A Sweet Farewell to Patagonia

Trip Start Sep 26, 2010
Trip End Jun 10, 2011

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Flag of Argentina  , Santa Cruz,
Sunday, January 2, 2011

From El Calafate we took a bus north to El Chalten, the staging area for Mount Fitz Roy.  Unlike Puerto Natales (the staging area for Torres del Paine) and El Calafate (the staging area for Perito Moreno), El Chalten lies within walking distance of the park.  Better yet, there is no park
entrance fee.  You can leave your hostel in the morning, walk five minutes down the road to get to the trailhead, spend all day hiking an amazingly beautiful trail, and then walk back into town that evening for a shower and a good meal.  There are several other mountains outside of El Chalten, making it popular with both hikers and climbers.

Fitz Roy is a large granite spire, similar to the Torres of Torres del  Paine.  The day we hiked to Fitz Roy - NewYear's Day - was hot and windless, which is highly unusual for Patagonia. This was both good and bad, as the horseflies came out in full force.  The  hike itself was lovely, mostly flat for the first few miles with stunning views of Fitz Roy looming in the distance.  It wasn't until the last mile that the hike became difficult. The trail wound its way up a steep hill that was fully exposed to the sun, resulting in a muggy, buggy walk up.  Cresting the hill, we came upon the lake at the base of Fitz Roy, which was crystal clear and reflected the snowy mountain.  We sat on the rocks bordering the lake and ate lunch while staring up at the ridgeline above us.  Afterwards, we hiked back down into town and went out for a huge meal of meat and beer. The BBQ place was called Como Vaca, which translates into Eat Cow, which is exacty what we did.

After so much hiking, it was time to head north to the town of Bariloche, a mere 28-hour bus ride away.  Bariloche bills itself as part of Patagonia, but it is not nearly as rugged, cold, or windy as its Southern counterpart.  It is a Swiss-style town that is known primarily for its chocolate (and for the fact that several prominent Nazis hid out here after the war).  Amazingly, not only did the chocolate live up to all the hype, but it was affordable!  A bottle of water can cost $3, but this same amount would buy you several pieces of luscious chocolate.  Given the low price of chocolate and the high price of everything else, I proposed that we live off of chocolate for a few days, but Jeremy wisely vetoed the idea.  During our three days there, we did seriously contemplate hiking to nearby Refugio Frey, but decided that hiking would cut down on the time available to sit around and eat chocolate.  We took the chairlift to the top of Cerro Campimento which provided us with a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains and lakes. From the top it was clear why this area is called the Lake District.  There were a multitude of glimmering blue lakes below us stretching toward the mountain peaks. 

After relaxing in Bariloche, it was time be active and adventurous again.  We headed back across the border to Pucon, Chile, in search of an active volcano to play on.
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