In Argentina, there is a tradition of placing padlocks at significant locations on bridges. Couples write their names on the locks, locking their love inside or sealing them as a symbol of their love. Keira and I decided to place a lock on the bridge in El Calafate as a symbol of our family’s connection. We had fun doing it.
El Chalten is approx. 230 kms northwest of El Calafate. It is a popular area for hiking, with amazing views of Mount Fitzroy and the surrounding ranges. That is, if the Patagonian weather co-operates, that is a “big if.”
El Chalten is also known for its strong winds. There is little natural tree coverage in the town to provide shelter. My memories of the town are images of huddled over hikers, fully immersed in raingear bracing themselves against the blustering winds. It is like a quest there, judging the right time to hike between bouts of wind, rain and cloud coverage, to get the best views or even a glimpse of the mountain vista. We met people who during a 5-day stay never got to see the mountains due to dense cloud coverage.
The first day we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised by meeting Jeff, our friend from Switzerland that we had met in Buenos Aires months before. We were all very excited to meet up again and spent the evening together exchanging stories, with Keira saying “hello Jeff” every few moments and trying to monopolize his time.
The following day we gave Jeff a ride to Lago Desierto, 50 kms down a very rough but picturesque road. He was completing the walk around the lake, with a ferry ride and a border crossing to Villa O’Higgins in Chile, the very southern point of the Carrera Austral.
It was an extremely rainy and windy day, but we still got to see beautiful scenery, waterfalls, and a glacier. The afternoon we had the pleasure of spending more time with the Snaiths. Keira was very excited to see Lucy and Alisha again.
The following day the weather cleared enough for us to do a hike. We hiked the El Pilar hike to a mirador (viewpoint), which afforded us magnificent views of Mount Fitzroy and the glacier and lake below. It was amazing. Keira was excited to see caterpillars, woodpeckers and many other varieties of birds.
The weather for the remaining days we were in El Chalten was not so good. However we found the coolest place to hang out, a campground called Bonanza, 10 kms out of town. The campground is situated in a small forest area next to a river, a beautiful location. What was really cool was the incredible playground that the managers had created out of natural materials. They even had a zip line and a tightrope. The pet sheep that acted more like a dog, their cats and kittens and many dogs added to the homely but rustic atmosphere.
Camping in our roof top tent, has been a challenge in Patagonia due to he high winds. We did camp one night however the noise of the wind and the movement of the tent do not make for a restful sleep. So we decided to splurge and stay in a dome tent at Bonanza. It was still like staying in a tent and equally as cold but we did not have to cope with the winds or packing the tent up in freezing rain. It provided us with a little more space for a few days. Mike had work to do, and was able to complete this sitting in the small restaurant at the campsite. Like a lot of places electricity was generated through solar or a generator, so hours for electricity and hot showers were limited to the evening hours. Mike used the outlets in our car as back up for his computer.
Keira and I entertained ourselves playing on the playground, completed paintings in the great outdoors, playing with the animals, watching the sheep and dogs play fighting, and exploring the area.
We had a wonderful treat one afternoon of chocolate banana pancakes.
El Chalten does not have good Internet access, so Keira, Mike and I headed back to El Calafate for 2 nights, so Mike could download work. We also picked up more chocolate and a few clothing items for Keira, as she is rapidly outgrowing hers.
We will head off tomorrow heading north to Cueva de Los Manos (a cave with ancient hand paintings) and then we will cross the border back into Chile to start the Carrera Austral.
Still having a great time.
xoxo Rissy, Mike and Keira
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: Hot water bottle- makes getting in cold sleeping bags a little easier
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- the hike with views of Mount Fitzroy ; Keira- playing with the pet sheep ; Riss- the hike with views of Mount Fitzroy
WORST EXPERIENCE: Mike-; the incessant cold and wind/not getting my fair share of the hot water bottle; Keira- getting headbutted by the sheep ; Riss- trying to pee by the side of the road with no tree coverage and gale force winds/washing dishes in freezing cold water
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike- asado meal of a variety of roasted meats Keira- chocolate/banana waffles (see gallery for pics) and dulce de leche/iced cupcakes; Riss- finding jars of peanut butter, a rare commodity and rice flour crepes made by mike
WORST FOOD EXPERIENCE: all ok
BEST CAMPING SPOT: Bonanza- near El Chalten
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.