El Chalten - El Calafate
30.03.2011 - 04.04.2011 5 °C
So it's probably time I write this blog since I have another 5.5 hrs on this coach, at least I've done 19.5 hrs already! I am heading into 'real' Patagonia now, deep south of Argentina. As I look out of the window I see steppe vegetation leading up to a medium plateau. It's hard to guess the size from my distance away from it. The sun is making the clouds have silver linings and it's extremely windy outside, very hot inside thanks to the coach heaters (sweaty). We passed a herd of lamas a few hrs ago. Other than that I've seen one field of sheep and continuous steppe bushes. It's so beautiful. And vast. And empty. Were travelling on a gravel road, hence the time it takes to get to El Chalten, hiking capital of Patagonia (apparantly), therefore what is little ole me heading there for? Well, whilst I'm no hardcore northface climber I do like an afternoon hike so I am rising to the challenge of trying to find some 3-4 hr round treks. There should be some. If not, I'll go on a horse ride :-) After that I head to El Calafate, don't ask me why everything starts with an 'El' down here... For a trip to the glacia, not had enough of them in NZ!
Ok. So after arriving in El Chalten at 12.30am(!) and walking round for a good 45 mins in the Freezing (bitter) wind Luca and I (the Italian I got the bus with from my hostel) arrived at Aylen Aike, my home away from home in hiking land. I love it there. Always a wood fire burning to heat the place, great hot showers, and a massive DVD collection (in case of rain). Luckily for me I had glorious weather (cold n windy but sun occassionally n no rain!) for my two day stay. Day 1- We hiked to the waterfall, took lots of photos of snow capped mountains (parents, you have the joy of sitting through my epic landscape slide show on my return! Bird, you won't escape from it either- geography geeks together!!) then had lunch. Then we hiked back through townto the other end, taking all of 15 mins(!) to hike up the hill to the condor mirrador (lookout) where we did see some Condors! Massive birds but so graceful. Then onto another lookout over the nearby lago's (lakes) with a backdrop of tall snowcapped mountains to add to the effect. I CANNOT get enough of the landscapes here!!! I am SO coming back here; when I have more pennies! Lotto ticket, here I come.
Anyway, today I hiked to Lago (lake) Torres just below Cerro (mount) Torres. Indescribable satisfaction! I hiked through woodlands so varied in greens, past grey blue rivers, pertrified trees surrounded by red, orange and green bushes contrasting vividly, to a wide river bed of pebbles and boulders and sand with bushes intermitently spread around. Then uphill to a crest where I finally caught my breath and saw below me a rippling lake surface containig icebergs of varied shapes and sizes (all melting) flowing out from the glacier wall a good mile away. Up the ridge I climbed to get a better view including the surrounding mountains, especially the ones containing the crevasse fields and snow drifts up the mountain sides. Snow was peppered around the sides of the ridge and the wind made it very cold so I only spent half an hr absorbing the view before heading back on myself. I wanted to be back by 3pm which I was, the hike in total taking 5.5 hrs- a good time :-)
The following day Luca and I left Sebastian and his fab hostel behind to move onto El Chalten, where lies the Puerto Marino glacier. We arrived after lunch and trekked uphil to our new abode: I Kew Ken hostel- it had a sheep outside! Lovely and warm inside with a great view over the lake and town. Luca and I strolled I to town to do a few admin jobs; banks, Internet and empanadas!back to the hostel to relax then to the supermarket to buy dinner. I have never experienced such bitter wind! So cold! My eyes were running, in fact we ran there to get out of it- unheard of for me I know! Pasta for us and leftovers for the dogs.
After breakfast we went to the bus station and went to the PM glacier- stunning. We had an hrs boat trip to get up close to it (30m away for safety), the wind biting at us all the while. Then we went to the balconies, built specially for viewing the glacier wall. When ice breaks off it is thunderous! It smashes into the water below and if you're lucky you catch the moment. I saw a few chunks fa of in the 5 hrs I spent there, with my flask of hot water and soups n hot choccy :-)
We went to see flamingos at the wetland bird sanctuary the following day since we both liked El Calafate. Our hostel cooked an asado for dinner 9.30pm and the wine flowed so I slept well. It was nice to spend a day doing somehin different since we headed over the boarder the next day to Puerto Natales.