A 3 hour flight from Buenos Aires takes you to the heart of Patagonia and to a small town called El Calefate, named after a small berry, and pronounced kal-eh-fatty which led us to numerous rounds of “hey miss Calefate” a slight adaptation of the song by Million Styles (who knew we were so gansta?! ). We checked into the America del Sur hostel complete with heated floors (amazing), a large lounge with panoramic views of the Andes mountains and, thanks to Liv, a tea shower from the mezzanine level to the confused front desk people below. There we met an aussie girl called Lucy who’s trying to be the first female to hike from Ushuaia (most southerly point of South America) to the top of North America, which she expects will take 4 years!
First on our list was the Perito Moreno Glacier; arguably one of the most beautiful sights in the world, although at 500 pesos per person (£25) just to get into the national park, an expensive one. Only 10% of a glacier is visible with the rest submerged under water, and yet when that 10% is 70 meters high and the size of greater Buenos Aires, it’s somewhat of an impressive spectacle.
We arrived at the balconies overlooking the glacier and, along with the incredible view, the thunderous sound of gigantic blocks of ice cracking off the side of the glacier after being warmed by the sun and witnessing them crashing down into the water below was mesmerising.
A short boat trip across the glacier fed lake, and after donning wolverine style crampons, we were ready to follow in the footsteps of Francisco Moreno and scale the ice. When stepping onto the glacier it was like being instantly transported to a different world; a pale blue landscape scattered with deep crevices flowing with freezing water. Like a scene from a Jean-Claude Van Damme alcohol ad, the trek ended with whisky on the rocks glacier style which for some reason inspired some David Attenborough style filming.
The next day when cycling around Lago Argentinio (filled with flamingos!) we went from the brilliant to the bizarre when a pack of stray dogs started following us. Our attempts to shake them failed when they managed to keep up with our tops speeds but thankfully they were all bark and no bite.
Speaking of wildlife, our trip to the Ecological Reserve was somewhat underwhelming and so we moved on to the glaciarium which, pun intended, was pretty cool, featuring 3D movies, motion tracking cameras (still not sure what the point of them was) and funny toilet signs.
A short bus journey later, we arrived in El Chalten to freezing fog, scary horror movie style dark buildings and incorrect Google maps information leaving us both wandering and wondering. Luckily we found our cosy room at the Hostel Thiamalu, and woke up to bright blue skies and the stunning mountain scenery for which El Chalten hikes are famed for. The 20k round trip of the Laguna de Los Tres hike did not disappoint and, after an arduous last 1k of steep climbing (500m altitude rise), we stopped for lunch overlooking numerous glaciers, mountains and frozen lakes. The scenery was truly breathtaking (as was the climb), and of all the hikes we did in El Chalten, this was definitely the best view.
El Chalten is somewhat lacking in food supplies (and ATM cash) and so after finishing up our home cooked reserves, we ventured out for a delicious meal of Salmon and Trout at Techado Negro which we would definitely recommend. We then prepared ourselves for the 25 hour bus journey (yes, over a whole day on one bus!) to Bariloche, the lake district of Argentina. We thought that such an inconveniently long journey would at least be cheap but at 2600 Argentinian Pesos (£125) per person we were wrong!
25 hours later, we checked into the highly rated hostel Penthouse 1004. Whilst the view from the communal area and the home made bread were fantastic, we found the rest pretty underwhelming. We ventured out, despite the dubious weather warning, towards the Hotel Llau Llau (pronounced like “ciao” in Italian), once featured on Argentinian currency, and situated in the beautiful national park Nahuel Huapi.
From there we took a boat tour to Puerto Blest however dubious weather soon turned into something more reminiscent of Manchester (pouring!). Luckily a small sunny interlude allowed us to get a couple of great photos of the tree covered walkways, waterfalls and lakes.
The next day we hired a car with people from our hostel and drove the Seven Lakes route from Bariloche up to San Martin De Los Andes. The organised tours are significantly more expensive (£100pp vs £15pp) and are far less flexible so definitely worth getting a car. The weather initially looked to disappoint again however we were in luck, and 8 hours of driving later, we returned with some incredible pictures.
As Bariloche is also famous for it’s chocolate, the only thing left to do was find some chocolate fondue (easier said than done), and wish a temporary farewell to Argentina.