Chapter 34: Patagonia (Not the Jacket)
Patagonia, Mar del Plata round 2 (LMAO), and back to the States
Bienvenidos from Atlanta, and welcome to Backpackin'! If you want to join 825 others reading about this weird trip around the world, add your email below:
The rumors of my disappearance have been greatly exaggerated! I'm back in the States, but let me tell you something: Patagonia is the coolest place on the planet.
Pictures don't do it justice, this place rocks.
So we left off on Thursday, March 3rd. Three hour flight (with an onboard medical emergency one hour in! edgy stuff) from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, a small town in the Patagonia region. We were basically spitting distance from Antarctica at this point.
Mike and I checked into the America del Sur hostel around five that afternoon; the views from our place were great.
While Mike took a nap, I ventured into town to explore for a bit. The first thing I noticed was the dogs. So. Many. Dogs. They didn't have collars, but they didn't look like strays. They were well behaved: I had three follow me for a mile and a half before they tagged along with a new group of humans.
Dogs were lounging around hotel entrances, walking inside bars, and trotting down the street with people. I could whistle and call five to walk around town with me. When I got back to the hostel, I googled "El Calafate's dogs". It wasn't a coincidence; the town takes pride in caring for their "homeless" pups. I did my part keeping the puppers well-fed.
Treated like canine citizens, the city covers their vet bills and shops make sure they stay fed. However, these pups hate cars. They chase after them, run at them head-on, and bite tires of non-moving (and sometimes moving) vehicles. Just a real oddity.
"Woof" - the dogs
I got back and woke Mike up, and we grabbed a couple of beers in the lobby. There we met Charles and Eli, two finance guys from NYC traveling between jobs. The four of us headed to a local steakhouse and ate a proper dinner.
On Friday, Mike had to work most of the day. I booked a proper 4x4 tour of the local terrain. I thought it was four wheelers, turns out it was a guided tour in a massive 15 seater land rover-thing. Still cool.
El Calafate is situated on Lago Argentino, the largest lake in the country. The lake backs up to a massive glacier, Perito Moreno.
I shared a 4x4 with one Spanish and one Argentine family, and we drove around the coast of the lake before driving around the local hills near El Calafate. I couldn't quite see the glacier from here (it was about an hour away), but the views from the hills were awesome.
I understood about 60% of what the tour guide was saying, just enough to be peligroso (dangerous). When I returned from the trip, Mike and I headed into town for dinner. A pup followed us all the way into town, and he sat down at our feet at a bar for the entirety of our meal.
We popped over to another bar, where we met a couple of American dudes from our hostel. After a few more drinks, we called it a night.
Saturday was a cool-ass day. We kayaked around the Perito Moreno glacier. Around lunchtime we took a cab to the kayak launch point, where we met our guides and tour group. We had a few Americans, Several Argentines, and a group of three French girls who were backpacking South America. The water was cold af, so we were strapped up with wet suits, jackets, and gloves.
Like a 90s time capsule
After our kayaking excursion ended, we traversed some paths around the glacier. This thing was freaking huge. Like 96 square miles, reaching Chile. I had never seen a glacier before, pretty wild piece of topography, lemme tell ya.
After booling around the glacier for an hour, we headed back to the hostel. We had an early 7:30 bus to El Chaltén.
El Chaltén is a village three hours north of El Calafate. It is also serves as the entrance to several hiking trails in the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. One of the notable attractions in this park is Mt. Fitzroy (the logo on Patagonia jackets).
It was supposed to be an eight hour roundtrip hike to Mt. Fitzroy and back. Mike and I didn't think we'd have time to make it that far, so we charted a different route.
Then we said, "Screw it. We're making good time. Let's go see this thing." According to the map, it was 10 km, or 6.2 miles, to Fitzroy. We had breathtaking views of valleys, lakes, and mountains along the way. I shall now illustrate this hike through pictures:
Mt. Fitzroy in the back 👀
We hit 9/10 kilometers in record time, and figured we would be at the top in the next 25 minutes or so. However, the last kilometer said "warning, steep terrain".
Oh it was steep. 40% slope for at least two kilometers. That distance on the map was a dirty lie. The first 9 kilometers were a breeze. The last two almost killed me. Steep, rocky, slippery, and we couldn't even see Fitzroy for most of it, because the mountain we were hiking around was in the way.
Then the peak finally appeared again!
50 minutes later, we finally made it 🙏🏼 Check this view out:
MAKE IT A CHRISTMAS CARD
Again, pictures don't do it justice. This thing was nuts. And 100% worth the hike.
We had one minor problem on the return trip: We had less than three hours to make it back for our bus. A walk down the rocky decline became a trot on the flatter trails, and we were all-out sprinting once we hit pavement in the town again.
We did just make it back with five minutes to spare. We covered about 16 miles that day from bus to bus, not a bad hike.
When we got back to the hostel, we passed tf out. Back to Buenos Aires in the AM.
We flew back to BA that Monday, and we both had flights out of Argentina on Thursday. Mike was flying to Peru on Thursday morning for a week or so before flying to NOLA for a work conference. I was headed back to the States that night.
Our plan was to chill and hangout in BA. Charles and Eli were coming to town Tuesday night, and we planned to all go out together. But I had stayed in contact with one of the girls from Mar del Plata (who, like the rest of them, spoke zero English).
It was Monday.
I was flying back to the US on Thursday.
We didn't have anything planned all week.
And the beach weather was going to be nice.
So Mike and I had a short conversation that went something like this:
Jack: Hey Mike
Mike: Hey Jack
Jack: I might go back to Mar del Plata tomorrow
Mike: Speak any English?
Mike: Lol, lmao
Jack: Lol, lmao
Mike: Personally, I would be mad at you if you *didn't* go
Fist bump ensues
So I booked a bus ticket back to Mar del Plata, got a hotel on the beach, exchanged bro hugs with Mike in the AM, and headed back south. I would unfortunately not see Mike again, as he had an early flight the day that I was due to return.
I arrived to Mar del Plata late Tuesday afternoon. Honestly I thought I was about to get ghosted or catfished or something. This whole idea was poorly thought out to say the least. But it was also kinda funny.
Luckily, I didn't get ghosted. Or catfished. That night, the chica and I had a great three-hour date full of ham & egg pizza, Argentine cervezas, and a couple of cigarettes (for the culture). No English required, all good vibes.
Anyways, I spent the next day consuming my bodyweight in coffee while I wrote a lot, and Thursday was a travel gauntlet. 5 hour bus to Buenos Aires, 10 hour flight to Atlanta, 2 hour flight to DC.
Why DC? Well it was $500 cheaper to fly to DC with an ATL layover than book direct to Atlanta. I could have gotten off the plane in Atlanta, but I decided to pay my good friend Joe Stark a visit in the nation's capital. Maybe I'll add a DC piece to this blog. Idk.
Anyway, I'm back in Atlanta. Argentina is cool. Life is good. I'm going to Italy with my grandma and 12 year-old cousin in a couple of months. Might take the lil cuzzo clubbin' in Italy. I know a few spots.
Thanks for tagging along for these weird travel recaps, hopefully someone else decides to live out of a backpack for awhile as a result.
Oh yeah, Mike fell in love with an Australian girl in Peru, so we might have to go to Australia soon. Danny, if you're reading this, your boy is a real modern day Romeo.
Catch you guys later.
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