I haven´t posted for a while, mainly because I simply haven´t had a moment to myself for the last two weeks at all. For the most part, this has been fine, but I am now in serious need of some me time.
Enough of my complaining. I have been having an amazing time for the last two weeks seeing some incredible wide open spaces. Patagonia has the biggest sky I have ever seen - bigger than in Montana or New Zealand. It just goes on forever. However, to get to the big sky, you have to travel for about 2000km on a dirt road, which is not exactly relaxing. Ruta 40 runs down the Patagonian plains of Argentina, and it seems to be the emptiest road in the world. On the first day that we drove it, we saw 2 vehicles, and the second 4. Not the ideal place for hitchhiking or breaking down. Along the drive was also acres and acres of pampa, and the odd wild, or not quite so wild horse. There would also be evidence of human life, such as barbed wire fences and dirt tracks leading out into the distance, but no actual people. There were most likely estancias out and over the hills, but of course, if you have that much space, why would you live near the road?
Bariloche was the first stop in Argentina, and it was a swanky little ski town, filled with chocolate places and cable cars to check out the views. It was very cute, but not really much more than that. After that, two serious days of driving brought us to El Chalten, which is situated right in the centre of Fitzroy National Park. This was my absolute highlight. We hooked up with El Chalten Travel for a two day experience called, originally enough, SuperTrekking. SuperTrekking involved hiking out to a camp, and then dumping our overnight stuff, and then hiking out to the Torre Glacier. This was a fairly tough, muddy hike. We were lucky that the day was fabulously clear, because the last four days had been snow and rain. One of the initial challenges of the day (apart from actually ending up with the wrong trekking company) was crossing the river on a zip-line that we had to pull ourselves along, hand over hand. I found it quite relaxing to stare up at the blue blue sky, so didn´t fancy being hurried, but there were 15 other people who fancied a chance at this, so of course I was yelled at for taking my time.
Once we had crossed the river, it was still another two hours to hike to the glacier, where we did some ice climbing. Ice climbing is rapidly becoming my favourite activity, mainly because it is an activity that completely empties my mind. Whilst climbing, there is simply no space in your head for anything else apart from where you put your axes in and where to place your feet. It´s a great feeling. Unfortunately, we did only one climb before turning back to camp. Camp was fantastic. It was maintained by some climbing guys, who in return for maintaing camp and cooking meals, get paid to go climbing. The camp was gorgeous, in full view were the most amazing mountains that I have ever seen - the Cerro Torre, which are really three chimney like spires that shriek up into the sky. Amazingly beautiful, especially when they glow red-orange in the sunrise. A completely fabulous moment.
The rest of the second day was spent hiking through the park, under Mt Fitzroy, which is also a dynamic rock lifting up into the sky, although it lacked the fiercesome beauty of the Cerro Torre. Our guide also pointed out some puma tracks, which was great, a couple of wild horses, some condors, and then we saw a penumbra round the sun, which was great. Francis actually didn´t want to point it out, because he thought he had blinded himself, but we all saw it, and it was amazing. A sort of brown shadow emanating from the sun. I have no idea why they happen, but I am sure it is something to do with atmosphere and clouds. Anyway, we arrived back at El Chalten grubby and tired, to be bundled onto another bus and to try and sleep again for a couple of hours before getting to El Calafate, the town of the huge Perito Moreno Glacier. More coming soon.