told our guide about it and he said not to worry. Somehow he took care of it. I would hate to think what could have happened if I had had any run-ins with the police. As for BA it always seemed to be one of the safest cities in the world. The police were very helpful when I wished to photograph a difficult subject. (And you can usually find someone who speaks English when needed.)

    Mendoza is a vibrant city with many fountains and parks.The wines are excellent, especially the reds. The steaks are terrific, too.

    If you are going to El Calafate (the elephant) you might wish to consider visiting Ushuaia, which is considered the most southerly city in the world.

    You should have a great time there.
  4. It is true that it can be very easy to get into Brazil without a visa, but it may not always work, or the entry might cost more than the visa. Around the time that Alex was told not to worry about his lack of a visa by one tour guide, there was a car service, suggested by a different tour guide, that took visa-less visitors across for $25. If you have time, get a visa, so you don't have to worry.
    While on the subject, I forgot to mention that, if you are traveling with a US passport, Argentina may charge you a solid fee for entering. Happened to my wife last year. It's fairly new, and a way of getting back at the US for charging Argentine visitors to the US the same amount. The fee is marked in your passport, and is good for ten years, but they don't call it a visa. I'm hoping both countries have stopped this nonsense, both are wonderful to visit!
  5. Thanks for the advice, Hector, and Alex. Seven days from now I will be on my way!
    Hector, other folks have been highly recommending the area on the Chilean side, across from Bariloche, as you mentioned. I think I am going to explore that area. As of now, I am planning on visiting Torres Del Paine, then taking the ferry to Puerto Montt, then taking a pass over to Bariloche, then heading north in Argentina, back to Iguazu and BA.
  6. Hi Matt,
    With some luck you'll find fall colors in full swing but you're likely to get some wind, rain or snow. If you're planning on hiking the W you've probably researched quite a lot already but here are a few tips based on my two trips to TDP.
    Take a mix of clothing. It can be warm and sunny one day and winter the next or even the same day. If you're planning on staying in refugios while hiking the W (highly recommended), you'll need reservations and this late in the South American autumn, it's possible some may be closed for the season. Some of the outfitters in Puerto Natales can make reservations for you at the ones that remain open. I found it very difficult to get a response directly by email from the part itself.
    If you're planning on taking the ferry afterwards, you'll probably leave from Puerto Natales. Because of the size of TDP, you have the choice of buses to and from the park and expensive shuttles within. Renting a vehicle in Puerto Natales would give you more flexibility, even if it is parked for three days or so while you hike the W. If you do rent, get 4WD, high clearance.
    FWIW, you may be disappointed with many of your photo ops along the W until you get to French Valley. The peaks of the massif are quite high above the hiking trail and the iconic shots of the Horns are achieved across the lakes at some distance from the horns. A vehicle is extremely useful to reach many of the locations and trailheads that you'll want to visit.
    Good luck, TDP is a spectacular place. I'm planning my third trip next year.

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