Category Archives: Argentina

We´ve seen it all now!

An uneventful bus journey! Is that too much to ask for? It´s likely to take around 5 hours depending on the border crossing into Chile, that’s what the girl said when we booked. All aboard, settle down and amuse yourselves…. but I´m sure they didn´t mean that quite as literally as the couple opposite us took it to mean! Really! GET A ROOM!

The border crossing was uneventful other than the cold wait in line to be processed, oh and the confiscation of our bottle of honey 🙁

We chose “The Singing Lamb” ( hostel in Puerto Natales as having had two recommendations this was the only one we were able to contact about having post delivered to. Good choice though. Small (20 beds max) with a great brekkie of porridge, eggs and toast with a selection of homemade jams. MMMmmmMMMmmm!

No sooner had we arrived than we were advised to quickly go to a free talk (held daily at ) on the trekking. This was definitely worth it, if only to meet other trekkers and find out where best to provision for our 5/8 days. It certainly cemented the plan to do just the W as there are lots of mosi´s on the Circuit! No way would Bernice entertain this option as soon as that was mentioned.

As we were about to leave the talk Josh and Elise strolled in (they´d arrived here yesterday) and we all set off round town in search of supplies before finishing the evening at the best pizza restaurant in town (best pizza outside Italy according to Susan at The Singing Lamb, and we had to agree).

Chase me chase me….. and did you know Argentineans can´t take hot food?

An early start today to hand the car back in. Not that it´s far, just the other end of the main street. A treacherous journey though, as you didn´t know if you were going to be singled out and chased by the stray dogs amusing themselves with this sport all day and all night – they were having immense fun, disturbingly though none of the cars appeared to slow down, if anything they took a run at them.

We have taken a leaf out of Matt and Sophie´s book and stayed another night just to have some down time. Plus if we hadn´t we´d have been on the same bus as most of the troops we did the Route 40 adventure with. It means we can have a last night out with Michael before he heads north for the Rio Carnival, along with the vast majority of back packers currently in South America – we´re looking forward to places being less popular, out of season, as hopefully it´ll make it cheaper for us.

Chilli is on the menu tonight and as always we make far too much, eat far too much and forget to leave room for beer. We offer the last of it to the girl on the desk not really expecting her to say yes, this is after we´re spend a good deal of time making it reasonably hot, oops! No sooner has she started eating it when she´s running to the kitchen for a drink. Pretty amusing 🙂

Note to selves about the rest of night: – stop asking for and then teaching the locals how to make carajillo! You´ll only be disappointed and possibly worse, robbed blind on price!


Being our own boss today, having the luxury of the hire car meant we didn´t have to be on a tour bus at 0800 but could have a leisurely get-up and set off for the glacier via the supermarket and lunch provisioning when we felt ready. Even without a 4th person in the car we still had a cheaper day out than we would have via an official tour bus, with none of the sheep mentality to contend with.

The drive to the glacier was across a massive Patagonian Steppe (thousands of miles of desert like scrubland) and the closer we got the more overcast it became. So what started as a blue sky day was now grey and looming, also for the first time we saw some cattle in nearby fields.

This didn´t dent our experience though, nothing could, we parked the car up and started our walk along the 3km of paths that create the viewing platform for the mighty beast that is the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Yes it was wet, but also unbelievably loud as the ice melt caused chunks of ice to fall to its demise in the waters below. We watched on in awe as we breathed in the sight before us, this magnetic sight that loses everything in writing and can only truly be experienced up close and personal. If you hear the ice fall you´ve missed it! It is apparently one of the few glaciers in the world that is still growing, yet here we all are standing here along this huge expanse of railings egging it on to melt before our eyes, wanting to capture on film, on video, the amazing scene as its front face dies before our eyes.

We spent a long time watching, photographing, videoing, listening, watching, enjoying this huge rare phenomenon we´d travelled to see.

Occasionally we´d bump into some of the others who´d took the bus tour, the Irish couple, Stephie, Josh, Elise, we even bumped into a Dutch couple we´d met in Puerto Madryn who came snorkelling with sea lions with us.

Returning to the car we had lunch in a dry window between showers and then returned to the glacier for a 2nd time, why? Because we could! The rain didn´t let up and in fact got heavier as the afternoon wore on. We´d read that the glacier was more active late afternoon but considering the rain we guessed correctly that the most spectacular breakages had happened earlier on in the day.

An awesome day out!

Saturday night party-poopers!

Prejudices! ….. we can all stereotype about and give each other a hard time about doing so, some of us are not big fans of “them”, and some of us are open-minded giving each interaction the benefit of the doubt till proven otherwise…  Well anyway whatever your stance, and however many of “them” you meet or indeed however many you know and love, the guys we met today at our new destination really took the biscuit!!

