Ruta 40

El Chalten Travel Blog

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Ruta 40 is a mostly gravel road that follows the eastern side of the Andes down through Argentinian Patagonia. The landscape is bleak and desolate with a few glances of the snow covered peaks. There are plenty of sheep but not many settlements or people. We decided to do this 28 hour journey from El Bolson to El Calafate on a semi-cama bus. The journey wasn´t as bad as it could have been because the bus was quite empty on the first night, which meant that mom, dad and I each had a pair of seats to ourselves. The route 40 experience is a fleeting one. There was plenty of evidence of active road paving and straightening. Within a year, the road will be a long balck ribbon of asphalt the whole way south.

We were unceremoniously dumped on a dusty El Chalten street at 4 am in the morning. There was no bus station to speak of. Just a little hut for the bus company. For a moment, we, and the other passengers who had disembarked, were completely befuddled. Where were we supposed to go? What were we supposed to do. There was nothing indicating where we might find accomodation. We asked the bus driver where the campsite was and luckily it was only a few hundred metres away. We walked through the dark dusty streets of the town and stealthily put up our tents in the campground. By 5 am we were asleep.
In the afternoon, we went for a hike to the beautiful Cerro Fitz Roy, a mountain with sides so steep that the snow can´t stick to it. The town of El Chalten is only 22 years old and is built in the haphazzard fashion of a gold rush town. The streets are unpaved and buildings are clustered irrationally and are in various stages of completion. However, the town was hopping with foreigners eager to enjoy the mountains.

On my birthday we hiked out to Lago Torre where we got great views of Cerro Torre and a glacier. The hiking was spectacular and very enjoyable. In the evening, we went out to a parilla restaurant, where they slow roasted lamb on skewers over a hot wood fire. I had lamb, dad, had steak and mom had lamb raviolli. It was the best dinner that we have eaten out so far.

The next day we packed up our tents early and headed for El Calafate (4 hours by bus). El Calafate is a much more developed town, full of tourist stores and crawling with foreigners. The main attraction of El Calafate is the Perito Moreno Glacier 80kms away. In the afternoon we caught a bus to the glacier, which is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world. The glacier is a truely spectacular sight. The front wall of the glacier is 50 meters high and towers over a glacial lake. The ice makes an amazing cracking noise as it moves forward and every few minutes huge chunks of ice fall off of the glacier into the water with a giant crash. We spent three hours watching the glacier before returning to the campsite and drinking some packaged soup prepared with lukewarm water. We are glad that we didn´t bring a stove and pots (because we don´t want to carry them) but it certainly does limit your food options.

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El Chalten
photo by: mountaingirl