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I undetook this trip in February 2011. I reserved to do the two day trip up the Ruta 40 from El Calafate to Bariloche before setting off for Argentina and paid for it at the Chalten Travel Turismo office in Buenos Aires when I arrived. This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to return to this part of Argentina and I was aware of the mixed reviews about this trip:
Narrative Version from my Travelblog account:
"I knew it would be a two long days of travelling with an average of 12 to 14 hours on the bus but I underestimated the amount of time it really took when I sat on the bus all that time!
I decided to do a narrative version of the trip and divide this into two parts so it does not become too long winded for anyone to take in.
I left El Calafate around 8.00 am in the morning after having a wonderful stay there. I had to change bus at junction of the Ruta 23 (towards El Chalten) and the Ruta 40 where I joined others who were doing this journey. Luckily, I had a front row seat where I could stretch out but the view was not brilliant because of the cracked windscreen. The bus was a commun and certainly was a no thrills service with no toilet so we had to rely on the far and few between stops! There was no air conditioning but being quite down south, the temperature was pleasant too and, obviously, windy! We continued onto Tres Lago, where we stopped for petrol and refreshments. Soon after, we began on the ripio (gravel) roads. I thought we were in the middle of one big construction site. Apparently, one of the national projects is to pave the Ruta 40 in Patagonia (the Santa Cruz and Chubut Provinces). Some parts have alreadly been done but there is still a lot of the ripio roads and the driver had to go slow! I think there are advantages and disadvantages to the project. One of the advantage is that it will open this part of Patagonia and better infrastructure especially for tourism and business. One would argue that the nostalgia and mystery associated with the Ruta 40 would not be the same anymore.
After some considerable distance, in the early afternoon, we stopped at Estancia La Siberia, near Lago Cardiel (in Santa Cruz Province) for a comfort stop. We were really in the depths of rural Argentina and we continued on the ripio road for a very long time until we hit some tarmac...suddenly the coach was livelier, and we could go faster. The ripio roads were making us sleepy!
Apart from the never ending Patagonian Steppes with its flat grassland, there were some amazing cloud formations and we saw some mountains from time to time in the distance but hardly any life other than an odd one or two estancias. It felt surreal to say the least.
Later on in the afternoon, we reached Bajo Carcoles after what felt forever being on the road! It is a village in the middle of nowhere. It is not the most exciting place I ever came across on my travels but it is an essential stop for petrol, using the bathroom and to stock up on supplies. From Bajo Carcoles, we entered into canyon like countryside and it was somewhat richer to what we had seen on the trip so far. I think the Las Cuevas de Los Manos is in that area and some people on the bus are planning to do that. Another 126 kms or so, we finally reached Perito Moreno for our overnight stop. It is the biggest town we reached since departing from El Calafate. It was kind of a shock to the system after travelling for so long in the Patagonian wilderness. I found Perito Moreno a pleasant town with adequate amenities for the visitors and there is an active community there.
We stayed overnight at the Hotel Belgrano. The hotel was basic and I felt I was going back in time with the 1970s furnishing and decor with faded photographs and pictures. What I found surprising, not so surprising I should think, is that smoking is allowed inside the hotel. Coming from the UK, this is something I am not used to and being a non-smoker I cannot do with the smoke! The hotel certainly offers a no thrills service but I was able to have a good night´s sleep, which is unusual when I am only stopping overnight somewhere.
The following morning, we checked out after having breakfast. We had joined another bus which was more modern and as there were spare seats I was able to stretch out and have more space for the long journey ahead of us! Monica, our guide on this leg of the trip, advised us that this stretch is going to be a smoother one as this stretch of the Ruta 40 has more tarmac roads and only 60 kms or so is still ripio."
The 2nd day of the trip is under my Provincia del Chubut Page.
Personally, It was an experience that I will never forget but wouldn't undertake this trip again but would recommend it for seeing the immensity and the huge size of Patagonia. Please see Chalten Travel page for entry for prices of undertaking this tour.
Updated Sep 18, 2011
A small settlement in the middle of nowhere where only basic services are offered and the last place to fill up with their expensive petrol before reaching Perito Moreno or Tres Lagos on the Ruta 40. This is probably one of the most unattractive places I visited on my Argentina trip!
Written Feb 28, 2011
In El Chalten, there is a number of hiking trails for travellers of all abilities ranging from a hour to several days!
There is an easy walk to Chorillo del Salto, a waterfall, that passes the Rio de las Vueltas and takes under another hour to reach the falls. You can do another walk taking in Las Aguilas and Los Condores Viewpoints and this takes an average of 2.5 hours to complete. You can do longer day hikes to the foothills of Cerro Torre and Monte Fitz Roy. Each trail has miradors of the Fitz Roy Range and serves as landmarks for those do only want to do shorter walks.
There are multi-days hikes such as the three-day Fitz Roy/Cerro Torre loop and the Laguna Torre and Paso del Viento.
You have to bear in mind the unpredictable weather whilst in El Chalten. One minute it'll be sunny and warm but the next rainy and cold! The winds have a big factor where the gusts can be suddenly fierce and least expected.
Updated Jul 18, 2010
Address: El Chalten, Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia
Just west of El Calafate is the shallow Bahía Redonda, itself part of the vast Lago Argentino. On the edge of Bahía Redonda is the Laguna Nimez a bird reserve with an entrance fee of less than $1. Once you have gained entry you are free to wander around at will and observe the birds; birdwatchers will know that it is not a thing to be done in a hurry ... if you are patient you will be rewarded, so it is with the Laguna Nimez. The Chilean Flamingoes are obvious by their size and colour ... but look around and see how many other species you can see.
Updated Mar 15, 2008
Address: Calle Bustillo .. then follow the signs!
Unique among the glaciers of Parque Los Glaciares (and indeed almost the whole world) in that the Perito Moreno glacier is not retreating, this 5km wide, 60m high massive wall of ice bisects two of the arms of Lago Argentino, those of the Brazo Rico and Canal de los Témpanos. The most popular and exhilarating activity is that of 'mini-trekking', essentially this is strapping on crampons and walking around atop the glacier for an hour or two. If you are not bold enough to do this you could opt to watch the glacier calving (where large chunks of ice break free from the glacier and crash into the lake) from the Peninsula Magallanes
Written Mar 15, 2008
Address: 85km West of El Calafate
Phone: 02902 491005 (Ranger's Office)
Glaciar Perito Moreno is one of the only "growing" glaciers today, coming down from Hielo Sur, Patagonia's southern ice cap.
It's majestic peaks at it's front are an impressive view itself - but also standing there and just listening to the sound of the glacier is breathtaking. You always hear breaking, cracking - results of the glacier growing.
If you are travelling backpacking, stay camping for one night in the park - it's absolutely rewarding: stars, silence, occasionally broken by the glacier sounds.
Please see my Perito Moreno page for more pictures and tips.
Written Oct 3, 2004
Address: 80 km west of El Calafate, Argentina
To stand on top of El Cerro Torre is surely a dream for the worlds best mountaineers.
But also to see him from the basecamp is a magnificent experience.
His granite needle protrudes out of the surrounding mountains - he almost has a soul with his eternal ice bonnet.
A simple hike of 30 minutes from El Chaltén (it's base village) brings you to the "Cerro Torre Viewpoint", another 2-3 hours to the basecamp at Laguna Cerro Torre.
BUT: due to the unpredictable weather conditions, a view like this is not always guaranteed. Mostly, his head is covered by clouds building-up by the heavy winds coming from westerly Patagonian ice field.
Updated Sep 19, 2004
Address: El Chaltén, Santa Cruz, Argentina
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