A morning of packing, brekkie, some admin followed by a 3 hour bus journey (and yes it was only 3 hours, and the driver was even nice enough to stop on the way out of town for everyone to get some final photo´s of Fitz Roy as we waved it goodbye) delivered us in El Calafate where we made our way to our new hostel by about 6pm. This one is an old hotel that´s been converted to a hostel; there´s no bunk-beds which is a bonus; great wifi and pretty flash bathrooms –nice! The beds are even comfy, thanks Matt and Sophie for the recommendation. (they´d been here already and had returned for a few more days down time).

Top priority was laundry and after dropping it of we provisioned for a nice meal of Carbonara and as there was a DVD room at the hostel the plan was a nice relaxing night in watching a movie – Inception.

We also arranged a car hire for tomorrows trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier (the main/only reason to stay in El Calafate). We were hoping one of our new family might join us and chip in for the cost of the car but each one we contacted had either already been today (most of them travelled down yesterday) or were booked on a tour bus.

As we eat dinner we heard from Sarah who was due to get a 0300 bus to Ushuaia (the end of the world!) and would be up for meeting for a drink as she wasn´t planning on sleep before hand, instead she joined us for food and the movie. This is also the point where “they” come in. We´d been talking to the guy, Shane, in the kitchen while we made dinner, he seemed to be on his own and was also making dinner, turned out to be for him and his girl, they were from Boston. They sat on a neighbouring table and then asked to join us. Fine we all thought – the more the merrier. They seemed normal enough and got pretty chatty. They even donated a little of their wine to us, declining our offer to join us watching the movie.

Inception is a great movie and guessing you´ve all seen it but if not, go do so now! In true Hollywood marketing style and as I´m sure you´ve noticed too, the sound is really variable throughout. All the shot-em-ups are REALLY loud to the point of being deafening but if you lower the volume too much you can´t hear the talking in the next scene…. Why is that?!

Well anyway this proved an issue. A big issue! Here we are: us, Michael and Sarah in an open planned attic DVD room watching an action packed movie that we start watching at around 2145, not late for a Saturday night and certainly not for Argentina, most locals would only just be sitting down to dinner!!! We invited Matt and Sophie up too and they were going to join us but they´d seen it already and found something else on their dorm TV (oh did we forget to mention, we had TV´s in our rooms?)

Well their room was right below the DVD room and early on in the film when we were trying to get to grips with the volume control Matt came up to let us know it was really loud below. The added issue was that being open plan if our volume was too low all we could hear was the music playing in reception two floors below. We explained to Matt our efforts to avoid blasting them and understanding our challenge he snuck off back to his own film.

About 40 minutes later a guy came up, he was the late night receptionist, to ask us to turn down the volume as people were trying to sleep, it had just gone 11pm. (There´s a notice above the TV asking users to please be considerate and keep the noise down ….. after 1am!) He seems quite embarrassed and you can tell he really didn´t want bothered again as he even suggested we turn on subtitles so we can read the plot rather than try to hear it!!!

Shortly after this Matt and Sophie come up and joined us. We presumed because their movie had finished. Well partly, their roomies had come in, gone to bed, and then requested they go down to reception to watch the end of their film as they couldn´t sleep for the noise. The same roomies who had complained to reception about the noise from us in the DVD room, the same American couple who´d had sat with us at dinner, knew we were watching the movie, could have joined us, could have come and spoke to us themselves…. When the movie ended Matt and Sophie found a note outside their room from them saying they had a “white-noise” app running on their ipod to help them sleep – it was louder than the TV had been … All we can say is GET A LIFE, enjoy Saturday night, don´t stay in a dorm if you can´t hack it or a hostel for that matter!!!! Unbelievable!

Walking in the rain …

Yawn! There was half a plan to get up mega early and go catch the sunrise over the Fitz Roy but as the alarm went off around 0630 the rain stopped play and we had a further hour or torture trying to find comfort in our confined but dry bed. Michael´s hired tent was much bigger than ours even though only a solo one-man jobber. To be fair he did offer to swap a few times but where would the fun have been in that?!

With a little respite from the rain around 0800 we got up and packed the tent away quickly before having brekkie in a nearby shelter.

Then it was onwards to Lago Torre, where we were supposed to have a combined view of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre but with the non-stop rain since we set off there was no view. We went all the same (meeting a few of the other guys who were out for their 2nd day hike), took the obligatory photo and retreated to the woods for a wet lunch in the rain. Almost felt like hiking at home!

There was some good to come from the rain though, the colours it made the rocks glow was truly amazing, terracotta’s and greens, the photo´s probably won´t do this justice!

On our way back to base we stopped off at the bus station to book our bus for tomorrow´s trip south to El Calafate. Yep we´re mad going back on a bus, but it´s all tarmac´d road so should be hassle free, fingers and toes crossed.

No sooner had Bernice finished in the shower and we had a power cut, transpired it had hit the whole town and was a common occurrence. Well Huw and Michael weren´t so lucky, not just in the hot water availability, but in actual water availability full stop – it just stopped coming out of the shower midway, must have been fed by an electric pump. Doh!

We were all excited about going for waffles but no power meant that was out L

Of course we improvised and went to a wine bar instead. Then when the power was restored we were wandering about trying to make a food decision when we bumped into Matt & Sophie, two Brits Michael had met on his bus down. (Just to clarify, Michael didn´t have any issues with getting stuck in the mud overnight as he was on another less scenic route). They were headed to a Parrilla so decision made, we joined them. The steaks were pretty good but Bernice´s Lamb was all bone and gristle, oh well you can´t win them all.

Getting Fitz

An 8 for 9am start even in Spanish/Argentinean time you could stretch a bit but with so many nationalities to co-ordinate you can imagine it was a bit later than planned when we finally got on the hills. Some of the crew had sat up pretty late in the end and moved onto shots too, so a pretty messy start.

Bernice was really suffering for the 1st hour of the walk – think it was Hayfever. She really had trouble breathing and her chest got pretty tight. Although we´ve done a few walks now this is the 1st one through greenery, grasses and shrubs. A couple of piriton and slowing down for a bit helped ease it off.

By lunchtime we´d all spread out and as we made our way (on a planned detour) to “Piedras Blancas” a small glacier there were only 8 of us still together. It was really worth the effort as it was a great view, we got really close – the 3rd best restaurant so far Fi!

Returning to the main route along with Michael, who was also camping out with us, (the others were just doing a day hike and back) we pitched our tent in an empty campsite. It had a sign up saying “climbers only” but we decided to ignore it as there clearly were none and the next nearest campsite we´d past about 40 minutes earlier.

Having lightened our loads a bit we set off for the final ascent to “Lago de las Tres” the lake at the foot of Fitz Roy. We had amazing views. Apparently its only clear 20 or so days of the year, well today was one of those, and we were all chuffed.

Bernice chilled o the rocks sunning herself while the rest of us ventured down to the lake and along its edge to view the hidden lake – it was worth seeing but not as spectacular as the main one.

Retreating back down the hillside we said our goodbyes to the day trippers and made for our camp. A feast of bread cheese and ham for starters followed by a green pea and tuna Risotto rewarded us well for our days efforts. Sadly though there was little daylight left to play cards and as the air cooled our sleeping bags were calling loud and clear.

Point to note: We are trying out for 1st time in anger, our little 1.5 man, 1kg Terra Nova Laser competition tent!!! See if it will be manageable for a 5-8 day hike around the “W” or full circuit at Torres del Paine!!!! Well cosy doesn´t even come close! There was barely room for the sleeping bags empty let alone with us inside them. That said the toughest aspect of the experience was the solid uncomfortable ground that even with roll mats was pretty unbearable.  Hhmm….

Finding Michael

There´s supposed to be wifi in this hostel but it´s proving elusive! We manage to get onto a static PC in the common area and see that Michael arrived yesterday evening as agreed and has stayed another night when he´s figured out what´s happened to us, he´s just out for the day. A shower and a freshen up we go for a walk up the high st, El Chalten is very small but there´s building work and expansion going on everywhere. This is the newest town in Argentina and only exists for climbers and walkers. We manage to provision for our planned, if delayed, overnight hike to Fitz Roy.

Other than re-grouping with our newly formed family from the past few days bus trip and having dinner at the hostel while we swap plans for tomorrow not a lot else of note happens today.  Everyone is exhausted. In the end we all agree to start the hike together tomorrow.

Wifi is officially pants here, it’s like the hostel want you to use their PC´s which we´ve since found out you need to pay to use (we must just have been lucky earlier)

Our new family include: Carlos, Rico and Mario (3 firemen from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria), Robbie (a girl from Milan); Josh and Elise (Vancouver); Nick (Bermuda); Sam & ?? (Belgium); Sarah (Luxembourg); Stephie (Switzerland); an Irish couple we never caught the name of; Thomas & Tina (Danish).


