Hello Everyone! Gerrod here to fill you in on some of the things we chose to do with our time in El Chaltén. This post covers pretty much everything we did other than the feature hike, Fitz Roy, that Lauren will talk about in a future post.
We finally arrived in El Chaltén around 7:30 am after our long 24 hour bus ride that I talked about in a past post. I tried all of the ATMs again at the bus station since we were under the impression that we would need cash for everything in this town, but still we were unable to procure the cash. Luckily a friend we made on the bus ride was able to get us some cash and we paid him back with a digital wire transfer.
We talked with the tourist information specialist in the bus station after getting our money sorted out, and found that we actually would only need cash to eat out at restaurants potentially. We had read online that the hiking, food, and accommodations all cost money and only accepted cash. In reality, hiking were free and walkable from town, quite a few food joints accepted cards, and our accommodation should take credit card. After that awesome bit of information, we were given a map of the town with all of the hikes with some handwritten notes in it of other accommodations that should accept card in case ours did not.
We headed down the main road in town to our hostel, Hostel Los Viajeros, which was right at the end of the road. We talked to the owner who told us she could accept card, but we would have to wait until the afternoon to use our room. After dropping our bags behind the desk, we got on the WiFi which was super slow and kind of broken, and started charging our dead electronics.
The hostel owner told us the internet next door at Panaderia Y Cafeteria "Lo De Haydee" was much faster and it also doubled as a breakfast place! Score! As hungry as we were, we decided to stop over and eat, drink, and use the good WiFi. While ordering food, we encountered a Spanish word we thought we knew, “pollo” AKA chicken. We would pronounce “pollo” as “poy-yo”, but in Argentina they say “po-show”. It was a bit confusing at first, but we learned to get used to it, but it required a retraining of the ears and tongue.
After eating at the cafe, we spent some time attempting to work on our blog postings that we have fallen so far behind on. After being at the cafe for almost 3 hours, we went back to the hostel lobby to continue working since we felt we overstayed our welcome at the cafe.
While we were trying to get some stuff done, the owner of the hostel’s daughter decided it would be fun to play with us. This ended in us making a bunch of paper airplanes while she said random numbers in spanish as a countdown and then we would all throw them at the wall. When we weren’t doing that, she played with Lauren’s red, sturdy, waterproof camera by taking a ton of pictures of the two of us and random things around the lobby. Eventually she got distracted by some other kids outside and our room was finally ready at 3pm, so we could shower and relax after our long bus ride.
After some relaxation time, we decided to go to dinner. We wandered around the small town for some time before we found a place that would accept credit cards. The place was called Nomade Resto Bar. We had a pretty solid meal and some beer and wine. Interestingly, the beer and wine cost just as much as the water!
After dinner we picked up some supplies from the grocery store for the next day and finally called it a night.
First Hike: Torre
The next morning we prepared for our hike, Sendero Al Torre. We made some breakfast, which took longer than it should have because we could not figure out how to turn the burners on. We figured out you needed to turn the main gas line on manually before turning on the stove. We also burnt most of the eggs to the pan since the hostel had no communal butter or oil. Needless to say it was a rough start to the morning.
We finally headed out to the trail around 10am. According to the map, the trail was 11km to the last viewpoint. The hike began uphill, but flattened out fairly quickly. The trail was through a very beautiful valley surrounded mountains. The first viewpoint along the trail was Mirador Torre where we stopped and snapped some photos. On our way to the viewpoint we saw a sign next to a small stream along the trail that said the stream water was potable!
There were many trees and shrubs along the trail after the viewpoint that Lauren commented on saying “It smells like Christmas.” Later, Lauren researched what the plant might have been that smelled so good and found that it was Antarctic beech (Nothofagus antarctica).
Towards the end of the hike we reached Laguna Torre where we sat and had some snacks. The lake was made up of melted ice from an ice field not far behind it, and had very interesting brownish, bluish, grayish, looking water. There were several chunks of blue glacier ice floating on the water. It was very windy around the lake, and after sitting and eating our snacks we got very cold very quick.
After some snacking we decided to follow a ridge line behind us to the last viewpoint on the map for this hike, Mirador Maestri. This wind along the ridge was so much stronger than down near the lake! It was so strong that it would push you and almost knock you over. We only had one walking pole for stability, so we had to walk very slowly so we didn’t get blown off of the ridge.
On our way to the viewpoint, we stopped and filled out water bottles at a small waterfall off the trail we were following. It tasted so fresh and was so cold! Fun fact: most of the water in the mountains around El Chaltén is drinkable!
We hit a dead end in the trail that we assumed was the viewpoint. There was no sign, but according to Lauren’s Garmin watch, we had walked a little more than 11km. We were able to see even more of the ice field from that angle and it was spectacular.
Living the Life
We were able to get home around 5pm following our 10am start. To follow in the tradition of the day we made some spaghetti dinner and burnt a lot of the noodles to the bottom of the pan… We needed to do some laundry, so after dinner we went to a place across the street and set a pick up time for the next day at 5pm. Before going to bed we had some hot cocoa at our favorite cafe next door and worked on our blog a bit more.
The next day, we headed over to the cafe for breakfast and more blog work. While we worked, the guy we met from Italy who helped us on our cash situation when we first arrived came into the cafe. We hung out with him for a bit and caught up. After he left for his day of adventure, we finally got a post up for all of you to read (yay!). After getting the post up, we we decided to do some of the shorter hikes close to town.
Miradors de Los Cóndores and Las Águilas
There were 2 viewpoints along our first hike: Miradors de Los Cóndores and Miradors de Las Águilas. It was a very beautiful, sunny day and the hikes were fairly easy and quick to do. The beginning of the trail was rather steep, but there were several signs along the trail to read with information about condors that gave us an excuse to stop and catch our breath. The condor viewpoint was only 1km from town, and when we finally got to the top there was a gorgeous view of all of El Chaltén and the surrounding mountains.
The wind at the top was outrageous! Check out this video of how it affected my banana eating.
After eating our bananas at the condor viewpoint, we headed to the next viewpoint along the trail. The next viewpoint, Águilas, was only another 1km from town. It had an incredible view of both valleys below, and we spent some time exploring the area around the ridge.
After taking some photos, and eating more snacks, we headed back to town. The walk back to town was mostly downhill and went pretty quick. When we got back to town, we went to the store to get some groceries for our next few meals and tried to do some souvenir shopping to buy an Argentina magnet. We checked on our laundry to see if it was done yet, and found out that it was done earlier than expected! We put all of our laundry away, and prepared for our next short hike.
Chorrillo del Salto
Our next short hiking destination was Chorrillo del Salto. Salto means waterfall in Spanish, so as you might be able to guess, the end of this hike was a waterfall! We thought it would be only 3km hike to the waterfall, but it took us about 2km just to get to the trailhead from our hostel. When we reached the waterfall, we sat and had some snacks while we enjoyed the peace. I would say peace AND quiet, but there were some people were playing music and flying drones.
Living the Dream
After the waterfall hike, we came home to make a lovely dinner of ramen and grilled cheeses. After we cleaned ourselves up, we went to the lobby to work on some more travel logistics while we drank some cider and beer we bought at the grocery store earlier; Living the dream.
I hope you enjoyed learning somethings about El Chaltén and stay tuned for the upcoming post on Fitz Roy!
Gerrod (and Lauren)