Thursday, December 27, 2007

El Chalten, part I

"Ruega por nosostros" means "Pray for us"...

While traveling in Patagonia, we noticed there are very few roads. Even fewer are paved for any length.

Along the road to El Chalten, the pavement once again ends and you note the map shows this is the only road to the town. The town is nestled in the foothills of the Andes, and the Fitz Roy mountain range looms above the town like a great stone gate. Shrouded in fast moving clouds, the peak occasionally reveals itself as a reminder of how small we all are.

We cruised the town for about half an hour, and inquired at a couple hostels (all full) before we found an empty cabaƱa. These are freestanding cabins, usually one or two rooms, that enable you to cook, wash and sleep. They make no promises about heat, drafts, bugs or sometimes, electricity. They do, however, make for excellent fort-like mini-homes where you can be alone to review and plan.

So we got one with 4 beds in 2 rooms and cooked a huge meal of rice, meat and a salad. We planned our next 2 days, which was to hike up to the base of Fitz Roy and explore. We taught Cristian and Vanesa everything we knew about eschewing unnecessary stuff from the gear. We worked out a deal with the owner to leave our car with remaining stuff behind her own house.

I have to note something about the wind: It blows almost constantly and is tremendous. People flip over, vehicles flip over, sands gets into eyes past your sunglasses, trees creak and break. If two car doors open at once, the car is flushed clean of all lightweight material. Its pretty amazing.

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