Trip Start Dec 02, 2007
55Trip End Sep 01, 2008
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Our first monster bus journey (a nice 19 hours that criss-crossed Argentina and Chile, with formal border crossings each time) saw us arrive in El Calafate, one of the few places in the world that seems to be able to thrive on the basis of being near a single tourist attraction. Said attraction is the Perito Merino Glacier, one of the things we have been most looking forward to on our South American trip. Despite cloudy skies, cold temperatures and a bit of rain, the glacier lived up to expectations. It is one of the few glaciers in the world that is not retreating, and forms an outflow from the world's third largest ice mass, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (Antarctica and Greenland are the top two in case you were wondering...)
As you can imagine, it is very well set up for tourism, with great views possible from the balconies overlooking it
We also spent NYE in Calafate, which was an interesting experience. It's not the biggest place in the world and Argentines seem to spend New Year with their family rather than out partying like at home. We found the only bar that was open and enjoyed a couple of drinks, before bumping into some English people we had met on the bus from Ushuaia. We managed several more drinks, including the Argentinian take on a White Russian, before finding ourselves in a bizarre little club playing strange Spanish music that all sounded disconcertingly like the Macarena (or maybe that was the drink...) Anyway, it was certainly a memorable new year, hope you all had a good one at home!
From El Calafate, we journeyed a bit further North, to El Chalten, possibly one of the remotest places either of us have ever visited. It's kind of like one of the old Wild West towns, but surrounded by snow-capped mountains and suffering almost non-stop gale-force winds (or at least that's how it feels when chewing on grit blown into your face on the way back from getting some bread)
The village is Argentina's newest settlement, built in 1985 to stop the Chileans taking the land, and survives on being a centre for trekking and climbing. We managed half a hike one day before the weather made it too treacherous, but completed the whole thing the next day in glorious sunshine - see photos below for the difference from the viewpoint! A six and a half hour hike through the Andes, with elevation of 750m left us absolutely knackered, but is good preparation for the rest of the trip... The view from the lake at the point where we had to turn back made it all worthwhile, and included a bit of a kip before the return.
We move into Chile for about a week soon, including a four day ferry journey North through the fjords. Hope everyone's well at home, and feliz ano nuevo!