Argentina – El Calafate, El Chalten

So, the English girl that I have been traveling through Patagonia with, Zoe, had her travel blog featured on SFGate, of all the fucking places. My hometown daily rag features the blog of someone I am traveling with, who did the same things, at the same time, in the same place, with the same people. Now, I am trying to be happy for her, and I am, but are you fucking kidding me? Not only are they flaunting it all in my face, but the only way it could be more of an insult would be if I had written them expressly asking them to check out my blog, and thus further my ultimate goal of being a full time nomad and gallivanteer, by getting corporate sponsorship for my wandering. I may even write them a letter to complain. And, while I’m at it, bring back Open Season/Top of the Sixth in the Sporting Green. That was good shit. So, if you want to see what a ”good” travel blog looks like for something that I have also written about, it’s here: http://blog.realtravel.com/2007/02/14/lively-buenos-aires/
and she’s ZoeML. Bastards.

El Calafate is a sleepy mountain town not unlike ski havens in Colorado and California, like Vail, Aspen, Tahoe, etc. Except without as many obnoxiously rich people. The hostel there, I Keu Ken, was probably the nicest hostel I have ever stayed at, in a couple of ways, but most importantly the staff was more helpful than I knew was possible. Despite having mountains surrounding you, this is big sky country. Laying flat on your back, you can’t see even half the sky at a time. It is warmish during the day, but cools down a lot at night, and like the rest of Patagonia so far, it is windy as hell. I have been wearing a shell, fleece, long sleeves and a beanie daily. The town sits about an hour and a half by bus away from the Perito Moreno glacier, which is epic. Pieces of ice the size of 1 to 5 story buildings come crashing down off this glacier into the mountain lake at its border. The sound that this makes is deafening, like a condemned building exploding into itself and redistributing its weight violently into the ground. Sometimes, the ice breaks off from under the water, without a sound, and comes flying up out of the water in a rush, glowing bright blue. I literally thought the first one was a massive lake creature, surfacing to eat the boat that was almost next to it, complete with its passengers. I envisioned being witness to something that literally no one would believe me about, and that I could relive and describe until the end of days, long after other people got very, very tired of hearing about it. The rest of my lift stretched out in front of me in the monotonous yet pleasurable torture of my closest friends and complete strangers alike. It was frightening, and it was beautiful. Much to my surprise, it was just the glacier. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

El Chalten is about four hours from Calafate on the bus, directly into the mountains and a national park. The town was established during the conflict with Chile, as it sits on Route 40, and very close to the Chilean border in the Andes. In many ways, it is kindof a dump. It is cold and windy, even in the summer, and the shacks of the town are connected by dirt and gravel roads, which are themselves lined with overpriced and not very tasty food. However, as it sits directly in a national park, the scenery is breathtaking. The weather can vary a lot, and quickly. We were extremely lucky in that it was warm enough to hike, the second day in particular, and shirtless at that. However, it was slightly overcast, so the pictures do not begin to show how beautiful it actually is. Win some, lose some. By the end of the second day, it was obvious to me that my boots were broken in for walking on flat ground, but not for ascents. My proof came in the form of two massive blisters, one on each heel, the one on the right bleeding profusely. I decided not to hike on the third day. The hostel, Rancho Grande, was a zoo, filled with people turning over daily, but I would definitely go back. The local kids, as in Calafate, seem to have a mix of styles, and apart from the usual Argentine ones, are somewhat hippies and punks at the same time. It is not uncommon to see mullet dreadlocks on a kid with an Antiflag hoodie. I was both excited and deeply disturbed by this, as I was by the raver/punks when I first arrived in Providence, RI. Jnco’s do not complete your oy! band look, I do not care how hard core you are!

So, I am not at all sure if my approach will be approved by the Chuck Norris Committee (CNC), but I opted to take the flight from Calafate to Bariloche, despite the fact that it gave me 5 days too many in the mountains, and the need for a new destination. The bonus of this is that I get to visit the end of the world, (in space, not time). Tierra del Fuego calls, and it is with great sadness that I must put off my dream of round-house kicking my way up the unpaved Route 40, saving virgins and impoverished yet highly attractive children from the ominous and poorly organized vaguely corporate villains of the interior of Patagonia, but CNC be damned, there will be virgins and children in Tierra del Fuego! And isn’t that what Chuck was really after, when it comes down to it? Behind: pointless agonizing over unimportant decisions. Ahead: redemption, and things to kick.

soldiering on, holler atcha boy.

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