El Calafate & El Chalten

I landed in El Calafate among snow-covered mountains and sparkling blue water, indicating my arrival to the Lakes Region of Patagonia. That afternoon I did some food shopping and drank delicious coffee, and registered for an excursion to Perito Moreno, the glacier that brings people to Calafate in the first place. 

The next morning I set out on a bus to Glacier National Park, where we embarked on a ferry across the glacier lake, passing blue chunks of ice along the way. After 20 minutes we arrived at the enormous glacier, where we strapped on crampons (still my sworn enemy) and headed onto the ice for 1.5 hours of trekking. This was beautiful and unique and really just pure fun. As we walked, we could hear the thundering sound of the ice cracking into the lake below. The glacier, however, is in equilibrium, receiving enough snow each year to counteract the melting/breaking. After the trek, we headed to the other side of the glacier where we viewed its gorgeous face from above. It was, all in all, a fun, glorious day in nature. 

The next morning I headed to El Chalten, a three hours’ drive from Calafate. El Chalten is a tiny village in the middle of Glacier National Park, built purely for tourism (and apparently because of some border dispute with Chile). Full day hikes begin and end in the town, providing plenty of activities for trekkers.

El Chalten in its entirety

I arrived on a Friday, popped into the sparsely stocked supermarket, made a couple challot and some soup for dinner, and headed out for a quick 2 hour hike to a lookout. As I arrived, I saw an eagle/condor above. While I’m not generally a huge fan of birds (hence the label above), this birds are pretty incredible to watch as they soar over the Andes. 

Shabbat was….let’s just say I read three books cover to cover while everyone else took advantage of the gorgeous weather outside. 

Sunday I headed out to the most popular trek, Laguna de Los Tres, which is surely a misnomer as I counted at least six lakes along the way. This was a pretty leisurely walk through a forest, accompanied by the sounds of birds chirping overhead and avalanches sliding in the mountains to the right. It ended with a climb up to a frozen lake in front of Mount Fitz Roy, an impressive peak that towers over the village. 

Chag was pretty similar to Shabbat, and after finishing all the English books in the hostel (recommended: Looking for Alaska) I packed a picnic lunch to enjoy at a nearby overlook. 

My last day in Chalten was overcast, creating a gorgeous, gray, gloomy background for my hike that day. The mountain view was obscured, but the mist over the forests and lakes was a great alternative. 

I left Chalten a day earlier than planned, and when the bus company asked for an obscene amount of money to change my outrageously priced ticket, I decided to catch a ride back to Calafate instead. With a single bank that runs out of notes, and two markets with sparsely stocked shelves, the residents of Chalten regularly make the three hour drive between the towns, and I easily found a ride back that morning. 

Back in Calafate, I wandered down to Lake Argentina, and on the way back passed a tiny museum. Heading in, I learned about the geological and anthropological history of Patagonia, ending with (as always) the European conquest of the natives; however, as opposed to the story in Peru and Bolivia, this was quite recent, having taken place in the 20th century. 

That afternoon I popped into a hair salon to say adios to my roots. 

“Ohh, mucho cabello.” “Si.”

Finally, I headed back to the hostel just in time for the daily town-wide power outage, during which we started a card game that would last five hours. After a few hours in bed listening to a cacophony of snoring and dog-barking, I was up and ready for my 5:30am bus – time to return to Chile. 


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