Day 279: El Chalten – Argentina – Mar 23rd

We wake up, grab breakfast, and were quick to pack as we have a long day ahead of us. Planning to do a hiking trip into the famous Cerro FitzRoy to view some spectacular mountains and glaciers. We packed our stuff, bought some groceries for the day and headed to the park ranger’s office to get a briefing.

Unfortunately for us, the day was a bit cloudy in the mountains, because on a sunny day you see the whole mountain range from the town! And we were wondering where it was! Oh well, we’re here, we’re going to give it a shot and possibly the crazy Patagonian weather may work in our favour and the winds can gust away the cloud cover.

The mountain facade has a lot of similarities with the Torres del Paine, but to us the hiking trail is much more enjoyable. The spaces were wider, the trails were obviously marked but also very well maintained. Bridges were crafted with beautiful, fallen trees. The winds were whipping hard in some spots, but 50m later the winds are gone and it is whisper quiet. The water from the streams and lakes (yes, lakes!) are drinkable as it is melted glacier water, but the mineral content in the water is rather high and it isn’t as refreshing when you’ve got a splash of iron in your taste buds. Nothing can compare to that awesome creek back in Torres del Paine, which was for me, one of the highlights of the trip. If I could do it again, I may just carry a few more litres of that good stuff despite the weight.

Hiking up to the first camp, we were making good time and the biggest surprise of all though, was that Alan wasn’t even hungry!! Strange, first time he’s hiked without feeling hungry ever 30mins. At the camp, there was a 1hr hike up to a mirador with an amazing view of the glacier with the FitzRoy towers hanging above. We were 5min into our hike before seeing a couple coming back down so we kindly asked about the conditions. “Oh, the trail is really difficult and steep, and with the winds as it is now it is actually dangerous. And when you get to the top, there’s nothing to see because of the clouds.” OKAY, now those are some words of encouragement…. encouraging us to ditch the plan of the mirador and move on to the next campsite/mirador.

We were making good pace, and doing our usual of silent concentration mixed in with some strained arguments about life, future travels, sociological issues around the world and much pointless attempts by Alan explaining why golf is such a great game. The trails weren’t too steep up nor down, but as we approached the camp site we had a change of plans and decided that we should ditch the idea of camping for the evening, head back into town and so tomorrow we can wake up and make good time in the car. Oh, and did we mention there’s an artesanal brewery located in the town, that also serves food?!?!?! That was probably the single highest motivation to go back! Jiajia dropped her pack on the return route, and after an hour more we were at the final campsite/mirador. Overlooking a lake of glacial melt, we can understand that on a sunny day that it would be an amazing sight! Unfortunately for us, the clouds were smothering the whole area into a palette of grey, and the generally amazing colours of the glacier combined with the breathtaking views of the mountains were nowhere to be seen.

Returning down, we had no regrets doing the hike, as we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery (with a little imagination, thinking what it would be like if the weather was nice!), and also thoroughly enjoyed each others company… ha ha. It was already 6pm when we left, and we made it into town just when the sun completely set at 8pm, leaving us with no light to work with…. NOT a good idea to hike mountain trails in pitch darkness, especially when there are pumas!

We checked-in to a hostel (unfortunately, the awesome hostels were still full. They were nice enough to let us know, they were full until next week, good to squash our hopes of staying there!), bumped into a few of our friends from the Antarctica cruise who just rolled in this afternoon. We were too hungry, and too thirsty to chat so we rushed out to the warmth of the artesanal brewery.

The place, La Cerveceria, had an awesome mountain lodge vibe, and we applaud the owner as they paid a LOT of attention to each and every detail of the décor, from the woven light fixtures, the bamboo window covers, wooden benches+tables to the antique rucksack hovering above the entrance way. Two beers were on tap, and the bock beer was delicious (the lager fell a bit short), and the food was awesome! Especially delicious was the hearty locro, a supposedly Argentinean specialty. We weren’t sure what it was, but after our orders were taken we were treated with two small ‘cups’ of warm and tasty soup, accompanied by some breadsticks and a delicious dip! The soups were served in small clay cups! With that in our stomachs, we were even more amazed when the mains came. The locro is actually a very hearty stew, with chunks of TENDER TO DIE FOR meats, and a massive bread to go with. Beer would definitely work to wash it all down as well. The pizzas were fantastic, and even more impressive when you realize how far away from civilization you are…. Great dining experience!

So today, we hiked 32kms in about 9hrs and capped it off with a couple of cold ones and awesome food. Perrrfect!

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