Day 10 - Journey to El Chalten & Hike

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October 14th 2018
Published: October 15th 2018
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Early start this morning to wait for our pick-up to the bus station for our trip to El Chalten which is in the northern section of Glacier National Park. This small town is known as the hiking capital of Argentina but we only planned to do one half-day hike and stay just one night. Trip there was uneventful but I did choose seats on the left side of the bus. Another blogger had recommended that and it was good advice as a the last 45 minutes or so we had very nice views of the alps and could even see a glacier and icebergs from a distance. As we got closer however I did notice that up ahead it looked much cloudier and rainy and that’s exactly what it was like in El Chalten. There was just the one comfort stop during the trip plus a short stop at the National Park Visitor’s Centre where we were split into English or Spanish groups and a ranger took us through the rules of the park and also explained all the different hikes.

On arrival we noticed a bank ATM and were unsuccessful at withdrawing the amount of money we wanted until I realised there was a very small limit. Kept trying smaller amounts until another customer came in and she told us the maximum was 2,000 pesos which is only $AUS76. It’s their way of making more money because they charge 226 pesos per withdrawal. We’re hoping that we have more luck in Buenos Aires or we might just change American dollars.

We then made our way to our apartment which is a very small B&B type place run by a husband and wife, Angel and Elizabeth. It was suppose to be a 10 minute walk but even though we left our big bags at El Calafate, we still had one heavy duffle bag which slowed us down somewhat. On arrival, Angel greeted us and he had just broken English and Daisy asked him his name and we thought he said Nikon and he pointed at my camera, but later his wife sent me a message on Whatsapp that Angel would be bringing down breakfast as we were leaving early the following day. So he didn’t actually hear Daisy’s question and was saying that he has a Nikon camera. He showed me some of his photos later and he had some amazing shots of Mt Fitzroy at night with the stars and milky way behind it.

After settling in, we had a quick snack before leaving on our hike at about 12:30pm. Even though it was cloudy and the ranger said we probably wouldn’t be able to see Mt Fitzroy, we decided to still do that hike because Mt Fitzroy was the main aim for coming here, plus the hike would also take us past Laguna Capri.We got to the start of the trail at 12:45 and it was suppose to take 1hr45min. The hike to the lake was going up about 90% of the time but only a few parts were very steep. The first was steep but after just 700 metres we got to Rio de las Vueltas Viewpoint and the view was stunning and turned out to be the highlight of our hike. I said to Daisy I was happy to just see this if nothing else, so it was a nice surprise.

The trail was interesting and lovely to walk despite the uphill climbing We reached Laguna Capri at 2:47pm so it had taken us 2 hours so considering we had stopped along the way to take photos etc. we weren’t that far behind the suggested time. Even though the main mountains were still clouded over the lake was lovely with very clear water. We were told it was safe to drink the water in the park.

We then continued on and turned right off the main trail which goes all the way to the Laguna de los Tres and Mt Fitzroy which is for serious hikers. This then took us to the Mt Fitzroy lookout but as we expected it was clouded over so we could not see it. We were also getting continuous light rain by this stage but at least we finally got to use our new raincoats. We stayed here nonetheless for a while and took photos at the top of the lookout and had a good rest before our final descent back to the bottom of the trail. We didn’t set off again until 4:05pm.

Daisy had to take it slowly down the hill because of her knees and even though I went down quicker and waited for her at spots, my left knee was starting to ache as well. Why didn’t I do this when I was younger? We again stopped at the Rio de las Vueltas viewpoint and this time it was extremely windy. Luckily the wind was blowing us back from the cliff edge rather than blowing us over the cliff edge. We finally made it back to the start of the trail at 5:52pm.

By now we were tired sore and hungry so we stopped at a funny looking bar/restaurant completely made of rough hewn timber with the furnishings inside made in a similar fashion. Even the sinks were hollowed out pieces of timber. Daisy had a rice dish with mixed meats and veges and I had chicken schnitzel which weren’t the best but edible. We were so hungry we would have eaten anything.

We got back about 7:30pm and I contacted Elizabeth about paying them because of our early departure, then Angel came down with the brekky and told me to come over to the office later to pay. Around 8:30, there is a knock on the door and a man is there who couldn’t speak English so I got out my Google translator app and he typed in "reception", so I thought he wanted me to go to reception to pay. I put on my shoes and I follow him out and then he points up the stairs, so I went up the stairs and he followed and he pointed at one of the doors so I knocked and it turned out to be another guest but luckily he spoke Spanish and then the man went back down and through a gate and I followed where we finally came across Angel and Elizabeth in their residence which is on the same property as the apartments. The man chatted with them, then left. I was still puzzled and asked Elizabeth who speaks English, who was that man and she said he was just a man inquiring about accommodation. I thought they had sent him down to get me. We all had a good laugh about it. They have about 4 kids and Elizabeth was feeding a baby when I was there, Then as I was paying Angel, Elizabeth says, “ahh you can see Mt Fitzroy”. It was night but the clouds had cleared and they had a view of Mt Fitzroy, so even though it was really just a silhouette at least we ended up actually seeing it. Angel was so nice and rushed me out to get my camera and I did the best I could without a tripod. I also got Daisy to come out so she could see it as well. He said that it may be clearer in the morning but we shall see.

It was then early to bed at 10:30pm as we plan to get up at 5am to get to another recommended viewpoint before catching our bus at 7:30am. I decided I could catch up on the blog on the bus ride back to El Calafate.

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