A week in Patagonia
Trip Start Mar 17, 2008
33Trip End Jun 08, 2008
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Well, we are coming to the end of our week in Patagonia and what an amazing week it has been. After our Punta rant, our trip has really turned back around again. After a very early start from Buenos Aires, we arrived in El Calafate to brilliant sunshine - not a cloud in the sky. The pilot told us it was 10 degrees outside, so we prepared ourselves for the big chill......how wrong he was. It about 20 degrees and felt very warm in the sunshine.
El Calafate is a beautiful town and is the first stop off for most Patagonian tours. Itīs completely geared towards tourists, but this doesnīt take away from its appeal. We were taken to a very nice hotel, complete with flat screen tv, and then had the afternoon to explore the town. After sampling the local eateries and shops we found an amazing nature reserve - Laguna Nimez - you will see some spectacular photos in this blog, including a close up of a harrier hawk taken by Richard "David Attenborough" Parker
DAY TWO started with a very nice breakfast and we were taken by bus to our first Patagonian Destination with Marcelo, our local guide, Perry, from Australia (on a 6 week tour of South America), Ellen & Rebecca (two sisters from Ireland on a two week tour of Patagonia), Helen & Cathy (friends from Australia on a 6 week tour of Patagonia, Chile & Peru). Perry is 25 and our other tour companions are are in the later stages of their lives (Iīm trying to be very politically correct here....!) so Marcelo was concerned that we might have to take things a bit easy. Let me tell you, these ladies have more stamina than Perry, Richard and I put together and their energy put us "young 'uns" to shame!! Rather than them having to keep up with us, it has been very much us keeping up with them. We should have realised when they arrived at breakfast fully kitted out in professional walking gear, including well worn sticks, that we were in for some serious competition!
Our first stop was the amazing glacier of the Perito Moreno. WOW!! You will see from the photos how intense the blue was in the glacier
We were transferred to Marceloīs home town - El Chalten - considered the national capital of trekking in Patagonia. What an interesting ride.
El Chalten is a very small town in the early stages of development - lots of building going on and dirt tracks - well one section of the main road had some tarmac on it...!! Our hotel had a lot less frills than El Calafate and Marcelo advised us that we might want to visit the supermarket as the breakfast "wasnīt that great". He wasnīt wrong - bread, jam of an indisguishable flavour, undiluted orange squash and stewed coffee have been on the menu every day so far....
Chorillo del Salto - local waterfall - 8km - two hours
A nice gentle start with the most incredible scenery. Patagonia is just entering Autumn and the colours in the forest en route were amazing. We had our first taste of glacial water - absolutely incredibly fresh tasting and crystal clear
Fitzroy - 3,405m (we climbed to 1,200m) - 27km - 9 hours
More stunning scenery, forests, valleys, rivers, turquoise blue lakes, mountain ranges and even more glaciers
Cerro Torre - 3,102m (we climed to about 700m) - 25km - 8 hours
Much milder and much less wind today with a bit of rain so we got to use our rain coats. Luckily we ducked into the forest to avoid getting completely soaked. Followed the Rio Fitz Roy River, more fresh mountain water, but this time from a tap in one of the base camps - didnīt feel quite as spectacular as getting it actually from the river. Yet more incredible sights including lunch overlooking the Cerro Torre from the other side of the Laguna Torre
Didnīt happen as there was lashing rain and even more Patagonian winds
We decided to try a run to the Chorillo del Salto (Waterfall) but after 10 minutes, the rain, that felt like sharp pins on my face, forced me to turn back to the shelter of the hotel. Richard, however valiantly carried on in his shorts (your favourite blue ones Duncan!!) and tshirt. One hour and 8km later Richard "Paula Radcliffe" Parker returned, soaked to the skin, but extremely chuffed with himself and ready for his next alfajor!!
We finished our El Chalten experience with a fantastic final dinner in Estepa (definitely the best restaurant in El Chalten!!) after sampling more of the local brewed Pilsner and Bok in the Microbrewery.
Very early start (5.40am!!) to be transferred to El Calafate. Very cold bus journey with stop en route at which point we spotted that there seemed to be some "liquid" pouring out from underneath the front of the bus. We werenīt too concerned until the bus driver rolled up his sleeves, opened up a hatch in the bus and started poking around. 15 minutes later he reappeared with very black hands and we set off again for El Calafate. Who knows if it was fuel, oil, brake fluid.....we arrived in one piece and are now about to head off for our final Patagonian lunch.
Watch out for our next instalment from the Mendoza wine region.......