Day 278: El Calafate – Argentina – Mar 22st

After our lovely walk around the town last night, we woke up at around 9am, packed up and headed down for a simple breakfast. Breakfast seems to be a simple affair in South America, with coffee/tea and bread+jam/butter, possibly some cereal and if you’re lucky, eggs. Our hostel roommates were rather nice, and were very quiet when they left this morning. And last night, when we checked in at 2am, we were unpacking our things in the dark to avoid waking them up, and amidst the dark the girl awoke in a daze, waved her arm around the wall and turned the lights on for us! Nice girls. We didn’t even get to say hi!

We spent the whole day walking the main avenues, looking for car rental companies. Our plan, is to rent a car and drive through Patagonia in both Chile and Argentina in the famous Ruta 40 (Argentina) and Ruta 7 (Chile). Problem was, the roads are bad so we’ll need an SUV, and car rental in Argentina is SUPER expensive. And to add to the pain, to drop-off the in a different location cost us almost half of the actual rental itself. We managed to find a Hertz that rented us a small SUV, had no deductible for any insurance claims (VS the common $1000-2000USD) and cut us a deal by paying cash (and they spoke really good English!). As a reminder, paying cash means we don’t have to pay the ‘official’ horrible exchange rate, and still the rental for 10 days cost wayyy too much. Then again, if we had to take public bus, the tickets are so expensive in Argentina and comparatively, it wasn’t that bad.

So we scouted a good rental company at noon, went to lunch after triple confirming that the store doesn’t take the common afternoon siesta, or a 4hr nap during the work day usually between 1-5pm. So we grabbed lunch, sorted out our information and went back to book at 2:30pm and thinking we can start driving at around 3:30pm. Guess what, they were CLOSED when we got there!!! Arghhh. After waiting about 2hrs outside the store, someone finally opens the door!! We go through the paper work, and because we have to cross into Chile, we needed to fill another pile of paperwork as well. Being our lucky day, the customs site was down and so on and so forth.

We went out, grabbed dinner at a small side street diner which served an awesome steak for the price of a Big Mac back home! All they did was cut a fresh slice of sirloin, drop it onto the grill and sprinkle on some salt+pepper. Left it to do other stuff, came back couple mins later to flip the steak. A couple of more minutes later, the steak was ready to serve, and it didn’t take us long to finish it at all! Stocking up on necessary protein, we finally got the car and were on our way out on Argentine roads and up into the next popular “El”, El Chalten, situated inside a national park!

Driving for almost 2hrs, we made it into the small town with 1,800 residents during peak season, and only 600 people remain when winter hits. On our map, it doesn’t even say they have a gas station here! When we rolled into town though, you would never imagine how beautifully tranquil a town so small can be, and how amazing its tourist facilities are! We drove by several hostels, all of which had more Rocky Mountain ski-resort feel to it than hostel, but unfortunately for us they were all full. We found a hostel, checked-in and called it a night pretty soon.

For a sense of how ‘remote’ this town is, this place does not have fibre-optic cable, and the only internet access they can get is through satellite! Oh, and there was also no cell phone service either……That doesn’t mean this place can’t be super touristy though!

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