Sunday, March 28, 2010

Are you ready for this? Oh and I hope you like ice.

So, even though you are probably not ready for this. I am going to tell you anyways. This posting is going to tell you about my last five days, which were epically awesome and which I think make my life pretty awesome. I know I am blessed to have these experiences and I want to share them with you, my faithful followers.

Our flight is supposed to leave the Buenos Aires domestic airport at 5:50. So I get up at 3 to get ready, finish packing and to eat before Lindsay and Greg come to get me in the taxi shortly after 3:30. I join them in the taxi and there is no traffic but there are a ton of people out partying because Wednesday is a holiday, so no one has to go to work. We drive along and at one point, we pass about 500 people standing next to a golf course, somewhat in the road. This was on the airport road, apparently there is a disco there, which is weird. Anyways, we continue to the airport and proceed to check in. There is a really long line and we don't care for it until Lindsay or Greg, I've forgotten, see a machine where we can check in. We can do this because we aren't checking baggage, go us (although it's free in argentina). We get our boarding passes and proceed to the food court. Lindsay and I order coffee and I get a medialuna. It was overpriced but we really needed coffee. We then proceed to what one could call security, although it was the most lax security I've ever seen. We walked through and were done. They did pat us down, a woman for me and a man for Greg. Go Argentina! So at this point, we've got time to kill. We find seats and wait for the plane to load. We cut in front of the old people by pretending we don't speak spanish and get through. We then proceed down to a bus. As everyone loads the bus, I wonder where exactly we are going to go. The bus leaves, we drive literally 50 meters and stop. The bus unloads, we board the plane. Welcome to Argentina.

We arrive in El Calafate at about 9ish. It is the smallest airport I have ever been in. There are two sets of bathrooms, four gates and one ramp. We try to find a taxi and we learn that the taxi into town is 80 pesos, which is a freaking lot. We get one anyways and I ask how long the ride will take. The driver says 15-20 minutes, we now understand the fee. We ride into El Calafate and I attempt to explain to the driver to drop us off anywhere in town because we have 3 hours to kill before the bus leaves. He does while pointing out some very obviously American-ized english-y cafes that we ignore. We walk around and find some benches to sit on because most cafes don't open until ten. We make a friend, it was a dog. Her name is Scheherezade. I named her. I took pictures of her and at ten, when the cafe next to us opened, we went in and I took pictures of everything for Ami, since she didn't get to come with us. In this little area, there was a also a sushi bar, we were curious as to what the sushi in this tiny town was like where there are no japanese people or even any asians of any type other than Greg. We sat down, wasted time and had coffee and I had a medialuna. Greg had tea. Eventually, we got up left and went to look for some place for lunch, we settled on some place called La Esquina. And I ordered a milanesa sandwich, which I will never do again, please refer to the picture. We walked to the bus station, got on the bus and we were on our way. I dropped my water bottle on a Russian couple and took lots of pictures. Oh that canon noise. There was also some sleeping.

We arrive in El Chaltén and walk around, it doesn't take long. Before we got to town, we had to stop at the park ranger station and they gave us information about some hikes in the area. We decide to walk to a waterfall about 3km away when we get to town. He also told us that if we saw the endangered species called the huemul living in the park that it would be like "the cherry on the cake." Did I mention that El Chaltén is completely within a national park whose entrance fee is nothing? Anyways, we get into "town" and walk to pay for our Ice Trekking trip the next day and learn that we have to rent terkking boots (for the crampons), and gloves and waterproof pants. We go grocery shopping and then to our hostel, which smells and is cold. We leave and hike to the waterfall, and the wind in all parts of El Chaltén is quite fierce (you may refer to facebook pictures of my hair for example). It's not a long walk, we enjoy it, take pictures and return. We put our things away and walk to a vegetarian restaurant we had seen.At this point, we were epically exhausted. As we were falling asleep at the table we ate the most delicious food of our lives. I had a roasted butternut squash with honey and walnuts and blue cheese and assorted other vegetables. We paid, we returned to the smelly hostel and slept.

Day 2:

Ok I know I talk a lot, I'm trying to cut back, sorry.

Alright, we wake up and eat breakfast with groceries we bought previously, we waited for the bus to come pick us up and we decked out in many many layers because we were going to a glacier, guys. We get on the bus with the whole crew, all of whom are sharing the same mate cup as Argentines do. We ride out of El Chaltén to a dock where we get on a boat and ride the boat to a glacier. It was awesome. We go on the top deck and take tons of pictures and get blown all around. We then dock on the side of the mountain and leave some stuff sitting under rocks to return to for lunch later. We start off with just our cameras and all our layers. We hike on the rocks for a bit, getting some geology lessons on the way. We are making our way towards the glacier and it looks awesome. Also, it's not really all that cold. I actually got hot and had to take off some layers. We get near the glacier and they hand out crampons and we all sit down and they help us put them on correctly. We then get a crampon walking instruction time thing and it was awesome. We proceed to the ice, awesome. I know I am saying this a lot, but guys, I WAS TREKKING ON A GLACIER, that's AWESOME. Anyways, we start off and it's a lot harder than it looks, my calves are still cramping. Ick. We basically walk around a ll day, there are rainbows, we are level with the clouds and the mountains. The weather is beautiful. We stop at epic views to take pictures of ourselves being epic and the day is epic. At one point we stop and the guides tell us that they have a special surprise for us. They pull out their ice picks and start chipping away at a section of glacier, then they chip out ice and put it into cups and hand them out to every one. Then they pull several bottles of Bailey's out of their packs and share with everyone. TALK ABOUT BAILEY'S ON ICE!!! Ahh, Lindsay and I split Greg's portion, due to that whole milk allergy thing. Anyways, it was epic. Eventually, we climb back down the glacier and settle on the rocks to eat lunch and then get on the boat to return. Oh and by the way, it is called Viedma Glacier and it is the largest glacier in the Argentine Ice belt thing. We get dropped off back at our hostel and we get our stuff to go. We return all of our equipment and head to our vegetarian restaurant for a delicious snack before we have to get on the bus to go back to El Calafate (it's a 3 hours bus ride). I got a piece of pumpkin cake and some chai tea, that Ana (the lady who owns it and runs it by herself) had to cook upon my ordering it. Awesome.

We waste time, go to a locutorio (internet cafe) where some backpackers that obviously haven't showered in days come in. We walk past the welcome to El Chaltén welcome sign and take pictures, like tourists and get on the bus (after paying the unexpected bus terminal usage tax). We get on the bus and sit down and I drop my water bottle on a German guy this time and then sit down to nap. Napping wasn't going too well, and so the german and I started chatting. We became friends and now I have a german friend. We arrived in El Calafate at around 10 and went to our hostel, checked in and I showered. We then went to go get some food and met the german for dinner. A really wonderful day.

Day 3:

So, this is friday now and it is day 3 and today we were supposed to go to Chile. And we did, but we had to get up and be ready to leave at 5:30am, oh we were all so tired for all this time. We got on a bus and rode over 3 hours to the Chilean border. We got stamped out of Argentina, got on a different bus and rode 7km to the Chilean immigration office, where we got stamped into Chile. Legit, yo. We exchanged money in order to pay the entrance fee to the park for Torres del Paine and I made another Australian friend. Her name is Erin and she's from Melbourne. She speaks no spanish and the money exchange lady spoke no english, I decided to help out, now we're friends. Erin is traveling for two years, by herself. She's awesome. Anyways, we ride the tour bus into Chile and do really stupid touristy stuff all day. We didn't expect this to be the tour we signed up for, but it is what we got and it's okay because we go to go to Chile. This made us very happy. Anyways, every time we would see wildlife, we would stop the bus and get out to take pictures, which was simultaneously a little cool and annoying as shit. There were many other nationalities on this bus including an Argentine man with a purse and fat, I mean really fat, french woman who was wearing crocs and would climb fences to get pictures of condors. She loved condors and she didn't fit through the aisle of the bus very well. She also had some french friends, one who was the worst chainsmoker I have ever seen. Every time we got off the bus, she would smoke, this was about every 5-10 minutes. We rode around, we had the chance to hike or rather walk around a few times to see a waterfall and some more mountains. And to an extent, I'm glad we were on the bus a lot because I was exhausted and the weather was utter shit. Oh well. Anyways, we rode around the park all day and took pictures and it was beautiful and we were in Chile, did I mention we were in Chile? We then returned to the border, got stamped out, rode to the Argentine office, got stamped back in and our Chilean adventure was over. We all slept the whole way back to our hostel which is called America del Sur and which is pretty much the best hostel in the world and if you ever get a chance to stay, do, for your own benefit. When we arrived, we all showered and went to sleep immediately.

Day 4:

This was meant to be our easy day because at this point, we were all super exhausted and unable to walk more. We slept in relatively until about 9 (as breakfast ended at 9:30). We then chilled at the hostel for a bit and I chatted with Frederico, who has the same taste in music as I do. We traded artists that we must listen to and he told me how to legally download music while I'm in BA. Victory. We were scheduled to go on a tour of Perito Moreno (the hometown famous glacier of El Calafate) a little after 1. So we walked into town and went back to the same cafe as before and I had some pie and Lindsay had coffee and Greg had orange juice. We also bought postcards and went to the grocery store to buy some snacks for lunch-ish and also to get some eggs to make ourselves in the mornings. As much as we may try to deny, we are Americans and we love eggs for breakfast, ehh. We got back and the bus picked us up, and we soon realized we were on a less severe version of a tourist trap like the one we were on the day before. There were tourists being obnoxious with cameras who would switch sides of the bus for the best view. We stopped once to take pictures of Argentina Lake, which is the biggest in the area and massive in general. We all took about 3 serious photos and then started making fun of tourists and Lindsay and Greg took pictures of me doing cartwheels in the road. Super fun. We stopped once more for pictures and then made our way to the boat tour that went right up to the glacier and guess what? we took more pictures. Go us! After the boat, we rode up the boardwalks that walk all around in the forest on the mountain in front of Perito Moreno. Lots of ice. We took pictures, sort of, we were tired. We made jokes and acted loopy, you know the sleepy ha-has. We hated the stairs and walked like old people. We also at one point went to bathroom in the lodge and found that there was a remix of Barbie Girl on repeat in the bathrooms, both genders. Lindsay and I sang. We walked and walked and walked and walked and took a few pictures. We figured out that Greg is a non-stoner who says stoner things and that he is also a less-depressed Eeyore. Lindsay is Kanga, I am obviously Tigger and Ami got to Piglet-at-large. After walking a bit, we got back on the bus and rode back to our hostel. We slept pretty much the whole way. And we had already signed up to eat the all you can eat barbecue at our hostel, which was awesome because we were too tired to walk to town. We ate and checked our facebooks and went to sleep.

Day 5:

Our very sad day of departure. We got up in an attempt to watch the sunrise. We failed. We tried to pay, and realized that there was a 7% charge if we used our cards, another fail. We had to walk to the ATM and withdraw lots of moneys. We paid and attempted to make some eggs. We couldn't turn the stove on, another fail. We got help, made eggs with a pepper in them and ate them partly burnt but still delicious. We're learning. We finished packing and headed to the airport. We got hit by another hidden fee, this time an airport tax. We boarded and we were off. We returned to BA and got a cab where the driver thought we were tourists until I started naming the streets we were on as we passed them, he changed his mind. And our trip was over sadness.

Trip Count
Glaciers: 2
Mountains: 45000
Racists Germans: 1
Lakes: 100001
Dogs: 29000
Pictures: 1729

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