We recovered from the wind a while in El Calafate, not that it gave us much of a break…. a day out on Lago Argentina in a small tourist boat felt like what I imagine the Drake Passage is like on the cruise ships to Antarctica. You wouldn’t think a lake could get up swells like that. It was all very beautiful in spite of the weather though, the highlight of our few days in El Chalten being the Perito Moreno Glacier which is as spectacular as all the hype makes to out to be. One of the only glaciers that is advancing (slightly), although the actual face is pretty static.
The El Calafate area is not really made for the backpacker or bike tourist, its all very expensive and difficult to see the sights without getting on a tour. That said, you could sit and watch the glacier for hours. We were lucky enough to watch some huge bits calve off from the face and create some nice big waves. Quite addictive really, we didn’t want to leave.
Mick by a sea of ice bergs – he wasn’t thinking of jumping in this time!
Mick by the expanse of the Perito Moreno Glacier.
The awesome and very unstable face of the glacier.
A piece of ice crashing off the face.
There was very little to hold us too long in El Calafate, the town itself being without much character, bloody windy (surprise) and quite expensive. We resisted making a house call to the President of Argentina, ‘El Penguino’ Kirchner, although we were keen to see how big his nose really is.
Our first day back on the road was, literally, a breeze. We flew those 40kms with the wind to the El Chalten turnoff where we had lunched a few days before totally exhausted. This time we got there in about 1.5 hours, awesome stuff when that wind is behind you. We turned north onto a recently paved road and the wind stayed kind to us by staying just behind, although mostly sideways. We had fun swerving all over the deserted road to get that really big gust right at our backs for a bit. Found a wonderful camping spot that evening – like it had been made for the bike tourist. It was a flat grassed area right next to a beautiful river, almost totally enclosed by tall poplar trees and so one of the most sheltered places we had (or would) camp. Mick tried his luck again with the trout in the river but of course returned saying that there was no trout in the river – too silty. Uh huh.
The perfect camp.
We cycled through the rolling barren hills the next day, following the lovely Rio La Leona and generally having a pretty good time although the road changed to gravel soon enough. Just as our foe the wind was starting to really pick up again just before lunch (yes there is a pattern emerging here but no we were not motivated enough to start at 4am!) we came across a conveniently situated ‘Parador’, roughly translated as good place to stop and have a beer and cakes. Well we didn’t really know they had cakes but the beer sign was proudly displayed which was enough for us and the cakes inside were an added bonus. Anyone who says cakes and beer don’t go together has not been riding through Patagonia. There was chocolate cake, dulce de leche (caramel) cake, Lemon pie, orange pie, and apricot pie, banana cake (yummm) and ricotta cake! Amazing selection in the middle of absolutely nowhere and we weren’t complaining. We even had to tuck a few pieces away for later.
Riding around the bottom of the Lago Argentino
On sugar highs we pushed into the wind for another 10kms or so until lo and behold there was another pub! Well even considering the stop previously we were more than ready to have another break, and what do you think they had inside…. cakes! Hmmm, well by now Dad was saying he might have had enough cakes so we settled on empanadas and beer for lunch instead and Mick and I schnavelled another couple of bits of banana cake away in our panniers for a rainy day.
Well unfortunately there didn’t seem to be any more surprise pubs that day and as we turned west we got hit by the wind again pretty hard and after a few hours of pushing on and not getting too far we had to stop and camp. Problem was there was absolutely nowhere around to camp – everywhere exposed, barren rolling hillsides with only the very occasional shrub. We wouldn’t be able to get anywhere away from the raod anyway so we decided to camp behind a road cutting which was slightly sheltered and sort of flat, there being a nice soft layer of windblown sand on the ground. Definitely our worst choice of camp but the best available, even if the dead guanaco just near our spot wouldn’t have said the same.
Our sandy dusty camsite behind the road cutting.
The road into El Chalten is really beautiful, following the edge of the Lago Viedma (another huge glacial lake) and before long we could see the face of the huge Glacier Viedma. The mountains ahead continued to grow and as some of the clouds lifted we got partially veiled views of the Mount Fitzroy massif, at 3400m and very impressive.
The views nearing El Chalten.
We couldn’t quite make the town that night and we settled on a little camp site just at the national park border. We had plenty of food anyway and it was a good little spot with some level ground, the large paw prints (puma?) around us notwithstanding.
A nice moon rising behind Mick at ‘Puma’ Camp
The next morning Mick woke early and took some great photos of Mount Fitzroy at sunrise which fired us up, especially since it was only about 12kms into town. By 10am we arrived to the town, a really cute little village in a deep valley shadowed by Fitzroy. We settled into a cute little hostel for a few days, Albergue Patagonia, who’s owners were nice enough to store our bikes for the next month while we were away with the parents. I got over a bad head cold in a couple of days of rest and then we did a relatively easy 3 day hike in the park where we took in Fitzroy and Cerro Torre. We were lucky again with the weather, after one rainy day we had clear views of both Fitzroy and Cerro Torre, which we heard was really rare. Mick and I were beginning to believe that Dad was our weather lucky charm, even the wind had been managable most of the time he was with us (well at least we hadn’t had to walk the bikes!). Some pics of Los Glaciares Nat Park around El Chalten…
Dad elated to be arriving in El Chalten, finishing his part of the bike trip!
Mount Fitzroy at sunrise from the camp.
Hiking with Mount Fitzroy clear in the background.
The beautiful view of Micks shoes from Laguna de los Tres in the park.
Cerro Torre almost uncovered…
The BEST views in days apparently!
Tags: Argentina, Bike touring, El Chalten, Patagonia, South America, The Big Bike Trip, Travel Destinations