Transferring to El Calafate and a Recovery Day

El Calafate Travel Blog

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The main street through El Calafate

Nov 25 - An early, early morning alarm (5:50 AM) as I had to finish packing my pack (some last minute laundry had been hanging in the tent to dry), grab some breakfast, and be ready to depart at 6:45 AM for Cerro Castillo.  There was myself and 3 people from the other group that were heading for El Calafate so I wouldn't be transferring entirely alone.  After dropping us off, the van continued on to Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas to take some additional people to their next/final destinations as well.

The bus left Puerto Natales at 7:00 AM and arrived at Cerro Castillo a little after 8:00 AM.  Cerro Castillo is also border control for the Chilean side of the border so everyone exited the bus and went through the standard formalities.

Bahia Redonda (currently at low level), Isla Solitaria, and Lago Argentino (taken from outside my hotel)
  After getting stamped out I waited until the end to board the bus figuring that everyone else had selected seats before me and I and my cohorts from EcoCamp would get whatever was left.  We finished up processing and the bus headed out across the frontier.  The physical border was out somewhere in the middle of nowhere and we went about 15K (10 miles) before we reached the Argentinian border control and repeated the process all over again to enter the country.   Neither crossing was a problem other than the time-consuming nature of clearing the whole bus of 70 some odd people.

The bus headed out again.   We had about four more hours of driving after finally getting into Argentina.  Once you get away from the mountains which we did on this drive, there is very little to see in Patagonia.

An Argentine flag at a pit stop between El Calafate and El Chalten
  Mostly wide open flat scrubland filled with estancia after estancia (ranches) where cattle and sheep are herded.  Bewitched was showing as our in-drive movie.  An interesting thing about this bus and the traffic between Puerto Natales and El Calafate: I can't be 100% sure, but it would not have surprised me if there were no Chileans or Argentinians on this bus.  Everyone I noticed crossing the border carried a foreign (non-Chile or Argentina) passport.  Lots of various European countries (I noticed Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, Great Britain), and Taiwan were the ones I noticed.

I napped for the most part after last nights drinking enjoying the respite from all the hiking of the past several days.  Early afternoon, we caught sight of Lago Argentino and then 45 minutes later we arrived at the bus terminal in El Calafate.

Rio La Leona which connects Lago Viedma to Lago Argentino
  My comrades from Eco Camp were headed up directly to El Chalten while I would not head up until tomorrow afternoon.  So I transferred to my lodging for the evening and then headed out into El Calafate.  El Calafate as a town was bursting at the seams.  Roads and utilities seemed to branch off in any direction.  Construction was going on everywhere.  Apparently the population of the town has gone from 5000 to 16000 since the mid '90s (and this does not count the tourist influx).  Stopped at an internet cafe and uploaded a few pictures of the trip and caught up on some news from the world.  Grabbed dinner at a restaurant and talked with some other travelers (that wasn't hard, everybody was a traveler here it seemed).
The landscape between El Calafate and El Chalten is almost desert-like and reminded me of areas of New Mexico.
  Very few Americans down at this end of the world though that I could tell.  I had nothing on my agenda for the evening so decided to head back to my lodging where I took some time to write some of the words that you are reading in these entries and to read the book that I had brought with me.  As the sun set over Lago Argentino and the Andes to my west, I said adios and headed to bed.

Nov 26 - Breakfast and checkout from the hotel.  I was doing a four day trip up at El Chalten and I learned that the two other people that were doing this trek with me were flying in from Buenos Aires in the afternoon.  Originally they were supposed to be in at 1:00 PM, but the airline changed the schedule at the last minute and they would not be arriving until nearly 4:00 PM (not a weather or mechanical delay mind, you - just a last minute schedule change).  Jim and Susan (as I would learn would be my compatriots for El Chalten) were flying down on Aerolineas Argentinas and this was not the first time I had heard grumblings from people about the airline.  So I had most of the day to wander around El Calafate.  Nothing really exciting as I sat around people watching while eating lunch, explored some of the shops on the main drag of town, and wandered down to the shore of the Lago Argentino.

Eventually it was time to meet up with the transportation to El Chalten, head to the airport to pick up my new travelling companions, and then make the 3 hour drive to El Chalten.  While the weather was decent in El Calafate, the closer we got to El Chalten, the drearier it became and by the time we got into town there was a steady, cold rain falling.  Checked into our lodgings for the evening, headed out to dinner at Pangea restaurant (some good pizza available here).  Still raining when we left, so while I was interested in walking around the small town some, the weather simply wasn't conducive to the activity so we headed back to the hotel.  I still had to repack for our three day "backcountry" excursion and tomorrow was another early start for the Ice Trekking on Glaciar Torre.

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The main street through El Calafate
The main street through El Calafate
Bahia Redonda (currently at low le…
Bahia Redonda (currently at low l…
An Argentine flag at a pit stop be…
An Argentine flag at a pit stop b…
Rio La Leona which connects Lago V…
Rio La Leona which connects Lago …
The landscape between El Calafate …
The landscape between El Calafate…
El Calafate
photo by: Vlindeke