28.09.2008 12 °C
I don´t think I could be any more impressed with the southern edge of Argentinian Patagonia. Our time spent in El Calafate and El Chalten was great and the views spectacular. Of course words could never cover it.
From Buenos Aires we almost missed our domestic flight to El Calafate because we mistakenly assumed the flight was taking off from the domestic airport. Lesson: Always check the airport your leaving from! Luckily our driver took us straight to the international airport when we realized our mistake...for a considerable fee of course. The man deserved every penny though because we thought for sure we were going to miss our flight and have to deal with the aweful reprocussions in spanish but happily we made it by minutes. Or by the "skin of our balls" as Steve said. Aerolineas Argentina has a great reputation - didn´t stop me from being freaked out on the flight. I talked to one of the very friend flight attendents, who all spoke great english, and it really helped. He was so nice I felt bad I never got to say thank you to him for talking to me for a good hour of the flight. Anyway the first views of Patagonia were stark and desolate. Mountains in the distance but barren wilderness in between. The skies at points that evening looked simply surreal. Chilly and beautiful.
We stayed at America del Sur...which is probably one of the most reputable hostels in South America. Everyones stayed there or at least heard of it. Clean, spacious, with underfloor heating. The room was very nice and cozy. The staff very helpful and laidback. Fairly expensive town though and touristy. We met up with a friend and ex-colleague in a happy coincidence of luck. The next day we headed out together by taxi to Perito Moreno Glacier. Spectacular. Apparently one of the few glaciers still advancing. The blue of the glacier is amazing and the greenish run off another interesting colour of water I´d never seen. We had the place practically to ourselves because it´s off season. You could occassional hear the cracks of the ice. We went on a boat to see the north side as well. Cold cold wind but again very nice views. We stayed there for a few hours and the taxi driver took us back.
We debated between doing a long daytrip to Chile´s Torres del Paine park or going to much more nearby El Chalten overnight. We decided to do El chalten - Torres del Paine was 5 hours drive each way and barely any time for walking or trekking. This turned into a great decision. El Chalten is an awesome town. The small hub for trekkers, backpackers and climbers still retains a grassroots "real" feel to it. It hasn´t got too touristy yet. The views were incredible. The treks - challenging and worthwhile. Mount Fitzroy was so impressive. I´ll never forget it. Our second day we got particularly good weather. Anyway I recommend it to all and any Patagonian traveller. The pictures just can´t compare to the experience of feeling those stark peaks beside you.
The views both leaving and going from El Chalten were amazing also and Ranche Grande hostel, we´re we stayed overnight, was pretty good with a nice restaurant/coffee place build right in. We headed back to el Calafate on the famous Route 40 but I have to say I was loathe to leave the beauty behind. We spotted horses, condors, flamingos and guanacos (cousin to the llama). I love Patagonia.
For more pics check out: