El Chaltén - a sleepy village

Written by Nadine Zangerle on . Posted in Argentina

The bus ride to El Chaltén was only 3 hours, what a nice change. We sat in the bus and observed the sparse landscape of Patagonia. As soon as the snowcapped mountains or the crystal clear lakes and rivers appeared everything changed into a wonderland.

When we arrived to this small, sleepy town with its 1500 inhabitants, the four of us just fell in love. Anna, Jenny and the two of us where ready for some hiking. Sitting constantly in the bus drove us nuts so we arrived to the so called National Capitol of Trekking in Argentina – El Chaltén.

First we wanted to get a little overview which is not hard when it comes to the small village. With a birds perspective we had a fantastic outlook over El Chaltén and the surrounding mountain ranges. We were ready for more…

And here we are, one day later, on a 22 km hike, on the way to Lago de los Tres, standing at the viewpoint of the Mount Fitz Roy, when we found out, that we have forgotten the spare battery for our camera. Michael, carrying 8 kg of camera gear, was not willing to continue the hike. He decided to run back without bag and get the battery. Good that we just realized it at the beginning of our hike – after 50 minutes uphill.

We told the girls that they could continue the trek without us and while I was observing those fantastic mountains and the scenery, starting to freeze, Michael sprinted down and up again, powered by anger. 85 minutes later – where several people already thought, this fast guy must be a guide – he was back and we could continue our tour followed by the best weather.

Apropos, Mount Fitz Roy is one of the most technically challenging mountains of the world. And we were lucky to see its full face since it is normally in the clouds most of the time. But you guys know, we travel with the sun in our backpacks and we had just unpacked it.

The last bit up to Lago de los Tres with its stones and 700 m difference in altitude was quite strenuous and we arrived at the frozen Lagoon. Guess we won’t take pictures of the mirroring mountains. We enjoyed our sandwich and chocolate with this panoramic view and started ours descend.

Who sad that descending will be easier, so after 2 ½ hours downhill the legs felt like rubber bands. At the Lago Capri the light was just fantastic and we saw some of the magic of Patagonia this day. Back at the hostel we prepared a proper hiker food – carbs and red wine. Michael felt really great even after his extra miles. Well, sure we head flat feet but other than that we were ready for round two.

So the next day we checked out, stored our luggage at the hostel and did the hike to Lago Torre with another glacier. Muscles and weather were on our side and we arrived at the lagoon surprisingly fast. After 1:45 minutes we stood at the mirroring lake and didn’t get the point of the 3 hours one way on our map. On our way back we found a hollow tree with a lot of holes and we enjoyed playing around with the camera.

Back in the hostel, after a hot shower and a proper dinner, we took our stuff and went to the bus station. Anna left a bit earlier so the three of us run into our bus on the way so we had a free ride to the bus station. It came very handy after our sore muscles and hurting feet. And off we went for El Calafate since we want to take the bus at 3 am to the end of the world. You can imagine that we are not looking forward to take a bus in the middle of the night but if you want to go to the southernmost city in the world you have to make some sacrifices.

Accommodation: Rancho Grande Hostel, Ave San Martin, El Chaltén

Price: $ ARG 120 p.P., 4 bed dorm, shared bathroom, slow internnet

Comment: quite big hostel but very clean, except sometimes the kitchen could be cleaner and more
                 organized (always depends a bit on the travelers as well). Internet in this town is very slow
                but you are hear for hiking and nature anyway, so switch off the mobile/computer


El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier

Written by Nadine Zangerle on . Posted in Argentina

After 29 hours on the bus we were excited to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. During the bus ride we had several Police Control but with the stunning scenery of Patagonia everything seemed less troubling. The land is very harsh and the growth of vegetation consists mainly of bushes to resist the strong winds. But as soon as you see the lakes and white mountain ranges it is stunning.

The girls booked as usual a double room whereas we had been lucky lately with the four bed dorms. Most of the times we had been alone and lately the hostels even had ensuite bathrooms. Afterwards we checked out the prices for the Glacier National Park since we wanted to see the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier.

Funny wise a tour with a guide was cheaper than the regular bus, so we found each other among older people, 60plus. Since we can do the different walks on ourselves it doesn’t really matter. Why is this glacier so special? The Perito Moreno advances daily about 2 m, ends up in a lake and you can have a close look at it. Every 4 to 6 years the ice touches the land and the two combining rivers form a tunnel through the ice. After a certain pressure the whole ice bridge collapses in the lake.

First we hopped on a catamaran to get close to the glacier and get a different perspective. Pushing to find the right spot with all those people on the small platform was a bummer but once everybody found its spot we could just enjoy this magic ice wonder land.

Up to 60 m it was towering above us and the different shades of blue where hallucinating. The ragged surface gave us an idea about the pressure of the ice and we could hear the thundering explosions here and there.

From land you could do four different routes and we can say we have done them all. You walk on balconies very close to the glacier and became different perspectives. Several times we could see big peaces of ice crushing down in the lake with a massive splash. This was just spectacular.

Another breath taking experience with wonder nature. We returned happy and smiling and were looking forward to explore some more of this fantastic landscape of Patagonia. The four of us left the next day for El Chalten, a small little town in the heart of the mountains. Our little group was getting accustomed to each other and it was nice to share the responsibilities, ideas and stories.

Accommodation: Hostel de Los Manos, 2 blocks from Lago Argentino , El Calafate

Price: $ ARG 120 p.P., 4 bed dorm, ensuite bathroom, incl. breakfast

Comment: very helpful and friendly staff. Big and clean dorms but comfortable seating area is missing
                 a bit


Bariloche and the seven lakes

Written by Nadine Zangerle on . Posted in Argentina

In the bus we had a Cama Ejecutivo, which is a seat with a 150 degrees. The party and lack of sleep before made us tired and we had a couple of hours sleep only. In the bus we played Bingo and funny wise I won a bottle of wine. After 18 hours we finally arrived in Bariloche and shared a taxi with two women into town.

The hostel we choosed was just fantastic. We had the 4 bed dorm for ourselves and an ensuite bathroom. The kitchen was perfectly equipped and with the girls we arranged our bus ticket for the next trip. Jenny and Anna are traveling together since a couple of months and they know each other from a former trip. We are having a great time together and since we are on the same route we might travel partly together.

Strolling around the cozy town of Bariloche, we could see how busy it might become in high season. It was very touristy place but in a nice way. The wood-brick houses reminded us a bit of the Switzerland. Coincidently this town is also well known for its chocolate. The hot chocolate was super rich. Somehow we didn’t find the time to go in a Chocolate Museum. Well Chocolate wasn’t the main reason why we came to this place.

When we returned to the hostel we planned to do a day trip together the next day. Unfortunately Jenny got sick and the three of us headed to the bus station. Even being in time the bus passed us without stopping. Due to low season the buses only run once an hour. So we decided to start the tour at Cerro Catedral and hopped on the next bus just five minutes later.

Cerro Catedral is the skiing area here and it was just the end of the ski season. Walking uphill through this forests of white trees and the snowcapped mountains we enjoyed the view over the Lago Gutierrez. The last couple of hundred meters to the Refugio Frey where covered in snow and ice and it was a bit slippery. The wind was harsh and freaking cold so we found refuge in the hut.

After a little snack – bananas, crackers and peanuts – we headed back to the Lago Gutierrez and down into the Villa los Coihues. We just made it in time for the bus, unbelievable. This day we had been lucky and everything happens for a reason. If Jenny would have come with us, our bus fare on our card (you have to buy a tarjeta which you charge with money) wouldn’t have been enough for this route we took, since we have planned to start and end our trip from the Villa los Coihues.

If we would have get into the bus 50 instead in the morning, we would have had a tougher route since it would have been mainly uphill. And if we wouldn’t have been hiking so fast we would have missed the bus. All happened for the better.

Sure after a 6 hours strenuous hiking trip we deserved a beer and a good dinner. Michael cooked for the four of us a great veggie pan. Since we had a long trip ahead of us we just wanted to watch a movie, do some packing and hit the pillows. Our next trip will bring us to El Calafate and the Glacier Perito Moreno. Let’s go!

Accommodation: Peryko’s Hostel, Calle Morales, Bariloche

Price: $ ARG 130 p.P., 4 bed dorm, ensuite bathroom, incl. breakfast

Comment: one of the best hostels we have stayed in since we are traveling through Central and South
                  America, awesome kitchen, beautifully arranged in chalet style, just great.