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Published: November 28th 2015
Fitz Roy and Cerro Torres
People wait weeks to see these, we were fortunate to see them on our first day.
For not having existed a mere 30 years ago, this little village has a well-established reputation as the trekking capital of Argentina, and it deserves it. We spent three full days here, with John tackling the biggest hikes including a 12 mile trek to the base viewing of Mt. Fitz Roy and a scramble to the top of a smaller peak over a snow field. Together the three of us hiked the 12 mile round trip to Largo Torres with hopes of seeing Cerro Torres.
A couple of notes about El Chaltan. Fitz Roy, the peak that towers above town, is outlined on all the Patagonia clothing, their trade mark. The town is pretty much cut off from the world--internet spotty at best, very few places take credit cards (the readers do not work due to limited internet--bring cash), they generate their own electricity with a couple of diesel generators, and the sewage system is limited (sign in bathroom--'This is a very small village with no sewage system; please do not flush toilet paper). It is a small enough place that you cross paths with folks you have met and can finish conversations that were
started a couple of days before on the bus.
The weather was kind to us. We arrived with Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy range in full view, something people wait around weeks to see here. And most of the time we were able to see at least Fitz Roy for part of the day. The Torre was another matter, as we saw it all on the first day but were limited to just seeing its peak above the clouds on occasion.
Marcia and I indulged in a horseback ride one day, and a trekking visit to Los Huemules (the deer). Los Huemules is an environmentally friendly development on a 16,000 hectare (about 35,000 acres) estancia. They have set aside 98.5% of the land for preserve, with 1.5% holding about 90 housing lots of 2 acres and a spot for a hotel. They generate their own electricity using hydro power from a water fall, their own water (storing lake water when the lake is high), and have a wide variety of other environmental practices. They even have a state-of-the art eco-sewage system and you can flush toilet paper! After a 10 mile or so hike
visiting three of the lakes (Azul, Verde, and Diablo) we were fortunate to meet the land manager who explained the project to us.
Of course, this being our first stop in Argentina there had to be two other activities--eating beef and lamb and drinking Malbec! We did well, with most meals featuring at least one of ordering a fine steak (rigoso--rare) and a good bottle gracing the table. And we learned how to order tap water (not bottled!) which appeared at our first meal in a penguin-shaped pitcher--we all burst into laughter when John picked it up to pour and chanted 'please, please, please do not pick up the penguins.'
As John said when we started this trip the best parts will be the most unexpected--and here it was the people we met, not only Argentines. We will always remember the young Danish couple, traveling on a gap year, gleefully hitch-hiking their way around Argentina, discussing American politics with us. They were pleased to shake hands with someone who had shaken the hand of President Obama. On to Calafate.
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