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Turning 30 South American Style With the dreaded 30th birthday looming, I ran away to South America to celebrate the landmark birthday in style.

El Chalten

ARGENTINA | Sunday, 9 March 2008 | Views [1058]

Eager to claw back some cash after the finance draining excess of the Merino glacier, we took our wee tent up the road to El Chalten, a lovely little town at the base of Fitzroy mountain where the camping is free. The downside is there is no shower and only a hole in the ground posing as a toilet. Rather a smelly way to save cash but the views made it all worthwhile.
On the way there, we stopped at a little homestead where the family seem to make a living by providing passing tourists with reasonably priced and utterly delicious cakes. It came complete with a domesticated bull, several chickens and even a friendly little alpaca. Totally domesticated, it allowed everyone to give it a little stroke before it all got a bit much and he wandered into the house to hide behind the owner´s skirts for a bit, gazing out all the while as it hid shyly. Very cute.
On arrival in El Chalten, we pitched the tent in a free site and entered the three most glorious sunny day on record in the town. Normally, the weather there is really bad and everyone we spoke to had tent poles snapped in force gale winds or trekked through blizzards and wind so harsh it blew rocks off the mountains. The treks were nice and easy and well marked out, a blissful escape after the terror climbs in Bariloche. The first day we went up to the Fitzroy base camp which was spectacular. The peaks are right there in front of you, topped with ice and reflected in a clear blue water lake. All the water is drinkable, right from the streams and lakes so we lapped up a lot of glacier melt water directly from the source. Beats Evian hands down. The following day we headed across the see the Glacier Grande, again a spectacle sight but the wind channels directly down over the ice and hits you with a full on blast of painfully ice coldness right in the face so you can´t admire it for too long. We had the ipod with us so at one point I went running down the slopes of the mountain listening to the Prodigy at full volume, a star in my own advert! We came straight off a trek onto the bus back to El Calafate after a two day trek and three days without shower in the searing heat. No one wanted to sit next us and one woman looked so ill she had to open a window.

Tags: argentina, camping, el chalten, glacier grande, glaciers, lakes, merino glacier, mountains, trek, trekking

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