Torres Del Paine behind us we set off to Glacier Perito Moreno, the purpose for the the trip to Patagonia (lucky Rach had to sense to look up Torres Del Paine or it would have been a very long trip for a day excursion). Keeping with our theme of not booking hostals, we arrived in El Calafate to find that most the hostals were full, who would have thought it would be hard to find accommodation in high season at Patagonia’s number one attraction! After a little walking around we found a hostal only to be greeted in Hebrew, yes we had found the only Israeli hostel in town, but hey 25$ pesos is 25 pesos and we became the hostal novelty.
After a extremely long wait behind some South Africans, who couldn’t understand why the guy at the counter couldn’t speak English (go figure) we got our tickets and we were off to the glacier. Freezing on arrival we made a our way down the walkway to be greeted by the most amazing lump of ice you’re likely to see. Even standing next to it, it is hard to comprehend just how massive it is, 16 stories high 5km across, just loco! After strolling around we decided that it was time for the glacier to get more exciting, Rach suggested that if we pretend to leave a piece will fall off. We practiced our best fake leaving moves and eventually were rewarded with a massive chunk falling off. Satisfied we left the glacier feeling vindicated by our choice to travel so far to see what in the end is a big piece of ice.
Next stop Los Antiguos, a little town on the border with Chile. What was supposed to be a magical trip up ‘Argentina’s route 66’ turned out to be a dusty unsealed road with little to see except dust rock and more dust. Our bus drivers decided to spice this trip up by getting drunk and showing us how the bus can drive by itself, a little unnerving. We made it in one piece if a little shaken. Los Antiguos was supposed to be famous for its cherries and leafy streets, we noticed the leaves as they were blowen into us by gale force winds, still in Patagonia. A miscalculation on our part saw us stay for here for 5 days as the bus out only leaves every other day, whoops. With the our trusty tent we headed for the local campsite 50 metres from the lake and only 5$ pesos a night what a bargain, bbq and fried bread made for a nice stop. In keeping with our fashion we discovered an amazing bakery on the last morning before we left, classic Rach and Steve.
The next leg of the majestic Ruta 40 had us heading for El Bolson, a seemingly innocuous stretch of road that proved to be our worst bus trip yet. A quick trip to Perito Moreno not to be confused with the glacier (there is a Perito Moreno in every town, a street, a park, a statue perhaps) saw us change buses for the main bus trip, on arrival it turns out we had no seats and were forced to take the only free seats at the back of the bus by the toilet and sun roof, thank you booking agents in Los Antiguos! I sat next to a pleasant American named Tim who informed me that the toilet is broken and stinks, I told him I was used to SA buses so I wasn’t worried. How wrong I was, the toilet stunk like what I imagine the bog of eternal stench from the labyrinth would have smelt like, maybe worse. The solution was open the sun roof, good idea except that this caused the bus to fill with dust (magic ruta 40) poor Rach looked like someone emerging from a sandstorm by the end of it. But what to do you ask, the driver’s solution was to open the toilet every 10mins to check on the smell to make sure it was still there, whoops now it smells, I know Ill open sun roof, oh know dust, close the roof, oh no it smells. This went on for the entire 19 hours. What a trip, Rach did well not to pass out under her dust blanket. The driver did however, stop the bus to chase down an armadillo he had seen out the window, after a quick pursuit, he caught it and held it up for us to all take photos, so it wasn´t all bad.
We arrived at 11 pm in El Bolson and were determined to find the campsite, and to our surprise we did without any trouble. We arrived, setup camp and ended up staying for the next 9 days in town, what can we say we were due for somewhere easy. Markets, boutique beers and walks around the surrounding hills made for an enjoyable few days. Next on the cards was Christmas, me and Rach had done some searching in the sun the day before to find a cabin to make Christmas a little nicer. What we found was perfect, it proved easier than meeting Marta and Guillaume, keeping in theme though we found them by chance at the internet café in town. We had an amazing Christmas eve and Christmas day meals and relaxed in style in our two storey cabin (house). Me and Rach had spent the previous day buying each other presents at the local supermarket, in an effort to hide what she had brought Rach changed all her items and ended up stuck in a massive queue of last minute Christmas shoppers, unlucky! It worked out though. We enjoyed opening our presents and Marta and Guillaume had bought us some fireworks so we could celebrate Christmas in traditional Argentine style. I was like a fat kid in a candy store; we had double happys, sky rockets, moon travelers and all sorts of new explosives I had never even heard of. After easing in with a few sparklers, Rach moved onto buzzy bees and one of the loud exploding ones, goods times. Back to the campground friends in tow we enjoyed another few days visiting the markets and Lago Peulo, where we took a chilly swim to end our time in El Bolson.
Behind schedule and stressing about time we ditched Marta and Guilluame and headed to Bariloche, the Queenstown of Argentina. Stuck again we decided to wait for the others so we could spend NY together. We all decided over a antipasto and beer that we should just take it easy and have a new years meal. Mexican in Argentina, why not, all you can drink, live music, all you can eat, what a treat. Delicious food and countless margaritas and we were outside letting off the remaining fireworks, much to the delight of everyone in the restaurant. Children were encouraged to take fireworks from us by their parents. Argentina you’re a funny old place. We decided it was time to go around 3 after but not before Rach had found the margarita machine, and topped up our glasses. A fantastic night and the perfect way to part ways with Marta and Guilluame (see you in Paris!).
Next stop Chile!