November 19-22, 2015
We took a 31-hour bus ride from Bariloche to El Calafate with a bus change in Rio Grande. To occupy ourselves during the long trip we watched two Avenger movies, Black or White (a movie they showed on the bus with English subtitles), a 60-minute Vice special, a Sandra Bullock cop comedy, and a horrible teen party movie called “Project X”. We enjoyed 2 full meals and 3 snacks on the bus which included a muffin, a chocolate wafer, and coffee. We slept relatively well in our "semicama (semi-bed)" reclining seats, though the bus stopped every couple hours for pick ups and drop-offs.
We arrived in El Calafate within 5 minutes of our scheduled arrival, 1:45pm—The day after we had left Bariloche. While still in the El Calafate bus station, we booked our ticket to El Chaltén for later that day, a ticket back to El Calafate for when we return in 4 days, and we bought our tickets to Puerto Natales, Chile to get it out of the way.
Two hours later we caught a mini bus, drove for 2.5 hours and finally arrived in El Chaltén after a whopping 36 hours of travel!
Stepping off the bus in El Chaltén we were taken aback by the outstanding views of snow covered mountains in all directions, especially the view of Mt. Ritz Roy, the tallest and most impressive mountain of stone jutting upright above the other peaks with a series of jagged pointy peaks.
We dropped off our belongings at our hotel and got acquainted with the small town rather quickly. The tiny town is walkable in all of 20minutes. We explored the quaint streets as we searched for a supermarket to stock up on hiking food for our stay. We passed by adorable log cabin restaurants offering hot stews and microbrews on their menus-definitely a German feeling influence here with the cuisine and beer. Though the town feels a bit unauthentic and lacking culture, visually it is quite charming and reminiscent of a tiny ski town. El Chaltén, located inside the Glacier National Park, was only built 30 years ago to accommodate tourists. There are few locals around, most have moved to work here and many foreigners have opened restaurants, seizing the opportunity before El Chaltén blows up as a major trekking destination. El Chaltén currently boasts itself as a trekking capital, with dozens of trails accessible right from the center of town. But for now it is still relatively remote and its wilderness unspoiled by tourism. El Chaltén is the furthest south either of us have ever been and we are amazed by how late the sun sets here, around 10pm!
We set out early the next day to hike the trail "Laguna de Los Tres (really the only activity there is in El Chaltén is hiking) We lucked out with beautiful weather! Cool, crisp air, a refreshing breeze and sunny skies- perfect weather for catching unobstructed views of Mt. Fitz Roy. We walked from our hotel and found the trailhead for "Laguna de Los Tres" within 10 minutes. The trail winded through the mountain offering scenic "miradors" (look outs) every kilometer or so. The trail took us through forests, over streams, past lakes and meadows and rocky clearings. The last kilometer of the trail climbed steeply up the mountain, taking us around an hour to scramble up the rocky path. The pay off was worth it as we reached the snowy top and stood over looking a frozen snow covered lake and Mt. Fit Roy in front of us in all of its imposing glory. It was truly spectacular. We took a short lunch break at the top to bask in the views and take a breather. The cold and wind was harsh at the top and we started our descent back down. 7.5 hours and 20 miles later we completed the hike.
We decided to take our third day easy and rest up for a long hike the following day. We walked down to the river, enjoyed the views of the mountains and later shared a bean, chorizo and beef stew for dinner- disappointingly, it was a little light on the meat. No beer with dinner for us unfortunately. Buying alcohol after 8pm was prohibited in lieu of the presidential election the following day. This election comes as a "tie-breaking" secondary election to the previous election a month earlier.
e began our final day early and set out at 8:30 for the 'Laguna Torre' trek. The trail head started right off of one of one of the town's streets. We walked for around 2.5 hours before reaching the Laguna Torre, a glacial lake in front of Cerro Torre, a jagged rocky mountain peak. We initially planned to follow the trail for an hour further for a look out point of another mountain but somehow lopped back around on the trail we had just come from. We walked for a few kilometers on the trail before asking a passing American couple if we were headed the right directions. They were very kind and took our their map clarifying that we had gotten turned around. It ended up working out in or favor because we continued the 8 kilometer hike back to town with them. They were a couple, around our age, from Colorado. They had bought a camper in the states and had been driving it for the last ten months through Central America and South America. We shared travel stories and follies as we hiked together. They were incredible nice, as most travelers we've met have been. They shared similar views as us about life, travel and the importance of exposure to other cultures and ways of living.
We spend the rest of the day enjoying the town and Scott builds a penny-stove that he plans on using during our 5-day hike in Torres del Paine.