The passage of time
El Calafate's new Historical Interpretation Centre really opens your eyes to the history of Southern Patagonia. Beginning with the time when dinosaurs roamed the region right through to the early 20th century, it takes us on a journey through 14000 years of the human and natural history of this ancient land.
An excellent series of panels and displays inside and outside the small building feature photos, diagrams, drawings and text in English and Spanish combined with historical objects and artefacts as well recorded oral histories give a wide-ranging picture of how people have lived here through the millenia. The region's changing ecology, the effects of glaciation, the arrival of the first Indians and the evolution of their culture, their spiritual beliefs and their earliest encounters with colonists from Europe are all dealt with along with the subsequent development of vast estancias raising sheep. The effect of enclosures, labor conflicts and the dreadful consequences of all this on the aboriginal people are all dealt with as well as the changes wrought on El Calafate by its burgeoning tourist industry.
I found this place absolutely fascinating - a genuine learning experience. Anything less like the average dusty, fusty provincial museum you might expect is hard to imagine. Visitors are made to feel so welcome, it's more like a study centre, with a library and a sitting room that you're welcome to make use of, plus a simple cafe (where we made our own coffee and ate home-made cookies)
A mishap with my camera meant I lost some of the photos I took that morning, so the photo of the museum here is taken from a brochure, the cave painting shot from Punta Gualchi is my own.
Address: Corner Av. Brown and G. Bonmelli
Walk 4 blocks north along 9 de Julio towards the Nimes lagoon. Cross the stream and take the path on the right till you get to Av. Brown and G. Bonmelli.
There's a transfer service from hotels available at 10:30am and at 3:30pm. Call 492799 for information.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Flora and Fauna
The Municipal Natural Reservation called 'Laguna Nimes". It is the place to go see birds that have migrated here for the summer months.
The circuit is 2,500 meters long, it is a self guided reserve with bird blinds, a guide phamplet to show you what to look for at each numbered sign along the way is provided..
You will see many ducks, geese, black-necked swans, coots, Ibis, and Chilean flamingos.
In winter the water is used for ice skating.
Driving to the Glacier - Aller au Glacier
If you want to go and watch the Moreno Glacier from El Calafate and if you are a more than 3 people group, this is really cheaper to rent a car : go to the rent-a-car on the right side of the village when facing the lakes (cheaper : from 108 to 117 pesos - 36 to 39 USD, without the 20 pesos for gasoline (200 Kilometers)). And another advice : go there really early (leave El Calafate around 5.45 in the morning), you will certainly be the firsts to arrive (and to leave) and youwill enjoy a wonderful sunrise ! Pros : it's cheaper (cheapest tours are about 70 pesos, entry of the Park (20 pesos) included) and you may leave whenever you want (and don't have to wait 4 hours and a half before coming back).
Si vous voulez visiter le Glacier et que vous etes plus de 3, il est beaucoup plus rentable de louer une caisse : allez aux agences de location qui se trouvent du cote droit du village quand on regarde les lacs (de 108 a 117 pesos - 36 a 39 USD, sans les 20 pesos d'essence a ajouter). Autre conseil : partir tot pour visiter le glacier (quittez El Calafate a 5.45 du matin), vous serez les premiers et profiterez seuls d'un superbe lever de soleil (et a repartir). Interet de tout ca : c'est moins cher (les tours les moins chers valent 70 pesos avec l'entree du parc a 20 pesos comprise) et on n'est pas obliges de rester des heures dans le coin...
- Budget Travel
What is this? A chenque is a Tehuelches tomb; the dead person was buried in fetal position, with guanaco skins and arrowheads (they believed in reincarnation); after the ceremony, all his/her belongings were burned, and people did not pronounce his/her name again (if they did so, his/her soul was held back). As an offering, they give the dead one a stone, so after a while, the tomb was surrounded by a ring of stones.
The chenques never were made close to a lake or a river (to avoid contamination); the picture shows a replica, not a real chenque, at Punta Walichu.
¿Qué es esto? un chenque es un enterramiento tehuelche; el muerto era enterrado en posición fetal, con pieles de guanaco y puntas de flecha (creían en la reencarnación); luego de la ceremonia, todas sus pertenencias eran quemadas y no se lo volvía a mencionar jamás (si lo hacían, el alma era retenida). Como ofrendas, le llevaban una piedra, por lo que luego de un tiempo, la tumba era rodeada por un anillo de piedras.
Los chenques nunca se hacían junto a un lago o un río (para evitar la contaminación); la foto muestra una réplica, no un chenque verdadero, en Punta Walichu.
Rupestrian paintings (3)
Believe it or not, I found these "rupestrian paintings"made recently, over the millenia real ones... Who are the primitive people?
Créanlo o no, encontré estas "pinturas rupestres" hechas recientemente, sobre las pinturas milenarias.... ¿Quiénes son los primitivos?
I think it is better visiting the rupestrian paintings at Punta Walichu with a local guide, in order to understand the symbolism they have.
The Tehuelche men were hunters, and lived in extreme weather conditions, so the courage and the masculinity were very important characteristics; they are represented with big genital organs; if they have hands up, that means triumph. The women were tanners and "tent" and "dressmakers"; they prepared the furs and leathers, and sewed them. For them, the fertility was very important, so they are represented with large bellies.
Creo que es mejor visitar las pinturas rupestres de Punta Wualichu con un guía local, para entender el simbolismo de las mismas.
