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Friday, March 11

Patagonia: A return to the deep south


It's been a week since Ethan and I left the comforts of the northeast and there's much to report! First off, 'the bags' safely made the journey. Yes all 170lbs of said bags completed the car ride (thanks Becca), the two bus rides, and five plane rides. When asked their one remark after the ~50 hour journey was 'oofta'. Consequentely the two Patagonia bags (thanks Justin and Jenna) are happy to be in the shared Chilean and Argentinean region known as 'Patagonia' that they are named after. 

The aforementioned 'bags'
Our destination is the quaint little trekking and climbing town in southern Patagonia named El Chalten (please excuse the missing apostrophe). Total population is somewhere around the square root of 100 (I would have googled it quickly but the internet here is at or below that of dial-up speed of the mid 1990's).

The self-proclaimed trekking capital of Argentina
Our paid accomodations thus far have been at the one and only Rancho Grande set at the base of a rock cliff of which we have climbed on twice. The Rancho is a hostel not a hotel. For those out there less familiar with this type of lodging you often pay per person and are placed in a bunk room with several others. In our case we have been in four-bunk rooms with lockers for storing belongings safely. The facilities include shared bathrooms, showers, a cocina (aka kitchen, and for the record, yes, I did just max out my two word spanish vocab...), and a common area. Three observations I have made about hostel living in El Chalten: 

1) It's country soup. I've met people from Australia, the UK, Germany, New Zealand, Argentina, Chili, the US, the Netherlands, and even the Yukon Territory for fuck's sake. And that's only the ones we've talked to. 
2) Quiet hours is optional. 'Bedtime' is somewhere between the loud rukus American group checking in around midnight and the early morning cleaning shift...
3) If you suspect there to be a communist amongst the group keep your veggies and cooking oil with you at all times (RIP fellow delicious looking pototoes and onion and bread and salt and...).

Rancho Grande!
Our first stop after the arduous two days of travel was a vegetariana resto to get our bowels back on track with a little fiber. The seven airplane meals of ham and cheese (hold the ham) sandwiches left something to be desired (veggies).

Curried veggies and rice
The next few days (Saturday-Monday) we spent getting to know the area and what resources El Chalten has to offer. Which lead to more observations:

1) Holy restaurants! It seems like every other building is devoted to feeding the masses of hungry trekkers. To note a few, we drooled past two cervecerias (aka brew pub), two vegetarian cafes, a waffleria (yes Jenna, the Chalten version of the Creperie :-) ), a bistro or two, two Panarias (bakeries), and one sandwicharia (seems like what Ethan and I would call a sandwich shop if we opened on down here...).
2) The other 50% of the buildings are hostels. Travelers galore!
3) There's a car for every 100 pedestrians (for a town smaller than Boonville it is clear that walking is actually a fine way to travel in a rural area)
4) My spanish is worse than I thought, thankfully Ethan has been killin it.
5) Not every 'fresh' vegetable is actually fresh. Not to sound like a priviledged American or anything but dang some of the vegetables on the shelf look worse than those in my compost bin. Maybe it's the lack or perservatives (ie wax covering) or maybe these veggies are just waiting for their proper afterlife within someone's digestive track?
6) The supermercados smell like the central mercado in Peru. I'll leave it at that.
7) The weather is delightful this time of year! With the occaisional wall of never-ending wind we have enjoyed many hours and days of sunny cloudless skys, an occaisional sprinkle of rain, and temps in the mid 60s and lows in the mid 40s. Granted our sample size is small, so far we haven't a complain.

Food and lodging as far as the eye can see!
Ethan and I quickly realized that our budget wasn't realistic if we continued to eat out for every meal. Fortunately we have a kitchen to help us reduce our living expenses.

Chef Beek
If you search hard enough there is good ingredients everywhere
As far as the physical adventure goes, from when we arrived (Friday the 4th) to Monday we climbed 7 sport routes (out of a sea of hundreds within walking distance) and hiked to a few of the iconic view points near the village. We have been trying to hold our excitement at bay due to a bum knee I acquired just before leaving the US. Needless to say I've been throwing every trick and the book at it to get it to reliquish it's grip on my appetite for adventure. Enter icing, vitamin I (ibuprofen), stretching, trigger point release massage, compression, 'rest', and happy thoughts...I think I've made it through the worst of it.

View from the south of town
View of the Torre and Fitz Roy massif
I realize that I'm leaving out the past three days as today is Friday. For good reason that chunk of time is going to have to be captured in its own post...Cerro Solo awaits the Kirk brothers...


  1. Sounds very exciting. I'm quite jealous and proud of my handsome, adventurous nephews! Safe travels!

    Mucho Love!