Arriving into a city unknown to me is always very exciting. Upon leaving the hotel I was confronted with a paseadore (professional dog walker) with at least 12, very well-behaved dogs on leashes attached to his wrist. Continuing a few yards I found myself in what can only be described as a city for the dead – the Cementerio de la Recoleta, housing more than 6,400 tombs and mausoleums covering 14 acres and containing the tombs of many of the country’s noble leaders and heroes (including Eva Peron). A city tour took me through beautiful stone architecture and into the heart of the city and the cradle to the tango, La Boca. Brightly painted buildings surrounded the narrow streets and tango dancers performed for the people drinking coffee in the numerous cafes. Where else could I be but the lovely city of Buenos Aires, Argentina?
The next morning, an early flight took us first to Ushuaia, the most southerly city on earth, and then into Patagonia itself. We were engulfed in a serene landscape of snow topped peaks, azure lakes with floating glaciers and barren rocky hillsides dotted with very well camouflaged guanacos (a relative of the llama). Our home for the next 3 nights was El Chalten, a very small town (only 500 permanent residents) at the base of the Fitz Roy Mountain range. That night we sat in a local microbrewery, surrounded by young, athletic looking climbers and mountaineers and realized were we really among the action! However, age does have its benefits and after hearing some of their wonderful stories of ice climbing and adventure we retired to our lovely, warm 5 star hotel with magnificent views, while they left for the nearest hostel.
Over the next few mornings our treks took us into the mountains to view magnificent glaciers and crystal clear streams, which we drank straight out of. Magnificent clear blue skies highlighted the surrounding mountain ranges and the circling condors above. And the air, crisp and clean to breath, was so invigorating.
Stopping at a small lodge, apparently frequented by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, to try local empanadas, we continued to the largest settlement around, El Calafate. An even more magnificent hotel awaited us. Here, we had some time to visit the local shops and a nearby bird reserve which boasted a wide range of birds, including flamingos.
And the adventure kept adding something new. The next day a boat ride brought us out to the Upsala Glacier and the very isolated Estancia Cristina. Walking here really gave one the feel of being literally in the middle of a magnificent, pristine environment with nobody else around for miles and miles. The silence was amazing.
Our final day brought us to the Glacier Perito Moreno. Here, a boat rides gave us the opportunity to get to the face of the 200 foot glacier. Both a visual and audio experience as the glacier creaked its way towards the shore then calved chunks of ice dropped off into the lake below. A scene reenacted for centuries. From our beds that night we could look over the glacier – what a sight to wake up to the next morning!
Member of the first Walking in Patagonia group