Published: March 23rd 2005March 23rd 2005
Brace yourselves - this is gonna be a long one!
Since seeing sealions be cut off in their prime we've been up to all sorts, not least trekking, fishing, drinking, travelling and more drinking. Today is a bad day, hence the title and if you're patient enough to read to the end of this entry you'll know why.
From Puerto Madryn we went to a place called El Calafate, where the last diary entry was written from. The big appeal of El Calafate is the Perito Moreno glaciar, a quite phenomal natural landmark slapbang in the middle of a lake. We spent a day wandering around the national park in which it is housed and then got a boat trip out onto the lake towards the edge of the glaciar. From time to time there was a huge bang, like a gunshot, which signified a chunk of ice breaking off the glaciar. We weren't lucky enough to see any ice come off the edge but saw the waves from a few of the pieces close to the edges.
The area around El Calafate is renowned for its trekking so we decided that if you can't beat them join
them. From there we went on a two day "mini-break" to a little hamlet called El Chalten. El Chalten sits at the foot of Cerro Fitzroy, a huge mountain and one of the biggest in South America, and is also in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares with glaciars in the vicinity.
Upon arrival we decided to ease ourselves into the trekking malarkey with a little 4 hour walk to a spectacular viewpoint of the closest glaciar. Not surprisingly Andy was knackered after about 20 minutes, but we all made our way through some pretty spectacular mountain scenery to the viewpoint which made it all worthwhile. After about 20 mins admiring the view we trudged back to the town and rested in preparation for the all day trek we were planning the next day.
We got up rested and ready for our 8 hour trek, though we hesitated slightly upon realising that the final point of the route was 750 metres up. The trek route started with a steep climb and then ended with a very steep climb. Fired by bravado we set off and made pretty good progress. It was really beautiful and we walked along the bank of
a stream for most of the route, which contained pure drinkable water. We'd been walking for about 3 hours when we reached the steep climb we'd anticipated, though we hadn't anticipated an almost vertical climb up a rocky path which meandered up the side of a steep hill. Words cannot explain how much of a challenge it was to get up there, but it was worth it to see the faces of the seasoned trekkers in all their gear to be overtaken by 4 English louts in shorts, t-shirts and trainers.
The peak of the climb was actually the base camp for mountaineers climbing Fitzroy and we were lucky enough to see a few climbers coming down the mountain. The view was absolutely amazing, another one of those things that will stay with us all for the rest of our lives. After a pretty long break for lunch and recuperation we had to retrace our entire route back to El Chalten. The rock face was a lot more fun going down, though slightly more precarious!
Our last day in El Chalten was spent lounging about on a rock face in the hills, talking gibberish and waiting until the
evening when our next travel mission was to begin.
Still reading? Good, please persist....
The next stage of our travels involved a 4 hour bus back to El Calafate, followed by a 4 hour bus to a place called Rio Gallegos, then a 26 hour marathon bus ride to a place called Bariloche. Rest assured this journey was more taxing than any amount of trekking.
We'd heard good things about Bariloche, and were expecting a few good nights out in what we'd heard was a bit of a party town. Not sure who it was a party town for, old people by the looks of it, but we made the best of it and had a few drinks once we arrived on Saturday night. Unfortunately all the nightclubs were closed, but this was probably for the best as we were hungover on Sunday.
We'd heard that there were a few golf courses in the area, and spent Monday afternoon at the only one we were allowed on without a handicap, a nine hole course about 14km out of the town. Despite greens resembling a football pitch on a bad day the course was actually okay, set
in a beautiful location and with some really strangely deigned holes. The final hole involved teeing off from a rock face about 150 metres above the green which was great fun. Joff won, but we all proved a career in the PGA wasn't a feasible ambition.
Another big activity in the area is fishing, as Bariloche is on the banks of a massive lake and slap bang in the middle of Argentina's Lake District. On Tuesday afternoon we dusted off our waders and took to the lake with our guide, an amusing grungy looking chap called Rupert. After showing us how to cast and what was involved with dredging he pretty much left us to it. We were sat on a speedboat in the middle of a beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains, with nothing to hear apart from Jamie's curses at another failed attempt at casting. It really was great, I can see the appeal of fishing, though a day on the banks of the Grand Union Canal probably wouldn't be so enjoyable.
Jamie got the first bite of the day, but it somehow got away and he was left "empty-rodded" and cursing the one that got away.
A little while later and Joff was reeling in a Rainbow Trout which Rupert described as "little" but it looked impressive enough to us. A while after that got thrown back and Andy felt a tug on the line, although nobody else believed him. It therefore felt even better when he reeled in a Perch, a bit bigger than Joff's trout but still not deserving to get weighed. The final catch of the day again went to Fisherman Roff, who pulled in another trout so good that Rupert stole it to give to his girlfriend as a pressie!! It weighed just under 2 kilos. The only bite that Jamie and Steve got was at lunchtime, but we all really enjoyed ourselves. It was a great way to wind down for our next bit of travelling.
We'd intended to add this entry from Pucon, Chile, but you'll see from the top that this hasn't happened. We've discovered that getting from A to B is something of a challenge the further away you get from civilization. Today we've gone from A to Q, and arrived in San Martin to be told that the next bus to Pucon wasn't until Saturday. Frustrated
to the point of violence (I can see why murderers suddenly snap) we conceded defeat on Pucon and booked on the next bus to somewhere on our itinerary. Still, the earliest we could get out was Friday, to Mendoza, so we're stuck here until then.
Hence I'm in an internet cafe whiling away the hours and wondering if it's too early to go to bed!!
Thanks for reading, take care and look out for another exciting installment of "Impractical Travel in South America" in the next week or so.