Wayne and I have been anxiously waiting to get to Patagonia to enjoy the cooler weather. We packed our down jackets for South America and we really wanted to use them. It was going to be a nice reprieve from the heat and humidity of Brazil. We flew from Puerto Iguazu, Argentina to El Calafate, Argentina on Sunday, March 3rd in the morning. After a layover in Buenos Aires, we arrived in El Calafate at 5:30pm. One of the nicest aspects of being so far south in their summer is the days are long – the sun sets around 9pm and it’s perfect for me as I’m still working until 7pm. The landscape of El Calafate reminds me of Boulder, Colorado. There are peaks off in the distance, but the area close resembles the Flat Irons. The town is very cute with lots of travel agencies, outdoor gear shops and excellent restaurants. Both of us agree, the food has been the best on the trip so far!
We are staying at Posada Karut Josh, a family run hotel, on the edge of town with fabulous views from the main area. The hotel is small with only a few rooms, but it’s perfect for us. It’s a 10 minute walk into town which we need after eating all of the delicious foods! We spent 3 days eating lunch at the same restaurant on the main street. The salads were full of nuts, fruits and veggies and they were outstanding. I looked forward to going there everyday. As I was out on my walk this morning, I passed by the restaurant and it looked like a bomb had exploded inside – what in the world! I asked the vendor next door what happened and she informed me that a drunk driver slammed into the front door in the middle of the night. The speed limit on the main road is about 20mph – I can’t even imagine how fast this truck was moving to result in this kind of damage. Unfortunately for me, no salad today, unfortunately for them, lots of work to rebuild. Sad day!
There’s not much to do in the town of El Calafate. Lake Argentina is cold, the mountains are too far away, and the local hills are surrounded by private Estancia´s making access almost impossible. The town is the main stopping point to visit the Perito Moreno glacier, located some 80km away in Los Glaciares National Park, and for being a transportation hub for the rest of the Patagonia region. We plan to do the ´Big Ice´ 7 hour Perito Morino glacier trek the day after we return from hiking the ´W´ circuit in Torres Del Paine, and the day before a 3am, 16 hour bus journey to Ushuaia.
Wayne has found a few things to keep him occupied and most involved walking between 10 and 17 miles for 3 consecutive days! The first he risked the walk through the private property to hike / climb Cerro Calafate behind the hotel, providing amazing views of the town. The second day, he walked around lake Argentina to find some ancient hand paintings only to find out that this location was mostly reproductions and that he should have been a further 5km along the lake shore! And today, he caught the bus to El Chalten to hike Mt. Fitz Roy, on probably the worst weather day we´ve had so far. Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre are on par with the granite peaks in Torres del Paine for sheer beauty, but not so much on a cloudy, snowy day! Boy, was I jealous of today’s trek because I’m stuck at the hotel listening to the owner’s son singing at the top of his lungs – his voice might be worse than mine and I think I’ll know the words to this Spanish song by the end of the week! Seriously, he only takes a break to catch his breath from the singing, but then it starts again.
We only had the Friday afternoon after I finished work to head out together so decided that we would try again to find the caves with the hand paintings, locally called ‘Cueva de las Manos’. Fortunately this time the Posada owner took us in his car to the exact location, a fair bit further than Wayne had walked previously! We were not impressed as some people still feel the need to graffiti even though there is some degree of protection for the ancient paintings. I guess if we’d done our research we would have also learnt more about their meanings, how old they were and who painted them, leaving us a little disappointed in our visit.
The best part of the day was the hike back along the cliff, supposedly very close to where Wayne had hiked a few days previous – this was not the case. It ended up being very exposed and every time we rounded a rock face we had another to maneuver over. In the end we bit the bullet and climbed up to the top of the cliffs and took the easy route. This made for a long afternoon, ending with wind and rain to top it off.
March 3rd – March 9th 2013