Nestled in the mountains
Yesterday was my last day in El Calafate, which I was pretty happy about, since I felt like I had seen everything there was to see in the small town. I caught a 7:30 am bus from the terminal to El Chalten, known as the national capital of trekking. (I'm beginning to think that every town in Patagonia is known as "a paradise for hikers" of some sort.)
The bus ride was absolutely beautiful, and I kicked myself in the foot for not arriving earlier to the bus terminal to snag a better seat with a full window view. The road in front of us, winding straight into the mountains ahead, was a perfectly teasing preview of the scenery awaiting us in El Chalten..
The bus stopped briefly at a little cafe for a bathroom and snack break. There was a sign showing distances to other major world cities. I was laughing with my seatmate, (another) French guy Nicolas, because every city listed was a world capital except New York, NY and Sydney, Australia; apparently Washington DC and Canberra aren't big enough names to post on a sign.
After a brief stop at the national park visitor center (El Chalten is located in Los Glaciares Nacional Park, same as Perito Moreno Glacier), I arrived at my hostel around 11:30 am. Because this was the penultimate day of my trip, I was determined to make the most of it and do one of the popular hikes.
I left my hostel within a few minutes and went to grab a couple empanadas (yum!) to take with me on my 6 hour hike, passing by a few cute homes and buildings on the way.
The two most popular sights in El Chalten are the Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy mountains, so, naturally, the two most popular hikes in El Chalten are those that offer the best views of those peaks.
When I first started, I got a great view of the entire (small) town of Chalten behind me.
Looking forward, I had a view of the mountains, which was both motivating and discouraging (since it looked so far away) at the same time.
I reached the top of the hike within 2 hours, happy with my fast time and even happier with the view.
I even found motivation to do the extra leg of the hike that gets a little closer to the glacier. The trail followed the ridge of a huge hill of rocks, and like my hike to the Torres in Torres del Paine, it was often unclear where the actual intended trail was.
I reached a spot where a few other hikers were sitting, and together, but separately, we all enjoyed the picturesque mountain and glacier in front of us.
I spent 15 minutes just admiring the glacier and mountain, but the wind dissuaded me from staying any longer, and I headed back down to town. My legs were actually starting to feel quite tired from the hike, and I was ready for a warm shower!
The hike down was equally scenic, especially with views of the valley and other Andes mountains.
Other than a few meals here and there, I didn't treat myself to a nice meal that often on my trip, so I decided I would splurge while in El Chalten. After a couple beers with some fellow hostel-stayers (including a Slovenian guy whose English sounded so American I thought he was lying to me about his origins), I went to a place close to my hostel for a bite. La Wafleria was, exactly as it sounds, a restaurant with an entire menu of sweet and savory waffles. Craving protein, I got a fried egg waffle, and it was perfect.
After some journaling, postcards and a glass of wine, I went to bed, and I must say, my nightcap and hike put me to sleep quite quickly!