Christmas 2023 On The Road

We’re jumping the gun with this post because we’re still trying to catch up on our December journey, but guess what? The big day is nearly here, and we wanted to share our festive post with everyone back home.

Merry Christmas from El Chalten

On the road again…

Over the past week, we have covered a lot of ground to get to our Christmas destination of El Chalten, covering nearly 900 km in just five days. Driving in Patagonia is not always straightforward; there are some seriously dodgy road surfaces along the way, rock falls are common, and there are some…….unusual obstructions. This can make the six-hour drives feel like marathons! 

This is not covered in the highway code.

When we picked up our hire car in Bariloche, we questioned whether this was the right way to experience Patagonia.  Back home, a 45-minute journey often results in eye rolls and grunts, and that is just from Adrian.

It turns out it was; the girls have blown us away with their resilience, and they have been absolute troopers.  They have hunkered down, tackled loads of school work, played with their toys, doodled in their sketchbooks, and had some screen time on their tablets. They just kept going no complaints whatsoever.  Although the breathtaking scenery of the Carretera Austral definitely helped make those long hours fly by!

Wildlife Spotting

As we ventured deeper into Patagonia, we watched in awe as the landscape transformed! The lush green mountains turned into vast, windswept plains.

Our first condor!

That’s when the rugged guys like herds of guanacos (Patagonian llamas), armadillos, rheas (mini ostriches), and those majestic condors that swooped overhead made an appearance. They really are a fascinating bunch to observe and where abundant during our drive south.

Guanacos – apparently they taste delicious.

As wildlife enthusiasts, this added some excitement to our long drives and sparked informative discussions about how evolution has helped these animals adapt anf thrive in such harsh conditions. It’s like an arms race out there between plants and animals. The concept of survival of the fittest fascinated the girls.

What follows is a joke for people born after 1978 and before 1984: Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside!

The Roads

Sometimes, we found ourselves cruising along on what could easily pass for the world’s most epic driving routes. Miles and miles of straight, smooth roads with incredible views – amazing! But then, all too often, they turned back into gravel tracks, some of which felt like they would shake the teeth from our heads. Driving these roads slow the journey right down, and not just because of the surprise potholes which are perfect for blowing out a tire! 

It goes on like this for hundred of kilometers.

We quickly learned that when you see that cryptic ‘zona de baches’ sign, it’s your cue to hit the brakes and take it slow. The running family joke has been that they don’t bother fixing the massive pot holes; they just put a sign up instead. It also seems to apply to so many other situations in Patagonia!

Translates roughly as: “thank god this is a hire car”

We now understand the phrase ‘never-ending skies’. The vast plains stretch out as far as the eye can see, with crystal-clear blue skies above. The road just goes on and on, with the sun blazing down on it. Sometimes, it felt like we were in the middle of a desert mirage, wondering if that speck on the horizon was another car or just a trick of the light.

El Chalten

Despite all this, we have made it to the beautiful and awe-inspiring El Chalten.  A cute, rambling tourist town which is nestled in a valley at the edge of Glaciers National Park, with snow-capped mountains looming overhead, including the (in)famous Cerro Fitz Roy.  The approach alongside Lago Viedma was incredible. The mountains got bigger and bigger, the glaciers became clearer, and the gigantic icebergs stood out from the vivid blue waters of the lake.

Cerro Fitz Roy gives quite the welcome.

Whilst tackling this monster of a mountain is certainly not on this trip’s hit list, just being near such a huge range of mountains is humbling.  There are a number of more child-friendly hikes that take in spectacular views of Fitz Roy as well as waterfalls and glaciers.  With a 5-night stay in this friendly little town, we hope to have plenty of time to explore. 

Ready to ramble.
The girl’s favourite sign so far.

Christmas 2023

As we pulled into El Chalten, Spencer School officially went on its Christmas break, and we are determined to make it special.

Georgia with the worlds smallest and most portable Chirstmas tree.

This marks our first family Christmas away from home, and even though it’s been on my bucket list of 40 things to do before hitting the big 40, it’s a bit weird.  I think I had more in mind that we would just go away for a week over Christmas to experience different Christmas cultures, not the entire December!

Missing out on all the festivities back home, from magical light walks to carol concerts and crafty school days, definitely hit us with a lack of Christmas spirit and some serious homesickness.

The arrival of Mr Elf certainly helped to add some Christmas magic. He’s been tagging along with us from town to town, spreading his elf charm everywhere. Snapping “elfies” with the girls while they slept, leaving Christmas decorations, and pulling off some pranks – he’s been the holiday hero we didn’t know we needed.

I don’t know how he found us,…..

We were wondering if Santa would manage to find us, but our mischievous little elf seems to have found his way halfway across the world, so I’m sure we will be ok.  

Initially, we decided to go for experiences over presents while we were away.  However, who could resist the temptation of a few surprise goodies to unwrap on Christmas morning? Definitely not us!

This, coupled with the girl’s efforts to give our cabana a festive feel for the next few days, has helped lift the Christmas spirit.

The run-up may not have been what we would normally do, but with the help of the big man himself, a few cheeky gifts to each other and lots of calls back home, I’m sure it will be a Christmas we won’t forget.

After our little Christmas break, we head further down into Patagonia to spend New Year in Puerto Natales where we will meet up with some fellow travellers we met in Bariloche before heading to the Southernmost town – Ushuaia!

Next update soon!

The Spencer Family

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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