- Buenos Aires
- El Calafate
- El Chalten
- San Juan
- Puerto Iguazu
The whole of Argentina, especially BA is experiencing protests related to the economic collapse and the devaluation of the peso, so witnessed a lot of drumming, flag waving, and of course police in riot gear but it was non-provoking and more to raise awareness.
Before, the weather turns cold, we flew down to Patagonia to El Calafate to visit Parque Nacional Los Glacier. Patagonia lives up to its reputation as its windy but also has a stark beauty of mountains and a wide expanse of desert as its a dry place. The town of Calafate is upscale with many boutique shops and restaurant and not all of what we expected. Luckily, found a cheap hostel as this is tourist heaven and made a plan to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, a mass of ice that´s 5 kms wide, 14 kms long, and 60 meters high. As the day warmed up, building size chunks of ice started calving off into the lake below with thundering noise and sounds of gunshot rounds going off. Many parts of the are glacier are a deep blue from the compacted ice and reflect the wavelength of the light.
Next stop was to El Chalten, which is a growing village with steeply angled roofed homes, reminder of the snow that falls here. The highlight here is the Mount Fitzroy Range with excellent trekking in the park. There are some lovely hikes with views of glaciers, hidden waterfalls, and mountains. One hike led us to a melting glacier creating a huge waterfall cascading into the blue green lake below.
Back to the hostel, we had access to a kitchen but the owner was never around and people seemed to come and go.
Next, hopped on a 24 hours bus journey to Esquel. The town has an old steam train, which only runs a limited distance now but it was fun to ride it and made up for the fake one we rode in Ecuador.
The lack of English in the country is surprising and Sabeen does most of the talking to get us around and oriented. There are still a few Welsh settlers here and the town of Trevelin has the traditional stone houses and the tea houses to go with it.
Left for Uspallata, a small mountain town with views of Aconcagua and Volcan Topangato. A local by the name of Pachi saw us wandering around looking for a place and led us to a small place run by a young couple and decided to stay with them for a few days. I decide to cook dinner for all of us, nothing fancy but more for the chance to sit and converse with locals.
We take a hike to Las Cuevas and go up Christo Redentor, a statue of Christ at 4,000 meters as a symbol of peace between Argentina and Chile in 1904 to settle the land dispute. The hike was long but the views were outstanding of dark mountains with pure white snow. I ruin my shoes however on the way down from the sharp stones that dig into my cheaply bought hiking sandals.
We leave next for Barreal, which is only 99 kms from here but is a remote place and the option to hitchike is limited, so take a bus first to Mendoza, then San Juan, before arriving after 11 hours. On the bus to San Juan, meet a bus conductor who greets us in English, a first, so start chatting on the ride and get to know Francisco from Chile who speaks great English and tells us how he lost his father to a traffic accident and dreams of going to Nepal and India to help the poor and do more with his life. He is 27 years old and reads the NY Times everyday to improve his English. He lives in a trailer left by his father and plans to never move it as per his father´s instructions. We part with hugs and kisses....
It is the Easter holiday so the locals are starting to travel themselves. As we turn up in Barreal at midnight, no a room is available but Marsela, a lovely hotel owner takes mercy on us and invites us into her house to first feed us and then drives us a few kms to her sister´s house to spend the night. Her sister´s place is quiet and cozy and we stay for a few days. Marsela even drives us back into town a few days later so we check in to a hotel closer to town.
As we decide to leave for San Juan, a couple visiting offers us a ride and we stuff ourselves into their small car and go forward for the 4 hours ride.