Back From Patagonia Part 2: The Hike to “Fitz Roy”

<<PHOTOS: Perito Moreno and El Chalten>>

My mom took this photo. She got to see it, bless her heart.

This title is a partial lie. One, I didn’t really make it to Fitz Roy…and Two..we didn’t really actually “see” Fitz Roy, we just kinda stood and looked at where it was supposed to be.

BUT, before we can get to what I hope seems like a very intriguing story, let us back track to where I left off in my last post, BFP part 1.

After our awe-inducing and entertaining ferry safari to the edge of the glacier, and after capturing a crackling and wave-making giant ice piece fall into the water, my 3 companions and I walked along the north side of the Perito Moreno Glacier for what seemed like a short while but in actuality was 2 hours. We leisurely strolled down the metal man-made path (with stairs and everything) over the edge of the peninsula’s cliff, getting as close as possible to the ever-growing and every changing mass of snow and ice. Every now and then we stopped to snap some shots, look pensively over the glowing white and blue, breathe some fresh air, and feel wonderful.

My favorite part of this trip were the moments when time ceased to exist and the present would seem to last a lifetime. It was a mind cleansing experience and one that I hope never to forget. A handful of photos are there to make sure that doesn’t happen. I spent the last 15 minutes sitting on a bench looking over the top of the glacier. It was a hello and a goodbye to this wondrous natural phenomenon. I felt so much at peace.

We arrived back around 4pm, took a nap, and then went into town for some FOOD. Somehow my exploration tendencies got me separated from the group, and I spent a few hours wandering alone through the streets. I spoke with some locals in a leather (the leather) store, and I should have bought a jacket or a bag because they were SO nice, but I wasn’t confident in my “leather quality” knowledge, so I refrained. I DID, however, purchase a really pretty cuero belt, which was a necessity as I seem to have shaved off a few pounds since my arrival. (Ironic because I seem to be constantly eating, but who’s to complain really?) Dusk turned to night, and I was getting hungry. I began to look for the group more intensely, though not really preventing myself from peeking my head into a few more art shops (and buying some cute earrings hehe)… but I was losing hope of finding them. Hoping to spot them soon, I bought some ice cream to boost my energy (the best ice cream exists in AR – BA is sooogooood) – I finally noticed them while crossing the street and ran up to meet them – unfortunately by that time of night (roughly 9:30) all the restaurants were pretty populated and thus, we ate at the chain restaurant instead of a local dig.

I seemed to always be hungry on that trip – Snacking like Woah. This chain of restaurants (I saw at least 3…which is weird because the town literally consisted of A Single Road.) was called La Lechuza (owls are their mascots…and very common in Argentina). I had the BEST hamburger. With Bacon. WHAT. :D. It lasted me until lunch the next day.

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Speaking of “the next day” – we had signed ourselves up for a trip to El Chalten, nearby town and gateway to the northern section of Parque Nacional Los Glaciers AND Fitz Roy!

At 6:30 am, we ate a quick breakfast and then were dog-escorted to the bus station for our 3 hour coach bus ride to El Chalten. During the relaxing trip (which I enjoyed) we stopped about halfway at a cute rest stop (with cute men!) where I bought a DELICIOUS piece of banana bread topped with melted chocolate, and a factura (medialuna con dulce de leche -YUM.) The rest of the trip I went in and out of consciousness, and every time they opened, my eyes spotted a different landscape. After fields and farms came rocks layered in reds, browns, tans, and whites. Small rivers of blue ran through the earth and I could see the early formation of mini canyons. I looked to my left and just as we came around a bend, the hill opened up to reveal the tips of the Andes – I gasped audibly. We had arrived to El Chalten. It was 11 am and we were gearing up for our adventurous trek into the mountains.

After our quick info sesh and a debate about which trail to take, my failing navigational skills set us on the wrong path – which seemed to be the right one as I thought the town had ended – the road (I thought was the main one) cut off and all that was in front of us was a farm and a camp site. We veered left and walked up a ways before a sign finally appeared and said “Nope, wrong way.” Actually, what really happened was we walked up the hill, I was kind of like, I don’t really think this is right, but I really have no idea where else to go, everyone was walking briskly, and then we finally encountered some hikers. It was JIM and ANNA from America Del Sur (funnily enough, they also had accompanied us on our boat trip to Perito Moreno earlier that week)! They had come to El Chalten as well and were about to go hiking through the entire park, from Cerro Torre to Fitz Roy, camping and backpacking like the tough and awesome travelers they are. They pointed us in the right direction, and after some grumbling from everyone in the group, we set off for our REAL hike.

