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Published: February 22nd 2020
R: So up until now you will have noticed most of my photos have been rather grey looking. The weather in Chilean Patagonia had had moments of brilliance (such as walking down from the Mirador las Torres - which was fantastic), but the weather generally comes in off the pacific and hits the mountain ranges and is generally much better in Argentina. This is where we were going next.
First we had to pack up camp - Chef had made eggs and bacon again - there was so much of this that I was starting to feel that no matter how much exercise I did, it wouldn't burn all this off. It also went perfectly with the hot sauce! The tents came down and we packed up - thankfully it wasn't raining this morning. As we left the park we got fabulous sweeping views of all the mountain vistas, much better than on the way in - it seems like the weather was picking up all over. It was a fairly long drive today, so this was punctuated by us sharing our music over the speakers at the front of the bus and trying to out DJ each other (mainly
with relatively recent music, which made my collection of Muse and Feeder look pretty old) and several raucous games of Uno!
We arrived at Cerro Castillo, the small border town that we had passed through on the way in and we said goodbye to our walking guides and chef who we (rather heartlessly it seemed) dumped by the side of the road. A small awkward moment here - we were encouraged to tip the guides, so a multipack bag of KitKats that had been emptied had been passed around. This ended up back with us at the front of the bus (in the party zone, remember?) and it got pushed in my direction to make the small presentation. The bag was intended to be split between the guides and the chef (though I know for a fact that some people hadn't put anything in it, some had used US dollars, so I was hoping never to have to see them actually open it). I made my short presentation and handed it over. While people were off the bus using the toilets, the chef came bounding up to me and asked whether any of it was for him - it
seems like the walking guides had taken it! He had such a sad looking face! I confirmed it was split for the three of him and he bounded off, literally shouting "es para tres, es para tres!!!" to the walking guides. Maybe I didn't say this strongly enough in my presentation - must try harder next time I am in that situation.
Anyway. Off to the border we go. Having crossed the Chile Argentina land border before, I had had good and bad experiences. Today was a good one - Chile were very uninterested in us, except one of our group had lost her landing card. Then it was back on the bus to drive through no-man's land to the next border station. In Argentina, I specifically was given a harder time than most, for no apparent reason, and being part of a group this was unexpected. It was noticeable that the whole background of the border office was a giant map of the Islas Malvinas - The Falkland Islands, which are actually just off the coast of this district of Chile.
We then drove on to El Calafate, via a place to get coffee and empanadas, of
Chilean Border Station
(Yellow and Blue flag is the regional flag)
course, and to take in some incredible mountain views. El Calafate is a small Argentinian town where we would spend a few days. After settling into our new accommodation, a cute looking wooden clad building, we headed into town. Firstly, our guide took us to a backroom of a meat restaurant where he said was the best place to change money - of course! I had brought too much cash in Chile and needed to change it - but the rate was awful! I lost about 20-30% on the change. Ridiculous. I checked the local banks and the rates were all worse. Then I pottered about the town - trying to get some time by myself, but failing, as I encountered Kevin, and then Sergio. We had a look at a small town garden / museum about the pioneers in this area - originally wool traders - but now the town is pretty much all given over to tourism. Then obtained some Calafate berry ice cream - the town is famous for it, and it was delicious. Something like blackberry but not quite the same. We then managed to wander into a craft beer place - I think we were
just reacting to several days of isolation in Chile! I had a porter while the others tried various lager based alternatives.
That evening we headed back to the meat place where we had changed money earlier. Being in Argentina it seemed right to have steak and red wine - this was actually quite a pricey place. I ended up having Guanaco steak (the cousin of the llama) which tasted something between pork and beef and came with garlic mash which was delicious. A couple of us also shared some red wine - but all of the local Patagonian ones had run out - so we had Malbec from Mendoza. I got convinced into desert, but the meal had an even sweeter ending- I handed my credit card over (with others) which worried me - and two weeks later after getting back to the UK - I realised I had never been charged.
Tomorrow we were off to the famous Perito Merino glacier.
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