El Chalten, El Calafate & Perito Moreno Glacier
15.12.2010 - 19.12.2010 10 °C
El Chalten must definitely be the highlight of the trip so far. Marketing itself as Argentina's premier trekking (tramping / hiking) destination it is surrounded by Los Glaciares National Park and presided over by two imposing mountains, Mount Fitzroy (3,400m) and Cerro Torre (3,100m). Both of these peaks have almost vertical granite faces on all sides and the level of difficulty attracts a lot of hardcore climbers.
Rather than tackling vertical cliffs Jess and I took advantage of the numerous walks throughout the area which are spectacular. The accessibility of these walks was amazing and while we restricted ourselves to day walks of around 6 hours, there are plenty of longer walks and places to camp.
We walked through and past amazing alpine forests, lakes and glaciers, of which I have attached heaps of pictures. We were pretty lucky with the weather, while it was blowing a gale most of the time this didn't hinder our walks at all and the only negative was that cloud in the mountain prevented me taking clear pictures of Fitzroy and Cerro Torre to share with you all. That and the worlds worst ham and cheese sandwiches which Jess and I bought to take on our first day trekking, they were so bad that we were literally gagging trying to force them down!
Other than the ham and cheese sandwich experience the food in the town was great and we dined like kings most nights on Argentinian BBQ and the local trout given that we were not spending any money walking during the day. Plus, the hostel we had booked was full and they moved us to a much nicer hotel next door at the same rate. I imagine this will be the nicest place we will stay on our trip.
We spent three full days in El Chalten and would have stayed longer if we didn't have a plane to catch to Brazil, so it was with much regret that we boarded the bus to El Calafate, our final destination in South America.
On the bus the only interesting occurrence was Jess's water bottle leaking throughout her small backpack, including all over her passport. This made for some exciting mid bus ride drying and flattening efforts. Fingers crossed the passport has survived and our entrance to Brazil is not impeded! For future reference I shall call this the “watergate” incident.
El Calafate seems to owe its current existence to its proximity to El Chalten and the Perito Moreno glacier. We stayed here only one night to visit the glacier before leaving for Brazil.
Words can't describe the glacier suffice to say it puts the glaciers in New Zealand to shame. I guess for a start Los Glaciares National Park looks to have at least 10 glaciers, if not more. Perito Moreno is not the largest, that distinction going to Glacier Viedma which is more than 700 square kilometres, but is the most active, advancing around 2 meters a day into Lake Argentino. This is is stark contrast to most glaciers around the world which are receding rather than advancing. Due to the constant advancement the glacier is incredibly active and from an elaborate network of board walks you can hear the ice cracking and groaning and see huge chunks breaking off into the lake from the 60 meter high, 5km long ice face. I took heaps of photos trying to capture the shear size and deep blue colour of the glacier and some videos to show the massive ice falls and these are all in the gallery.
Jess and I are heading to Brazil next so our next update will be from Salvador de Bahia.