Too bad for us, the weather was being slightly temperamental. Clouds seemed to cover most of the mountain peaks, including the infamous Fitz Roy. The dark and moody mist was menacingly beautiful, reminding me of a historical pilgrimage somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It was grey and windy (VERY windy) and from time to time we would be splattered with some drizzle and rain. Though it never seemed to be too treacherous and miserable. In fact, I welcomed the coolness as when we started to pick up the pace I generated quite a lot of heat. I am proud of myself for hiking – though I don’t feel I could ever do a REAL camping hike, giant backpack gear and all, I really did enjoy that ‘walk’. I never thought I would be able to do it all, and I only had to use my inhaler once! (This is coming from a girl who is supposed to be healthy, but in actuality, I’m not – I don’t really have great lungs, asthma, etc. and I get dizzy pretty often. But this time I felt really good – besides being the slowest and the last one to get anywhere…but exercise is becoming a part of my weekly routine here in BA and I hope to continue when I get home.)

It was slightly cloudy (you could see the dark and billowing ones containing a frightful storm not too far away) but despite the greyness, the sun always seemed to follow us where we went. The wind barreled through the rocky pathways, sneaking through the trees and picking up speed over the cliff’s edges. We could literally walk on an incline and still be held up – a natural wind tunnel. We reached our check point in an hour or so (about half the time it was supposed to take), where we passed a campsite and then found ourselves miraculously in front of Capri Lagoon. Here, one should be able to see the towering Fitz Roy, through the bordering and painted snow-capped mountains.

The wind was picking up and rain began to fall so we didn’t stick too long by the water’s edge – a location that seemed to increase the speed of the wind. We stuffed our lunches quickly into our mouths and then headed to an outlook on the way back down the mountain. It overlooked the canyon and the rapidly flowing river down below. The wind blew rigorously through the forest at our backs, one could jump up in the air and land a foot father down the path. Needless to say, the way down took less than half the time it did going up.


At the bottom, we sat by the glacier water river’s edge, filled our bottles, and played with rocks. My only wish was that we could have floated down the awesome rapids. Exhausted, but with more than an hour left, we (regrettably) decided to go to the “Waterfall” that was only a “45” minute walk away, thinking it was going to be easy (it was not). The wind had picked up even more, and we were walking directly into it. Think man in a suit sitting on a lazy boy  in a wind tunnel commercial. Think Sahara desert at the end of your energy with no water and hours of time spent venturing aimlessly. This was definitely a case of “are we there yet?” I don’t know why, but I was sore, and this was hard for me. I guess you could call it a hike, but it was really a just a rocky road that led to a “meh” waterfall populated by middle age men on “photographer” tours. My hips were giving out by that time, and so I sat on a rock and calmly munched on an apple while listening to the gushing water sounds.

This is literally the only photo I could get with out some ass with a tripod and fancy camera in the way

Getting cranky and having a deadline of 5:30 pm, we headed to town, this time the wind pressing against our backs and speeding up the return process. Each time I turned a corner or passed a hill I would think, “yes we’re so close” but…I was usually wrong. Finally I made it, after what seemed like forever (when actually it was just 30 minutes or so). I hobbled back to the station craving a hot chocolate and went to purchase one to fulfill my chocolatey needs. Unfortunately I chose the wrong place to get it, and after a half an hour wait I was given a cup of milk with two pieces of “chocolate” (similar to a hershey bar minus the hershey-goodness). No spoon. No melted mixed thick yumminess. I took one sip, cringed, and threw it out. And at a loss of 13 pesos. Not one of my best moments, but you live and learn I suppose.

