El Calafate and its Environs

After climbing Medialuna we returned to Calafate so I wouldn’t go insane trying to work remote using the internet in Chalten. By this time, Andy and I are getting to be Calafate experts.We know the cool beer haunts, we have favorite empanada joints, we know where all the bad potholes are lurking and trying to take out our car’s suspension, and we know which dogs are faking that they’re going to run under our car while chasing it and which ones seem like they could actually be suicidal. The week went by quickly with Andy constantly monitoring the weather in Chalten (still bad) and me working throughout the day. I had 2 groups of Wildland travelers in town so we met up with both groups which was super fun. We shared a glass of Malbec with one group who regaled us with tales of biking in the wine valleys near Santiago, good weather in Torres del Paine, and a flooded hike that took a different turn.

On Friday, we drove out to the lodge Eolo to meet the other group. They were in good spirits despite 2 of their party being evacuated from TdP due to medical reasons just a few days prior (also fun Kelsey work times). We had a blast chatting with them and then we took the mountain bikes out for a spin up on the trails behind Eolo. We biked a steep uphill trail to the start of the local zipline. The views from there were beautiful, occasionally punctuated by the screams of zipliners zipping down next to us.  I might not have been screaming but a steep descent on mountain bike meant slow going and lots of braking due to my inability to go downhill quickly on bicycles. There were a few marauding cows that kept my motivation for continued downward momentum high.

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Hanging with some Wildland travelers at Eolo

On Saturday, I ditched Andy and went on an excursion called Aventura. It was me, the guide, and a Hungarian father/ daughter duo and we had a blast despite somewhat inclement weather. Aventura takes you by boat and on foot to some really remote glaciers on the west side of the park. We had lots of fun braving the rain, zipping across lakes in a zodiac, and wandering through moraine fields to one  of the most spectacular glacier lakes I’ve been to.  It was chock full of icebergs! When I returned we packed up and drove off to Eolo for the night where we were wined and dined and fell asleep in a big, fluffy bed very full and happy.

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Approaching the zodiac as we continue deeper into Los Glaciares National Park

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So many icebergs! The mountains in the distance are in Chile 

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Eolo

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The sitting room at Eolo 

We had a leisurely morning at Eolo before setting off for an estancia called Helsingfors. It’s located halfway between Calafate and Chalten and is 80km off the main road. It’s inside the national park boundaries and has incredible views of the Viedma Lake. We arrived just in time for lunch which was fantastic and then set off for a hike up to Laguna Azul. The  trail wanders along a series of alpine meadows alongside a raging creek before a steep ascent brings you to a hanging glacier and a lake that truly lives up to its name – blue lake. We made it up and down in about half the time they said it would take giving us plenty of time to drink pisco sours, eat cookies, and chat with our new friends, a motorcycle gang from the states. A group of 6 from the states (2 from gig harbor) were staying at Helsingfors that night and they were traveling through Patagonia on motorcycles. It was super interesting to talk to them about their travels. They’ve done motorcycle trips like this all over the world – Bhutan, Turkey, China, all over the place! It seemed like, contrary to what Andy and I had assumed, it was the deep gravel on the roads not the 60mph winds that was trickiest for motorcycles.

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Our casita at Helsingfors

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Serious views from Helsingfors. That’s Fitz Roy right in between Pampa (the crazy dog) and the sweet defender-esque mobile 

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Hiking

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Laguna Azul 

The next morning we went horseback riding! The gaucho, Gonzalo, was great and was good friends with our guide/friend Mauricio from Estancia Cristina. Sounds like they go on epic adventure together every year. There’s a dog named Pampa that lives at Helsingfors and he’s the only dog allowed to live in the national park. He’s crazy. When Gonzalo started getting the horses ready Pampa started spinning in circles and barking maniacally. I’ve never seen anything so excited about something in my life. It was the true gaucho/ horse/ dog trio you dream about seeing at estancias in Patagonia. Anywho, we hopped on our horses which were suuuuuuuuuuuuuuper chill and headed off along the trails of the estancia. I’m not a horseback rider but there’s just something about riding a horse through the wilds of Patagonia that never loses its romantic luster. For Andy it lost its luster somewhat quickly after his horse got startled by something which caused Andy to clamp onto the horse with his legs to avoid falling off (startling the horse even more) and he ended up straining his groin.

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Pampa is soooooooo excited 

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We do horseback riding!

After returning to Helsingfors we said our goodbyes and moseyed off towards Chalten. The forecast was looking decent – perhaps a one or two day window was in our future?-and we wanted to be within striking distance of the climbs.

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