Sparky Travels

March 2, 2011

Patagonia I – Ushuaia and El Calafate

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 11:15 pm

Back in Ushuaia on the 25th of February, I tried to book into Freestyle hostel, the biggest in town, but it was full. Instead, Kratos and I checked into Yakush hostel on the main street. We’d arranged to meet in town for lunch with some of the remaining passengers and some of the expedition staff. In between that and dinner I reacquainted myself with the world via the internet. The only news we’d had since we’d been away was that of the devastating Christchurch earthquake which had many people worrying for friends and family there. A dwindling group of us ate dinner at a Chilean restaurant and then spent the evening relaxing in the (initially) un-swaying comfort of the Dublin Bar. Astrid, Trevor and I attempted a trip to a club but we were the pretty much the only people in town who decided to turn up so that was sacked off pretty quickly.

The next day I managed to move into Freestyle hostel, the main advantage of which, apart from being in the same hostel as Trevor and Nick, was the comfy common room on the top floor, with pool table. I began to plan my next step, which wasn’t difficult since North is the only way to go, El Calafate is the natural next stop while staying in Argentina so I booked a bus for there, leaving on Monday morning. Nick, Trevor and I made a home-cooked pasta dinner which was a nice change from cruise and restaurant food and went up to the strangely deserted common room. We amused ourselves with a couple of beers, Jenga and Monopoly. I’m proud to say that I was the overwhelming Monopoly champion, an interesting game given it was all in Spanish.

I woke up on Sunday 27th with a number of bites on my body but shrugged them off and the three of us caught a bus 18km out of town to Laguna Esmerelda. It was a nice warm day and the hike up to the Lake was pleasant exercise.

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After another home-made dinner we tried the common room again. This time it was busier with table-tennis games and some atmosphere which I added to by providing the music.

After going to bed at 1am on Monday morning with a bus at 5am I didn’t expect much sleep. I ended up with even less than I’d bargained for when I was awoken after a 1/2hour of kip being bitten all over. It seems that my previous bites and the new ones were due to bed bugs. I showered, complained to the receptionist and sat up for a few hours messing about on my computer and trying not to itch.

At 5am, me and Nick hopped on the bus North to Rio Gallegos while Trevor waited for his flight to Buenos Aires. As I’d experienced on the way down to Ushuaia, the trip up was broken by border and customs crossings. The ferry during our shuttle through Chilean soil was a bit of a wildlife safari with penguins, black and white dolphins (Commerson’s dolphins), jellyfish and shags sighted. From Rio Gallegos we had a short bus to El Calafate. The obligatory few hours of stopover was punctuated by games of cards and huge sandwiches. At 1am in the morning we arrived at El Calafate and took the short walk to the Hostel Buenos Aires, close to the bus station.

The  first morning of March we explored El Calafate during the day, which didn’t;t take long. Its essentially a long tourist boulevard with suburbs off to the side. In the afternoon we caught the 100 peso late bus to Glacier Perito Moreno, the only attraction in the area.. The late bus boat meant we’d miss most of the crowds but had to get the last boat tour on the way. The boat launched from the jetty and 30 seconds later the glacier came into view. After cruising up to icebergs in the zodiac it was a bit disappointing especially because you didn’t get very close and only saw half the glacier face. Maybe I’ve been spoiled.

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Next the bus picked us up and took us to the main lookout area. This was a large network of wooden walkways looking onto the glacier from different levels. The scene was much more impressive here due to the different perspective it gave you (i.e. higher) compared to zodiacs or other views we’d had. After a couple of cold hours the sun came out and really showed the scale of the glacier in all its glory. DSC01615DSC01612

Arriving back at El Calafate at 10pm there was just enough time for a traditional Locro stew before bed.

On Wednesday 2nd of March, 2011, after some trouble with cash machines – not enough money in my account, not enough money in the ATM, unresponsive ATMs– I managed to withdraw some cash and Nick and I boarded the 1pm bus North to El Chalten, hiking capital of Argentina. The view as we drove through the undulating yellow grasslands was beautiful as the sun shone during the 3 hour journey.

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