Gobernador Gregores and El Chalten

ihana.com - big trip - diary - argentina - march 2003

At Oscars place at Gobernador Gregores...

...he puts his electrical skills to good use

This old thing could never...

...get to Tres Lagos

Wednesday 26 February - Monday 3 March

Driving around the national park had used up most of our spare fuel but we had enough to get to Gobernador Gregores, a typical patagonia village surrounded by tall trees to stave off some of the perpetual gales. We filled up, did some shopping and tried to do some emails on the painfully slow internet connection found in the back of a shop. A search around the 3 street centre found a campsite but it was all shut up. Wild camping around these parts necessitates some decent trees to shelter behind, otherwise the rooftent is just too noisy as it flaps about in the wind. Luckily the woman in the shop with the internet appeared in a car behind us and her husband, Oscar, invited us to their house. They told us that the wind is so strong sometimes that small cars are blown off the road. This might account for the super cheap price of land down here, fancy an estancia with 16,000Ha for $150,000? No - maybe in Brazil..! Average wages down here are a little higher than the north at 1000 pesos a month, that's $300 at the moment.

Surrounded by tall trees, there was no wind in their garden making it a perfect camp site. After showers and dinner we found that Oscar was an electrical fixing type guy, evidenced by the numerous tellys lying about his living room. Our webasto engine pre-heater had been blowing a fuse every time we tried to use it so we let Oscar have a look. It was soon working again but now the circulation pump wasn't. As it was past midnight we gave up.

In the morning we filled our water cans up from the hosepipe, the tap water round here being fresh and tasty, before headed off to the famous Fitzroy mountain at El Chalten. A quick pit stop at Tres Lagos, a windswept hole, found us sharing a little cafe bar with a drunk painter and decorator. While we had our coffee and buns a trio of backpackers came in looking for a lift north, we couldn't help them but sympathised with their being stuck here, especially the two dorises.

Cerro Torres...

...the glacial morain

Carpet of caterpillars

Mini icebergs in Lago Torres

Nearing El Chalten the sunshine turned to rain and we arrived in the dreary village on a wet, windy and dark night. We found a campsite with hot showers and a small hut thing acting as a windbreak. Backing the landy as close as we could, the tent was still sticking up well into the icy gale blowing down the valley. After a restless night, we dragged ourselves out into lashing rain which was to last the whole day. Never mind, we took off the pre-heater and set to work on the circulating pump. The shaft was seized and soon came free and all was working again. Cold starts will now be a lot smoother.

The following day dawned bright and sunny and we could see big snow capped mountains previously hidden in the mists. The guidebook said the walk to Lago Torres was the one to do on a nice day. Only a couple of hours easy hiking, squashing the thousands of caterpillars on the path, brought us to the glacial morain - the heap of rocks pushed along by the now receded glacier. Clambering up to the top of the morain revealed a stunning view of towering mountains and a glacial lake full of mini icebergs.

View from northern side of El Chalten village

View of Mount Fitzroy from the village

Series 2a landy

Wet and windy campsite

Horse skirts the puddles

On the way back from Lago Desierto

Unfortunately, the next day was raining again and the clouds were heavy over the mountains. Thirty kms north of the village is Lago Desierto reached by a track which winds alongside the river and is almost covered by it in places. The clouds made things hard to appreciate. The night was spent in the free campsite at the entrance to the village which is in a more sheltered position behind some stunted trees. They make all the difference and we managed to get a decent sleep. Another dull and wet day was our cue to give up hope of doing the Fitzroy hike and go south to El Calafate.

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