12 March – 16 March, 2018
We boarded Bus Sur bright and early for our 5-hour ride and as daylight approached, we discovered the sun and the promise of a beautiful day. We passed by guanaco, rhea, and even a couple of little grey fox. Most of the time we’ve seen the wildlife through our steamy bus windows, but, even if I’ve no photos to remember them by, we are still seeing them.
We pulled into the bus terminal, booked a couple of future bus rides, then hopped in a taxi and were whisked off to America Del Sur, our hostel for the next 5 days. We were greeted warmly; all the staff spoke English; and once settled, it was time to find a doctor to remove the duct tape and examine my finger.
The hostel manager, Patrick, said the hospital is the only place to go as they have a clinic within it. He offered to take me there, as he was concerned about our ability to communicate my needs to a Spanish-speaking doctor. We didn’t want to inconvenience him, so he wrote a brief note instead. A 20-minute walk later and we were checking in at the hospital. Consulting with a nice doctor, x-rays, and a splint cost a mere $40. 🙂
We were some of the oldest guests at America Del Sur but we felt totally comfortable. The constant hum of young, international voices was exhilarating. We met some remarkable young men and women: Julia from Moscow, Stella from LA, currently studying in Buenos Aires, Benjamin and Amil from Australia, to name a few.
Breakfasts were plentiful, the on-site restaurant served great meals, and the beer was quite tasty. The large floor to ceiling windows in the common area looked out over the lake, as did the view from our room. Knowing we had given ourselves a couple of extra days in El Calafate to chill, leisurely explore the town, and allow me time to write, kept a perpetual smile on my face. And with some sun in the forecast, life was good!
I had hoped to visit Laguna Nimez Bird Sanctuary on the outskirts of town, said to have over 100 species of birds that visited or made this their permanent home. Unfortunately, it was closed due to flooding, caused by the very glacier we were planning to visit – Perito Moreno (more on that later). To say I was disappointed was an understatement, as I wanted to see the unique feathered beauties from this part of the world.
Most of the towns we have explored to date in South America have found us looking like the pied piper as we strolled through town, collecting stray dogs along the way. Many don’t look emaciated or as if theirs is a hard life lived fighting for scraps. Perhaps some are just out for their daily stroll, like us. But they all seemed to have an invisible line they refused to cross and once we stepped over it, they were lost to us, until El Calafate that is.
The day we walked across town to see the flood damage at the bird sanctuary found us collecting yet another stray, but this one stayed with us all the way back to the hostel. He was adorable and we found ourselves wanting to stick him in our luggage, along with a beautiful little kitty we found begging at the window to be let inside.
I expected El Calafate to be a quaint little town but was quite surprised when we entered downtown and found a bustling town filled with boutique shops, outdoor gear stores, lovely cafes, tour companies, and a casino. El Calafate is the poster child for the tourist boom in Argentina, with the population more than doubling in a decade, increasing real estate prices, surely a double-edged sword for the locals. The population now hovers at 25,000. We enjoyed our wanderings almost as much as America Del Sur.
We had only one big adventure planned when we arrived in El Calafate, a visit to Perito Moreno Glacier, and the day had finally dawned. More on that later, as it deserves its own post.