Sunday, 2/10/19 – El Chalten to Puerto Natales
Glamping! Yup. Indescribable beauty. Check. The wind and rain of the last few days were replaced by beautiful blue skies and crisp air. Wow. El Chalten is beautiful when it is not veiled in low hanging clouds and inhospitable weather. Hopefully we can come back some day and explore it in it’s full splendor.
For some perspective, here was the view of Fitz-Roy mountain with the room we stayed in in the foreground. We would highly recommend staying at the Eco Domes in Patagonia if you decide to visit. You will want a rental car since it is 15 minutes past town on a gravel road but the location is worth it.
Goodbye Glacier National Park, Argentina. Next up, Chile! To get to Puerto Natales from El Chalten is no small chore. There is no bus. There are no planes. Rental cars are difficult to get across the border and must always be returned in the country of origin. In fact, the only bus leaves El Calafete, 3 hrs away From El Chalten, roughly half way to Puerto Natales, very early in the morning.Fortunately, there is a taxi service to the border from the airport at El Calafate where we rented our car. The drive back was beautiful and we stopped multiple times to take pictures. Our only regret was having no empty seats in the car. There were many hikers in need of a hitch that we could not help. When we got back to El Calafete, the line at the gas station took 30 minutes. Word of warning if you plan on renting a car and need to return it full on any kind of schedule in Argentina. As we returned to the airport to drop off our rental car, someone was clearly not pleased with Sherpas driving and cut around us honking and shaking his fist. Sherpa honked back as he passed. Porter said, “I hope that is not our taxi…”. It was our taxi. We got to spend 3.5 hours in the car with the fellow. Hopefully he did not realize we were the ones that he had gotten frustrated with. He was a very nice driver and helped us arrange a taxi at the border the rest of the way to Puerto Natales.The border crossing into Chile went smoothly, but if you ever try to cross to Puerto Natales, you will want to have a taxi arranged in advance because the no mans land between Argentina and Chile did not lend itself to walking across and there were no taxis waiting to drive people to town on the Chilean side. Thankfully everything went smoothly and we checked into our hostel.
Saturday, 2/9/19 – El Chalten
The weather did not want to cooperate today. The hurricane force winds from yesterday were replaced with chilly rain. When Sherpa told Porter, “it’s chilly out”, she corrected him “no, it’s Argentina out.” We decided to take care of some business in town today. First we picked up some cash for the taxi we will need to take tomorrow. The banks are only allowed to withdraw 4000 Pesos (about $100 USD), twice per day. The taxi ride is $250 so we need to start withdrawing today. Each transaction has about $12 dollars of fees as well which is excessive! After getting cash we headed to the service station to fill up on gas for the drive back to El Calafete tomorrow. There is only one service station in town, which had one pump and a long line, served from a building that looks like a shipping container with roof mounted solar panels. We stopped at the visitor center and putzed through the town, which caters heavily to hikers. It felt like a Colorado mountain town without the offensive smell of weed everywhere. We grabbed a heavy lunch of grilled meats and then began plotting our day. Unfortunately, the hike we had planned on was too long to finish with the remaining daylight, and the weather never really improved, so instead we visited a waterfall and enjoyed some hot chocolate and went back to town. What better way to enjoy a cold afternoon? The best moment of the whole day was when a tourist came up and saw our little hitch hiker and asked to take a photo of her because of how cute she looked all bundled up in the carrier.
Friday, 2/8/19- El Chalten
The weather in Patagonia is unpredictable and extreme. This morning it felt like a hurricane outside even though the sun was shining. We are camped at the base of one of the best hikes in the area, an ascent of the Fitz-Roy glacier, but with the weather what it was we decided go somewhere safer. At dinner we were reassured that we made the right decision. A couple braved it (without a baby) and described the sleet, slippery rocks, and other weather induced treachery that would have awaited us. Plus, by afternoon the sun had been replaced by clouds eliminating the views that are the whole reason for the hike.
Instead of hiking the Fitz Roy, we drove an hour down a dirt road to a ferry stop which took us across a glacial lake called “Lago del desierto”. We stopped to do several hikes with nice views of a glacier and enjoyed hot chocolate in a geodesic domes. The hike wore out our little hitched hiker, who slept through the splendid view. The boat then took us to the northernmost point in the area with trails that crossed into a hike where we were able to disembark before getting back on the boat. The wind coming off of the glaciers surrounding the tiny lake whipped up waves several feet high and even stirred up the occasional nascent tornado! It was a show for sure.
Thursday, 2/7/19- Buenos Aires to El Chalten
After a light breakfast at our hotel in Buenos Aires, we cabbed it to the airport for a morning flight to El Calafate, where we picked up a rental car for a drive to El Chalten. Look at the view from the airport! The people who were dropping off a car in front of us had crashed their car. To make matters worse, they were Asian and did not speak Spanish. It was painful watching them try to get out of their $2500 obligation unsuccessfully. The car we picked up was a manual transmission, Sherpa’s favorite!
We stopped for a late lunch in El Calafete and had some lamb lentil stew (a special in Patagonia) and fondue and then drove on one of the worlds prettiest roads up to El Chalten! Amazing glacial lakes and rivers, out of this world jagged peaks, yellows and blues, glaciers hanging from the edge of the mountains. It was reminiscent of the drive from Banff to Jasper in the Canadian Rockies.
El Chalten is a town nestled in the Glacier National Park of Argentina. The town is surrounded by towering mountains protecting the area from a huge ice field. Needless to say, glaciers are everywhere with many notable hikes to see them.
We arrived late into our lodging, the Patagonia Eco Domes in time for dinner while it was still light after 9PM. Porter was quick to point out that this was our first glamping experience. Sherpa was in a state of disbelief that one could pay $300 a night to sleeping a tent and tried to convince her they were going to be cabins. Porter is usually right, as was the case this time, although we both agree that this was quite an improvement from our Appalachian Trail backpacking days. Our cozy room was a geodesic dome made of metal bars covered in plastic On the outside and a thick insulating material on the inside, complete with a bathroom, wood burning stove, and picturesque view of the Fitz-Roy Glacier!
Hike the good hike
-Sherpa and Porter