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Round-Trip To El Chaltén

Surprise, surprise – I’m back in El Calafate! But first, let’s start where I ended the last time.

Leaving El Calafate and starting off with a lovely tail-wind, me and Juan easily covered 40 km before noticing that something was wrong with his rear wheel. It turned out that a spoke was broken on the same side as the cassette! Fortunately, I had the necessary tools with me but the cassette was so hard that the chain tool eventually broke! We reckoned that El Chaltén was a small place without a bicycle shop, so Juan hitchhiked back and I continued on my own. It was a nice route, but the wind was very hard the last day and at some parts I only averaged 7 km/h and even had to walk!

Watch out for strong winds!

The beard is growing!

Fair enough, I got my reward 15 km before reaching El Chaltén – a view of the magnificent mountain Monte Fitz Roy (3375 m):

Fitz Roy

El Chaltén is Argentinas national capital of trekking and climbing, and also one of the country’s most recent villages. It’s damn expensive and literally more tourists than locals staying here, but the proximity to the park, with several paths being accessible directly from the main street, definitely outweigh this!

I went on a very nice three-day trip together with Pamela, a Chilean girl that I met during Christmas in Puerto Natales. The first day, we walked up to Laguna Torre to see another renown mountain, Cerro Torre (3128 m), famous for it’s characteristic summit and tough technical climbing. We camped just in front of the glacier and the lagoon – beautiful!

Cerro Torre

Camping at Laguna Torre

Second and third day, we continued towards Fitz Roy and camped at Acampamento Poincenot and also walked to Piedras Blancas, another spectacular glacier nearby. We were also supposed to go to Laguna de los Tres, the best viewpoint to see Fitz Roy, but the third day was cloudy and my knee was protesting a bit…

Oh yes, my knee deserves a few lines too. I stressed the right one too much when trekking in Torres del Paine during Christmas because of a very long and hard day with a lot of weight and steep descents. The problem (and solution) is to rest, which I haven’t done enough due to my way of travelling. I have felt the pain by the end of long days on the bike, and also now after the trekking in El Chaltén. So I went to the hospital and they told me that it is the lateral collateral ligament, but nothing serious. I went on a treatment with magnetic therapy and ultra sound for a few days, but then decided to go back to El Calafate to rest since there is more things to do here and a bit cheaper to stay.

Yesterday, I met an Israeli guy at the hostel who ironically also is here to rest from a trek in Torres del Paine. He told me that the cause and symptoms of my problem seemed identical to something he had been experiencing a few years back, namely ITBS. I went to the doctor again and explained my thoughts but he still thought that it was the ligaments.

Anyway, I don’t have much confidence in the doctors here. The last one I met searched Google for diagnosis, watched YouTube while telling a patient that he had so much work to do, and telling me places were to meet girls rather than where to buy anti-inflammatories (and no, it’s NOT my Spanish that is lacking, it’s quite good by now actually ;-) ). So, what I am going to do is a combination of rest, ultrasound and a lot of stretching. Next week, I will take the bus back to El Chaltén to start (slowly) towards the Chilean border and Carretera Austral, which starts behind these mountains:

El Chaltén