El Chalten – capital national del trekking

After I saw Perito Moreno Glacier the logical itinerary while traveling north was to stop in El Chalten for more trekkings. The plan was to spend 5 days there and to cross border again from Argentina to Chile at Los Antigos/ Chile Chico. The hostel I booked , La Comarca, is probably the cheapest hostel in Patagonia but it’s nice and decent. And the guy was ok when I said I will leave on day earlier. The wifi is incredibly slow in the whole town because is remote and the internet is through satellite. As soon as you come in town there’s a big sign welcoming you in the national capital of trekking. And so it is, around El Chalten there are many options of day or multi day trekkings.

First thing I did was to book the ice trekking on Viedma glacier for the next day. It rained all evening but I kept faith I will have good weather on the glacier. We got to a mini port with a bus and to the glacier with a boat. Getting closer to the glacier we had big waves splashing the boat and a group of chinese turists making funny noises like they where in a roller coaster. Big fun though.

At the glacier we received the crampons and we started to slowly walk together. That was a thing I didn’t thought beforehand. We were maybe 15 tourists and we had to have the same rhythm, me, the other young people, the 60 years old lady, the guys doing a selfies and so on. Luckily they were ok with me walking around and taking photos while the rest were slowly advancing. All in all it was my first ice trekking and I think it was very nice for a first. At the end we drank Baileys with ice from glacier. The weather was sunny and nice and the glacier is very beautiful. Still I think is better to do ice trekking on Viedma, less tourists than on Perito Moreno.

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Again I had a very sunny day trekking to Laguna de los Tres which is in front of Fitz Roy Mountain. I trekked and spent amazing time with very nice people. We stayed almost two hours at the lake taking tens of photos, having lunch and just relaxing. Fitz Roy is the most beautiful mountain I saw by now and we were so lucky with the weather. When we finally decided to return to El Chalten we looked a bit back and stayed half hour more. It was so hard to leave.

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DSCF0890I knew from Lonely Planet guide about a trekking from El Chalten, Argentina to Villa O’Higgings, Chile but I thought is too complicated to carry all my stuff for more than 20 km. But while trekking to and back from Fitz Roy I decided to go and get some info and try it. Getting informations about it I felt like I definitely want to do it and because I didn’t want to come back for my stuff later I planned to take everything with me. Unfortunately I had to leave one day earlier because one of the boats is only once per week, therefore I had only one day for trekking close to Chalten, and that day rained all day and I stayed in the hostel. But for sure one day I will go back there.

For the cool trekking the logistic is like this: you take a bus from El Chalten to Lago del Desierto, cross the lake with a boat (or trek around the lake but you must have a tent), get the stamp in the passport of getting out of Argentina, trekking for 22 km, first 3-6 km are worst and quite steep and the rest is kind of earth road, and then you get to Candelaria Mansilla , get stamp and welcome from chilean immigration, walk one more km and stop to a farm where you can either pay for a basic room or camp, get boat next day to the beginning of Carretera Austral and bus from there to Villa O’Higgings. At the farm lives a guy and his mother and they also prepare 3 meals a day. If you don’t want to buy from them you should carry food from El Chalten because there’s no shop in Candelaria Mansilla. All this is not cheap, it cost me around 200$ for bus and boats, and the room and meals are just bit cheaper than hostel and restaurant food in El Chalten. Very important is also to have sufficient money because the first ATM is in Cochrane and that’s quite far. And they want chilean money, not argentinian or dollars.

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woodpeckerThe trekking was very rewarding, we saw beautiful landscapes, ate calafate berries when I felt like crying because backpack was too heavy, made many cigarettes breaks, ate everything I had with me, photographed woodpeckers, filled my shoes with mud, had lots of fun with an american anthropologist who has a contagious laugh, got my iPod in the mud, cleaned it with a stick and it’s still working, made lots of photos and felt very happy arriving at destination where we had delicious dinner and hot shower.

But next day wasn’t any boat due to bad weather so we just relaxed and hoped it’s not more than a day delay. And I met there so many people doing this cool but challenging trekking with bicycles, sleeping in tents, traveling solo or in couples, lots of stories and lots of beautiful people of all ages.

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Because I had no money left I convinced the lady selling tickets on the boat to take money from my credit card and give me money from the people who paid ticket with cash. Her POS was the only one in a very big radius.

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