Friday, January 2, 2015

Trip to Patagonia - Jan 2, 2015 - Overland to El Calafate, Argentina

- from the Itinerary:

After breakfast, we depart Torres del Paine National Park and cross the Andes once again as we transfer by coach to El Calafate, a town in Argentina that serves as the gateway to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.

For 65 million years, the land here evolved from chaotic volcanic eruption and massive glaciers, creating a jagged landscape of interconnected fjords, channels, and mountainside  glacial lakes. We’ll enjoy another chance to view the scenery and wildlife of the Patagonian steppe during our drive and make a stop for lunch en route.

This evening we arrive at our hotel in Calafate, where we’ll take a short orientation walk upon arrival. The town takes its name from the calafate bush — locals say eating its berries will ensure your return to this mystical region. Dinner is on your own this evening.

We are leaving Torres del Paine National Park today and heading north to El Calafate, Argentina. Along the way we will have to cross the border from Chile in to Argentina, change the bus and get a new local guide. But we stopped for a couple parting views and for a group photo with the mountains in the back while we hold the Patagonian flag.


A last look at Torres del Paine

With our traveling companions
Before reaching the border, we passed a gaucho riding in a field and our trip leader decided to see if he would stop and talk to us. He was happy to visit with us and answered several of our questions, including "how long have you been working on this estate?" He told us he had been here for 23 years, but lived there only during the week. He then went to see his family far from here in one of the widely-scattered towns. It was certainly an unexpected treat to meet him.



Our next stop was adjacent to the Chilean border at a restaurant and shop where we had lunch. The sign outside the shop indicates this is the road at the end of the world.


The last stop before leaving Chile

Road at the end of the world
As we crossed into Argentina, we all had to present ourselves to the Argentinean Border Control Officers. When I got off the bus, I reached for my passport, but it was gone! I searched my pockets, got back on the bus and emptied my backpack - no luck! Now I'm beginning to panic...leave the bus to make sure Pat doesn't have it - she doesn't. I get back on the bus and finally locate the passport on the floor, under my seat. What a relief!

Just after the border, we changed buses and got a new local guide, Gordie, for El Calafate. We drove for another couple of hours and finally arrived at our hotel, a short walk from the center of town.

For dinner, Pat and I walked into town and found a brew pub, Cerveceria Artesanal, where the first thing they do when you're seated is bring a sampler of their beers. We picked the 2 darkest of the 4 samples, an IPA for me and a Porter for Pat. The beer was good, the food okay.