Monday January 26, 2015 (Argentina, Patagonia, South America)
We had an early morning flight to El Calafate via Bariloche today. Bariloche is said to be the “Gateway to Patagonia”, and El Calafate is smack dab in the middle of it. Our final destination was actually El Chalten — a 3 hour bus ride away. The landing in Bariloche was beautiful as it’s surrounded by mountains. I couldn’t help but grab the camera to try to grab some shots out the window as we descended! As we approached El Calafate, the pilot nicely did an arcing 360 turn so everybody on the plane could see the Perito Moreno glacier from above. Very cool!
Our previous flight from Buenos Aires to Foz do Iguacu broke out in spontaneous applause upon landing. I didn’t start it, but I sure as heck joined in. I feel like pilots deserve that, so I’ve vowed to bring it back into vogue like it was when I was a kid. Clapping for plane landings is my new jam. So right on cue, as the airplane commenced reverse thrusting to slow us down in El Calafate, I single-handedly triggered a full airplane clap. Makes me happy. I’m definitely keeping this trend going!
Our layover in El Calafate was interesting. We had handy little PDFs stored on our devices to act as proof of payment for our bus tickets to El Chalten. Upon arrival at the bus terminal in El Calafate, we were informed that we needed physical paper tickets. Good thing we checked. Of course the office was unable to print the tickets and directed us to an Internet cafe in town. So we wandered over, logged in and tried to print the sheets. And of course they print scaled up 50% and don’t fit on the page. The guy running the place shrugs his shoulders and tells us to try again. It works the second time, and he kindly charges us for all of the pages that printed. We bring the tickets back to the bus terminal and are then told about the 10 peso “terminal tax” that applies to this company for buses departing this terminal. At least it’s taped to the table in this case, so she’s not completely making it up.
The bus ride was beautiful, albeit lacking a working toilet (on a 3 hour bus journey, no less!). As a result, we did take a quick pit stop where I managed to grab some nice photos. The mountains just got grander as we approached the small, bustling town of El Chalten. It’s apparently only about 20 years old, and it’s growing quickly in response to all of the people flooding in to trek around Mt. Fitzroy (just like us!).
After being dropped off in El Chalten near our hostel, we wandered over and checked in. This was our first experience on this trip in a multi-bed dorm, but our dorm mates Lorenzo (Switzerland) and Noa (Israel) were a very cool bunch. Frederico (the young guy running our hostel) gave us some great suggestions for two day hikes to try out on our two full days in the area. Perfect! We headed to bed to grab a good night’s sleep for the trekking ahead.