Argentinan Patagonia

Argentinan Patagonia

I've been stuck moderately immobile for a bit, while my IT-bands recover from so much hiking (and so little preparation!), so you’ve got another post from me, written mostly while Yvette enjoyed the hiking in “Argentina’s trekking capital” here in El Chálten. (Don’t pity me too much; the sky is throwing everything at poor Yvette as she scales the nearby peaks, and our hostel bar offers £1.20 (quarter litre!) glasses of excellent Argentinian wine with back-to-back bangers from Queen on the radio—I'm having a great time!)

The view across the Las Vueltas river basin, from the gentle waterfall walk we were able to take on our more injured days in El Chaltén.

First off, here in Argentina, I’ve found that everyone we’ve chatted to (local, hiker, store clerk, backpacker, taxi driver…) has been welcoming, kind, and surprisingly generous with their time — even taking time to reply slowly in Spanish for folks like me, stumbling through their mother tongue like a drunken toddler. I would have thought this was “small town vibes” but folks here tell me it’s the same everywhere, Argentinians—and South Americans in general—are so frequently lovely it can’t be chance.

Left to right: JP at the beautiful Chorillo del Salto waterfall outside El Chalten; Yvette holding onto… everything in the face of blistering winds over Laguna Torre.

If the people have been superb, the landscapes here have been out of this world. I still dream of the cosy waterfall a short & flat walk from here, nestled into the rock with what feels like an oasis of green lapping up the glacial snowmelt. I could also write for days about the enormous beauty of the Perito Moreno glacier in El Calafate, and the bittersweet privilege of being able to see one of the only glaciers in the world that's still growing.

The corner of the Perito Moreno glacier; the scale isn't apparent until you notice the kayakers on the right of the photo… these towering ice blocks are taller than our appartment building!

The biggest hike I managed in El Chaltén was along the Fitz Roy river. I was so pleased to be able to get some hiking done in this place so filled with opportunity for it! We took a 20km there-and-back route following the river to the Laguna Torre, where the icy 100km/h winds scream down the glacier, and occasionally force you, grinning, to the ground with their sheer strength. Despite the low cloud, the views were incredible, and we adored every moment.

Our route from El Chaltén to Laguna Torre. We'll have to come back to hike around Fitz Roy, just off the top of this map, as we weren't able to fit it in around our injuries!
Left to right: the peak (of a still unnamed mountain, for us) emerges from the cloud with its extremely icy summit; JP and Yvette find a moment of calm in the winds for a selfie across Laguna Torre towards the glacier.

Our return to El Calafate (named for the tasty calafate fruit, very similar to barberries or maybe cranberries?) gave us time to relax and to stroll around the very calming Reserva Laguna Nimez. It's an ecological reserve with incredible bird life on the shores of the enormous (and shockingly blue) Lago Argentino. A strafing run from a low-flying Chilean Flamingo, and a pair of Cinereous Harriers so close we could have touched them, were absolutely highlights (especially as we’ve become accidental birders while we’ve been here—Merlin has made it so easy to learn and identify them!)

From left to right: JP as an ecological warden; we pose in central El Calafate in font of the city sign and… Christmas tree‽; Yvette adoring a windy-but-wonderful walk through the bird reserve.

Anyway; it may be a rainy day, but I’m going to go exploring! I’m still stuck in disbelief that it’s already been a month, but somehow also that it’s only been a month…