Week 10: Calafate & El Chaiten, Argentina

The hitchhiking journey from Ushuaia to Calafate was an interesting one. Tatoo dropped me to a spot just outside Ushuaia on his motor bike. 1 minute later the most humungous truck pulled over. I was reluctant at first as I couldn’t get myself or the backpack into it. I had to be lifted into the truck with my ever-expanding bags. The truck driver Maxi told me his truck was 19 meters long and he drives 6000 miles a week. He seemed nice and we talked shit spanish for hours. For some reason I thought the ride was 2 hours but it subsequently turned out to be 15 hours. I was a little concerned was Maxi started making mate whilst maneuvering the monstrosity of a truck across the narrow mountains. He smoked and chewed coka leaves for the solid 15 hours. The truck had a build in bed which he kindly gave to me. I had the pepper spray handy in case Maxi had any ideas. I needn’t have worried he was a gent. Although I didn’t sleep I was grateful for the lie down. He dropped me off at Rio Gallegios where I had to hitch another ride to Calafate. I was waiting about an hour for this ride which wasn’t bad at all. I’m becoming a daydoy (hitchhiking) pro at this stage.

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Hitchhiking to El Calafate; 900km in this monstrosity

Allihandro another gent also driving an outrageous truck kindly stopped. This drive was only 3 hours and the scenery was spectacular. Ali invited for dinner that night saying he would love the company not that I’m much company given the Spanish set up. We had another meat and wine feast. He subsequently gave me a knife, coat, sunglasses and a few empanadas as memorabilia of our time together. I hit the jackpot with Ali.

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Campsite in Calafate
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View from my tent

The main attraction in Calafate is Perito Moreno, the world-famous glacier. In Calafate I stayed in a fab campsite. It had proper showers, washing and cooking facilities something that has become quite foreign to me. Slightly destroyed after the turbulent journey getting here I had a lie on the next day and a relaxed day. That evening I was feeling a little ropey and not hungry at all ( which is so unusual for me). I decided to have some bread and a cup of soup. The cup of soup was the ruination of me. Out of nowhere I got extremely sick. I was violently sick with diarrhoea and vomiting. It was absolutely horrific. Unable to even stand upright I ended up getting sick outside this guys tent, the reception and in the river. Eventually crawling into my tent in a cold sweet I was in for a restless night. I got a sudden urge to puck and my brand new tent and sleeping bag were the victims. There was no hope of making the loo. Really in despair I had no other option but to shower with my tent. I was shivering at this stage and genuinely can’t ever remember being unwell. This went on until 7am when I had to decide whether or not I would be well enough to visit the world famous Perito Moreno Glacier 70km away. Stubborn as always I powered through and seeing as it was my last day there I’d be raging to miss it.

The next morning I stocked up on fluids and hitch hiked to the glacier (the bus was a pricey 40 euro). A really nice American couple let me share their taxi. The windy road to the glacier was the perfect  pucking storm thankfully I managed to make it to the glacier before pucking my ring up again.  The glacier was spectacular but obviously I couldn’t fully appreciate it. You can hear the ice cracking every few minutes so impressive.

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Breathtaking  Perito Moreno
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A violently sick Ró at Perito Moreno
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Amazing glacier
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The glacier is over 900m long (700m under water and 200m above water)

The nexy day I left Calafate to make my way to El Chaiten. The vomiting had subsided  so I made the dreaded hour walk to the point where everyone hitch hikes . The first hour was a disaster as I found out I was standing on the wrong side of the road (not ideal). I was alone mostly only  after about 2 hours  a gang of others arrived ( 3 Spanish, 2 Israli and a French guy). At this stage I didn’t want to talk to anyone as I was feeling ropey and you have 10 times as much of a chance of getting a lift if your alone. The Israli’s told me there was a bus at 8pm leaving from a bus terminal 3km walk away and did I want to join them (according to mapsme…!). I figured it was the best option, after a horrific walk we arrived at the non-existent bus terminal (surprise surprise). The Israeli guys were carrying handbags in comparison to my monstosatry of a bag. One of them kept asking me irritating questions like what kind of grades did I have in school, how was my childhood…… you wouldn’t be able for it on any day of the week but 3 days of no food and vomiting and hours of hitch hiking  it just was the pits. We continued walking/hitchhiking for another while. It was impossible to get a ride with lots of cars passing mainly families full to the brim. With light closing in and Calafate 3 hours away hope was dwindling. After a painful wait with the Israelis and them playing dreadful rock music I was absolutely delira when they said they were abandoning ship and going to try again in the morning.

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The grim reality of hitch hiking: Israeli lads playing rock music while I tried to find us a lift!

 

I told them I would camp on the street and meet them in Chaiten. Literally 2 minutes later a van pulled over and said he’d take me. At this stage I had lost the will to live and any shred of hope of finding a ride . Needless to say the Israelis were over like a shot gagging to get in the van but the van man was having none of them and said he would only take me! I was once again v v lucky. We lapped away for 3 hour drive it was stunning scenery.

