Parque National de los Alerces

Trip Start Nov 28, 2005
Trip End Jan 20, 2006

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, December 26, 2005

We decided that, although we loved Bariloche, it was time to move on. We decided on a park of the oldest trees in South America. Supposedly, the grandfather tree was between 2600 and 4000 years old. (the difference between our two different guidebooks) Ok, it's quite a range, but even 2600 years is old for a tree. Apparently they quite resemble the Grand Sequioa's in California. After a four-and-a-half hour bus ride, we get to Esquel, and since the chain of events unfolds from here, I may as well tell you from here.

The tours to the park do not go until the day after tomorrow. That is too late for us. We also want to go to Butch Cassidy's cabin that he built after he escaped infamy in the U.S. For that we will need a car. All the cars have been rented, but a 4x4 truck that is really expensive and only available for a half day. So we say to ourselves: let's continue south since there is nothing to do here. Okay, we have a plan.

At the bus station we learn that we cannot get south to where we want to go, as the road has yet to be paved. Too bad neither guidebook mentions anything of this! We will have to be stuck with either looking for a plane ticket or a thirty hour + bus ride. On the search for planes we go. But, to our sorrow, all are booked for at least five days. That isn't an option. Back to the bus station. Tonight's bus is full, and tomorrow's leaves at nine o' clock. There is nothing for us to do here for another day. We decide that since Bariloche is bigger, it will have better bus services and more bus companies. We leave on another 4.5 hour bus ride back north to Bariloche. Then we realize that we had just overpaid by a total of 18 pesos, or a whole extra night for one, at the last hostel. What a day, huh?

Well, it ain't over just yet. Back in Bariloche again, we look for a bus south to Rio Gallegos. To our surprise, it goes back through Esquel, but now it is not full. We purchase a ticket, which goes to Puerto Madryn. Getting spendy here for transportation. So now it is the 27th of December. We have already spent 4.5 hours getting to Esquel yesterday, now 4.5 back to Bariloche and another 4.5 to go back to Esquel to get to Puerto Madryn, which leaves at 6PM and arrives at 7:45AM next morning. At our stop in Esquel we buy our ticket from Puerto Madryn to Rio Gallegos. (if you are getting confused, look at the map points in the travel page) But we want to end up in El Calafate, where a huge glacier resides. At least our first night bus had big seats and was comfortable, played movies and served us dinner.

In Puerto Madryn, where we have a stopover from 8AM to 5PM, we walk around the town to find a cafe to wake our frazzled minds. Here the coffee is getting closer to U.S. prices. We find a museum that we would like to go to, called the Ecocenter. It is 4 kilometers away and we would like a taxi there. There are none to be found, but we decide that a walk will be good for us. It is a nice walk, and we get to walk on the beach. (within the last week, we have walked on the beaches of both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans) When we finally get to the museum, it is closed. Sophia's guidebook and mine say that the museum is open from 10-6 and 10-7, respectively. We are informed that it opens at 5PM. So much for guidebooks. Walking back it starts to rain. Great. We stop, use the Internet a little and get back to the bus station in time for our bus. To our surprise, the times were written down wrong on our ticket and we now have to wait an extra hour for the bus.

Home free right? You probably can guess by now. The bus is one of the worst stinkers we have been on so far. There is food all over the floor and the seats. Great. But, as a stroke of luck in this slightly depressing chain of events, we change busses at the next stop. That was a scene of random chaos. Bags and people going everywhere. People getting off, on and switching busses. We watched our baggage closely to see that it transferred. It did. Good. Things are turning our way. Not quite. Behind us in our fresh, new bus is an infant with a stinky diaper that just cannot seem to stop shitting in it. Pardon my language, but I have been nice up to here. The bus now is very hot, smelly and humid inside. But my spirits are not totally dampened. Then I realize that when we get to our destination, after this next overnight, 16 hour bus ride, we still need to take another 5 hour ride to our destination.

We caught that bus right after we got in, greatfully and now five hours seems like the blink of an eye to me. We arrive in El Calafate, ready to eat our first decent meal in three days, shower and get ready to explore a glacier. Look at all the map points on the main map after this entry to see where we traveled and how, if the road was paved, it would have been much quicker. (the road goes from Esqeul to El Calafate)

So all in all, what could have been a 15 hour bus ride costing maybe 140 pesos on a paved road, ended up being a 72 hour ordeal, with more than 50 of those hours on a bus. So imagine, in order to go 15 hours South, we went 4.5 hours south, 4.5 hours back North, 4.5 South again, then 10 hours all the way to the Atlantic coast, 16 hours South from there, still on the Atlantic and finally 5 more hours back North and West towards Chile.

On the other hand, now that we are here, we have access to a lot of the best things to see in Argentina. Glaciers, the famous Fitz Roy mountains, Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine) Tierra del Fuego, the land of fire and Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Okay, I admit, after all that bitching, it is leading into the best part of the trip. But what a run of foul luck. Off to see the glaciers tomorrow.
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