El Chalten

3 Feb

Day of Events: 2/2/2009

El Chalten was an amazing little town.  Set between a dramatic cliff and the motif of Fitz Roy, it was founded in 1985 and marks one of our favorite destinations thus far.  It’s growing fast though, and hotels and restaurants were being constructed everywhere.  If anyone wants to open a bar down there, I’m all ears!

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We stayed at a family run hostel that was both welcoming and awkward.  We spent most of our days hiking so we returned tired and bed-bound and after whipping up a pasta dinner, we usually hit the sack pretty early.  It was when we took a day off to recover that we felt like intruders, bothering a family at home.  Nevertheless, we were paying customers and tried to ignore the feeling.  They had a flat screen tv in their small living room and we put a mean dent in their bootleg DVD collection.  10,000 BC was pretty good, I couldn’t stay awake for Awaken, but Unknown is original, and worth seeing. 

We arrived early February after a 34 hour long trip split across three different buses.  The next morning we woke up as early as we could, and set out to tackle Fitz Roy, or at least its base camp anyway.  It was a beautiful hike from the very first steps. 

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Then, after a tiring three plus hours, and an ascent that was both breathtaking and painful, we were finally there with the Fitz Roy and accompanying glaciers in full view. 

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It was cold there and I was really happy with the layers I bought from Eastern Mountain Sports.  Apparently reading through Lonely Planet forums instead of studying for the GREs paid off.  We sat on the peak eating our sandwiches, trying to take it all in. 

But I get restless easily and soon we were walking again, this time to a small glacier being emptied into the lake.  We made our way slowly, slipping and sliding from the angle of the bank and the millions of small rocks that weren’t lodged into place.  It vaguely reminded me of walking on the rocks in Manhattan Beach.  Of course something you can’t do in Brooklyn is snowboard down a large mass of snow that might be thousands of years old.  We made it to the “glacier,” but I’m not sure that’s exactly what it was.  It was a large blanket of snow, not ice, and it seemed to be melting.  My leg fell through the snow more than once.  We hung out for a while, amused that we went to South America, during its summer, only to find ourselves in the middle of a mountain of snow. 

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We were full of adrenaline and decided we wanted to hike around the lake instead of going back the path we came from.  But we realized quicly we were afraid of heights and the ascent was too steep. 

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We headed back and climbed to another view point instead.  There we met an entrepreneurial couple who had recently sold off their bar in the Netherlands, and were taking some time off to search for the next new thing.  We joked that instead of doing the 7 lakes tour in Argentina, they were here to do the 7 hotels tour.  They had been to a number of real estate agencies that specialize in hotels (those exist?), and I guess they were seriously contemplating buying one up.  Cool couple, much older than us with signs of grey hair, but we got along great. 

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We shared a few beers with them and that night we slept well, even if we had a room of 10 people! 

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