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Published: November 18th 2011
On the bus to El Calafate we managed to pass through 3 police passport checks (more than Peru and Bolivia together). This can take anything upto half an hour depending on the ability of the particular police officer being able to find your name on the bus register. El Calafate itself is a bit like Keswick, but the star attraction is the Perito Moreno glacier, whilch performed quite well by spitting off a nice chunk of ice into the lake. Watching it do this is very satisfying as even a small lump makes a very big crash!
From El Calafate we went to El Chalten, the supposed trekking capital of Argentina. We felt particularly underdressed, with our scruffy little rucksacks (a mere 12 l) and lack of trekking poles/soft shells/ LEGGINGS (!), but just about managed two 'treks´ without any disasters. For those of you who don´t understand, the difference between a 'trek´ and a 'walk´, is that in Britain you walk and in South America, you trek. If this is only 2 hours, the name changes to a 'minitrek´. Serious stuff. Anyway, we were in El Chalten to see the Cerro Fitzroy and Cerro Torre, which we did.
We had a pretty slow crossing across into Chile but eventually made it, and Chilean patagonia is everything you expect it to be. We found a lovely restaurant run by a guy from Croyden where Peter was not ostracised and enjoyed (veggie) bangers and mash with baked beans. From Puerto Natales we jumped to Torres del Paine, a 'must see´ in South America to start the W trek....
The first day of the 'W´ is a walk up the valley to Las Torres, which had a pretty spectacular cliff with a mini glacier perched on top. We admired this whilst eating huge sandwiches provided by the refugio. We made the journey back in good time (8 1/2 hours). Our second day was the easy day, although we seemed to make hard work of it, taking a long time to walk with our bags a mere 11 km. The third day has a reputation for being a killer and after our apathy the previous day we set off at a determined pace. From refugio Los Cuernos we made our way up the Valle de Frances through pretty woodland and to the very head of the valley only to be denied
a view. Instead we scoffed our lunch whilst sheltering from the snowflakes. Although Los Cuernos was covered in cloud, we had a marvellous view down the valley and out across turquoise lakes. We stumbled the last 7 km to our next refugio, the buffeting wind giving us a taste of what was to come the next day...
The final day was a 'there and back´ to Grey Glacier, accompanied by some rather strong gusts of wind (actually marked on the map!). It was so strong at the lookout that if it had been blowing the other way, one would have disappeared over the edge and into Lago Grey. We ended the day in good time to relax with a cerveza and admire the view of Los Cuernos which had decided to shed its cloud.
Back in Puerto Natales, we ate a lovely birthday meal, which culminated in our waiter bringing out ice cream complete with candle whilst wearing a puma mask and jesters hat (rather scary!) The embarrassment only ended after two rounds of Happy Birthday in Spanish, and a kiss from a random Chileano.
We´re now in Ushuaia, which markets itself as the end of the
world, although ironically it is a very similar distance from the equator to Northallerton!
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