I spent the bus ride home sleeping and ending the last 15 minutes with a good listenin’ to Alison Krauss – always puts me in a good mood. By 9ish we were back in town (Calafate) and quickly purchased our snacks for the loooooooooooong bus ride to Ushuaia. This time, we ate at a local restaurant with 1.5 waiters (and quicker service than Lechuza) the .5 was a 5-6 year old girl who helped put napkins and salt-shakers on our table. The 1 was a handsome looking waiter who I did not dislike staring at, heh. Everyone ordered hamburgers (which were the SIZE OF MY HEAD) and I had raviolis – something I had been craving all day. Dos quilmeses and a football game later, we were stuffed and exhausted. At the hostel we repacked our belongings and sat deliriously in the lounge as we waited for 2 am to come so we could catch our 3am bus to Ushuaia…

To Be Continued…

~La Mariposa

Patagonia Posts: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

<<PHOTOS: Perito Moreno and El Chalten>>

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Back From Patagonia Part 1: Entering El Calafate

[[[PHOTO ALBUMS FROM THIS POST: FIRST El Calafate…. SECOND Perito Moreno]]]]

Everyday, I come home from school thinking about what I want to write and share on my blog.

Everyday, I try to cross one more item off the list of things I want to get done that day… and while “doing” them (i.e. reading a book for school while actually daydreaming about something completely different), I actually narrate to myself what I will write later. sick, I know.

Now. If I actually WROTE a damn word, my head would be a lot less full and I think I’d actually get SOME of those things DONE.

I suppose a brief explanation for the lack of communication is warranted, but let me sum it down to this.

1 week was spent traveling in Patagonia, Southern Argentina (of which I will post about now), 1 week was spent sleeping that trip off while signing up for classes, attending said classes, and completing other menial tasks for school, and lastly, I’ve been dancing my butt off and was just bombarded with school work and every time I come home, all I want to do is just SLEEP!

I’ve been going through some highs and lows, but I think I’ll leave that to the next post (Culture Shock part 2) and I also have some fun ideas planned for future posts (Weird Things That Porteños Like) but for now I will just leave you with the EPIC TALES OF PATAGONIAAAAAA:

(I’m a nerd.)

……..

We start the scene at 4:30 in the morning, where a fine young Gentile Man named D accompanies me in a radio taxi to the Aeroporte. Along the way, we pick up companion E, a sweet young lady from the V of Mont, and we reach our destination at not 1 minute past 5.

(already fun isn’t it?)

Whence upon our arrival, we acquire our last travelling amiga, the name of S shall do her justice, and we go on our way through security (in literally TWO minutes – TAKE THAT USA) and then we sit FOR TWO HOURS.

So, next time you are taking a 7 am flight, you really do not need to get there THAT early. Ok? ok.

Also I bought the most expensive water there. 10 pesos. Really? really.

She brought her own sleep sack. o Em.

We arrived after our two 2 hour flights to a place where the golden grassy flat lands roll into the milky white & blue-tinted glacier water, bordered by the snow-covered Andean mountains. A sight to behold. A fresh view and breath to be taken.

Only one major highway passes through this town (route 11) , and it goes east to west. Looking down it’s vanishing point, it finally hit me that I was IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. 😀

I made it to the Hostel America Del Sur, and when I stepped outside the lounge area, I fell in love with Lago Argentina and it’s buddy, the Andes.

El Calafate has beautifully tempered weather this time of year: 70s with the sun to keep you warm and a breeze to cool you down, I never needed more than a light long sleeve fleece over my tie-dye t-shirt (I had to go backpacking in style 😉 ). Many roads are dirt, pebbled, and… awesome. I wish I had more time to explore the outskirts of the town, where brightly painted houses and interesting architecture exists (such as those cool bungalows where the v-slanted roofs simultaneously act as the walls). The town itself has a few main roads, but RT 11 carries the traffic through the main stores and attractions (artisan and tourist shops) and a walk further will take you towards the natural reserve by the Lago. Dogs run rampant through the town, but in actuality they are all quite clean and very sweet (in comparison to dogs I’ve seen in other small towns). Each time we walked to town and back a different dog would accompany us, expecting food most likely, but I like to think to myself that they were our own personal guides.

After settling in at our very fun looking and welcoming hostel (run by young adults with dreads and hair wraps – reggae was a constant audible companion), we took a nap in our private room, with double bunk beds and a sweet view of the town/landscape, and once we re-energized we began our tour of the town.

We started out with an informational guided walking tour through the Walichu Caves. Discovered right on the coast of Lago Argentina, these 4000 year old “caves” contain red hand drawn paintings with hidden symbolism, revealing a bit about indigenous life.