Los hombres tehuelches eran cazadores, y vivían en condiciones extremas, por lo que para ellos el valor y la masculinidad eran características importantes; son representados con grandes genitales; los brazos arriba indican triunfo. Las mujeres eran curtidoras, y hacedoras de toldos y "ropas"; ellas preparaban los cueros y pieles y los cosían. Para ellas la fecundidad era muy importante, y son representadas con grandes vientres.
At Punta Walichu there is a reconstruction of a kau, a Tehuelche tent. The Tehuelches were nomads and hunters; the guanacos (a kind of llama) and American ostrichs were their main boar; they were not fishers, because the Lake Argentino has cloudy waters, and the fishes are not abundant. They used to hunt with arcs and arrows, and with boleadoras (stone balls tied with leather belts). The guanaco furs were used as house and cloth.
En Punta Walichu hay una reconstrucción de un kau, un toldo Tehuelche. Los Tehuelches eran nómadas y cazadores; los guanacos y los ñandúes eran sus alimentos principales; no eran pescadores, dado que las aguas del Lago Argentino son turbias y los peces no abundan. Cazaban con arco y flechas, y con boleadoras (bolas de piedra atadas con tientos de cuero). Las pieles de cuanaco eran utilizadas como casa y vestimenta.
Rupestrian paintings (2)
I found these paintings really touching: they represent a flood (enlarge the picture to see it); the horizontal line is the water level, and some guanacos are choked (under the line), some others are safe (over the line), and one of them is fighting for its life. Some people died in that flood; their souls are drawn as headless figures.
Encontré estas pinturas realmente emotivas: reprewsentan una inundación (amplíen la foto para verla); la línea horizontal es el nivel del agua, y algunos guanacos se han ahogado (bajo la línea), otros están a salvo (sobre la línea) y uno está luchando para sobrevivir. Algunas personas murieron en esa inundación; sus almas son representadas como figuras sin cabeza.
Walichu (or Gualicho) Point is a point situated 9 Km away from El Calafate, over Lake Argentino. There the landscape is amazing, but also you can find rupestrian paintings. These paintings are 4.000 years oldand were made by the Tehuelche natives; there are some replicas too, made 10 years ago by an artist and an archaeologist.
Punta Walichu (o Gualicho) es una punta situada a 9 Km de El Calafate, sobre el Lago Argentino. Allí el paisaje es espectacular, pero también se pueden apreciar pinturas rupestres. Estas pinturas tienen 4.000 años de antigüedad, y fueron hechas por los tehuelches; hay algunas réplicas también, hechas hace unos 10 años por un artista y por un arqueólogo.
Where is Clint Eastwood?
El Chalten is a very, VERY small town....it is composed of an "avenue" called Av. San Martin, where all the guesthouses are located. There are no bus stations, all buses stop in front of Rancho Grande backpacker?s, associated with HI. There is a little market, but obviously the prices are a bit higher than those of calafate, so it?s not a bad idea to bring some food with you, if you are willing to save some money.
In the summer, the city gets invaded by lots of trekkers...
When we went to Chalten, in october, it was quite strange to be the only one outside....we could hear the wind blowing, all the houses were closed, it looked like one of those western,cowboy?s movies...hehehe...but inside the hostel there were many tourists so in december, january it´s a good idea to make reservations. =)
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
El Chalten - trekking (cont.)
In El Chalten, buying a map is a good idea before the trekking, since it´s not difficult to follow a wrong path....=)
Anyway, walking there is much fun...the place looks like the one in Lord of the Rings...you´ll feel yourself like Frodo...even if it´s raining...hehehehe
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
El Chalten - trekking
El Chalten is really a nice place for those who want to do some trekking, camping etc...
There are two main paths: one of them is the one that leads to Lagoa de los Tres (where you´ll get a nice view of Fitz Roy, I guess!), and another to Lagoa Torre (where you´ll see the glacier and Cerro Torre). The first one takes for about 4 hours (just one way), it has some tiring parts (and the wind helps a lot...lol) but it´s doable. There are two paths that lead to a same point in the park and then continue to Lagoa de los Tres....in one of them you?ll get to a water fall, that has a nice view of the valley and of Fitz Roy (that?s where i saw him for 1msec)...you can choose to start with one path and then get back with another...
The one to Lagoa Torre is easier (that?s what i was told) and takes 3 hours....
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Oh yes, that´s quite "off the beaten path"... =D
This small town is known for its amazing mountain called Cerro Fitz Roy... it´s a paradise for trekkers, and it doesn´t take much time to see all attractions: 2 to 3 days is already sufficient. I get sad just to think about Chalten....i spent two days there, and it rained, and rained, and rained....rrrrrrr! We went trekking, but we didn´t see a thing, because of the fog. All I can say is that, for some seconds, i saw a huuuuuge shadow appearing amongst the clouds...it was Fitz Roy...but then it was covered in the fog again. =(
So, one good advice is: if you are thinking about going to Chalten, do not miss it, but try to inform yourself about the weather before...if it has been raining for a long time, then you´d better stay in Calafate and wait for it to get better! In a bad weather, the place is not worth visiting because you can´t see a thing...and that´s very very sad....
- Hiking and Walking
El Chalten is a must if you've just flown 3 hours from Buenos Aires. There's a stunning array of activities here from easy-to-get-to Waterfalls (Chorizo del Salto) to horse trekking, to cruising on Lago Viedma and ice climbing, not to mention the breathtaking Cerro Torre and Fitzroy Peaks.
There's enough to recommend here that it really should be added as a separate location.
- Hiking and Walking
3 hours by bus from El Calafate, it worth a visit. It is the main trekking area from Argentina. Plan at least 3 days on the area.
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