It was a public holiday in Argentina on Tuesday, May 2, so I took a few days off and flew to El Calafate on Thursday. My first look at Patagonia was from the plane window as the sun rose over the mountains, which made my 3 am start that morning more than worth it.
I had the day to spend in El Calafate before my 6 pm bus to El Chaltén, so I explored the town a bit and ended up walking to Laguna Nimez just out of the town center. When I went into the visitor’s center, I was told that the lake had been flooded so I was unable to walk around it. This ended up being the start of my experience of the wonderful hospitality of the people in Patagonia, and I ended up spending my afternoon drinking mate with the woman who worked in the visitor’s centre and a couple of fellow travellers, while looking out at the few flamingos that hadn’t left with the rest of the flock.
My bus to El Chaltén arrived after dark, so I didn’t get to see the mountains until the next day when I was greeted by blue skies and a view of the famous Mount Fitz Roy towering over the small hiking town. Even though I had wanted to take it easy and do only some short walks to start, I was told that it was the first clear day for weeks, so I decided to do the first hour of a long walk to a lookout, and then decide whether or not to keep going from there. I am not a trekker, I didn’t have proper hiking boots, and I’d spent the last six weeks eating empanadas and alfajores in Buenos Aires, so I didn’t expect to want to walk for more than an hour each way.
When I got to the first lookout though, the view was spectacular. Towering over the crimson and yellow trees was the bright white and jagged Mount Torre. There was no way I wasn’t getting closer to that, so I kept walking through one beautiful scene after another, stopping to fill my water from the pure glacier streams and take many, many photos. After another two hours, I found myself at Laguna Torre, a stunning lake with huge floating icebergs that had broken off from the glacier which fed it, and the dramatic Mount Torre in the background. My two-hour walk had turned into six, and so began three days of spectacular walks and the most beautiful landscapes that I have ever seen. The whole time it felt like I was walking through postcards.
As a solo female traveler, it was the perfect place to spend a weekend – all the people I met were lovely and open, the walks were clearly marked and safe, and it being the end of the hiking season meant that we had the whole place to ourselves. There were times on the walks when I would chat to people, but also times when I couldn’t see any other people at all. A big change of pace from the bustling Buenos Aires!
I had expected my walk on the surface of the bright blue Perito Moreno glacier that I did on my last day before heading back to be the highlight of my trip, but everything I saw was so spectacular it would be hard to name a single favorite thing. It ended up being a perfect getaway from the city life here, and it was amazing to me how different other parts of Argentina are to the place I’ve been calling home for the last six weeks. I can’t wait to get out and explore more of this incredible part of the world!