Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Over to the coast and back, to see the famous Perito Moreno Glacier and trekking 15 hours

We drove across to the Atlantic coast hoping to see some penguins at Monte Leon national park. We made a stop midway to visit the petrified wood forest near Sarmiento, Chubut. Its about 30kms of gravel off the main road. On the way we didn't notice any entrance we just stopped on the road and walked around in this rocky valley of dirt and petrified wood. Next we drove all the way to the coastal town of Puerto deseado, that was kinda of waste of time and gas for us. Its about 150km's off ruta 3 so we had to spend the night in town at this busy campground just outside of town, $10 and we only slept in the parking lot and used the washroom. I was unable to take a shower because the water was not warm enough but Jieun, toughed it out. The whole town was full because a rally car race but it all got delayed because of weather, it rained cats and dogs all night, the camp ground was flooded, feel sorry for all the campers their tents were sitting in pools of water. They have a penguin island but its too far to see off the coast you have to take a boat tour around the island, it cost too much so we opted not to because we knew we would see more down south.

wood thats turn to stone 

we could see the penguins from the shore but not as close as we would like

Next day we cooked lunch with on and off rain than headed to Monte Leon National Park hoping to camp and see some penguins and seal lions but it didn't pan out that way. The park officer told us because of the rains we would not be able access the park. So we just decided to drive to El Calafate, to visit the one of Argentina's most visited places. The road from the coast to El Calafate was long gravel road about 200kms. When we arrived you instantly see how touristy this town is, with its countless restaurants, shops, hotels, cabins, hostels and tour operators. We elected to no take part in that nonsense and stayed at the YPF gas station in town, they had a nice lot beside the river and clean washrooms. We checked out the town and totally splurged on dinner at the most expansive restaurant place in town.  El Tablita is just before the bridge and across the tourist office. We dinned on BBQ Lamb, beef and chicken plus bottle of red, tax and tip came to $80 bucks. In north america this would be a steal but when you've been on budget for the past year and half its seems like a boat load.

playing with ice thats older than me
Next morning we're off to see what tens of thousands tourist every year come to see, one of the largest and still growing ice glacier in the world. It cost us $25 each to enter, why so expensive you ask because we're foreigners, locals pay about $10. We arrived early with only a hand full of people in the park, down the path we were alone and no more than 10 minutes in we saw a chunk of ice and I kid you not, about the size of a 10 story building crashed into the lake causing waves of 5 feet on land. Its wasn't the only piece of ice we saw breaking off but it was the largest. Talk about good timing, because we heard stories of people starring at this glacier for hours without seeing anything. We spent about 4 hours walking on the nice walk ways getting all different views of the glacier. Overall it was a great day and a must see in Argentina, and its definitely worth your while and your money to see.

tinny town but loads of construction

ready for some trekking
weather turn bad time to get serious
on a mission

end of day one trekking Laguna Torre
day 2 sore but sprites are high

red head wood pecker only found in this area of Patagonia
bin laden lives
the trekking is over, now the hard part, road to the end of the world begins
After the park we drove about 5 hours to the north section of Glacier National park in the town of El Cheltan, Argentina's unofficial trekking capital. We arrived in town late at night and decide to sleep in the parking lot of the look out point to Monte Fitz Roy. What a mistake that was, it was so windy that we could hardly get any sleep from fear the van would flip over. After a few hours howling winds and rocking van, we decide to drive into town to find a better protected place to park. We ended up parking at the bus station/information centre. Bright and early we checked out the info centre that was no help. They couldn't recommend a place to stay, she only gave us a list and told us to call them on your own plus she had no info on the treks. But as luck would have it Jieun spotted a cabin just down the road from the information office and we check it out. They offered us a basic cabin for $35 bucks, and we told her we would stay 3 days and asked for a discount and got the place for $25 a night. It was nice to have a place to rest after going 2 weeks sleeping in the van. We did 2 treks, Laguna Torre and the Monte Fitz Roy trail with a total of 15 hours hiking over 2 days. By day 2, I thought I was going to have to carry Ji, back to the cabin, because she was having alot of problems with her right knee. Thank god we made it back but she wasn't moving too much for the next 2 days. All the entrance to the park trails are free and free camping. Good information on hiking and camping at the park ranger station before town. The only down side of our visit to El Cheltan besides Ji's bum leg was the poor weather we couldn't see Monte Fitz Roy, I guess summer would be the best time. Next up the long road to the end of the world Ushuaia.