El Chalten

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March 29th 2013
Published: March 31st 2013
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El ChaltenEl ChaltenEl Chalten

WIth Mt Fitz Roy in the background
There is only the two of us now, as Mike ventured north yesterday. It was sad to see the final remnants of the group break up, but i have a feeling we will run into each other somewhere in the near future. The previous two days were very low key, recovering from the trek, getting a ridiculously large amount of clothes washed and sorting out travel arrangements. We did go out for a belated birthday dinner last night for mojo, at Afrigonia; i hybrid of Chilean & Zambian food. It was pricey, but for a special occasion and the food was exceptional. We shared an entree of Ceviche, each had an enormous slightly seared tuna steak (it was served in two pieces, each the size of my fist), and black bean panna cotta and a chocolate pudding, all washed down with a nice Chilean Sav Blanc.

We arrive in El Chalten at 9pm after leaving Puerto Natales at 8am, with a 4 hour lay over in El Calafate. The bus rides were not too bad. The first leg went quickly once we had passed through border control, and i slept most of the second leg thanks to a large pizza and a litre of Chop we had in El Calafate.

We are staying in a bit of a posh hotel, as it is the easter long weekend, and a popular time for the locals to holiday. Therefore it was really difficult to find accommodation anywhere, and the prices jacked up. We searched Ushuaia, Puerto Madryn and even El Calafate for reasonably priced accommodation, to no avail.

The next day is gorgeous, with not a cloud in the sky. We had been told that it can be hard to see the mountain peaks around El Chalten due to cloud, especially Mt Fitz Roy, but we are fortuitous today. The hotel does put on a continental buffet, so we really hook in and stuff ourselves as much as possible, as we only have a banana and 2 muesli bars each for lunch (to save some $$). We want to do a walk, and decide on the Laguna Torre walk , at 11km.

The track takes us over and down some smallish hills, with some summits offering great views to Mt Fitz Roy and the Cerro Torre range. A lot of the trees have turned a burnt red in preparation for winter and makes for a very pretty walk. There are supposedly wood peckers here, but like everywhere else in Patagonia, we have had no luck in spotting any, let alone hearing them tap tapping away. There is plenty of proof of their existence though, as there are massive holes (5 cm in diameter) pock marked over the trees like a bad case of acne.

We get to the Laguna Torre in good time, and are greeted with an impressive sight. The lagoon is full of icebergs of varying sizes, being fed by a glacier that weaves down the mountain range on the far side. The lagoon feeds the river Rio Fitz Roy, and i don't understand how it works, as the river is quite large and fairly fast flowing, but the lagoon quite small and the amount of ice melting not that significant...

We have our lunch and decide to make tracks to another lookout for better views of Fitz Roy, but not long after we head off i feel a twang in my knee that is not good. They have been sore since TDP, and i am worried about doing some decent damage that could derail our trip. So, with a branch in one hand for support and at a pace half that of the way in, we trundle back to town. Taking an additional 1.5 hours to do the walk. A pain the arse for me, and also mojo who had been busting to go to the loo since lunch! Making our way down the last hill into town we can hear and see what we think is either a rodeo, or a horse sale. A temporary ring has been setup with some small grandstands, but most of the locals are perched on top of their trucks, peering over the fence. As we get closer we can see that it seems to involve a gaucho taking an unbroken horse from a yard and parading them around the ring. The commentator is very excited and numbers are rattled off, so we assume that the horses are for sale. The guacho's are dressed in very traditional garb, and it makes for a unique viewing experience. Arriving in town at 6pm, it is decided that the local microbrewery would be good for my knee, and for mojo's bladder.

Today is Easter Sunday, and it is a day of rest. We head out for a nice lunch at a steak house, a 300gm sirloin for mojo, and a 500gm T-bone for me. When we leave the restaurant mojo spots some condor's relatively close by soaring on the up drafts near the cliffs surrounding the town. They are still a good 200-300 metres away, but somewhat in range for some photo's, and some great viewing. It is very majestic the way that they effortless glide around and around and around.

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Mojo and IceMojo and Ice
Mojo and Ice

good name for a cocktail?

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