Brass monkeys would not have chance!
31.03.2011 - 05.04.2011 5 °C
Day 61, 31 March 2011
Welcome to El Calafate, land of freezing temperatures and the bluest lakes!
We managed to get on the plane without any excess baggage but dodgy seats right down the back. As we got off the plane the cold air hit us like a semi trailer. We quickly got our jackets on and found a transfer to the hotel.
Somehow I’d told them the wrong day for our booking (the night before) so they were surprised to see us. But luckily there was a spare room for one night. We arranged bus tickets to El Chalten and settled into our warm little cabin. We hiked into town and went to a ‘supermarkardo’ to buy some provisions.
Two kitties liked using our window sill as a heater. I tried to let one in but it preferred to stay outside.
Day 62, 1 April 20011
We slept in, then had breaky, cleaned up and headed into town. We located the bus station and left our bag there and found an awesome hot chocolate place. We bumped into two Aussies from Perth, on their honeymoon as well, that are spending three months in South America. They were going to get on a 26hr bus ride that night – that would be painful.
We made it onto the bus and settled in for the ride up to El Chalten. As we’d heard, the bus was quite comfy, with reclining seats and lots of leg room (C better then the seats in the aircraft!). The view along the way was astonishing. First we went around lake Argentina, then closer to El Chalten you drive along Lake Veidma. We saw our first glacier from a distance across the lake. Apparently it is the biggest in this area of Argentina.
We had a quick stop at the national park headquarters then we jumped off the bus and went in search of our hostel. Both of us now wear long john bottoms as standard and C is using Bill’s (C- dad’s) down jacket and I have three layers + my ice breaker – we’re just warm enough….
El Chalten is a nice little town that is nestled in the flat part between a few huge mountains. The top of Mt Fitz Roy is visible at times between the clouds. You can tell that it would be popular in summer. We settled into our room at the ‘In-land-sis’ hotel and found another good hot chocolate place (C this was not hot chocolate, the guy poured hot chocolate and then proceeded to dump another ½ kilo of chocolate chunks in both drinks!).
We had a quiet dinner and early to bed.
Day 63, 2 April 20011
A bus picked us up at 8:30- it was raining, very windy and still dark. I had to keep convincing C that it would be worth it. We were driven about 12km out of the town and dropped off at a hostel called El Pillar. It was freezing, but after about 10mins we warmed up and had to start venting our jackets. About an hour and a half in we were awarded with a spectacular view of Piedras Blancas. It is called an upside down glacier - I think because it comes from the top of the mountain. As we got further in we got a bit closer we saw how big it was.
We trudged along for a good 2 hours before we found the campsite – I endured a loo that resembled some that we’d seen on Mt Meru, and we sat in the rain and had cold pasta - it was actually delightful (C- W claimed I must love her as no one else would sit in the rain and eat cold pasta with her!).
We decided not to go further into the mountains as we’d been told that the visibility would be pretty bad so it wasn’t worth it. So we headed back toward El Chalten – via lake Capri. It was very pretty. The sun had come out and we were treated to a perfect rainbow.
After another two hours we made it back and walked through town, trying out the local beer on the way.
After a afternoon snooze we ventured out, and had a few wines and some tapas at a wine bar (it was heaven – wine, cheese and ham) then we went to a restaurant called ‘Como Vaca’ – ‘eat cow’ where we were literally served half cooked meat on round chopping boards – it was a bit fatty but it was still yummy. We returned to the wine bar and had a few good drinks with some American guys. (C a few drinks? They served me a traditional spirit aperitif called franet that would knock down an elephant).
Day 64, 3 April 20011
We were up in the dark, had breaky and got down to the bus station just in time. We’d thought that the bus left at 8 - but it was 7:30, just made it! We stopped over at river crossing for 15mins, apparently it is where 'butch cassidy & the sundance kid stayed when they were making their escape to Chile.
When we got back to El Calafate we tried to find a glacier tour for that afternoon, but was told that the mini trekking only goes in the morning so we bought some provisions and trudged our way back to the hotel. We’re now chilling out in our warm cabin – resting!
That lasted a few hours – until C got cabin fever. It’s hard to relax when you need to. He cooked dinner and we got ready for the morning.
Day 65, 4 April 20011
ooops….. we were supposed to be up and going by 7:00am. I noticed the time at 7:14, giving us 10 mins to get packed and to reception. They’d told us late last night that we were moving rooms and to just pack our bags and leave them….. not a small task. We got called at 7:20 telling us the transfer was there – made it by 7:30…. A bit flustered.
Onto a bigger buss and off to Puerto Moreno glacier. We were dropped at a small port and onto a boat for 15 mins. We survived standing on the top of the boat – it was pretty cold, but spectacular.
We were then taken on an hour and a half trek up into the glacier – it was pretty cool. They put crampons onto our boots so it was much easier to climb up the ice. It is amazing how blue the ice is in parts. We heard a few ‘gun blasts’ from the glacier calving, and after a while they treated us to whisky (C- chips you would have been proud) and chocolate – it was what we needed!
We took the boat back and were taken to the platforms - it is a maze of balconies about 300m from the front of the glacier. Rather than try to cover it all C and I opted to stay under cover and just wait for another big chunk of ice to drop off – we saw a few waves from bits around thee corners we couldn’t see, but no other bit bits.
I think we slept from when the bus left, until they yelled out our hotel name (C—a very rude wake up call). We chilled for the rest of the afternoon – in our new smaller cabin.
C 66, 5 April 20011
We tried to sleep in, but I was up by 7:30 (still in the dark) – maybe that is a sleep in. We did a lot of web surfing to find our next steps in Bolivia and booked a few busses and flights. It is harder than you think to book things from here. We could wait until we get there but we’re a bit short on time so we’d like to know we’ll get the most out of what we have.
Anyway, we packed our big packs – as we think we will for the W trek – and headed into town. It is about a 20 min walk so it showed us what worked and what didn’t. we wanted to find rain covers, but out of the 20 out door shops in El Calafate, only two had covers that were medium. After much consternation, I got a cover and C got a 10 pack of ‘grande’ garbage bags….. we’ll see what works better.
We got a few supplies and headed off on the trek home.
I cooked dinner (god we’re eating a lot of carbs) and we’re now watching some dodgy old movie (C- go van damn, beat up those bad guys!).
Off to Chile tomorrow!