Wednesday, February 24, 2010

El Chalten

Some older photos:

flamengos and some other bird in El Calafate

sea lion colony in Punta Lomo

me in El Calafate

skirting the reserve fee by using the back entrance we came upon this car

so where did we leave off:

We just arrived in El Bolson today after a 30+ hour bus ride from El Chalten. We took the imfamous Route 40 with all its charm and mostly unpaved fun. We only had one break down and only had to wait one hour in the early morning brisk air for our two bus drivers to fix the problem while they smoked cigarettes on their backs with no hands.
El Chalten was amazing, and so far my favorite segment of the trip. The town itself is cute and had all kinds of personality. I wish we could have spent more time there, but instead we stashed some stuff at the bus station, rented a camping stove (no fires allowed) and headed into the mountains. The town of El Chalten and the hiking and camping are all located inside a National Park called Los Glaciares Parque National (or something) and for once we were admitted free of charge, given free maps! that came with an info session where they were very insistant that we not start forest fires.
We camped for three nights and hiked for four days, moving our camping site each day as we did a big circle around the park. Each day we had a destination in mind that brough better and better views as the days went on. The glorious Fitz Roy mountain loomed in the background, there were glaciers, crystal clear bodies of water and beautiful green and yellow bushes dotted the mountain sides while plants of vivid red and green sprawled along the groung. Everything had buena onda. We would hike to our campsite, set up the tent (thanks Melissa!!) leave our stuff inside and set off on more hiking. The park was created to preserve the purity of the water, and there are rivers, lakes and streams everywhere to fill your nalgine with. When we got on the bus we switched to the bottled water they provided in the back. I commented to Josh that it tasted weird. "Bottled water," he remarked. We were spoiled. There were lakes and streams with water so clear the stones that lined the bottom were as visible as if they weren´t under water. And then of course there were the lakes and rivers fed by glaciers with their cloudy blue water with minerals from centuries ago. Lets just say water will never taste the same again.
Our second day hiking was my favorite. We set up tent and then headed up. And when I say up I mean 400 km up. The trail was steeeeep, but my claves didn´t fail me and we made it to the top just as I collapsed onto a rock. After a quick lunch (salammmmiiiii) we took a look around. The hike was up to the most famous view of Fitz Roy (a most magestic mountain) and a beautiful blue lagoon. The little mermaid was stuck in my had all day after that.
We headed for some patches of snow so we could have a taste of your wintery lives back in the Sates and along the way we passed a small pool of water that fed the lagoon. I stopped to check it out and noticed water bubbling up from the sand in 6 or seven different places. I´d never seen a natural spring before and it instantly made me think of Tuck Everlasting!!! This water so far hasn´t made me feel like I´ll live forever (camping and busing have been taking its toll on my body) but it was so small and beautiful.
The hiking was great. For once in my life and I am not looking foward or backward. My mind was with my body as we saw more and more beautiful sights, and touched snow and examined the strange lichen designs and red rocks that mysteriously dotted the landcapes.

at the start of our hike

Josh´s amazing sleeping bag and his amazing self

stopping to get some fresh water

the blue of the lagoon didn´t translate well, but here was the destination of our second day´s hike brought to you by 10 second timer! that´s Fitz Roy himself in the background

our home sweet tent : cadillacs, notice what´s at the top?

this one´s for you Gabi: its the circle of life!!!!

On our third day we set out to our last campsite. As we walked over a bridge, the craziest thing happened!! We ran into a girl named Sarah Freeman who went to GWU with us! She was just sitting there taking a rest with her traveling buddy John. We promised to meet up with them at their hostel when we returned to town. Even though we´d only ever had one real converstion previous to last week, I felt that instant bond form that happens when you meet someone you know far away from home and the context that you knew them from. It´s happened a few times, and its funny how you feel like old friends almost instantly even though you know nothing about them!
We made up for lost time back at their hostel while we waited for two guys they met in their dorm, and then headed to the El Chalten local brewery where I had the freshest, purest beer I´ve ever tasted. They only use four ingredients: malt, water, yeast and hops. The negra uses toasted malt and even the foam tasted good on both. At $15 a beer we only stayed for three (there went all the money we saved by camping but it was worth it!) and then continued the bonding train back at their hostel until we went to catch our bus a few blocks away. Sarah graciously lent us the shower in their room (we stank!) and she lent me her sleeping bag!!!! I had been using a 60 peso number from Easy and my last night camping I had finally felt warm enough with three pairs of pants and five layers on top. Now with Sarah´s sleeping bag I can dress like a normal person when I go to bed!! Thanks Sarah!!! You´re the best!! (you did say your name has an h right??? fingers crossed!).

myself, Sarah, and Josh during the tour of the brewery

bus broken down in the midldle of nowhere over 400 km from El Calafate but already 10 hours into to trip - Rt. 40!!!!! so gravely...

The two guys Sarah introduced us to are now going to be our new travel buddies. We are meeting them in Bariloche on Friday where we will rent a car together and travel the lake district together. Until then we are hanigng out in El Bolson doing laundry, resting, grilling (you are allowed to make fire here) and tomorrow we are checking Bosque Tallado where Ted went o so long ago to check out the statues carved out of trees, and if there´s time we are going to head to the Israeli hostel Sarah recommended for a bite of hummus!!! Until the next time, besos!!


Ann Behar said...

Thanks for the post, Jules. I'm loving it!

Shelley Rolf said...

thank you for taking us along with you on your journey. thank you for the great updates. we like to hear what you are up to. traveling agrees with you - you both look fantastic. hannah's offering to pay for a haircut josh ! personally, i am a fan of your long hair. besos.

Alexis said...

I've been following your blog since I left B.A. last year and it's not easy to do while camping but Julia you look absolutely beautiful! I hope you enjoy the rest of your time living the vagabond lifestyle. Happy and safe travels to the both of you.

Gabril said...

Mis mocochirripimplines!!!
Joshitooooo!! Thanks for the pic!!! Jajajajaja everytime I go to casa cochabamba I remember our singing and ritual momment jajajaja. And you are using Colombia's t-shirt!!! NICE :)
I saw the Cadillacs' hats AWESOME :D
Guys! A friend of mine is from Bariloche and I think he is still on vacations at his parent's I'm gonna try to contact him to know if he can help you out down there!
Abrazos grandoteeeees!

Reed said...

Another fantastic posting, Julia!

We didn't make it to El Chalten when we went south, but you're definitely giving me ganas for a return. I hope the rest of the trip keeps wowing you guys. Que lo aprovechen!

Un abrazo,