Drive from El Calafate to El Chalten
The flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate took a while. Argentina is a long country – 3694 km – and El Calafate is not even close to the end of the road.
I’d flown here to see the magnificent spires of granite, snow and ice. Specifically Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy which I’d been dreaming about for years! I also thought I may as well see the glacier, Perito Moreno that constantly calves gigantic chunks of ice into Lago Argentino.
The flight and a car rental were some of the only things I had actually pre-booked before the start of my trip. I’d seen footage and photographs of the drive in to the town at the base of the peaks, El Chalten and didn’t want to be trapped behind a nose grease smudged bus window for my first look at these magnificent mountains. The rental of the oldest and crapiest car in Argentina was extortionate, but I figured the photos would make it vale la pena – worthwhile.
My rental started the following day, so after settling in to my hostel in El Calafate, I booked a bus ticket to Los Glaciares National Park to visit the glacier. The multiple kilometre long wall of ice is best seen with a boat ride, which I did.
I was impressed, which is saying a lot seeing as I had only recently escaped winter in Canada and had seen quite enough ice over the past four months! I shot endless photos, and waited patiently with my camera on record to try and capture a big piece of ice falling in to the water. It did not happen.
That night I shared a dorm room at I Keu Ken hostel with three Germans. One, Philip, was a cheerful chap with a good sense of humour. He was thinking about going to El Chalten, so I offered him a ride the next day, which he immediately accepted.
The exit to El Calafate is littered with hitch hikers heading for El Chalten and it was impossible to drive past the Russian girl on crutches and her boyfriend – who actually looked even more pathetic than she did. They were the first of eight people that were to sit in the back seat of my car over the following three days.
The drive was just as spectacular as I’d hoped, and although the peaks were mainly obscured by clouds, I was not disappointed with my decision to have rented a car.
Accommodation is scare in popular El Chalten, and you pay a premium to stay at sub-par places. We perhaps succeeded in finding the worst! Bad beds secured, Philip and I went for dinner at an Italian restaurant and bumped into a Danish and French girl that he had met a while before.
I was passed like a relay baton from one friend to another, and the next day I said goodbye to Philip and drove the girls from one camping rental place to another so that they could get what they needed for their 3-day hike. I went with La Petite Francesa and The Great Dane up to the campsite below Laguna de Los Tres and helped them pitch their holey rental tent in the rain. We pushed on to try and reach the Laguna, but the mist and slippery path made it pointless. On the plus side I learnt the Spanish word for slippery – resbaladizo – and had my first taste of mate tea, drunk the traditional way, shared, and through a straw.
We said our goodbyes and promised to meet up again. I happily returned to my much improved new hostel for a dry, yet sleepless night.
I was on the trail to Loma del Pliegue Tumbado before five! The stars entertained me, while the moon lit my way. The 24 km hike took me 10 hours – much longer than it should have. I was stopping a lot to admire the scenery and take photos. When I finally turned to return, I wanted to walk backwards so that I could still admire the monolithic mountains. It’s truly an awe inspiring buena vista!
The next day included hitch hikers, many more photos; champagne priced petrol and a USD$50 overdue charge for returning the car ½ hour late.
Patagonia was an expensive place but it was worth every – not so precious – Argentinian centavo!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized