I’m in Ushuaia, self-proclaimed end of the world, so of course this post isn’t about Ushuaia, as I wrote most of it on the bus here 5 days ago…[And now I’m not even in Usuaia anymore!]
Anyway 🙂 A few observations from the last couple of weeks:
My optimistic hope that there is some kind of super-active, outdoors enthusiast lurking inside this sedentary city dweller is turning out to be kind of true. Ha! That’s not to say my need for ready sources of coffee, beer and internet has lessened, and I still break out in a cold sweat if deprived of any of the above for..actually best not to say how long that takes..[Also my enthusiasm was curiously awol when it came to the possibility of climbing up to see a glaciar in the mountains behind Ushuaia..]
I seem to have accidentally become a birdwatcher. There were a few warning signs: a casual membership of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust a few years ago, an excessive interest in identifying the bird with the yellow bit on it that was hanging around near my office (high up on the 5th floor) at work (grey wagtail – seems like a misnomer to me but what do I know!). Here are some of the birds that I have watched:
The best one (while hiking from El Chaltén to Laguna Torre) was a Magellanic woodpecker but he was too fast for me to get a photo, but this is what they look like (the one I saw was male, with an entirely red head). [From doing the laundry last week to birdwatching now – my wild and exciting adventure continues!]
Sometimes what you read on the internet is true: I read that Rio Gallegos is a depressing hole with no redeeming features, loathed by backpackers. Wow sounds interesting, I thought! I’m sure that means it’s more *authentic*and will give me a glimpse of ‘real’ Argentina! It turns out that Rio Gallegos is a depressing hole. Actually, I think it would have been interesting to hang around for a bit, but the place doesn’t make it easy to do that. Travellers avoid it if at all possible so there are no hostels – there’s a campsite near the bus station but that’s 2km from the centre in an area of grim industrial estates. I ended up spending over a weeks’ camping budget on one night in a hotel and great as it was to have an actual bed and bathroom and TV, that’s a wallet killer. There’s apparently a penguin colony nearby at Cabo Virgenes (140km away – near by Patagonian standards) but no way to get there unless you have your own vehicle. So Rio Gallegos was a one night stand for me and at 9am I was back at the bus station about to start an 11 hour ride to Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia. [Yes I’m making sweeping generalisations and being massively unfair to the place! I’ll try & give this some context in a later post, honest..]
There’s no logic to the ATMs. Apart from the screw-you foreign tourist £5 flat fee, you have to find one that’ll accept your card and be able to dispense more than about £20’s worth of pesos. (Here’s a clue: just because a particular bank’s atm worked last time, doesn’t mean it will this time. But never bother with Banco de la nacion). Good luck!
In the middle of nowhere and near the end of the world, in a country obsessed with meat, you can get a raw vegan packed lunch to take on your day’s hike (from Curcuma Cocina). That’s El Chaltén for you.
There is (for now at least), free, reasonably functioning wifi in the restaurant at the Perito Moreno glacier – a rare thing outside of Buenos Aires, from what I’ve found so far. You don’t even have to buy anything in the restaurant – the only bargain left in Argentina. Oh yeah and the glacier’s pretty cool too [in the pic at top of this post]. Boom boom.
Chile has really stringent rules about not bringing in animal or plant matter – which to your average traveller means all the food you brought with you for that 11 hour bus ride. Because although I’m not leaving Argentina just yet, I’m actually in Chile at this precise moment [four days ago]: yes that’s right, to get from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia, you have to go through Chile.
This fact completely escaped me as I stuffed an orange and banana from breakfast into my bag, next to my camping condiments (mayo, lemon juice, chilli flakes), and when I bought a small carton of fruit juice and family sized bag of crisps at the bus station. Oh yeah and there was some odd but good leftover crystallised grapefruit – hiking snack from Chaltén. All to be consumed or disposed of in the hour after setting off from RG, when we’d reach the Chilean border. Oops.
No more delicious meals like this one -‘camper’s surprise’ – for the time being!
Guanacos are my new favourite camelid. No it’s not weird to have a favourite camelid!
Apparently they like to lick stones and are good swimmers!
My world is held together mostly with gaffer tape*:
(Let’s overlook the washing line failure – that was operator error..)
*For pedants: yes I know this is probably duct tape not gaffer! Sue me!
Yes yes that’s all very nice but what have you actually been doing for the last couple of weeks?
I took the bus from Bariloche to El Chaltén which took almost 24 hours but I didn’t mind at all because the views were like this:
The roads were great too – well by great I mean that some of them reminded me of Central Asia 😊
I saw a lot of those guanacos that I mentioned by the side of the road:
And then as we neared our destination, through a windscreen that would really benefit from a trip to Autoglass, this bad boy appeared.
Fitzroy, one of the most famous of the Patagonian peaks, not for it’s height (which is a little less than 3500m) but for it’s striking shape and its towering granite walls, taunting climbers from around the world. Well that’s it, job done – we’ve seen the great beast so no need to bother with any of this tiresome *hiking* business! Ha…not quite – but that’s going to have to wait til next time now (after another night bus..).