Patagonia - El Chalten / by Mark Boyd

With my £30 handed over the lady behind the counter pointed to where the bus would come in and depart from.  I walked outside and waited beside the other buses which were already loading up.  Each of the buses left one by one over the next 20 minutes.... Mine was late.  I walked back in to inquire.  The woman behind the counter immediately asked why I wasn't on my bus.  Apparently it had come in to a different bay to the one she had told me to wait in.  She then told me to get a taxi and chase it..... I laughed and just asked for my money back.  It was expensive enough without going on 'The Great Bus Chase'..... I told her I'd take the 10.30am with the other company.  I settled down for a couple of hours editing on my Microsoft tablet.

There was slight disappointment when the 'bus' arrived.  It had shrunk in to a rather shabby looking 7 seater mini bus, all for the same price.  The disappointment continued when we drove to the airport, and were then redirected on to another shabby minibuses.  We then waited 45 minutes for more passengers.... We were then instructed to change back to our original minibus... Fun times!  I had a distinct feeling we wouldn't be arriving in El Chalten by 1.30pm....

We stopped a couple more times at insanely windy viewpoints, which I decided to 'sit out' having seen absolutely stunning vistas already in more settle weather, before returning in to 'Rattle & Hum' to continue our journey at a snails pace.  Whilst in the minibus I got chatting with a very nice gentleman and his son (who was super into photography).  He knew the Isle of Man as he worked with Royal Skandia from the Buenos Aires office through the 90's.  Lovely chap. 

The last hour or so of the journey was stunning.  Incredible rock formations and the very imposing figure of Fitz Roy partly smothered by storm clouds.  Fitz Roy is not your standard looking lump rock.  We reached our destination at 4pm, almost twice as long as the original 8am bus would have taken.

I wandered about the town looking at various campsites.  Went in to a cafe to gain the right to use their wifi for another perusal of local campsites through the purchase of fine local beer and fries.... I found a campsite near the head of the trails and walked another 15 minutes until I reached said destination.  Next door was the local 'Drugstore', which from it's appearance may actually have been a local 'Drug store'.  I mean what pharmacy doesn't sell cigarettes in this day and age???  

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Pablo, the 'campsite' owner offered me space upstairs in the wooden house he'd built, where a couple of local folks who come to El Chalten to work in the tourist season were sleeping.  Saved me erecting my tent and sorting out my camping gear.  I took him up on it.  The floor space was dusty but sufficient for my needs.  It was also toasty!  Bonus, as it was a tad chilly outside!

Italian Sam, a lad in his late 20's chatted with me about his own adventure.  Basically walking a large chunk of Patagonia with a 'wheelbarrow' of gear in tow.... Strong... Crazy... Lovely fella.  He was cooking a massive load of pasta that evening which included a hearty portion for me.

I think I'm going to enjoy El Chalten.... Tomorrow I'm going to trek to the base of Fitz Roy!

Footnote.... I rose early the following morning but by the time my gear was ready the weather had turned somewhat grim.  I remained inside using the wifi to work then that evening wandered down in to the small town between the heavy showers to enjoy an Artesenal beer.