Built Like a set from a 1960’s Sci-Fi movie, El Chalten is a spooky little town. The vehicles are held together with wire and ad hoc bits of weld, and licence plates are conspicuous in their absence. All that is missing is the tumble weed, rolling down the street.
In summer, December to February, El Chalten springs to life like a flower emerging from the snow. Perfectly placed in the middle of nowhere, it is surrounded by some of the most picturesque scenery imaginable.
It took 3-hours to get here from El Calafate, and the journey was filled with with the same breath taking scenery. We are now officially in Patagonia, where the weather changes as often, and as quickly, as a dame in a pantomime. Two consecutive days of good weather is an extremely rare occurrence here.
Hostel Rancho Grande (don’t forget to roll those r’s) seems to be where everyone try’s to stay. It’s the least favourite of my hostels so far – large and impersonal. On a positive note, I did get to find that elusive travel towel!
The 12.5 km hike from El Chalten to Laguna de Los Tres (Lake of the Three) is an 9-hour round trip. The weather was perfect and the dramatic views were absolutely out of this world. My photographs just don’t capture how beautiful it is here. It’s also difficult to comprehend the scale of things. The wide open spaces and towering peaks create an amazing panorama.
My second day started with torrential rain, but just as the weatherman promised, the clouds had disappeared by midday. I donned boots and day pack and set off for Laguna Torre, a 14 km hike, 4-hours away. Again, jaw dropping scenery. I managed to bag my second glacier (Glaciar Grande) and although not as big as Perito Moreno, still extremely impressive.
Getting a room in El Chalten can be a challenge. This morning, as I was checking out of one hostel into another, I bumped into two American guys. Now I have met one or two lunatics in my time, but these two lads take the prize. They had been in El Calafate for 7-days, waiting for the weather to hold out long enough, so that they could climb Cerro Fitz Roy (3,405 metres). It will take a day to walk to the foot of the climb, it will then take 36-hours to climb it. I think I’ll stick to my hiking thank you very much.
Next stage: El Chalten to Chile Chico.