It's now mid morning in El Chalten. The rain has stopped. The rule is if it's dry do it, because it may not stay that way for long. So we don our walking kit, including wet weather gear and head off to find the bottom of Mt Fitz Roy.
It's a long hike but although it's windy it does stay fairly dry. The scenery along the way is varied but always beautiful. I'm amazed when we encounter camp sites and find tents......in this weather.......they must be mad.
Eventually we reach the mirador to Mt Fitz Roy. It's an impressive mountain and apparently a worldwide draw for mountaineers.
Back in El Chalten our hostel is cosy and warm. The town on the other hand is cold, wet and still basically shut. We venture out in search of food and find one of the only places open. However we have a nice meal in a cosy little restobar. Then it's back to the warm snug comfort of our room to listen to the wind and rain outside.
Next day is Friday 13th agggghhhhhhhh. It's also Jill's birthday and the sun is shining on the righteous. It's a totally different day. Blue sky and it's warm. Let's go hiking.
We decide on a 22km hike to Cerro Torre and Laguna Torre. It started with a gentle climb over open ground before entering a thick forest. The climb continued and then descended to a large river bed valley. The valley floor had a wide fast flowing river along one side and a flat plain of trees in lovely autumn colours. At the far end of the valley was our destination of Laguna Torre. Looming over it were three massive snow covered mountain peaks. They looked like they were guarding the way.
The walk along the valley floor was fabulous. It constantly changed. Sometimes in forest, then open land then by the river. The views and colours are difficult to describe. Always though ahead were the mountains.
After over three hours we reached what looked like a lunar landscape. Large rocks and boulders which had been washed off the mountain over thousands of years by the river. We picked our way across and up a slope.
As we reached the crest and looked ahead the sight was among the best we have ever seen. A large lake was spread out in front of us. Its surface being swept by the wind. In the water were large chunks of ice that had broken off the glacier at the far end.
The glacier swept away from the lakeside back up the mountain valley. All the time the mountains loomed over us. It is without doubt one of the most fabulous places we have been. It had been a long hike to get there but it was well worth it.
There was a large piece of drift wood on the shoreline so we sat down and just stared at the view. For about half an hour it was me, Jill and an amazing landscape. I hope I never forget it. Patagonia is wild, cold, inhospitable and beautiful all at the same time.
I wanted to sit and stare at the scene forever but it was time to head back. We walked back the way we had come but the view was so different. It was like the two seasons of autumn and winter had met each other. The tree lined hills with their array of colours butted right up to the harsh snow and ice of the mountains and glaciers. Winter would eventually win until spring came and the colours would return.
The sun kept shining and we walked without coats on. Then we arrived back at El Chalten and the wind came out to play. Viento mucho viento. We returned to the hostel, got changed and headed out to eat. What a change, we had walked all day in sunshine and now a force 8 gale was blowing. It nearly blew you off your feet.
El Chalten will never win the 'prettiest town of the year' award but with such beautiful country around it I guess it doesn't care.
Next morning we caught the 7am bus back to El Calafarte. We sat at the front of the bus and watched the sunrise. It was so beautiful. Like the world was on fire. Alpacas lined the road and Condors flew over head. I had asked myself why humans decided to settle in Patagonia, but the last few days had answered that. It has to be one of the most stunning places on earth.