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The cute little town of El Chaiten (only 2000 people live here)

 

When I arrived in Chaiten I was told the town never has signal due to the high winds. I had organised to meet up with Lorenso and Tatoo who had found us all a hut to stay in for the night.  With no address for the hut or way of contacting the guys I was fairly screwed. So van man told me I could sleep in his house although he was v nice to me I wasn’t keen on the idea. I found a restaurant with wifi so camped out their for a while trying to figure out a plan. I got chatting to one of the workers who felt so sorry for me he let me stay in his nearby house. He was a gent and slept on the floor while giving me a double bed, absolute luxury. He even brought home left over pizza from the restaurant. Not wanting to be rude and obviously dying for some pizza I ate it all.  Sadly I puked it all up later that night. Despite feeling shit I managed to sleep and was so lucky to have found Bruno.

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The entire town of El Chaiten

In the morning I managed to contact the guys and Bruno brought me to their ‘hut’.  Tatoo had planned on finding work in Chaiten and amazingly found a job in a restaurant starting that day. So  myself and Lorenso decided to do a 3 day hike in Fitzroy. I wasn’t feeling the may west but figured if I took it slowly I’d be ok and the route was fairly straightforward.  Prepping for our hike I realized somehow I had managed to lose a whole backpack of food, a runner (this was later returned to me by a randomer) but worst of all my new inflatable mattress. How anyone can lose  an entire mattress and not realize is actually quite impressive if you ask me. Un organised as always we left at 5.30pm.

Our first night of the trek we camped in Poincenot campsite. We decided to share my 1 man tent because it was lighter to carry. When we were pitching it we realized the tent was completely broken?? one of the poles had snapped so we tried to resuscitate it with a branch. After about half hour of failed attempts I found a repair kit in the bag which did the trick.

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Evening hike up to Fitzroy (oblivious to what was ahead)
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Rock climbers in El Chaiten

 

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Lorenso trying to repair my sad excuse of a tent

Dins for the night was ham and cheese sambos with whiskey, ginger and honey tea to try to warm up.  The plan for the following morning was to set alarms for 4am for a sunrise trek over Fitzroy. We needed have bothered as true to character I was getting sick all night (luckily not in the tent this time). Obviously feeling terrible and stubborn I decided to go ahead with the steep up hill climb at 5am. Lorenso wanted to stay with me but he was walking too fast that I urged me to go with out me. I also wanted to puck in peace. So after 4 more pucking episodes en route up I eventually crawled to the top just on time for sunrise. Trying to look at the positive side of things i figured it’s not often you have pucking views this good.

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Puck stop view en route to see

The fitzroy mountain range wasn’t visible from the top but we were treated to the most incredible red/golden colours and a beautiful rainbow absolutely incredible experience. I was so grateful I made sunrise by the skin of my teeth. When we eventually made it down we took a well-earned siesta until 1pm,

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Amazing rainbow at sunrise
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Making sunrise by the skin of my teeth
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Me and Lorenso 6am Firtzroy

The 2nd days walk was lovely and because we left so late we had it all to ourselves. The sunny weather turned into gaelforce winds with me getting blown completely off the track into a bush. We met a couple en route whose jacket got blown away with all their money, and passport. A complete nightmare. I could completely emphatise with them as this typically something that would happen to me.

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Amazing Fitzroy
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Some short lived sunshine!

The winds turned into torrential rain. It doesn’t get much worse than pitching a tent in the rain. Our tent was completely leaking and we were soaked. We hoped for a gap in the weather to try to get fresh water to cook dinner. We decided it wasn’t worth it and settled for no water or dinner. We took out our sleeping bags and tried to warm up trying to ignore the huge drops of rain falling on our faces. We ended up spending  a solid 20 hours in tent together trying to wait out the rain. We had a few minor melt downs but managed to pass the time quickly enough with my epic music (sound is a little suspect following lake/coffee incident), playing guess the capital ( I now know Nairobi is not the capital of Hawaii) and filling Lorenso in on the interesting Gallagher family tree.

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Loosing our minds in Fitzroy

We scrambled out of the tent at 4pm the next day mainly because I needed the loo and  to get sick. We made some grub and then started to make our way off the mountain where there the sun shined for the rest of the day.

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Day 3 views en route down from Fitzroy
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Some lovely evening sunshine
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Huge glacier in the distance

 

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Spotting woodpeckers in Fitzroy

We eventually made it off the mountain at about 10pm. Accommodation that night was  back in the ‘hut’.  With my inflatable mattress gone we had to sleep on concrete absolutely baltic. There was one other Chilain lad, Luxumburg staying here for the past 10 nights (the poor divil). Definitely not somewhere you’d fancy sleeping on your own but it did the job the night.  I drew the line at maximum one night in the homeless shelter. This place makes the tent feel like the Westbury hotel and definitely was a first and last!

Overall an extremely tough week with getting sick. I still have no idea how I got so bad but fingers cross next week the pucking will have fecked off! I don’t think I can handle much more!

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Our ‘hut’/ homeless shelter in El Chaiten

 

 

 

 

 

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