El Chalten, Barriloche

Trip Start Aug 23, 2012
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23
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Trip End Aug 20, 2013


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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, December 31, 2012

From Puerto Natales we headed back into Argentina to El Chalten for Christmas; we had a fantastic stop-over in El Calafate where, by some massive dual-brain failure, I – I who have maybe done 3 solo grocery shops since marrying Daryn - was nominated to buy food for Christmas Eve / Christmas day. If you think the normal Christmas food-shop is a headache, try doing it in a city you've never been to, where they do not speak English, in a minimarket - in less than 2 hours. It was difficult, but despite being mucho frazzled, I somehow managed to get a few items from each of the traveller’s main food-groups: wine, cheese, cured meat and bread.



El Chalten is known as the hiking capital in Argentina, which is a bit odd because it’s a small town in the middle of nowhere. Our time in El Chalten was largely taken up by day hikes out to see Mount Fitz Roy, which we can confirm we’ve seen from every angle as evidenced by the 585 photos we took – well worth every pic. I thought it would be tough to top the views from Torres Del Paine, but Fitz Roy was pretty amazing – particularly given the cloudless views. Hiking in the sun with day packs was a welcome change from side-ways blizzards and 15kg packs.



From El Chalten, we travelled the 20-hour journey bus up to Bariloche via 'Route 40’, which is similar to Route 66 in the USA - the main difference being Route 66 is paved while Route 40 is a lot of driving on bumpy gravel road alongside an pristine but unfinished paved road. Only about 2 of the 20 hours had views better than boring scrubland… needless to say it was a long 2 days.



Arriving in Bariloche (another ‘adventure hub’), we checked into our Hotel, which I’m pretty sure was the Hotel used in the movie ‘The Shining’, it was more scary than cosy. Despite being quite exhausted from Torres Del Paine, numerous hikes to Fitz Roy and the 20 hour bus ride, we immediately signed up to bike the Chico Circuit in the Nahuel Huapi National Park which was a beautiful but painfully hilly 35kms; it does appear there is no rest for the wicked…





Having recently recovered from our time with our friend Buddy in Pucon, he reappeared in Bariloche, this time on a motorbike. Following numerous visits to the local microbrewery, we decided that hiking to Laguna Negra (about 14kms) in theNahuel Huapi National Park and staying overnight at Refugio Italia – which we were told may or may not have electricity – for New Years would be an excellent idea. Nothing too extravagant for us! Our first real miscommunication due to language occurred at this time… the girl explaining the hike to us described the hike as ‘easy - flat, but a bit steep at the end’ which we felt was slightly misleading as we hiked up switchbacks with loose rocks for over an hour to get out the a valley to the top of the mountain where Laguna Negra was located.
 


Suspecting that the Refugio might be a bit on the rustic-side, we loaded up on supplies before we left – 4 bottles of wine, biscuits, cheese crackers and what was advertised as salmon pate but was more akin to cat food. As an aside, we have discovered it is much easier to carry heavy packs knowing that it is wine and not lots of dehydrated food making them heavy.



The views along the hike and at Laguna Negra were amazing and the Refugio met the ‘rustic’ standard – as described by Buddy: it is one part cow-poop, one part red-paint and a lot of tinfoil for the roof. The best was yet to come – I had mentally prepared myself for another smelly night sharing a dorm room with Daryn and Buddy, however, they didn’t have dorms so much as they had 35 bunkbeds (more like wooden planks with wrestling mats) on the second floor of the Refugio where everyone – about 50 of us – slept. It was actually pretty cosy, but I guess that’s what’s to be expected when 3 people sleep on 2 beds. It was a great if not slightly odd night and a welcome change from the usual New Year’s celebrations (asleep on the couch by 10:30pm).



New Year’s Day - start as you mean to go on: a race down the mountain followed by beers at German microbrewery in the sun. Following the hike, I agreed with Daryn that we should maybe take it easy the next day, which we did… with a 12km hike - to the beach :)



Next stop: Bahia Blanca and hopefully some beach time on the Atlantic coast.
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Comments

Theo on

Happy healthy new year Amigo's!

evelyn on

Happy New Year, welcome back, so your new years was quite,but cosy. At laest the weather is good, what we can say here in Edmonton for the first week in 2013. Have fun

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