El Chalten 16-18 Nov 2013

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November 18th 2013
Published: November 23rd 2013
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The Bridge
Saturday 16thNovember (Odyssey Day 8)

During the night I’d been woken by the sound of cars going past our camping area. I could have sworn there were a dozen of them at least making all that noise over the gravel. When I got up in the morning it was to discover that while there were suddenly an extra 7 tents, all that noise was from only two cars… Obviously I was more tired than I thought.

We had crossed a long red bridge to get to the island but I had missed the opportunity to get pictures (the chance for a hot shower took precedence over walking down to the bridge for photos, though unfortunately there was no hot water and the shower was cold… I’ll know better for next time). So going back across the river (or half of it as it were) I made up for it by taking lots of pics. Though what I will do with 25 pictures of a bridge is anyone’s guess…

Today was a day for photo stops, as we had finally reached the mountains. And well worth the wind and cold they are. With
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First views of the mountains
the land we have passed through being so flat, the first views we had of the mountain were very striking.

Our stop today is a campsite in El Chalten, a small and relatively new town (built in 1985 during a border dispute with Chile). However the wind was perhaps the worst it’s been here. Huge gusts of wind sweep through the town, including the campsite and blow everything away. You don’t set out a chair unless you are sitting on it or it won’t be there when you get back. Everyone used every single tent peg they had to hold the tents down. Nobody wants those to blow away. However, no matter how well you peg your towel or wet clothes, they are sure to be strewn across the grass in very short order.

After getting set up Ellie and I took a walk through town – and found an ice cream café! No matter how cold it is in the wind, it is never too cold for ice cream. They had an orange flavoured ice cream, something I have never tried before, that was delicious. The dulce de leche ones were a bit
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Stunning scenery
too sweet, but in Argentina they have Dulce de leche everything – ice cream, pastries, cakes, sweets, breakfast spread…

For the first time, a lot of people ate on the truck because it was too windy outside. To make up for that though, the showers were lovely and warm.

Sunday 17th November (Odyssey Day 9)

The plan today was to trek out to Laguna Torre, a glacial lake. We thought we would get up at 0600 and leave soon after, but I had a bit of trouble getting Ellie to wake up. She finally opened her eyes for more than a second at 0630. Hannah was coming with us today, but Ellie wasn’t the only one to sleep in a bit (though the fact that Hannah was out until 0300 last night may have had an impact on her late start). We did manage to leave the campsite by 0730 though. We got to the edge of town where the trek starts from when Hannah suddenly panicked as she realised she didn’t have her camera. Ellie and I waited, enjoying the view, while she went back for it. Looking
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Just a little bit windy
rather sheepish when she re-joined us, it turned out that it was in the bottom of her bag the whole time…

The first little slope had Ellie struggling because it was steep. With me going up ahead of her, it seemed that she managed okay. I was rather surprised that there were only a couple of places all day that she paused at, since some of the path was along quite a steep fall.

Getting over the first hill was great, not only was it a good view but the wind dropped away drastically once we were over the hill. Today was a long walk for us though. It’s one of the shorter treks but still 11km each way. My trekking poles were definitely made use of. Very glad I brought them despite the extra room they take up in my bag. Well worth the sacrifice of space!

The ranger’s station had put this walk at 4 hours, that map said 3 hours and the sign at the other end said 2.5 hours to get back. It took us 4.5 hours to get there – and 3 to get back. No photo stops on the way back!!

The walk was lovely. It is a beautiful area and photo stops were not uncommon. Most of the time you could see the mountains ahead and we walked through some lovely wooded areas. The trail was fairly narrow and only steep in a couple of places. There were a couple of ledges we walked along that Ellie didn’t like but she still managed just fine. A few people passed us on the trail and we met a few people going the other way but we were taking it fairly easy.

This area is apparently home to deer and puma, but unfortunately all we saw were birds and bugs. I'll still keep my fingers crossed for a puma though! I suspect it will be as elusive as the tigers in Nepal...

It started drizzling not long after we started but fortunately without the high wind it wasn’t that cold even when wet. My clothes were warm and my waterproof jacket was indeed waterproof, I just had to be careful with my camera. Unfortunately after a while Ellie discovered her waterproof jacket was proving to be somewhat
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On the way
less than waterproof in the rain. Glad I tried mine out for the winter before coming away – I knew there was a reason I used to stand in the rain waiting for my bus…

So, summary of the day? 22km total – we started from the top of the trail at 0800 and arrived at Laguna Torre at 1230. Spent 30 minutes on photos of the glacier and small icebergs as well as lunch break before heading back as the continuous drizzle had turned to a rain. Leaving the lake at 1300, we arrived back in town at 1600. Much quicker going back than getting there to start with.

It really started raining on our way back to town. When Hannah commented that it couldn’t get much wetter, she jinxed us, because not too long after the rain got heavier.

Arriving back at El Chalten, Ellie and Hannah headed off to the ice cream shop for hot chocolate and ice cream (not sure about the wisdom of ice cream when soaking wet already but hey that’s just me). After taking my stuff back to camp and changing my shoes I
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Beautiful scenery
went to join them but I settled for just hot chocolate! I know I said it’s never too cold for ice cream, but still! We then proceeded to make the most of having the very hot showers all to ourselves but once in, we didn’t want to get out again! It doesn’t take much to get cold in that wind.

Dinner tonight was a barbeque. Fortunately it had stopped raining but the wind was still strong and sharp. We had to make sure things didn’t blow away as we used them. Again, chairs couldn’t go out unless someone was sitting in them.

Monday 18th November (Odyssey Day 10)

Woke early today but since I planned to actively do nothing all day, I just rolled over and went back to sleep. By the time it got to 1000 it was pretty warm in the tent. Out of the path of the wind, the sun is rather warm. We dropped our laundry at a service wash and then went to have waffles down the road. Since it wasn’t open until 1100, we had to go and do some souvenir
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Hannah and Ellie taking a break
shopping first – oh the hardships of life…

The waffles were worth the wait though – delicious!! And the hot chocolate was so rich I couldn’t have another one all day.

We did use the internet there for a couple of hours. There doesn’t seem to be any phone reception here in El Chalten, so email was good. Though actually I keep forgetting about my phone and keeping it charged. Obviously not something I use too much…

By the time I finished there, it was about 1400 and I headed back to camp to do my chore for the day – clean the truck. It was a right mess after a couple of bush camps and a bit of wet weather. It was really windy again and I’m told one tent got blown away (though fortunately not far) and kept checking to make sure ours was still there. The wind was strong enough to make opening the doors on the truck almost impossible though.

After picking up our laundry and doing some shopping we went across the road to the bar to join some of the folks who
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Laguna Torre
just got back from another day of walking. We had a few beers and it was nice to relax and socialise a bit. A few people had camped out on the various trails overnight. I enjoyed our hike yesterday, but I’m not quite keen enough to spend a night out in the wind and rain. We had some food at the bar and I tried a slice of Ellie Calzone – absolutely delicious. The beer here is sold by the bottle and costs about 35-40 peso per bottle (1 litre), which is $7 at the official rate but only about $4-5 at the better black market rate.


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