El Calafate, Argentina

Given the proximity to Puerto Natales (just a 3-4 hour drive over the border from Chile to Argentina) we decided to hitchhike again. Our hostel owner was lovely and made us a huge cardboard sign saying ‘Vamos al Calafate’ and we hit the road. Our second experience hitchhiking was super easy too! We were picked up within 10 minutes by a guy who worked just over the border, and he gave us a lift into Argentina. Then he advised us where to go for the next best pick-up spot, and whilst walking there along a dual carriageway, another guy picked us up and took us to the crossroads! Everyone was super friendly and drivers even signalled with their hands where we should be walking with the optimum spot, if they couldn’t take us.

Starting out on our second BIG hitchhike across the border

Then we were picked up by the legendary Eduardo. A water truck delivery man, Eduardo was the sweetest guy ever. In his 50s, he was warm, friendly and very chatty (far too chatty given my poor Spanish!) and we spent a happy 4 hours sitting in the comfy cab of his lorry, practising my rusty schoolgirl Spanish, admiring the surrounding mountains, and getting to know each other. He even bought us little treats like apples and drinks when we stopped off to deliver water! He told us about the patron saint of travels, this dude in Argentine legend, who they recognise by building little red huts and shrines on the roadside, and he had a red ribbon hanging next to the Argentine flag coloured ribbon in his cab. He clearly loved travellers!

In the cab of lovely Eduardo’s water truck

We saw amazing views of El Calafate and Lago Argentina (the biggest body of water in the country) as we came into town, and also one of the president’s holiday homes.

Town itself wasn’t our favourite. In fact, it was pretty much a tourist trap hell. Hostels were mad spenny so we ended up in a 4 bed dorm (only 10 pounds each vs. the 80 quid for a double room!) and we found a nice enough hostel, where we met lots of nice backpackers who told us tales of where they’ve been and where they’re going (the usual backpacker conversational currency) and they had a good laugh at our dinner of dulce de leche sandwiches (we haven’t quite got into the hostel cooking yet when we’re not eating out!) A lovely German girl in our hostel told us a pretty terrifying story about how she’d been mugged at knifepoint in Rio and had got pretty badly cut.. by a gang of 15 year olds! YIKES! And also had her credit card cloned twice in ATMs there… so yeah, Brazil’s looking even more exciting! Ahem.

Tourist hell strip in El Calafate

As mentioned before in the previous post, we also bumped into our Brit couple friends Tom and Jen which was a pretty sweet bonus to staying in that hostel, so we swapped plans and Whatsapps about where we were heading next (they were going to nearby El Chalten for more hiking, the crazy cats! Me and Sam’s knees still weren’t recovered from the 5 day Torres Del Paine trek!)

Despite it being a tourist hell, we managed to find one local eatery which was a really friendly diner/cafe place, where we totally ate our feelings. After a long day hitchhiking, and no lunch, we ordered the ‘hamburguesa completo’ which seemed to suggest for two people, and a Patagonian lamb pizza. Boy was it delicious! But obviously far too much food. So we ate it all, of course. We also saw our first few ‘Tenor Libres’ (all you can eat buffets, literally meaning ‘free fork’) that we decided we must check out some time.

Perito Merino glacier

And now onto the main reason we were in town – the Perito Merino Glacier! We opted to go it alone on the bus to the national park (to the dismay of our grumpy hostel lady who wanted to sell us a spenny tour), and just had a few hours there in the afternoon/evening, which is supposed to be the best time to see the glacier chunks fall into the water, after the heat of the day. They weren’t wrong! We saw massive house-sized chunks of the glacier fall away in front of our eyes, leaving shiny blue fresh ice underneath. The roar (like an earthquake) and the sight as the ice hits the water was mad!

You can get really close via walkways, so it’s pretty dramatic. After a few hours, we were pretty glaciered out though, so we headed home to plan the next stage, back up North to the Argentine Lake District. This time, given the 26 hour journey, we opted for a bus rather than risk an epic hitchhike!…