• devon

All Turned Around

Updated: Mar 13, 2019

El Chalten and El Calafate, Argentina

As I write this we are in the air, halfway to Buenos Aires, and are ready to get back into some warmer weather, after camping and hiking for nearly a month in Patagonia! We have survived the Patagonian elements, and we even got a small taste of snow in February which cured us of any homesickness we were feeling. Nearly every morning waking up in El Chalten, Argentina, the tent walls were covered in frost. Not quite the -30 C temperatures that Calgary is getting right now, but cold enough for us. That being said, being out of the sweltering heat for the last five weeks has been a welcome change.

I have learned on this trip that my body is not well equipped to deal with 35 C and 90% humidity conditions - not conditions you have to deal with often, living in Canada!

We made it within a few hundred kilometers of the infamous Torres Del Paine, but we weren’t able to book campsites for the W route. Initially this was a disappointing realization, but after tons of research and talking with other travellers, I have come to peace with it. We were trying to do the trail in peak season, and began trying to book about five weeks prior to when we wanted to do it. It was an unlikely proposition at the time, but most things like this have worked out so far for us... Unfortunately, this was not to be. We realized in Coyhaique that we had to walk away from that idea that we would be doing this trail. We got bookings at two of the four campsites that we needed to complete the trek, and it didn’t seem worth it to make the travel arrangements to do half of the W route. This would’ve have been unfathomable to me when we were planning in Santiago, but after camping and hiking in Patagonia for the last four weeks I am completely content with what we have seen and done in lieu of doing Torres. I am sure, given the popularity of Torres, that it is a outstanding multi-day hike, but it’s not as if we haven’t been witness to some outstanding vistas ourselves. Also, it’s just a gut feeling but after talking with many people who have done it, but it sounds like “rush-hour” hiking - half the reason I love hiking so much is the fact that I can get away from people, so hiking with swarms of other people is not my idea of a great time. I’m sure in shoulder season, when fewer people are doing it, this hike is legendary. Hopefully one day I will conclude my Carretera Austral bike-packing trip, in mid March, with Torres Del Paine. I can soak up the vistas and bask in the solitude - exactly as hiking is supposed to be!

For those of you who are adventurous and desperate to do Torres, we have heard through the traveller grapevine that it is possible to do this trail if you don’t have permits… I’m not saying you should, but if you are a little sneaky it can be done. Talking with people along our journey, this doesn’t seem to be uncommon… I suspect that if the reservation system wasn’t an absolute joke to navigate through, people wouldn’t be doing it.

Our furthest point south, in South America, was El Calafate, Argentina. Our journey to this point involved some spectacular sights in El Chalten and El Calafate.

From El Chalten, there are multiple very easy day hikes leading to unbelievable vistas. The town itself is small, a little ragged, but is developing some genuine personality. It doesn’t feel like a tourist town that has been slapped together by a designer - not that we have seen many “designer towns” in SA.

My favourite tourist destinations are the ones that have sprouted organically. They feel personable, genuine, and are visually more interesting.

We were lucky to meet up with some friends from Calgary in El Chalten! How surreal to be halfway around the world and hike with friends from home.

A highlight was visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier. Hearing and seeing ice falling was an incredible experience.