El Calafaté – 19 Nov 2016
After Torres del Paine, we came back to Puerto Natales, as our ticket was a round trip back to Puerto Natales. It was 15000 Chilean pesos round trip. Our AirBNB hosts gave us some food and we were really hungry. We slept there that night.
To go to El Calafaté, we have arranged our bus ticket, when we came back from Torres del Paine at the bus station. The name of the company is Cootra, and they don’t have a website. We couldn’t actually find any bus company with a website at this time of the year. But Cootra has daily departures to and from El Calafaté to Puerto Natales. (Bus Sur has departures on certain days but starts in December.)
After breakfast, we said godbye to our lovely host, and took the bus at 8:30. We have spent around 2.5 hours just for border crossing between Chile and Argentina. Then, we believe our bus took a wrong turn and we spent another hour just to get back to Route 40. We were sleeping, so we actually don’t know why we really left the route =) Apart from an ostrich and some more random llamas, this part of the road was not too interesting, just flat brown land and some random small bushes. However, as we got close to El Calafaté, we started to see mountains appear in the horizon, out of the blue. Then we saw the lake, and it was impressive to see the lake and the mountains appear like that after a long land of emptiness. By the time we got to El Calafaté, it was around 15:00.
We have stayed in Bla! Guesthouse and it was super nice. It is a hostel and we stayed in a shared room of 8, but it was one of the best hostels that we have stayed in. At the beginning, they gave us a map with very good tips on what to see, coffee shops (Olivia Coffee Shop, it is amazing, go there!), banks that give more money (Bank of Patagonia gives 2400 Argentinian pesos per withdrawal). They could also arrange the tour to Perito Moreno with Caltur, but we were going to go there anyway, so that is what we did afterwards. We went to Caltur, and asked for the minitrekking tour for tomorrow. Because we needed to take the 18:00 bus to El Chalten the same day, we were supposed to take the 7:00 trekking tour, but they didn’t guarantee that we could catch the bus, and also didn’t have any space left for that hour, and also we were way too tired to start a tour at 7:00 in the morning. All these combined, we couldn’t do the minitrekking, but instead bought tickets for the bus to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. They also sell tickets to El Chalten, and buying them as a combination gave us a discount. We paid 3000 Argentinian pesos for 2 people for these three tickets.
Then we have first went to the Olivia Cafe to buy some sandwiches, and then headed for the Laguna Nimez. We ate our sandwiches in the view of the Laguna, and their cordero (lamb) bagel sandwich is amazing.
Laguna Nimez is a reserve, well-known for its different types of birds. We have seen lots of flamingos there. Our hostel host suggested that we could see the birds without paying for the park, and she was right. The view was very very nice. We had seen flamingos close before, but if you want to see them close by, then you might consider entering. We also seen some other types of birds flying above us.
Then we walked to the east to reach to Lago Argentino. We took a look at the lake up close, and saw some swans feeding on the plants in the lake. After sitting there for a while longer, and enjoying the scene, we headed back to the city.
The city center is quite small, with one main street with shops and travel agencies, etc. We withdrew money, because we have been warned that we will need cash in El Chalten. Then we walked on the main street and looked around. We needed lunch for the next two days, so we went to the grocery store. We have decided to experiment for our camping skills, and we tried to see if we can make some wraps for our trips. We got lamb ham, cheese, bell peppers, tomato paste, and tortilla bread, four apples, and B’s favourite Quilmes Bock beer (for the night). We went to our hostel and prepared the wraps. Then we got hungry and decided to head our for dinner. We went to Mi Rancho and had two big lamb dishes, which were very delicious. We also really liked the decoration of the restaurant.
Finally, we headed back to the hostel. Enjoyed our beer while doing some planning, and went to bed.
Perito Moreno Glacier – 20 Nov 2016
Immediately after breakfast, we rushed to the bus station to catch our bus to the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares at 9:00. We got there around 10:30. We needed to pay cash the entrance fee to the park, which is 330 Argentinian pesos per person. Even from the bus, the view of the glacier was quite amazing. The bus left us close to the path to the balconies, and we have spent the day exploring all the balconies in different paths. There is also a boat that we were thinking of taking, but we saw that the boat does not get close to the glacier than the balconies, because of the possibility of ice falling, so we have decided not to take it.
We should mention that Perito Moreno got its name from the explorer Moreno, who has discovered the Lago Argentino. “Inland sea, son of the nation’s cloak, that covers the mountains in this great solitude, nature did not name you: from today, your name will be Lago Argentino!” “Perito” Francisco Pascasio Moreno 15 Feb 1877
Its hight above water changes between 40-70 meters, and it is about 5 km in width. Its depth was around 700 meters, so there is more of it under water, and thinking of that is quite impressive.
We realized that ice falls quite a lot! There is a very frequent sound similar to that of thunder, which signals that the ice cracks. Then, every now and then a small piece breaks and falls into the lake. Three times, we saw big chunks falling in the water, and at one of them it was right in front of us. We could feel the cold wind blowing and the waves from the fallen ice hit the shore for a while, and the ripples in the water continues even longer. Seeing that was breathtaking, but also saddening considering how fast it is melting at this moment.
We were lucky with the weather as it was a sunny day. M was able to walk around with his underlayer and a t-shirt, where B was dressed up in three layers. It was warm, but we would get a soft breeze coming from the glacier from time to time.
The size of the glacier is definitely impressive but we did not have the same mystical feeling when we saw the Gray Glacier back in Torres Del Paine. We think the main reason is you can see the whole thing in the clear weather and also Gray is the first glacier (in a massive size) that we have seen in our lives. We know that Gray Glacier is much smaller than Perito Moreno but weather conditions created a more dramatic effect on us. Also, we appreciated the convenience of the platform but could not help ourselves joking about how awesome it would be if we were allowed to hike there :)
We could explore all of the paths, and look from all of the balconies. The distances are closer than it seems on the maps, and the timing includes the fact that you want to spend some time staring out from the balconies. Just before we left, we also stopped by the souvenir shop, and had a few minutes to walk to the shore of Lago Argentino from the side. The return bus was at 16:00. After enjoying the view from the bus one last time, we headed back to El Calafaté.
We have stopped by Olivia Cafe to get two more sandwiches for the road, and took our 18:00 bus to El Chalten.
Back from El Chaltén – 21 Nov 2016
Although we were exhaused, we both really wanted to have a proper Parilla. We talked about it even back in El Chaltén for dinner. In El Calafaté, we first took our bags from Bla! and went to El Ovejero (we were sad that Bla was booked for this day). Then we realized that this hostel has a restaurant and they are doing Parilla! We were so happy that we wouldn’t need to walk extra to find a restaurant, because we were really exhausted from the day’s hike. Fitz Roy climb killed B’s knees, and she could hardly use any stairs. The restaurant was very nice, and our waiter knew some words in Turkish, so he was really chatty and sympathetic. We ordered Parilla for two (which has mixed grills), but he suggested it would be too much for us, so gave us order for one to share, and he was right! We couldn’t finish it all, but enjoyed the half a bottle of Malbec quite a lot. Parilla is grilling, and the way they do the grill is quite unique to Argentina, so we were glad we could try it. After dinner, we went to bed and collapsed to get our rest… We will hit the road to Puerto Natales tomorrow morning.