Monday, 9 February 2015

0201 El Chalten to El Calafate

9th Feb 2015

I went to sleep last night before 10 pm – And woke up this morning at 9.30 am !!   To a clear blue sky !!  Oh no – Fitzroy will be clear – I must go back !!  Then I tried to stand up, and quickly realized there would be no walking anywhere today !!  Never mind – I was still more than happy I got up there yesterday.   So it was a quick breakfast and pack up, and I wandered slowly back up the dirt road into Chalten to get some fresh bread and some empanadas from my favourite bakery, a new gas cylinder for my camping stove – And then on the way out of town I saw a caravan with a couple of girls in selling cherries - $2 for half a kilo !  So I got some.  A German called Tomas came over for a chat at the road side, and the girl in the camping shop is about to set off to Australia for a `12 month working holiday, so she was keen to know more about the place !    Eventually I set off out of town, leaving behind  a clear Fitz Roy !!

100 yards down the road is El Chalten’s only petrol station – and it is basically a container with the pumps inside – Maybe due to the cold, I don’t know.  But in the line to get petrol was a motorbike and sidecar – The first I have seen on this trip, so I had to turn back and say Hi !   Turns our that Efrain is from Columbia, and his partner Bella is from Costa Rica, and they have been living in the Carolinas which is where they bought the bike, which is well kitted out for travelling.  They have come all the way down through Central America like us, and now are on their way to NE Brazil, near Bahia, where they have decided they are going to live for a while and see if they like it there !  Had a great chat with them – They were in no hurry as the petrol station was out of fuel and waiting on the fuel truck to arrive, and they were totally out of gas so they could go nowhere until the truck arrived.

From there it was back along the basically straight road to the junction with Ruta 40 – and that wind was howling down the valley out of El Chalten again this morning ! Bicycles were doing 20 kmh and not peddling – At least, they were while they were heading down wind !  Where I stopped at a lookout to take a last photo back towards Fitz Roy, there was a cyclist who had ridden out of town just for a ride earlier on, and now wanted to get back to El Chalten, and he couldn’t make any headway against the wind !!  So he was just waiting for the wind to die down (as if !), or someone who had room to give him and his bike back to town !!

The road around between El Chalten and El Calafate is basically pretty boring – just brown tree less steppes with the wind howling across them !  The view is brightened by the enormous Lago Viedma on your right for some kilometres, and then, once you get near the turn off to El Calafate, there is the equally big (and equally blue) Lago Argentino beside you.  And as you turn back west towards El Calafate, you again get the snow capped peaks of the Andes to look at in the distance, and you cross a couple of enormous rivers flowing out of the lake. 

On the drive I was slowly catching up to what looked more like a bicycle, but was going too fast – Even with the wind.  When I finally caught him, it was a little scooter, piled high with back pack and everything else, and he was being blown all over the place by the wind !  At one stage he was riding angled over at about 30 degrees like he was taking a corner, but he was still going in a straight line ! When I over took him, he tucked in right behind me for a while and was getting a tow and keeping out of the wind. Eventually, going up a hill he dropped off the back and I didn’t see him again.

Then you roll into El Calafate – Funny town – Much bigger than EL Chalten, and many people had told me it wasn’t very nice,  but driving through the main street, and then walking through it looking for a supermercado, I actually found it quite nice. Obviously very touristy – Many people fly direct into Calafate just to see the Glacier Perito Marino, but not too crowded today.  So I found a campsite in town with wifi (although I can’t get it working yet – Grrr !), did a small shop (do not want to donate any more fresh food to the Chilean border post in 2 days time !) and got stuck into my blog.  I want to try and get what I have done posted, and have to do all the hum drum chores like banking in Australia via the internet, so in for a busy night.

While I was on the way to the supermercado, I walked through a gas station and there was the little scooter that had been trying to get a tow off me out of the wind.  He had even less English than my Spanish, so we chatted for half an hour like you do in those situations, with much laughing and gesticulating and slapping of each other’s back – You know how it goes !   Hs name is Gustavo Ramallo, and he had ridden all the way from Buenos Aires to stay with some friends in El Calafate for a while, before riding back to BA.   I take my hat off to him – Riding a big bike or driving a car from BA to El Calafate is just a trip – But riding a little scooter with a 6 litre fuel tank (and 10 more litres in a can between his feet – That is a real Adventure !   Good on him.  Almost every day you meet such great characters out here on the open road – I love it. 

Plan now is to go on into the Glacier National Park tomorrow (another 80 kms or so) and camp in there for a night or two, taking in a hike around the glacier,  After that I intend to drive on down to Torres del Paine where I plan to spend several day – Most of which will be “sin wifi”, as they say here.  So it is now or never.

Photos here :-


1 comment:

  1. Great read Giles...fantastic! looking forward to seeing your photos when Wi-Fi permits!. Love from us both J&S