To the end of the world

Hello everyone,

in this post, I take you further South to one of my favorite place I’ve seen so far, El Chalten in Patagonia. El Chalten is known as a mecca for hikers and is an amazing place for nature lovers.

I didn’t chose any background music this time, not that I’m lazy (or maybe a bit), but as most of the post is about hiking in the wild, I prefer you to use your imagination to listen to the sound of nature.

The bus ride from El Calafate is quite short. It takes only a couple of hours. Just before arriving in El Chalten, we make a quick stop at the visitors center of the “Los Glaciares” national park. There, rangers explain us the different trails available starting from the village and also brief us about the local fauna and how to behave in an eco-friendly way. After that we finally arrive in the center of the village and I head to my hostel to check in.
dsc07139I am very lucky, the weather is wonderful and so, after a short lunch, I decide to take the afternoon to do 2 small hikes to warm up before the 2 full day classical hikes to Fitz Roy and Laguna Torre.
The first one takes me to the North of the village to the Chorrillo del Salto waterfalls. The trail is quite easy, 3 km and partly on gravel roads shared with the tourists mini vans. The waterfalls themselves are not so impressive. As it is included in the local tourist tours, it is quite packed when I arrive there. However the way to get there is very scenic with a view on the Rio de las Vueltas and the mountains behind. On the way back to the village, I am lucky to see some Huemuls. Huemuls are also called andean deers and are present only in Patagonia. A couple of years ago, they were almost extinct but thanks to conservation programs, their population slowly starts to increase again.

The second hike of the day takes me to the South of El Chalten. I walk on an easy trail to 2 viewpoints: Mirador de los Condores and Mirador de las Aguilas. The trail is again very easy, 3kms flat one way but still offers a very nice view on the mountains, especially on the 2 local peaks Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy.

After this nice warm up, I decide on the next day to walk a bit longer and take the Sendero al Torre to the Laguna Torre lake at the foot of mount Cerro Torre.
The trail is a bit longer, 9km one way but is also quit flat. The walk along the Rio Fitz Roy is very scenic. The nature slowly gets out of the winter and offers some really nice gray and blue tones. After around 2,5 hours, I make it to Laguna Torre for lunch. The view on the lake is very impressive. The water is a mix of green and blue and in the background, we can see the glacier coming down. After lunch, I take a small path going around the lake to reach the viewpoint Mirador Maestri to get a better view on the glacier. However at some point, the slope is very steep towards the lake and still full of snow. As I am walking alone, I prefer to turn back for security reasons. The walk back to the village is also very nice. I am lucky to have very good weather all along.

Back at the hostel, I check the weather forecast for the next day. Unfortunately, after 2 nice days, the day I chose to go to Fitz Roy is supposed to be cloudy with some showers in the afternoon. No problem, when I wake up in the morning, I feel in a very good mood and I start walking at around 07:00. After one hour, I meet by chance my friend Adam with whom I drunk a whisky at the Perito Moreno Glacier a few days ago 🙂 He started walking at 04:00 to be at the top of the mountain for the sun rise and is now coming down to the village. He tells me that the weather was perfect until 06:00, but that the top is now completely clouded and it’s raining. Too bad! At the first view point, I can see that the weather is still not too bad but that there are clouds exactly on the Fitz Roy. The nature along the trail is very scenic. The grass is a mix of yellow, green, red and gray. Shortly before the end of the trail, it starts raining and I speed up a bit. I make another stop a bit later at the viewpoint “Mirador Piedras Blancas”, white stones, from where we can see the glacier with the same name. The last kilometer is quite hard. It is not only steep but also a mix of snow and mud.
The view at the top is surprisingly very good. Except the clouds on the Fitz Roy, the rest is very clear, especially the lake Laguna de los Tres. After a 1/2 hour break, I start walking back to El Chalten. At the camping at km 9, I meet Eddy, a young traveler from Los Angeles. He tells me that he just arrived here but that he is in bad shape and that he doesn’t feel good enough to climb the last km. I try to convince him to push himself a bit more, as he just walked 9kms and he will have to walk them back and it would be very sad if he doesn’t walk the last “mile” to get the view on Fitz Roy and the lake, which is actually the goal of this trail. However I fail at this and Eddy prefers to walk back with me to El Chalten. Back at my hostel, I check the weather forecast for the next days, to see if the weather was bad only this day or if it is getting bad generally. It seems I wasn’t lucky this time as I see from the bus station on the next day that the sky above the Fitz Roy is perfectly clear.

After a bus ride back to the El Calafate airport, my next destination is the city of Ushuaia, that i reach after a 1h20 flight. Ushuaia is often advertised as the southernmost city in the world although it seems to be the small town of Puerto Williams in Chile. Still, although the city itself is not very special, it is a nice feeling to be at the end of the word 🙂 Ushuaia is also the main starting point of the boats to Antarctica. However, due to the very high prices and as it is not the right season, I decide to keep this adventure for another time 🙂

Nothing special to report about day 1 in Ushuaia. I only do some paperwork and organize my time for the next days.
On Day 2, I am a bit more active and walk to the Glacier Martial, a few kilometers from the city center. The road from the city actually leads to a mini ski station closed during summer, and from there the trail to the top is actually a ski slope. Most of the hostels recommend to take a taxi to reach the ski station as it is supposed to be very far, but this is only a trick to help the local economy as I need only 40 min by foot to go there (the road in the city is flat).
I know some readers are already laughing picturing me walking up the ski slope as I did that a couple of times during the last ski seasons. The difference this time is that I was not wearing ski boots and I didn’t have my skis on my shoulders 😀
The very end of the trail is still closed because of the snow. However the view on the city and the bay from the top is still nice.

On day 3, I take a shuttle to spend the day hiking in the famous “Tierra del Fuego” national park. The nature there is very well conserved and protected and the landscape is beautiful. Along the trails, a lot of informative signs present the local fauna but also the fauna that was introduced accidentally. For example, one of the trails leads to a lake “colonized” by beavers.
I really enjoy walking there alone in harmony with the nature. The tranquility of this postcard like scenery reminds me a lot of my trip to New Zealand.

On day 4, I prefer to keep the program pretty light. I just walk around in the city and take nice pictures of the sea side. I also stop at the tourism office to get a stamp on my passport. I didn’t want to miss this one like in Machu Picchu!

Finally after 4 nice days in Ushuaia, it is time for me move one. In the next morning I take the plane to Trelew on the East coast of Argentina. From there I will go to Puerto Madryn, where I hope to see whales, penguins, sea elephants and seals.
I’ll report about this and my stay in Buenos Aires in my next post.
Stay tuned!

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