El Calafate & El Chaltén
Trip Start Sep 05, 2007
38Trip End Feb 24, 2008
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So my parents and I flew from Ushuaia to El Calafate on the 21st. It was only an 80 minute flight, but the plane left Ushuaia late, so we got to our hotel at around 6pm. We were not in the center, but fairly close, an easy walk. We went into town and took care of a few things, including booking tours for the next couple of days. Had a great dinner too -- our appetizer was a plate of smoked Patagonian delicacies, including smoked venison and wild boar. And of course I had another giant steak for the main course.
El Calafate is a fairly small town (around 10,000 people) but it has grown a lot in the past several years as it's a hot tourist destination
The next morning at 7:10am we were meant to get picked up at our hotel for a boat tour of glaciers (we didn't get home till after midnight the previous day, with a late dinner and some phone calls afterwards). The tour was called the Todo Glaciares Tour, but you actually just get to see several of them, not all of them. The driver seemed to forget a couple of other passengers, so we turned back, got them, and then continued on to our destination -- the dock from which the boat would leave. I think it was the driver's first day -- we originally pulled up to the wrong dock. Then, when we got to the correct one (8am), we were told we'd have to wait until 8:45am until we could board the boat, which made getting picked up at 7:10am useless.
Anyway, we got on the boat and went to the VIP section, as we had decided to pay a bit more than that.
After watching that glacier for a bit we headed to a branch of the lake called Lago Onelli, where you have the Onelli Glacier and a couple of others. We got off the boat, walked less than a kilometer to a rocky beach, and had lunch there. After that, we headed to Spegazzini Glacier to take a look at that one. At this point, the crew of the boat hauled in a chunk of an iceberg and (in the VIP room at least) we were treated to whisky with glacier ice. Throughout the day in the VIP room, I had quite a variety of drinks -- Diet Coke, Coffee, Beer, Whisky, and Champagne. Not to mention a few alfajores and also some small ham and cheese sandwiches they gave us
The next day we did a tour called Minitrekking. While we had seen several glaciers the day before, we had not yet seen the highlight -- Perito Moreno Glacier. Our bus first took us to a spot right across from that glacier, where there are catwalks and several balconies from which you can watch the glacier. This one is actually quite exciting to watch (yes, watching ice melt can be exciting) since it is advancing and there are always pieces falling off of it and into the water. We were there for a little over an hour and did see two really big chunks fall in (and lots of smaller ones). The noise even from small ones (well, they look small from where you are, but they are probably decently big) was quite impressive. The larger ones sent big waves throughout the water and generally kept the noise level of the glacier high for a while.
We then took the bus to the other side of the glacier and took a boat that landed right next to it. From there we walked to the foot of the glacier and were given crampons to put over our shoes (we were broken up into three groups of about 20). And then we went hiking on the actual glacier
Sadly, the next day my parents had a flight to go back home. It was great spending the time with them and we got to do and see some awesome things. That same day, I took a bus to El ChaltÚn, 3.5 hours north from El Calafate. El ChaltÚn calls itself the National Trekking Capital and it seems right to do that. It's even smaller (less than a thousand people in the winter, though the numbers increase a lot in the summer) than El Calafate, at the other end of Parque Nacional los Glaciares. A main attraction there is the Fitz Roy mountain range, and Mt. Fitz Roy itself.
The day I arrived was Christmas Eve. Didn't feel the Christmas season coming on over here the way you do in the States (especially with warm summer weather in most places in Argentina)
The next day (Christmas Day), my only full day in ChaltÚn, I went on a fantastic hike that took most of the day. I think it was about 12.5 kilometers each way, 25 total. The final destination was Lago de los Tres, a lake which sits under Fitz Roy Mt. (3,441 meters). Along the way was beautiful scenery of snowy mountains, forests, open areas, and small rivers. I even saw another woodpecker. After 10 kilometers, you get to the base of a mountain which you have to climb up. The hike starts at 430 meters above sea level, but the lake sits at 1,150 meters above sea level (meaning I climbed nearly 2,400 feet on the trail, half of it in the last 2.5 kilometers). The last uphill was really tough, especially since there was no shade, but it was definitely worth it as the lake and its surroundings are amazing. Take a look at the pictures, my explaining won't do it justice. The view just opens up as you cross over the last ledge and you see the lake, the snow/glaciers on the mountains and Fitz Roy towering above all else
I also walked around to the other side of the lake and there turned out to be a big waterfall and also another lake (while Lago de los Tres was a bright blue, this one was green). The walk back to ChaltÚn took less time than the initial hike.
The last couple of days weren't too exciting, mostly transit days. The next day, at 1pm, I took the bus back to Calafate and then today I flew here to Bariloche (this flight was also delayed a bit). My plan is to spend a couple of days in Villa La Angostura (leaving tomorrow morning) and then come back to Bariloche for a few days (and be here over New Year's). OK, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc.