Andrea: We got up early the next day to catch our bus to El Chalten, where we would be hiking to catch a view of the famous Fitz Roy. We had a hard time waking up because we were up in the middle of the night with the sound of someone jumping from a top bunk, running for the bathroom and then vomit hitting the floor. Shared living is great! But, we relaxed a bit as we listened to her clean it all up and eventually fell back asleep, so all was good.
Everyone seemed to know our bus driver from the hostel - woman flock to the blow dried mullet of this townee Casanova I guess - and girls smiled and giggled as he called out their names on the passenger roster. Andrea considered going up front to flirt with him, if only to get into this inner circle, but the language barrier was insurmountable so instead we slept most of the 3 hours to El Chalten.
Driving into town was like a journey into a fairytale - El Chalten was glowing under a beaming sun, a rainbow extended straight into the mountain (we actually saw the end of the rainbow!) and strong white stallions roamed lush hillside. We half expected our driver to rip off his shirt, mount a white horse and ride off into the sunset with his latest love, a la a Danielle Steel novel, but luckily he kept his eyes on the road (and, more importantly, his shirt on).
However, almost instantly as the shuttlebus deposited us in the centre of the quaint village, heavy dark clouds filled the sky, spiteful winds whirled through the streets, and the townspeople closed their stores, locked the doors and pulled down their shutters. We felt like we were the villians in this story. A few hours later the townspeople opened up their stores again when siesta was over (much better than fetching their torches and pitchforks) and we were finally able to get some lunch - delicious baked goodies.
Determined to explore El Chalten, we decided to go to the closest vista to our hostel, a waterfall described on the map as, 'the easiest trail in the area.' Sounds interesting, we thought so we donned our waterproof clothing and set off for the strenuous 3K walk. That's walk, not hike, because the path was on the side of a road. But the weather started to clear so it was a nice walk and actually a really lovely waterfall, despite our skepticism - I think we've turned into waterfall snobs since Iguazu Falls. The waterfall was set in a wooded area where the trees were just starting to turn orange and red for autumn so it was a nice little walk on a rainy afternoon.
As night fell, we could hear the rain falling harder on the tin roof of the hostel and we thought the wind would blow through the windows. In other words, we were really looking forward to our 25K hike the next morning up to Laguna de Los Tres to see Fitz Roy. We went to bed early in preparation as the wind continued to howl.
The alarm rang at 7:00 the next morning and we dutifully climbed out of bed and showered. After the shower, we reconvened downstairs to discuss the plan (we could both still clearly hear the rain pounding against the roof and windows, so now we needed a 'plan'). We looked at each other and decided another hour of sleep was a good plan and went upstairs to let the rain lull us back to sleep. By the time we got up again it was light outside so we could see what we were working with. Luckily the rain had subsided and we could almost see the mountain that was in front of our hostel the day before so we donned our stylish waterproof outfits again and hit the trail.
The first 45 minutes of the trek involved a lot of panting and cursing. Coincidentally, this was the steepest part. About an hour into the hike it started snowing a bit, then the wind picked up and it turned into a full-on blizzard which we were walking through. The snow clouded over Fitz Roy enough to make it fully disappear so we were fighting the snow for a nonexistent view. We met some people along the way who we had some good conversation with and there were also more gorgeous red and orange trees to see so there was plenty of good scenery. We got to a point about 3Ks from where we were headed (at about the 9K point) and the path was completely flooded. The snow and wind had also picked up and our view was still a mystery--we didn't even know which direction to look for Fitz Roy. The group in front of ours looked at the map, looked at the imagenary mountain, looked at us and turned around. About a minute later we completed the exact same sequence of events (except looking at ourselves). We ate our sandwiches with frozen hands and high-tailed it back down the mountain. We then hit a tea house that was actually open during siesta and warmed up with tea, coffee and hot chocolate. I finally tried a mate since it was being traditionally served here (and it was the cheapest drink on the menu, but nevermind) and I have to say it was disgusting. I'm sorry, I know it's part of their culture but it tasted like grass. Wet grass. Wet grass that had been rained on with boiling hot water. Vern helped and we choked down 3/4 of the giant thermos of hot water before we surrendered.
The next day we hiked up to another viewpoint--a glacier in the mountains. We were told this was an easier hike and we were also told that, in any weather, we would definitely be able to view the glacier. We set off once again in our waterproof clothes and off with our roommate, Heng. Again we saw beautiful rows of autumn-coloured trees and we had much better weather (no blizzards). We got up to the glacier in the mountains and... nothing! Couldn't see anything. We had to ask someone where it should be. It was cold and windy and a bit snowy by the time we got to the top so we decided not to wait for a view and turn back secure in the knowledge that it wasn't as good as the Perito Moreno glacier in El Calafate. On the way back down we asked Heng what the difference between hiking and trekking was. He said he thought hiking was like what we were doing and trekking was doing it for like 4 days or more. So, we've decided we'll stick to being pretend hikers instead of pretend trekkers.
We got back to the hostel and had lunch with some friends we met there and waited for our bus back to El Calafate. Also, after 3 days injury-free days of hiking and over 50Ks covered, I managed to pull a muscle in my neck getting on the top bunk of a bunk bed.