Sparky Travels

March 6, 2011

Patagonia II - El Chalten

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 11:35 pm

Arriving in El Chalten on the 2nd of March, we picked up a map of the ‘town’ (winter population:600, summer population:1800) with 60 hostels and plumped for the closest cheap one: Ahonikenk Hostel. Its a bit of a dive but the 4 bed dorm is presentable and at 45 pesos its a damn sight cheaper than the 70 pesos it cost in BA and Ushuaia.

With the wind howling through the town we decided to delay our hiking pursuits in favour of drinking pursuits in the form of the local pub/microbrewery which also served superb empanadas. It was followed by dinner at the adjoining restaurant to our hostel, also called Ahonikenk. Unlike it’s accommodation wing, the restaurant was not a dive and the food was hardy fare. With a renewed love of stews, I plumped for a filling lamb one while Nick had a steak the size of a fat man’s foot all helped down with a penguin of wine. The house wine in Argentina is often served in a white porcelain jug shaped like a penguin, don’t ask me why?!

The next day I bought my bus ticket out of town, buses only leave on odd days to Bariloche so the next available bus is the evening of the 5th. While Nick sorted his onward plans I went for a lunchtime stroll up to a couple of viewpoints: Los Condores and Los Aquilas. Los Condores gave a good view of El Chalten while Los Aquilas was further away and gave a mediocre view of Lagos Viedma but a good view of the weirdly pyramid shaped peak to the South-West.

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The afternoon was spent drinking beer in the windy yet sunny street and listening to the music emanating from our hostel. Somehow we’d booked ourselves into a musician’s paradise, with the vast majority of our fellow backpackers having instruments and entertaining us and the town with their strummings. We shared  stomach filling barbeque selection at the renowned local restaurant Como Vaca  before hitting the hay. El Chalten is a really charming wee place, relatively spread out with funky buildings dotting the small valley. It’s the kind of a place you could see yourself spending a summer fixing old cars and lawnmowers if you were into that kind of thing.

The next day the wind had died down and there was not a cloud in the sky so I rented some hiking boots to protect my Onitsuka Tiger trainers and my feet. We hiked up to the Mirador (viewpoint) and then onwards to Poincenot campsite. DSC01739DSC01718

The walk was through some pretty green valleys and along hillsides covered in brush with little bridges over little burns. After 3 hours of walking we reached another waypoint called Rio Blanco. from there we rose 400 metres in an hour of clambering up steep, eroded soil. The view of Mt. Fitzroy and the Laguna de los Tres were worth every step though.

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More worrying for me than ascent was the resultant descent given my left knee’s propensity to slacken under such pressures. It held up very well which means I should give it a good thrashing playing football soon. My skin on the other hand didn’t hold up so well. The unexpected blue skies and me forgetting my sunscreen hidden deep in the bottom of my backpack back at the hostel was a recipe for disaster! I ended up with bright red face, arms and especially my neck.

We awoke on the 5th of March to another beautiful day, but I didn’t fancy risking further sunburn with another 8 hour trek so while Nick went off on another hike I ate empanadas and checked live Saturday football updates while fighting with the awful internet connection to book a hostel in Bariloche.

Once the sun’s rays had waned slightly I covered up and did the short hour walk to the waterfall called Chorillo del Salto. It wasn’t the most interesting walk, mainly along gravel roads but the views from below and above the waterfall were nice enough. DSC01769

I met our dorm-mates, Hattie and Angus (another Edinburghian) at the falls and chatted to them while discovering that we were all booked on the same bus to Bariloche that evening. After dinner at La Cervezaria we steeled ourselves for another long bus journey, this time 28 hours to Bariloche, leaving at 10pm.DSC01782

All day on the 6th was spent on the bus travelling along Route 40, a rural road mainly made up of gravel necessitating the bus driving at under 30mph for large periods.

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