Adventure in Patagonia : From Los Glaciares to Ushuaia
Going from El bolson to the national park de los glaciares took me « just » tree days. I was packed with enough food for a week as I was planning for some serious waiting time on the most remote part of the road 40. The two first days went very easily and I end up spending the first night in some empty buildings in a small town, the second one in a house half destroyed at a crossroad far from everything. That was the kind of places where I was not feeling like pitching my tent with this crazy wind blowing around (you can barely stand still and I was sitting most of the time, trying to hide behind my bag). The third day, I woke up at 7am, read a book on the side of the road until 1pm, when finally, the first car passing on the road that day stopped. I got my first lift for 20km to next estancia, then I waited another 2h, the second car passing by stopped to and gave me lift for another 60km. The guy was going to fish in a lake belonging to an estancia, apparently one of the best spot in the world for fly fishing and he was going to pay an impressive 5000USD for this week of fishing. Then I finally had a lift for the rest of the way, until reaching El Chalten. The good thing about remote place is that most of the few cars passing by will stop; the problem is that you might have to wait all day to get one. Anyway, I was pretty lucky to manage this trip in just 3 days.
El Chalten is a little touristic town, not as crowed and big as the one most known, 100km south, El Calafate. It’s kind of a nice place and you are close to some beautiful summit, El Fitz Roy and El cerro torre with plenty of glaciers to see around them. I also got a first view of the kind of prices I would get more south… Most of the goods were 2 or 3 times more expensive than in the rest of Argentina. Well, the good news was that the avocado, a very important component of my diet, were still at a ok price (24pesos/kilo), « just » 1$ more than up north. I’ll survive and even eat healthier as I could definitely not afford anymore the chocolate, cakes and other sweets which screwed my budget last month.
I found a hostel that kindly let me put some of my stuff in their locker and I went directly for an hour walk to the closest campsite in the national park. I was planning on spending two or three nights in the park according to the amount of food I had left from my last days of hitch-hiking. I met there three guys, a Quebecois (Etienne), a Catalan (Albert) and a German (Darius) who were trekking together. We took different paths the day after as I went to the view point of the Fitz Roy and then, the one close by the Cerro Torre, and we met again at the campsite. They invited me for dinner and told me about their plan to do a loop around the Viedma glacier. It’s advised to go there with a guide but they though that they can make it without. It’s supposed to be a three nights trek but they were planning on doing it in two. Their plan seems cool to me and I ask if I can join them. They agreed (that’s was really cool especially because it meant also sharing their food with me as I had only enough for a days and a half) and the day after we started. First hour, we had to cross a river with a just a roped hanged above.
You normally use some climbing gear to do it but we managed to do it without. The weather was crap, cold and rainy and we started to see why a guide was advised: The path was in some places nowhere to be seen and we had to make our own way with the help of the map. We ended up doing some good climbing with no visibility to find a pass. Then, on the other side, it was a bit more fun, sliding on the snow, guessing where the river was passing under the snow to avoid falling in it.
Cold but good fun until we reach the trees and some dense bushes. We manage to go through somehow. We finally reach the campground after a 10hours walk at a good pace (I’ve never seen two guys walking so quickly and I was glad that the German was with me in the group of the « slow » one)
The days after, sunny weather but as usual, freezing wind blowing around, we went for el passo Del Vento. Two other groups left way before us (we were not really good at waking up early) but we quickly get ahead of them. The path was once again a mess and we had to make our way in some big rocks. To make it harder for us, hopping for a shortcut we decided to go straight up, climbing some sliding rocks. That’s was useless at the end but I had a good shot of adrenaline for it. Then we finally reach the pass and the view on the glacier was stunning.
We headed down and the idea was to go as far as possible that day. We went through another pass, lost the path (no foot print to be seen on rocks) took the wrong way, got stuck at the top of a cliff, lost time and energy going up again (that was just the xxx times that day). The night was falling and we were still going down some bushes, hopping to found a place flat enough to camp. We finish around 11pm, walking with frontals. We found a spot and camped. After 14hours, we were all naked. Most of us had our feet wet all day and mine were started to look scary (the leather sole of my shoes tainted them in red just to make them look more awful). I had a weird dream of a deer, a cow and a huge dead fish waiting to be butchered by an old guy in a barn… I wanted to eat them so badly probably because for the last three days of mash potatoes and noodles, i was looking at every animal as a potential dinner.
The day after would lead us through swamp and hills until El Chalten.
We didn’t follow any path, we were making it as we were going and that was kind of slowing us down. We had to do a couple of river crossing and manage to take some wrong way, get our feet wet, until the end but, after 10hours… we made it!
I was planning on taking a cheap hostel or camp somewhere just to get a hot shower but Albert invited us at the youth hostel. Luxury and comfort after this 3 crazy days. i went to pick up my stuff in the other hostel, stopped on the way to buy me a piece of meat that i eat raw and to make it better, we went to a restaurant and we had the piece of meat I was dreaming about. 400gr of beef and happiness a la parilla, slowly cooked and fool of flavours.
I would definitely recommend this loop to anybody with a good physical condition. Views are amazing and you are out of the touristic trails: we didn’t meet anybody the first and the third day and they were only few people going to el passo Del Vento.
After another night at the hostel, it was time to say goodbye to this three companions who’ve been so generous with me.
I hitch down to El Calafate, a place so crappy and crowded that I stopped just the time to do some shopping and went further in the direction of the Perito Moreno, the glacier that every tourist go to see in Patagonia. I camped on the road, by a river and after a night very windy, I know now that my tent can handle easily the Patagonian wind.
The Perito Moreno was impressive but after being around Viedma, I didn’t feel any “wooa effect” as many people experiment (some will stare at it for hours). After an hour, I went back and got incredibly lucky to get picked up by some tourists living the park and going directly to Tierra del Fuego. It was avoiding me plenty of time hitching in the wind on some deserted roads. That’s how I arrived in one day only at Rio Grande, very close to Ushuaia. I camped in a little forest and the next day I arrived in Ushuaia. Maybe the cold and the rain doesn’t help me to appreciate the place but well, I feel that I’m not going to stay long here. I had better landscape up north, the city is crawling up the mountains, deforesting on the way in the form of small houses half finish, favela’s style. And the opinions I share with the other travellers I met at the camping is that you come to Ushuaia just to tell that you’ve been there and nothing else. So here I am, at one end of a continent, writing by a window with a great view on the city and the channel and thinking that I just spend 3 month to do more than 5000 km from the top of Argentina to the south and I’m now going to do it the other way around until reaching Canada. Just to write it down now, I understand a bit more why some people laugh and tell me nicely that I’m crazy when I’m telling them my plan… I hope that you’ll like to follow my craziness for the next years because i still have a long way to go 😉