Friday 7th– Monday 10th
Now in El Chalten – the trekking centre of Patagonia. The scenery around here is gorgeous but you realise you are getting into the wild as the facilities become more basic. You have a compulsory briefing on entering the town at the information centre. Stressing the need to preserve water, proper toilet etiquette on the trails – which is bring anything non-organic back with (i.e. including used toilet paper) and bury everything else at least 100 metres from any water.
There is no bank here so essential to bring enough cash and there is a constant battle for small change ! “Supermarkets” have an extremely basic selection of goods and of course luxuries expensive as have to be shipped in from El Calafate. One of the quaint features is that some of the shops display mannequins outside to describe their services.
Easy 4 hour bus journey following our epic overnighters, en route the bus makes a pit stop at Le Leona Road House. This has an interesting history including being where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and his wife Ethel Place stayed for a month in 1905 en route to Chile after robbing a bank in Rio Gallogos. The Roadhouse was originally set up as a ferry crossing for immigrant farmers and their herds of sheep – it could take several days to transfer a herd at 200 animals per raft load. Any UK motorway services could learn a lot from this place in terms of cleanliness and smiling at the customers.
Arriving at our accommodation – a bonus being the bus dropped the only 2 non group passengers at the bus terminal and took the rest of us complete with luggage direct to our hostel – Karen and I landed on our feet sharing a private cabin with just Terry and Lesley with bath room and kitchen and we even copped the huge double bed rather than the twin singles. Most of the others similarly accommodated but in 6’s rather than a 4. However 4 of the single guys plus Kirsten and Jeanne ended up sharing a small dorm with 3 head to tail bunk beds. Definite potential for some tension in relationships after 3 days or rather nights of such close proximity J
The setting of the cabins is great, it’s a combination of cabins and camping space, leading down to the river and with the mountains as back drop and the owners horses, including a couple of foals grazing in the open spaces.
Having moved in we went for a hike to “Los Condores” A Condor viewing spot however not even condors fancied flying in the gale force wind howling down the valley. We walked on a further thirty minutes to “Las Aquillas” for a view of Lake Viemda by which time the weather was transformed into clear blue skies. Reminder of how quickly and dramatically the weather can change in the mountains.
Terry, Tony, Geoff and I went for a beer at a micro brewery 200 metres from the cabins although it actually took us 20 minutes to find it – we should concentrate on the job in hand and not chat – however we did have the bonus of seeing a condor soaring in the valley, a simply magnificent sight. And the local pilsner beer was all the better for the walk.
6 of us shared a homemade beef stew dinner for the princely sum of 18 pesos each, as delicious in its own way as the absolutely gorgeous Patagonian Lamb we had in a nice restaurant on our last night in El Calafate for a bill of 150+ pesos each.
Off to go shopping for tonight’s meal, another cheap sharing special, and then a walk to see if I can get a photograph of a wood pecker as good as Colin’s from yesterday. Topped off by the excellent news that the Truck is finally on the road from Montevideo and should be with us late Sunday for a Monday departure to Torre Del Paines for the hardy trekkers (most everyone else !) to do the daunting 4 day W Trek.
Evening update. Nice walk, didn’t get closer than hearing one woodpecker hammering away some distance away but even that stopped. Came back to a nice cold Quilmes and a shower. Loved it.
Sunday evening – The Truck is here ! Yippee great to sort luggage and space, first camp tonight (Monday) then on to T0rres Del Paine which may be another week without internet. Will update blog when I can.
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