Today I had an early bus to catch to the very frontier like town of El chalten. The town only really exists because of the nearby mountain of Fitzroy, which is apparently one of the worlds most difficult climbs. For the rest of us there are plenty of treks to do in the area. The bus left at a respectable 8am, but in this part of the world it is still dark at 8am!
The road from El Calafate to El Chalten used to be 220kms of dirt hell, but its been sealed due to the tourist influx to this part of the world. As a result the trip was only going to be around 3 hours. Of course what would a bus trip be without stopping somewhere to eat, miles from anywhere giving you a single option. I really needed a coffee and I really regretted it. Worst coffee ever and it tasted burnt too. However at this little stop called La Leona, there was a guanaco, which is a type of llama typical down here. The guanaco seemed friendly enough and you could pat it. But beware the hungry guanaco when you have food. The guanaco attacked one guy with an apple. Either that or the guanaco was looking for a mate because it kind of jumped on a guy sitting down.
The rest of the bus ride was pretty fast and we arrived at the ranger station to be given a map of the trails, told the rules etc. I checked in at the El Rancho Grande. Nice but showing its age, compared to the Marco Polo Suites in El Calafate. Given it was early in the day and not quite lunch time i thought I’d go for a walk up to the viewing spot above town. Not too difficult a walk similar to Mt Ainslie or Taylor back in Canberra. The views were spectacular except that Mt Fitzroy and most of the other high peaks were covered in cloud. The wind was buffeting and cold up there, but I sat and watched for a while. I was treated to seeing a condor (could have been an eagle) hovering in the up draft searching for prey.
I was getting hungry and knew just the place to go. I saw a microbrewery on the way through town so went back there for lunch. Firstly the dark bock beer was sensational, but so was the food. I had a spicy beef empanada, which was the best empanada I’ve had. Then I had some delicious homemade lamb filled ravioli. Not my first choice for a ravioli filling, but it was delicious. I washed it down with another bock beer and walked back for an afternoon siesta.
My siesta was a big longer than planned, so I went searching for the internet and found some slow, unreliable internet. Dinner was not too exciting either, it was cold and windy, so nothing else exciting happened in El Chalten that night. Tomorrow, I will undertake a trek to lago torre. Apparently a lovely 20km stroll through the national park.
I woke up refreshed and ready for an adventure. I had a rather big and cheap, filling breakfast at the hostel. I asked for directions to the start of the lago torre trail. I was warned the first part was steep but after that it was ok. So this intrepid adventurer set off and steep was an understatement. If you need to use you hands to scramble up rocks it is steep. False peak after false peak, came and went until it levelled out and I came across a sign indicating the trail from central El Chalten. I can’t help thinking this trail was probably easier. Around here I saw my first fellow trekkers. They were dressed in lovely pink track suits and joggers, suitable for a walk around the park or a trip to the gym. They inspired me to keep going as the trail got windier and colder. I was trekking through lovely autumn forest with hues of colour from green through to red on display.
Pushin on I made it to the first milestone of the trek, mirador cerro torre. The only problem was I had no views of cerro Torre as it was covered in cloud. So was Fitzroy, which is the norm it seems. I decided to keep going, as the walk descended into the valley below through more beautiful autumn forests. Eventually, I came to a vast open plain, with the glacial river flowing to my left and the trail going through small low shrubs. The wind was fierce, blowing into my face and pushing me off course on several occasions. Some light rain started to fall, it may have been snow that didn’t quite make it. The weather was getting worse. I started to see trekkers coming the other way and they recommended I turn back the weather was getting bad and you could hardly see anything. About 1km from my destination I decided to turn back. There was a bonus to this however as i reached the mirador, the weather started to clear. Although, I still couldn’t see the cerro torre, I caught a rare glimpse of Fitzroy behind another mountain. Hopefully tomorrow, I’ll get a better photo, but it seems luck plays a part and a postcard may be the best option here. Although I can tell I trekked about 18kms today, my body is letting me know just how much it didn’t enjoy the trek!!
The next two days won’t be terribly exciting I’m afraid. Its wet and miserable today, before i catah a bus back to El Calafate and then tomorrow is spent on planes getting to mendoza via Buenos Aires. But If anything exciting happens I’ll let you know all about it.