We have in hindsight many titles in our heads for today’s blog. We started with: “Cold, wet, muddy Route 40”, to partner yesterday’s title, but it really didn´t fit in the end. Others we´ve since considered have been:

  • Bus broke down in shacksville
  • Breaking news: Passengers abandoned and made to walk hour and a half before rescue
  • Chicas izquierda, chicos derecha
  • Bounce the Bus
  • Everybody off, we´re going to try one more time
  • Route 40 does Glastonbury
  • The Somme along Route 40

Why? Well….

Thunder! Lightening! Rain! Ouch! That wasn´t the wake-up call we were expecting! There´s going to be little choice for food supplies on route today we´ve been advised, and obviously we stocked up last night when it was nice and dry and pleasant to walk around town – wrong! We have to go this morning in the rain, not fun.

Still we had a nice brekkie in a wee café of “café y media luna” (that’s coffee and miniature croissants if you didn´t know already). Bernice is dying to ask what the French think of the re-naming of their home staple, but we both agree it would be lost in translation.

Some of our bus got up at o´crack-sparrow this morning to go off to the caves (the tourist attraction we mentioned) and we´re supposed to pick them up on route, except  by about 2pm, there´s no sign of them and we´ve been holed up in the middle of nowhere (worse than the nowhere town of last night) at a wee shack with some excuses for toilets, for nearly an hour now. It was supposed to be a 20 minute stop, but as soon as the drivers started tinkering with the engine we feared as much! Today´s journey is approx. 600km, almost all unpaved roads so it´s no surprise really.

Josh and Elise had gone on the early morning excursion and they arrive back pretty pissed off. The mini-bus picked them up around 1115 to come meet the bus but got stuck in the mud going up a hill. It ended up going back to the caves and transferring them to a 4×4 pick-up that proceeded to bring them part of the way, drop them off, you guessed it, in the middle of nowhere, with no clear indication of who would come and get them to bring them the rest of the way. They started walking and were walking for quite some time before they were brought the rest of the way. When they enquired about getting their money back they were told no way, the main thing was they were here safe!

The rest of the party arrived about a half hour later and we set off again about 1540. Only ~3 hours late. It had been raining off and on all morning and started hard again now. We were due to arrive at the hostel in El Chalten at 2330, that was now already estimated to be 0230, take into account the rest of the journey was going to be more muddy that usual and perhaps that would take it to 0400…. Nope!

Around 1700 the bus stopped and the driver indicated it was a toilet stop – boys to the right, girls to the left! As you can imagine that went down well with all the princesses on the bus, luckily Bernice had gone just before we´d set off again and was fine for now. We stopped again about 2030 at a fuel station. Another bus on the same route, different company, had just got there in front of us and eaten every morsel of decent food they had so it was coffee and a choc cake thingy.

Back on the bus and everyone tries to settle down for some shut eye, accepting the late arrival now on the cards. Then if things hadn’t gone pear-shaped enough, the bus starts sliding about the road more than just a little – a couple of times at least, we are driving completely side-on to the road direction!!!! Then we come across the other bus, it appears to be stuck, halfway up a hill opposite the one we´re trying to go down, the driver has stopped us and is weighing up the situation. Then suddenly he takes off at ramming speed to make it down and back up, hoping to avoid the other bus and get past without getting stuck. Wrong! We get within a few bus lengths to the other one, he bottles it and we´re stuck too. The co-driver then instructs everyone on the bus to jump up and down! Vigorously! To free us from the mud! We barely move. Plan B: Reverse down the hill and have another go. Nope, that doesn´t work either. Plan C: Everybody off, make the bus lighter and then he´d have another go. Right! Sensible idea except it´s pitch black, a complete mud bath on the road, and half the bus are wearing flip-flops!!! Nice! We all parade off the bus and stand in front of the other one. Our co-driver goes on ahead with a torch to check out where the top of the hill is and returns and guides our bus…. against all the odds our bus does make it this time and we all get back on the bus feeling we´ve got one over on the other one and for now at least weren´t doomed to spend the night out here on the battlefield.

Not so fast…. at most we get a further 5km down the road and come across an open top farm wagon carrying 8-10 horses in the back, sitting side on half on, half off the road…. We go for the same approach (by this time the bus steps and all down the aisle are caked in mud and smelling like roses, not!) but without success, we end up off the bank stuck parallel to the wagon. Guess that’s it for the night then!

The drivers to give them their due had tried their best and it was obvious that this was not normal conditions on the Route 40, never-the-less it didn´t endear many of us to entertain the return journey this way. Settling in for the night for sure we tried to get some sleep – we´re probably about 250km away from our destination still. Even if we were to get past this blockage, chances were we´d encounter another, and another….

