Hiker’s paradise is the gorgeous little town of El Chalten. Situated in a national park with wonderful walking trails going in all directions out of town, this is an absolutely gem. People come from all over the world to do these amazing walks. The most famous being the Mount Fitzroy trail.
Upon entrance, each person has to sit through an educational talk (in beautiful broken English or Spanish). The town is tiny – I ran right around it in half an hour – and lies in a valley surrounded by beautiful rugged mountains. Stand alone houses (as apposed to Chile’s on-top-of-one-another-all-attached versions) vary in colours, shapes and sizes. Some look like doll’s houses, small and beautiful and fascinating.
Our abode was a most wonderful surprise. Having booked the cheapest accommodation in town and predicting from the pictures on the booking site, we expected to share a cold shipping container with twenty-four others. Great was our relief and excitement when we were handed keys to a stunning six bunkbed cabin with it’s own bathroom. Such luxury!! And with a heater that is running 24/7!! Clean clothes here we come!!
On our first day we did a quick 10km walk before scouting out every single shop in town. The shops are small, sparsely stocked and incredibly expensive. There shall be no eating or drinking in restaurants and there shall be minimal purchasing in this town!! A small tin of not-great-coffee, milk, a bag of eggs (Yes! That’s how it’s sold here!), and a box of oatmeal later, we have exceeded our budget for the day.
After eating mostly bread for the past several days (cheapest option), Jarik decided a home cooked meal was in order. Our hostel has a kitchen, so out we went again to hunt for things to boil in a pot. Lentils with a beef short rib and sweet potato stew turned into a delicious, hot family meal around a large wooden table. Round that off with a $12 Malbec (that is cheap for Australia, not for South Africa) and happy parents you have. To topple the kiddos into the land of contentment, a big pot of milk tart inner was served for dessert. The natural reaction to stumbling upon cinnamon in a tiny shop, of course!
To say the heating is slightly overdone would be an understatement. With no windows that open, everyone on a top bunk passed out from heat exhaustion. At least all the clean clothes were crispy dry in the morning. We were planning on being up and running by 6am, but seeing that it is pitch black till 8am, we decided to have a little lie in. After a delicious breakfast of hot oatmeal, we embarked on our 20km walk. Halfway up it started snowing. Snowflakes were falling only ever so slightly, but our kids were in absolute awe.
We reached our destination in record time. Out came the rolls and egg mayonnaise. It took about two bites before we realised we will freeze to death. Esto and Eulain already entertained us with a piece of ice from the nearby glacier. Never have you seen six people wolfing down their lunch so fast. And off we we went, RUNNING back to our warm bungalow. It took us only an hour and a half to do the ten kilometres back over rough terrain. Hot chocolate and coffee – fantastic reward!
We have another three nights here. Tomorrow we will do THE Mount Fitzroy walk. It’s apparently very long, difficult and have VERY steep trails. Mmmmm… I’m sure we’ll survive it. The kids will probably be skipping along and even if the parents’ knees hurt on the way down, we’ll most likely label it an incredible experience once we’re safely wrapped up in our blankets back home.
How blessed are we to be fit and healthy and able to enjoy this marvellous place?! And to have a big, crazy family to share these moments with. Happy, happy heart! ❤
– Mariza –