The journey (in relative terms) was a short one across the other end of the National Park of Glaciers, to El Chalten.
t sits in the shadows of a mountain range, and being technically within the borders of the Park meant we stopped en route at the Park Ranger centre for a quick pep talk about how to behave – “don’t even think about dropping litter”, “respect the animals” and the like.
The town itself still seems to be in relative infancy. The streets are quite wide and the architecture is pretty shack-like, save a few plush hotels and restaurants to serve the more well-heeled travellers.
My hostel however can’t take that accolade, as it was without a roof.
On the street in front, a car was also missing three of its wheels (see photo).
The main day in El Chalten was spent trekking up to near Mount Fitzroy: the tallest in the range. Luckily the weather was amicable making the walk that much more pleasant. Such is the proximity of the town to the trail, it was only 3 and a bit hours to the foot of the final ascent. Again, the streams along the way served as sources of refreshment, and the trees, lakes and lookouts were far from eyesores.
At the top of the trail I got chatting to a bloke from Buenos Aires over some trail mix who gave me some suggestions for when I visit, along with a recommendation that I follow his football team: Independiente. Bruno and I then climbed around some rocks to look at the lakes up there, and exchanged a few photos as the clouds began to disperse.
I then began walking back to town (he was camping) and left him to his “mate” (pronounced ‘ma-tay’: a hot, herby drink taken through a metal straw). It’s pretty common around Argentina.
Along the way back there were intermittent stops by a lake or two, and my day took another huge bound into middle-agedness as I snapped a picture of a bird prancing by one of the campsites.
My status as Grumpy Old Ornathologist has a way to go however, as I am not able to name our feathered friend. 10 points to the first who can…
As the sun was setting, my feet hit the pavement once more. Slightly parched on the walk back to the hostel I serendipitously found the town’s microbrewery, and nipped in for a swift half.
Whilst my glass of Pilsner was being poured, I popped my head around to see where the magic happened: about 8 steps away from the tap. The place had quite a German feel to it: warm and woody, and despite having free (salty) popcorn, receiving the bill was more akin to London.
It was then back to the hostel to cook some dinner and pack up for the next bus trip in the morning.
Perhaps heading up north would mean I would rediscover my youth…