Around 0430 the driver tried again to get us out of the mud, they´d dug out the back wheel a couple of times now back-filling with tufty grass monsters from the barren landscape around us, but to no avail. In daylight it was easier to see the lay of the land and the situation we were in. There was a further pick-up truck stuck behind us, drivers from all vehicles tried to get him going, jump-starting his battery in the end, then digging out the road ahead of him so he could break fee. We guessed so he could go get help!!! It was about 0900 when he finally sets off. About an hour later some weird JCB type tractors turned up to tow us and the wagon out of the mud. We are all loitering about along the road, nobody wanting to be on the bus in case it rolls when pulled.

All ends well and we get underway again about 1100, everyone exhausted but elated. As you can imagine we are also all good friends by this stage having spent so much quality time in each other’s company! About an hour or so down the road after a couple more minor incidents we stop at another roadside cafe shack where we are able to use the tiolets but again there´s not much food options, not the other buses fault this time, they´re still behind us. Hungrily we return to the bus for the final leg.

About 30 mins from El Chalten we stop again at the side of the road for no apparent reason (we know we´re close because we´re now on tarmac´d road). Then suddenly a car coming in the opposite direction stops and starts transferring boxes of stuff onto our bus – coke, fanta, and lots and lots of hot sandwiches filled with milenesa (breaded steaks, a speciality here) Nice one!!

By the time we´ve all scoffed them we are pulling up outside our hostel (1450, approx 15 hours late and 56 hours after we started!). Last night´s stay was included in our bus ticket – kindly they honoured it for tonight and we were all ecstatic. Amazing how a sandwich on approach and a further night gratis can diffuse any potential complaints…

We were lucky here as we hadn´t booked any further nights and were getting worried we´d have nowhere to sleep tonight. It turned out they gave us a double room at dorm rates which was most welcome.

Hot dusty “Route 40”

A 6am start for us, our bus leaves at 0630, making a 13.5 hour road trip to our halfway point 800km down the Route 40 (classic North – South Argentinian highway) to Perito Moreno where we´re all put up in overnight hostel, arriving just before 8pm. 120km today is also on unpaved roads ouch! It´s just a normal coach too, not the luxurious cama seats we´ve had up till now that recline nearly all the way back. Boo Hoo Hoo.

As we were leaving our hostel this morning we were behind another couple booking out who mentioned last night they were getting the same bus. They were having issues as the night desk guy insisted they still had to pay over AR$100, but they´d settled up two days before and checked again yesterday! It looked like it was going to be a long drawn out affair (he was calling the dayshift up trying to sort it out) so we muscled in toget ours sorted so at least some of us could get to the bus on time and hold it up for them, if possible. They bought the idea and we made the bus. In true Spanish time, there was really no rush, they made it too…hurray!

The bus journey was only made bareable by the frequent stops we had, to get out stretch our legs and go for a we. There was no air-con to speak of, just desk fans bolted to the ceiling along the isle that the driver took long enough to put on initially and then kept forgetting each time we set off again.

This evening we got talking to the Canadians again and low and behold they´re from – yep, you guessed it – Vancouver! Josh and Elise – they´ve taken a year out too and so far they´ve done Columbia, Ecuador and Chile, and are now doing Argentina. We had dinner with them, our bus tickets were supposed to cover dinner or so we all thought but when we arrived they told us it wasn´t included, funny how it was very specific about lunch both days not being included but not so about dinner. Saying “arrival at hostel and dinner”. Hhmm…

The town of Perito Moreno is pretty much a one horse town, but worse than that it’s in the middle of nowhere, nothing around for hundereds of miles. It´s only saving grace is a nearby tourist attraction, it´s convenience as an overnight stop for this bus and that it has some cash machines (where we´re going, El Chalten, apparently has none!)

We find we´re sharing a 4 person dorm with a retired French couple. She speaks really good English; he speaks neither English nor Spanish. We cross our fingers and he doesn´t snore – he´s a big guy. It´s not too bad, but Bernice put her earplugs in from the off just in case!

Fi´s Itinerary

Mega zzz´s today till late, then a chat with the Deery´s, good to speak to you guys 🙂 and off for a Rock Chicken lunch, which proved all too much for everybody, so a siesta was brought into play to remedy the situation.

That’s pretty much the day gone, our free dinner and then some late night blogging action. Huw helped Fi create an itinerary for her next 5 weeks and we found out Michael was on a different bus on a different route, but we made plans to meet up with him in El Chalten for our next hike anyway. Helping him book into the same hostel our bus ticket put us in.

A sad evening, sharing out food supplies and left over kitty money, saying goodbyes and trying to hold it together!