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Published: April 7th 2013
Torres del Paine complete, I took a couple of days out to relax at the hostel. I did nothing other than slowly waiting for my feet to lose the stench of the hike and for my mosquito bites to stop me from looking like Freddy Krueger on a bad day. I booked a bus up to El Calafate and ended up sitting next to a lady with her baby on her lap. Never have I been so glad of an iPod and decent headphones... After settling in to my hostel I met my friend Richard and his friend Philip for dinner, which consisted of tapas and pizza.
El Calafate is a strange town, mainly due to it existing pretty much just to serve tourists as it is near the Perito Moreno glacier, which (I think) is one of the few moving glaciers left in the southern hemisphere. It leaves the town a little soulless, but gave me some time to finish booking some flights for Africa and sorting a few bits for my volunteering stint. I also met Richard again for dinner and a guy from his hostel, Patrick, and booked a bus up to El Chalten where I would
be doing a little more hiking, though this time only day hikes and nothing as strenuous as before. The following day I went to the glacier, meeting Patrick on the bus and walking around with him in the miserable rain. Lots of rain.
The glacier is huge. I’ve included a pretty bad picture (it was the weather, promise!) but it shows a boat in the bottom left hand corner to give you an idea of just how massive the thing is. When the weather cleared a little, I walked around the platforms by the glacier again and got some better shots. Even in Antarctica I didn’t see anything like it. The platforms must be a few hundred metres from the face of it, but even so the height of it is extreme. Cracks like thunder can be heard every thirty seconds or so as it calves, which is the process of it moving forward and pieces of ice falling from its face into the water below. The ice is bluer than Eiffel 65 in places, crevasses, cracks and splits visible across the entirety of its surface. Impressive stuff indeed...
The day after the glacier I caught the bus
to El Chalten and bumped into Richard in the supermarket. It should be noted that super does apparently not translate too well in South America. The place was tiny, more stunted than super, but thankfully there was a bakery nearby to get sandwiches from as I was wondering off for a day hike from lunchtime. Richard and I made plans for dinner and I set off, hiking around 20km or so and seeing some pretty cool scenery as well as woodpeckers and a bunch of other birds.
The main draw of El Chalten is Mount Fitzroy, a snow covered peak that is visible on several hikes including one that takes you to its base should you so wish. On the second day I opted to do most of this hike, but Richard had told me of another path, seldom used, that would take me to a lagoon with a view of Mt. Fitzroy that was supposed to be pretty stunning. I hiked a total of 28km that day I think, but it was the most worthwhile hike that I have done so far.
Taking the small, un-signed path, I followed the river upstream over rocks. The path was
at times unclear, small piles of rocks on boulders every fifty metres or so the only indicator that I was heading the right way. After around an hour, I came to what seemed an impassable point of the river, but saw a guy heading down from the other side. I waited and he showed me the way up, a steep path between large boulders where tree roots were the only real handholds there were. I fully admit to being slightly nervous, on my own and not sure that climbing over said boulders was such a great idea, but the guy had assured me that the view was worth it and that I would be the only one there to enjoy it. I pressed on for around another hour and finally, finally, reached the lagoon and the view that came with it. It surpassed Torres del Paine in every way, and was worth every second that I had felt unease at moving over the boulders. I sat for around an hour without interruption, taking pictures and taking in the view, before a couple of guys arrived and I decided to head back to the hostel, as I still had around three
to four hours of walking ahead of me.
The next morning I headed back to El Calafate to ready myself for my flight on the 20th that would take me to Sao Paulo for the night, before pressing on to Johannesburg and then Nairobi. I had some more lazy time to think about what I’d done in South America. The places I visited were quite incredible – if you get the chance to go to any of them, I highly recommend it. South America could keep you busy for years if you choose to explore it, and I felt I only scratched the surface. It is definitely on the list for me to head back to; the empanadas are worth it alone. Mm, meat wrapped in pastry; who could say no? Catching my flight to Sao Paulo, I saw Richard for the final time before he flew to his next destination, where after he would be flying down to visit a girl he had met in Antarctica – romance is not dead in South America it seems...!
And that concludes my South American journey. Next time I write I will finally start my Africa blog. I am currently
writing this on the 1st of April, over a month after I came to Africa, and it may well be a few more days before I can actually upload this.
See you all soon!
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