CROSSING INTO ARGENTINA
It was bound to happen. Even though I knew that it would occur eventually, I still wasn't prepared for it and was almost brought to tears. I know you're wondering what event could have shook me to the core in such a way. Did I fall down a ravine on one of my too challenging hikes? Perhaps my purse was snatched at the local town square? NO! MUCH WORSE!!! Gone were desert dry/zero humidity beautiful hair days and FRIZZ came in its place!! There were only two options. Live with frizz or bite the bullet, buy some mousse and embrace my naturally curly hair. Lucky for my photos, I opted for the latter!
I took an early morning bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate, Argentina. It was a spontaneous decision I made the night before. My original plans were to fly back to Santiago and take a 22 hour bus to Buenos Aires. However, once in Puerto Natales, I learned we were only 6 kilometers from the Argentinian border. I could save almost a day of travel time and skip the airport all together, which would give me an extra day or so to explore the Argentinian side of the Patagonia. Mind you, I never heard of El Calafate, nor did I know what was there or have a place to stay. Small details, I thought, as I hopped on my 4 hour bus.
The drive to Argentina was beautiful, lush with landscapes of serene blue lakes, golden pastured country side, my snow capped lovelies and very friendly sheep. At the border crossing in Argentina, a sheep actually came up to me for petting. Very sweet, though it scared me at first! I wondered things like, do sheep bite?? I cast that thought aside and accepted its graceful welcome to the beautiful land of Tango.
Once the bus pulled into the station at El Calafate, I knew I would have to do my best impression of a non-tourist that knows where she is going. All to throw off the crowds of vendors, taxi-drivers, and others that were lined up and ready to approach the bus. I did just that and started to walk towards where the town seemed to be. My plan, seemingly ill-conceived, was to walk until I found a budget hotel to stay in. After about 10 minutes, I breathed a sigh of relief when I found a great place within my budget! I checked in and set about exploring the town of El Calafate.
I quickly learned that the biggest (and arguably the only) attraction in this town was HUGE. The Perito Moreno glacier is 30 KMs long and 15 stories high and I would have missed it if I hadn't had this spontaneous detour!
I went to one of many travel agencies and purchased my ticket and bus transfer to the glacier for early the next morning. I also learned while there, that the bus ride to Buenos Aires would be 36 hours long!! UMMMM, I don't think so. As cheap as that option was, I quickly went to the office of the local Argentinian Airline and purchased a relatively inexpensive ticket back to Buenos Aires for 2 days later. My cross-country overnight bus ride would have to wait for another time!THE PERITO MORENO GLACIER
The Perito Moreno Glacier's beauty lied in its size and color. It was so impressive and same as with the Andes Mountains, I felt I never did it justice with my camera. On the bus ride over to the glacier, I met Fiona and Phil. A couple from Manchester, England that had been traveling the world the last few months. They started in Bangkok and recently spent a month in Bolivia. They also provided moral support when I fell on the simple hike to the base of the glacier! I'm embarrassed to report that my fall was on the easiest of all hikes, actually paved and lined with stairs! I believe at this point, my feet were asking for a break.
After a breathtaking day at the Argentinian Patagonia, I went to dinner and accidentally ate my buddy the sheep. Everybody kept raving about the best dish in town, called "Cordero Patagonico." I just assumed it was beef. I don't know if it was the bond I developed with the sheep I petted earlier, but I just didn't enjoy the meat and actually stopped eating it once I learned it wasn't beef!
The next morning, I headed towards Buenos Aires! My next entry will include a recap and pictures of my adventures in the capital of Argentina, as well as a side trip to Uruguay I took on Saturday. Stay tuned!