Our bus from Perito Moreno arrived to El Chaltén bus terminal at 6:30 in the morning. Common procedure started, pack your stuff, get out of the bus and wait for your backpack. That was pretty much the moment when we realized two things, good one – it is beautiful here, bad one – it is freaking cold.
Freaking cold morning (but beautiful)
We put on hats, jackets, gloves and tried to warm up by walking. It finally made sense why was town completely deserted at this time of the day. Our brave walk lasted 10 minutes during which we had a look at amazing Cerro Fitz Roy, with evaporating clouds coloured pink and red by rising sun.
After that we wanted to get somewhere inside and warm. Sadly only place open and available was small building housing few ATMs. Unsurprisingly there was no heating but at least we were inside. Few cold souls joined us there later.
Information centre and its café opened after a while. We spent that time by dancing on the spot and rubbing hands. It was almost worth celebrating. Once we got there it was time to ask some difficult questions – where to spend the night and how much will it cost?
How much for the night? Really?
Kiosk employees must be used to unprepared adventures who don’t book up-front. We were looking for “alojamiento barato” – something cheap. Lady told us that there are some places, which still might have rooms for us and they should be cheap – somewhere around 700 – 800 pesos per person.
We smiled, thanked her and left. That was quite a lot of money which we were not ready to pay. Tana and I went out to look for something on our own. We walked around the town, following iOverlander app advices about places to sleep. Most of them were either full or more expensive (or both).
We circled around town in vain search and ended up in one of the first places which we visited – Arco Iris Hostal. Its reception / bar looked good and they wanted “only” 700 per person for bed in the dorm. We took it for two nights for now.
It was time to see the room, guy from reception took us out and behind main building. I must say that it was a shock as it didn’t look like the reception at all. First we walked through shared kitchen, which was dark and really (really!) dirty. From there through the corridor and to the room. It definitely was not Hilton, but it could have been worse. Opposite to our room where showers and toilets which looked better than the rest of the building.
We were done with accommodation. It was adventure time although little limited. Morning was almost gone so we looked for some of the shorter walks. Hike to two miradors – Los Condores and De Las Aguilas was the winner.
Lets go see the birds
Path starts near the bus terminal and leads (unlike most of the other hikes here) away from the Fitz Roy. Trail is easy to follow and well marked, at least at the beginning. It didn’t take us long to get to the Los Condores. Even though it is a perfect place to watch condors, we didn’t see any, it was probably too cold for them on that day.
But there was no need to despair, there was still lot to see. Far away were peaks of Fitz Roy peeping out of mist and clouds. And below us rivers Las Vueltas and Fitz Roy hugged El Chaltén.
Our next steps lead to mirador Las Aguilas. It was easy hike over some rocks and stones. In places path was lost and we were like two detectives looking for clues. Experience was fund and entertaining, as we knew that it was impossible to get lost here.
There was a surprise waiting for us near the end of our walk. Our German friend who got stuck with us in Rio Mayo was there. She told us about her way from the town in the middle of nowhere to here. Thanks to good people, which she found on couch-surfing, who took her under their roof and later to Perito Moreno. From there it was easy-peasy. We were happy to see her again and really glad know that she’s ok.
Mirador De Las Aguilas was cherry on top of our trip. From there we saw a huge valley and beautiful blue waters of glacier lake Lago Viedma. Return journey was easy. Still no condors to be seen but at least we met some local cows (they were cute).
Life changing experience
We were back in town and hungry. Time to spend some hard earned money, hopefully on delicious stuff. As El Chaltén currently exists for tourism there are many places where and what to eat.
We stopped in local bakery, which was best thing we could have done. Many hungry tourists waited in the line, so we joined the queue and looked around what to have. Two things caught our eyes.
There were loads of small sweet pastries – called Facturas. Their taste varies, usually there are five or more different kinds (shapes and fillings). What is nice that more you buy cheaper it gets (per piece).
The other interesting product was empanada. This salty type of pastry is filled with meat, cheese or some vegetables. If you are lucky you’ll get a fresh batch which is still warm. Same rule related to price – the more you buy, cheaper it is.
In short, we were leaving bakery with two paper bags filled with various kinds of pastry. Luckily there are some benches right in front of it so we were able to sit down and taste our treasure right away.
Facturas (except the ones with dulce leche) were our love and we were visiting bakery every day (sometimes more than once).
First night in a loud company
We spent the rest of the day by walking around town and looking for cheap restaurant. We found one where they had burgers, beer and free bowl of peanuts, what a treat.
Now back to hostel. Showers were kind of ok, lot of water on the ground, so one can say it was clean. Nice thing was that there was plenty of hot water and reasonable pressure in the pipes. If you don’t mind that it is not possible to close the doors you might give it five stars out of five.
Tana and I shared room with few other people, they were already sleeping when we arrived. Being nice and considerate people we walked around quietly as a mice. Getting to the top bed was tricky without making any sound, but I’d rather risk falling down than to wake up my fellow tired travellers. We said good night and dozed off, at least that was our plan.
However it was not meant to be. Some noisy event was happening in the kitchen – unpleasant but bearable. What got us really on our toes were our roommates. I think it was around two in the morning, when their alarm woke us up. Blasting sound was followed by loud commotion of dressing up and door slamming. But at least they did not turn on the light, which was nice. By three in the morning they were all gone and we could sleep in peace.