Thursday 27 April 2006

An opportunity opens up

Monte Fitz Roy
So I now have a few more days to spare before taking off from El Calafate to Bariloche. Originally, I wasn't planning to do anything around Calafate, simply using it as a take-off point to get to Bariloche: there are no flights from Puerto Natales there.

Sunday I get my laundry done, then Monday up for 7.30am bus to Calafate. James and Nicky recommended the America del Sur hostel, so on arrival I looked out and found, amongst the throng of hostel people, for a rep from there. I arrived, checked in and within moments Maria had booked me on a trip to Perito Moreno glaciar that afternoon. Sadly, the weather was poor but it was still spectacular.

The young staff at America del Sur are fantastic. They're incredibly helpful and friendly, which makes a huge difference to the stay.

The following day, I got the bus to nearby El Chaltén. I had planned to do the overnight Laguna Torre walk, taking in views of Cerro Torre. Majo, in the hostel, advised me that I could also take in Monte Fitz Roy by connecting onto that track via the sendero Madre y Hija. Finally, talking to the gaurdaparques from APN in El Chaltén, I opted to start at the northern end at El Pilar, camp at Poincenot to see Fitz Roy at sunrise then head via Madre y Hija to Laguna Torre.

I'd met a Dutch chap, Sander, at the hostel in Calafate and a South African pair, Blane (M) and Alex (F) on the coach. I suggested we do the trip together. The S.Africans had little kit, no tent, but between the four of us, we could easily make do. Then Sander decided he didn't want to rush out and would spend a night in the hostel in El Chaltén. So now we're in the interesting situation where I'm going to have 3 in my tent again.

Alex and Blane. Both early 20s recently finished studies in Cape Town. Alex is travelling for 6 months ending up in BA to work a bit. Coincidentally, her mother is also Argentinian. Blane, 1.5 years out of university, is a keen photographer and was trying to build his portfolio since he wants a career in photography. Despite being S.African and bearing the surname Venter, he doesn't play Rugby.

During the course of the day, we see, first, a pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers. That's Woody Woodpecker (El Pajaro Loco). Just the same red head (but black body) on the male. Female all black. While he was pecking holes into the wood, she was meandering about the branches, laughing like a lunatic, just like the cartoon. A little later we saw a Patagonian skunk. This animal has a bad rep but is actually rather a beautiful little creature.

It's warm in the tent that night and we oversleep! The bottle of Norton Roble 2003 Cab Sauv might have had a part to play. 8.20am and the sun will be rising very soon. From down here, in the early light, Fitz Roy looks spectacular. We move as fast as possible up a steep climb to the viewing point from Laguna de los Tres. I get ahead but still don't quite make it for sunrise and now clouds are forming around Fitz Roy. I manage to get some pics. It's great to be above the snow line, though. Cerro Torre, on the other hand, never shook off its cloud and I never saw more than the base of it.

Next day was leisurely. Catching the flight at 16.40 to Bariloche, I got myself generally organised and had delicious empanadas for lunch at La Lechuza, as recommended to me by Maria and Majo at the hostel.