We had only just landed in El Calafate and we already loved the place. This time we had managed to drag another 2 people along with us, lovely Gemma and Anna from England and of course Pete making us a family of five for a few days. El Calafate is this little town set in a valley surrounded by beautiful scenery. The town itself is really pretty and looks like a little skiing village in Austria or Colorado with nearly everything made from wood, minus the snow of course. The landscape is stunning, crystal clear lakes, autumnal colours everywhere and surrounded by mountains. You could stay in this place for weeks.
Our hostel was really nice too and I'd highly recommend it - America Del Sur. All dorms were a maximum size of 4 per room making it another welcoming break from the standard size of 10. There are always negatives though, most of them I could deal with like the bad wifi and the small kitchen but one I couldn't was the rude b**** working there. I've always believed that its a lot more difficult to be rude to someone then nice. This girl had to be trying really hard. She was so unhelpful and unfriendly, we ended up just referring to her as 'rude b****' the whole time we were there. There was me, Andrew and Pete in our room with another new addition, a Canadian called Barrett! If you have read my other blog posts specifically the one on Florianopolis where I talk about the nicest girl we've ever met... Well you can see where this one is going here. Barrett was the nicest guy we ever met! So friendly, chatty and jolly, we used to be dying for him to come back from his tours just to talk to him. He was super intelligent too and really interesting to listen too. The hostel did this great BBQ dinner every night, it was expensive at 100 pesos p/p but you got a drink with it and is was a great way of meeting other people for us.
The main reason people come to El Calafate is for the glaciers. The biggest and best one being Pierto Moreno Glacier. We just did a standard bus and boat trip out to the glacier but you can also do the trekking one. The trekking one is expensive but you do get to climb on the ice with crampons and finish with a glass of Jameson whiskey with ice from the Glacier. Gemma, Anna and Pete did it and said it was incredible, their pictures looked amazing too. It all depends if you can afford it. We couldn't so just getting to see the Glacier itself was enough for us. We had to get our bus at 8am and of course we were running late. Andrew does this thing to really annoy me where just as we are about to leave to go somewhere he will need to go to the toilet! Anyway we are rushing up to the bus stop when this Philopino guy wearing a hairband, shorts and flipflops walks by us. Ok so the hairband was a little weird but the shorts and flipflops in Sub zero temperatures was just insane but more about this character later.
It took us about an hour to get to the Glacier and it was pretty spectacular. Its so difficult to describe something like this. We all got off the bus in complete silence just absolutely blown away by this thing.. Oh and some trivial information for you but it is the only expanding Glacier in the world, growing up to two meters a day (I'm not sure growing is the right word here but you know what I mean). You get engrossed watching it because these huge ice chunks fall off quite regularly especially in the afternoon, which makes this thunderous noise of crashing ice. We did this tour with 4 other people, a Welsh girl called Lynne who we ended up seeing a lot more of, a Dutch guy and a Polish couple, well they claimed they were Polish but the guy Arik had the thickest Kerry accent I had ever heard. He said it was just from living there for 9 years but I still have my doubts... Thank god we had a good group because earlier on into the tour, the weather was really bad (cold and wet) and we were getting pretty pissed off because we had to wait around for our driver to come back to bring us to where we catch the boat to see the Glacier up close. Anyway we ended up sitting in a cafe for about 2 hours chatting and for one of these hours we got talking about this infamous guy in our hostel called Justin. It turns out Justin is the guy we saw earlier that morning in the flip-flops. They told us that he was sent home from doing the Ice Trekking because he wasn't wearing suitable attire. He wore bloody flip flops and shorts, he couldn't have been wearing anything less suitable... Anyway Justin, a Philopino-American, it seems, is a compulsive liar. The guys were sharing a room with him. He voluntarily told them the story of his 3 scars and how exactly he got each one. No. 1 was from his days of being in a gang in America. No. 2 was from being in a serious car accident (this scar was only about 3cm... how serious could it be). And the No. 3 (my personal favourite) was from getting hit by a plane. That's right folks, you heard it hear first, the first man to get hit by a plane and survive. The more we found out about this guy, the more we loved him. Obviously no single word that came out of his mouth was true but he believed it was and that was all that mattered. We ended up, much to our liking, see a lot more of Justin over the next few days.
Other then the Glaciers there is a lot more to do. If you're into hiking and trekking, a day trip to El Chalten is really popular. There are loads of mountain climbing spots in the surrounding area too. We didn't do this, partly because we drank too much over these few days and partly because the most suitable hiking shoes Andrew had was a pair of Nike Air Max. Anyway, socialising was a lot more fun. We met 2 more Americans, a nice Italian and a funny Brazilian guy. We all went out to a local pub/bar place called Don Diego which was great fun! We got a lift back to the hostel with one of the staff who came out with us. With a few drinks on the driver and 6 people squeezed into a tiny car, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do but you only live once! Breakfast started at 7am in the hostel every morning so this breakfast we all made it on time (I love my free breakfast).
Another relevant but less interesting not for anyone planning on travelling in South America is this - One of the best things we found out about was this bus service called Southpass. If you are planning on ever travelling Argentina, this is essential. We only found out about it, half way into travelling Argentina but still saved a lot of money. Simply, you just pay for 5, 7 or 10 bus trips all at once but you end up saving up to minimum of 1000 pesos.
That it's from El Calafate, next stop Bariloche and our longest and most traumatic bus journey yet of 28 hours (the suspense is probably killing you).
I'll keep you posted!!