Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Our Honeymoon - Day 7 - El Chalten to El Calafate Day of Rest

Merry Christmas.  After 3 hard days of trekking it was nice to have a relaxing day off.  The weather was terrible so we just headed back to Calafate where it was better and had a relaxing afternoon.  We called family and had a wonderful dinner in town.  Click the title to read on....
All through the night the wind and rain roared in Chalten and when we woke up we saw that the entire town was engulfed in clouds and stormy weather.  Even if our legs had been fresh there was no use to hiking in the conditions we woke to.  We had a nice breakfast of yogurt, ham, cheese, fried eggs, and homemade bread with Brian and Anna on a couch nearby.  We felt bad for them as this was their first day in the area and the weather was supposed to continue into tomorrow as well.  Out the large windows of the hostel we could see backpackers climbing the long stairs to the nearby trails being blown around with rain pack covers whipping in the wind.  It felt good that we only had a day of driving ahead of us, with plenty of time to call our families on Christmas in the bad weather.  

We left our favorite hostel at 11am and drove through the very young town (less than 30 years old).  Every other building in town seemed to be a hostel and the entire town very clearly was solely supported by the trekkers and climbers that came through for the mountains.  On the way out of town we again stopped at the park building to check out the exhibits.  This was a good choice as we found ourselves in the middle of two large bus tours that got english presentations and a movie of the region produced by Red Bull Media House (I'll have to find it online when I get home).  It was very cool to see the climbers registry for both Cerro Torre and Fitzroy, climbers from all parts of the world had come to scale two of the most difficult peaks in the world.  The first climbers to summit Fitzroy were in the 1930's and Cerro Torre in the 1950's.  

From there it was a pleasant drive through the high plains of Patagonia back to El Calafate.  Along the way we spotted more guanaco and the ostrich looking birds.  We were also treated to our first sighting of the Andean Condor with its 9 foot wingspan.  We found 4 of them circling above a river and pulled over to take photos.  I jumped out with the long lens and crouched low along a steep river bank.  After a while they got curious and flew closer overhead and then finally, all of them soared directly over my head gazing down curiously at me.  I was actually a little nervous that one might swoop down at me... a bird that big isn't something to piss off.... 

Along the road back at the intersection with 40 back to Calafate we saw 3 women waiting at the corner with thumbs out.  I had just passed a car and there were tour busses on the road as well and our car was pretty full with gear so we didn't stop for them.  Although it probably isn't the best idea to pick up hitchikers in a third world country where we hardly know the language, we still felt a little guilty passing them.  Once again we cruised down the highway at 85mph with the wind pushing us along the way all the way back to Calafate where we were able to get more gas and phone the Riggotts for Christmas.  Unfortunately, Nicolette didn't answer her phone.  

We stopped for a waffle, banana milk shake and hot chocolate (basically liquid chocolate) at Peitros Cafe in town to wait a little bit to try Nicolette again.  This stop turned out to be longer than expected as their credit card machine was down and Emily had to run to an ATM to take out Argentinian pesos for payment.  Once again, after eating we tried to call Nicolette to no avail.  Now, I'm sitting at a table at our hostel catching up on our travel notes before we head out for Christmas dinner and drinks somewhere in town.  

We ended up going to dinner at La Cocina and I ordered "la cocina" which was two loins with bacon, onions and cream sauce while Emily had ravioli.  My dish was delicious but the steaks were very, VERY rare.  I rolled the dice eating raw meat in a foreign country... we will see what tomorrow brings.  After dinner we walked around town looking for a t-shirt and I picked up an iron-on patch of the Argentinian flag that I thought I would start adding to my large backpack for each country we visit together.  Emily was dehydrated a little and not feeling good before dinner but after we got some food in her she seemed a lot better.  Now we are back in the hostel and I have a beer and am getting ready for bed as we need to be up at 6am to leave by 7am tomorrow to beat the tour buses to the border and get the car back to the rental place by noon so we can take the 2:30pm bus to Torres.

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