A negative hand print perhaps signified the impact and position of a woman’s hand during the birthing process, the force she gives as she presses against her companions for help. A circle of dots spiraling into the center allude to a person’s life line. Other more recognizable figures such as a man, a young stag, and a warrior exist to pass on their history, forever stained on the rock’s edge.

Though not a jaw-dropping cave walk, where gigantic stalactites and stalagmites (do you still get those confused?) tower over you, it was still a beautiful place to walk around, what with the pretty rock formations, the coast of Lago Argentina at your feet, and a piece of cultural history to learn.

My first account of I DON’T SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE FLUENTLY happened soon after our tour. We were riding back to town on the bus when the tour guide, looking directly at me, asked in Spanish (and this is roughly what I think she said) – “Do you guys want to get off here? or are you continuing?” And me, not really mastering the whole language after 4.5ish months and having a much hindered ability at reading body language because I didn’t have my glasses on, turned to my compatriots (all Avenzada Espanol Estudiantes) asked them, “Do we have to get off here? Is this the end of the tour?” I figured that A. we only paid for the Cave tour, and B. this bus was going somewhere NOT in the direction of our hostel…we should probably get off…but they all just sort of shrugged and off we went to continue what was called the CITY TOUR… and not something that we paid for. In the end it didn’t matter and some fun things included:

Spotting Cristina Kirchner’s (El Presidente) home (basically large and covered with lots and lots of trees), Passing a very pretty boardwalk along the Lago A, and stopping at a history museum, at which we finally realized our mistake and were graciously given a free ride back to town.

We strolled along, window shopping, looking at pretty artisan crafts, and then we walked along the boardwalk where water weeds, trees, and birds inhabited the stagnant part of the lake. I sat facing the seemingly ever-expanding landscape and contemplatively munched on some lays potato chips. Always salty and crunchy when you need ’em. Em, the adventurer, jumped the fence/wall, hopped over a couple of rocks, and stood on the water’s edge. I enjoyed myself by just watching her and the birds flying overhead.

Did I mention it was windy?

Another 2 hour nap later and I woke up to the smell of yummy yummy Asado – an Argentine version of BBQ Grilled meat, choice of Beef. and can I just say YUM.

We ate at the hostel with the buffet styled dinner and some Quilmes to wash it down. We also purchased a cheapo bottle of Malbec to hang out with post-dining. Sat with us was a couple who had just arrived from the wilderness. They had been backpacking (actually hiking and tenting) in Torres Del Paine, the Chilean national park with beautiful beeeauuttifulll mountains, views, and wildlife. Jim was happy to shave, and Anna pleased to have a warm cooked meal. They came from Long Island, he a boat sailing lawyer and she a partially retired Czech model who once graced the cover of Vogue (if you can believe it!). I thoroughly enjoyed their conversation and shared wine (which trumped ours by about 10 points).

We made it an early night, satisfied and full of meat and drink, we fell asleep easily enough.

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The next morning it was Up and At ‘Em at 7:30 am. I was greeted by dry bread and dulce de leche. Coffee was a happy friend that day. 20 minutes later we were on a very comfy coach bus heading out to Perito Moreno and El Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. We passed by Estancias (horse ranches) and rolling hills. As the sun rose, I was soothed by the voice of our tour guide who spoke about the history of the area (a location originally inhabited by farmers who have now mostly left due to the dryness of the land) and the glacier I was about to oogle (a constantly growing “piece” of ice that is 80% below water and the chunk above water towers over 60 meters high)

When we got to the park and paid the 100 peso (15 for students) fee, we embarked upon a boat ride that would carry us to the glacier’s edge. Yippee! It of course was freezing and bitterly windy, but I was too excited to see ICE. why? I have no idea, but for some reason it is just the bees knees.

Words can’t really do it justice but, here’s a visual taste:

SPLASH!!!

(those tiny specks on the ice are PEOPLE!!)

Alas, I must leave off here, as I am to go to a breakdancing/hip hop dance club tonight and will be taking a tour of La Boca tomorrow. Don’t let me not post for 3 weeks people! I don’t want to forget anything and I want to stay in touch.

Te Amo…

I still have miles to go before I sleep.

~La Mariposa

 Patagonia Posts: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

[[[PHOTO ALBUMS FROM THIS POST: FIRST El Calafate…. SECOND Perito Moreno]]]]