Connected to Torres del Paine via the Southern Patagonian Icefield is another park in Argentina, Los Glaciares. To get there, we crossed at a small border with just 2 people working. There’s very little population in this part of the world, so whenever you pass a town, it can be quite a while before you see anyone again, especially on dirt roads.
So we made our way to El Calafate, the gateway town to the southern section of Los Glaciares. We spent some time stocking up on groceries (and amazing cake), and then headed out to a free campground in the park. The place was deserted as it was out of seasons and it was rainy and a bit muddy. Thankfully with our new tires traction was greatly improved, so the car handled great.
The main attraction in the southern section of the park is Glaciar Perito Moreno, a huge glacier. The colors of the ice are surreal, and given its size there’s plenty of opportunity to watch parts break off and fall into the lake. The pictures speak for themselves, although it’s hard to capture the size.
We headed to the northern section of the park next, home of the famous Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre peaks, where we knew of a few friends who were in the area. In El Chalten we first met Gato and his friends, who were traveling through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia in a Land Rover Defender for a month. We hung out for the evening, exchanging stories. It’s quite a different experience to travel with 4 people without much space!
The next morning we found out at the park office that it had been raining 25% of the annual rainfall in the last 3 days, which had caused some bridges to be flooded away by all the water. A bit discouraged, we got in touch with our friends Crepe Attack – they had spent exactly those 3 days out hiking, in part involuntarily because a bridge on the return had been washed out and they needed to wait for the water level to come down.
We still wanted to go on a hike, and as the weather was clearing up in the early afternoon, we decided to give it a shot to go see Fitz Roy. We ran most of the way on a wet trail, although it wasn’t too bad. About 2 km from the main viewpoint though, we encountered a park ranger closing off a washed off bridge. So we started looking around for other passable areas of the river, and promptly found a place we were both confident we could jump across. So we did, bushwacked our way back on the trail and follow it all the way up to Tres Lagos, with a magnificent view of the peaks. Funny enough, there were plenty of people on the trail who had crossed the now-closed bridge before the ranger had arrived in the early afternoon. On the way back we had to pass the same river again, only this time we just crossed the bridge like all the other people heading back. Needless to say, when she saw us crossing over, she was not pleased…The recurring theme of our travels in Patagonia seems to have been running from park rangers!
Back in Chalten, we met up again with Crepe Attack as well as another family in a VW, Our Open Road. At this point in the trip it’s become abundantly clear that this “unique” adventure we’re on is pretty well-traveled! We spent the 2 nights building a van-circle and testing out the carrying limits of our vans. The verdict: Both the Sprinter as well as the Vanagons have room for 6 adults, 2 children and a dog.