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Published: January 31st 2009
Day 652 (10.01.09)
Having arrived late the night before we hadn't really been able to see what El Chalten was like but when we ventured out after a lie-in this morning we were to be impressed with the beautiful surrounding scenery. Set in a valley next to a milky green river and beneath some incredibly imposing jagged mountain peaks the village has the potential to be superb but falls a little short as, even though its a fairly recently purpose built place, it doesn't seem to have had the benefit of town planners. The buildings which make up the village (mostly accomodation and a few shops and restaurants) sprawl out around the main road so it has no real atmosphere.
We decided to go for a short walk to the Churillo del Salto, a waterfall an hour or so down the river from town, and enjoyed the snowy mountain views down the valley on the way. The waterfall was more impressive than we'd thought it would be with a fair amount of water gushing over one long drop. We stopped for a picnic before the bugging flies got too much for us and we made our way back to
Back in our apartmentito Henry decided that whilst he was travelling it would be an excellent time to shave his head as he thought he'd probably never do it again. The next half hour or so was spent in hilarity as we all mucked in to give Henry various funky 'do's' on the way to the completely shiny-headed bald look he was aiming for!
Kate and Henry would be leaving us the next day to race up the coast in the aim of meeting friends in Buenos Aires. We'd had great fun travelling together for the last couple of weeks and also cooked some excellent team meals so in the spirit of that Mark headed over to the shop to search for something special for our last dinner. He returned with 2 legs of lamb for the bargain price of 6 quid, fantastic! Despite only having a 2 ring burner in the kitchen an incredible meal was produced to enhance our usual cheap wine!
Day 653 (11.01.09)
We got up to see Kate and Henry off to their bus and then organised our stuff as we were off camping for the night. We'd hired some
gear from the little Northland shop in town (as the lady at the Camping Centre was a miserable cow!) and, after dumping off our unwanted kit at a new hostel and strapping tents, rollmats etc. to our big rucksacks we set off towards the track that would take us to Laguna de Los Tres and hopefully some great views of Cerro Fitzroy, the mountain that every visitor to El Chalten wants to eyeball. We've done plenty of walking and plenty of camping but this was the first time we'd ever strapped our homes to our backs snail style and combined the two and we were really looking forward to it.
The weather was lovely and the sky clear as we climbed the first uphill section of the path for some superb views of the valley. The path flattened out for quite a while then as we skirted a large rocky outcrop and watched a trio of condors soaring above us. We reached Laguna Capri in perfect time for lunch and sat by the water admiring the view of Cerro Fitzroy looking temptingly close.
As we continued on our way the views grew steadily better as Fitzroy loomed ever
closer and the startlingly blue seracs of the nearby glacier came into view on the right. We reached Camp Poinsonot, a simple free site, and set up our tent before continuing on our way to the laguna.
The last hour of the walk climbed steeply uphill in a series of gravelly switchbacks and we were glad to have left the weight of our packs behind at camp. When we reached the top the puffing had been well worth it as we were treated to an incredible view of Cerro Fitzroy (and the other peaks in the range) towering over the milky turquoise lake of Los Tres. After drinking in the views for a time we wandered over to view the lower Laguna Sucia and sat for a while watching the summer heat turning the mountain snow into a series of waterfalls draining into the lake.
Back down at the campsite we set up our little stove for some tea and chocolate to celebrate the end of a spectacular day. Sadly there had been no 'crockery' sets left to hire in town so we improvised cups by slicing up a small plastic bottle. Our powers were tested again when
it came to draining our pasta with no pan lid or plate; a plastic bag with a few holes stabbed into it made a great colander - loving the cub scout efforts! We chatted the evening away as we waited for the sun to go down, we're now so far south that it doesn't get dark until almost 11pm.
Day 654 (12.01.09)
Thanks to the shade provided by the trees over the camp we managed to sleep in a bit and by the time we'd had some brekkie and cleared up the camp it was past 11am before we set off back to town. We'd considered various routes but Mark's walking shoes (which are now almost entirely constructed from superglue) were once again starting to offer him some extra unrequired air flow so we opted to take the shortest route back returning the way we'd come but taking the viewpoint track as opposed to the Laguna Capri route.
Once again the weather had done its best for us and we had a good picnic in the sunshine at the viewpoint overlooking the mountains we'd been so close to the previous night. The walk was mostly flat or
downhill so made for a nice day and we were back in town by 3pm ready for a shower. It had been an absolutely superb walk with good, not too strenuous, tracks and awesome views; probably our favourite walk of the trip so far.
We cooked up a great coq au vin feast for dinner before turning in for the night.
Day 655 (13.01.09)
Today was to be a travelling day as we returned to Chile for the third time. We caught a bus from El Chalten to El Calafate, booked our onward travel and waited around in town for a few hours before catching the bus to Puerto Natales in Chile.
Arriving late, we checked into Erratic Rock, a truly welcoming and homely hostel, grabbed a bite to eat and went to bed.
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