Travel Diary: 2013, Week #5

Travel Diary: 2013, Week #5

Monday 28th January

In true Argentinian style, the minibus that was due to pick us up from our hotel in El Calafate at 9am was late. Eventually, however, we were underway to Perito Moreno Glacier, 80km from town, with our entertaining guide, Ruben, giving an informative commentary in Spanish and English to our international group.

We first stopped at the small port opposite the south face of the glacier to take a boat trip right up to it, from where we saw that it is not in fact entirely white, but blue, black, pink and grey as well. We were then driven to the catwalks overlooking the glacier's north face where we picnicked and wandered around with what seemed like every other tourist from El Calafate, viewing the enormous lump of ice and the lake it opened on to from various levels.

On the ride back, I listened to Sigur Rós on my iPod as I gazed out on the Patagonian landscape, changing from alpine forest to steppe, and felt like I was in Iceland again. We then picked up our bags at the hotel and took the 3 hour bus ride to El Chaltén.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier

Tuesday 29th January

Zab had to do some work in the morning and I didn't do much with the time, apart from lounge about in our triangular cabin. In the afternoon, we went out to a cafe to try and get some wifi that was faster than that in our hotel (read: non-functional). Unfortunately, internet in El Chaltén seems to be pretty much the same everywhere, but that's OK. Later, we bought the very expensive bus tickets to take us the 12 hours to our next destination, then I cooked while Zab did another of his Spanish audio lessons.

Wednesday 30th January

We attempted to make an early start by setting an alarm at 8am. Of course, that got pushed back, and we breakfasted just after 9am, leaving our cabin at 10am. We had been recommended an ‘easy' 6 hour round-trip walk from town to a lake at the foot of a small glacier, which started from literally around the corner. It was a beautiful landscape and the perfect temperature. There was slightly more up and down than we'd expected, and the area around the lake, Laguna Torre, was very windy, but we enjoyed ourselves all the same. It was also nice to know that our shoes stood up to the task of walking for 6 hours on dusty, rocky and grassy ground.

We arrived back in town pretty pooped, so after a nap went to our cafe from yesterday. In the evening I cooked again and we watched a film in bed.

on the route to Laguna Torre

on the route to Laguna Torre

Thursday 31st January

We got up late due to the fact that we didn't sleep much because of a very windy night, during which at more than one point we thought the roof of our triangular house might blow off. We later found out that the wind had been up to about 180km/h!

In the afternoon, we decided not to do a longer walk, but instead did an hour or so round trip up a hill to a lookout point over the valley and the town, which was very pleasing. Since it was our last evening there, we treated ourselves to a meal out.

Friday 1st February

A travel day. This meant sitting on a bus for 11 hours taking us from El Chaltén to Los Antiguos on Ruta 40 (which is still in Santa Cruz province, but much further north. Argentina is really big!). There was lots of lovely desolate scenery, and several guanaco (the wild llama) sightings. We arrived in Los Antiguos just before sunset, check in to our hostel and buy food for breakfast the next day.

Unusually for us, we were staying in a dorm room, and when we got talking to our roommates, an Austrian couple, we discovered that I had actually met one of them before. In a bar in Bangkok. Four years ago. Small world.

Ruta 40

Ruta 40

Saturday 2nd February

The morning was full of stress and indecision as we made last minute changes to our plans. The internet being painfully slow (though, thankfully, faster than in El Chaltén) didn't help. For lunch, we went out to a tiny, hole-in-the-wall fast food place where we shared a table with a family of 5, their hotdogs and various sauces. (Side note: the mixture of mayonnaise and ketchup is known here as ‘salsa golf', which tickles me endlessly).

Later on, I went out for a walk and Zab decided to stay in and rest, as he didn't feel all that energetic. For dinner, we cooked and chatted with others guests and then tried to avoid the hostel owner's (fortunately not too rowdy) birthday party.

Sunday 3rd February

The change to our plans was to leave Argentina for Chile, so this was another travel day. We trekked to the bus terminal, only to be driven in our overfull minivan almost all the way back before continuing on to the boarder with Chile. The crossing was quick and hassle free, and once in the wonderfully named town of Chile Chico, while we waited for a ferry to take us across Lake General Carrera, we had a very simple but nicely cooked three-course lunch menu for less than £5 each in a very unassuming place that looked more like someone's living room than a restaurant.

On the other side of the lake, in Puerto Ibáñez, we were squashed in to a minibus and driven through the lovely rolling hills on narrow, winding roads and deposited outside some fellow travellers' hostel feeling glad to have arrived in Coyhaique. Unfortunately, it was fully booked, but we found an acceptable alternative a few doors down with an older German couple, with whom we stayed up eating and chatting till after midnight.