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Travel Tales from Argentina and South America
Argentina has 24 provinces and as many other countries, each región has established its own requirements to circulate during the Covid-19 pandemic. El Chaltén and El Calafate belong to the province of Santa Cruz, the largest in Patagonia.
As I made my research before traveling I learned that not only I had to check the official website of Santa Cruz but also the site of El Chaltén because the requirements to enter the village weren’t the same in both cases. The documents I had to bring with me while traveling were:
I highly reccommend to print all the documentation in order to speed control pips.
Though I was really worried about this step, in practice it was not a big deal. The people at the airport take my temperature, and then during the flight, we were asked to keep social distance. In my case, I traveled with an empty sit on my side, but it was not the case for other travelers.
Once I reach the airport of El Calafate, they took our temperatura again but I didn’t have to show the mandatory documentation.
What I enjoy the most about traveling alone is that you can mingle with other travelers rather easily. My flight reached El Calafate at 9 am, I had booked a direct transfer to El Chaltén but I had to wait until 1 pm. In the meantime, I bumped into a couple from Rafaela in Santa Fe province (like in the middle of the country), a boy traveling from Buenos Aires alone and a girl from Rosario, another city of Santa Fe. They were waiting for their own transfers to El Chaltén. Though I took the service of Las Lengas, a minivan that we use regularly for our travelers, and they went in a regular bus, the route is the same, and we were practically alone, so we wave each other all the way until we reach the Road House La Leona, a classic stop on your way from El Calafate to El Chaltén.
What surprised me the most about landscapes was the changing colors of the step and the sky while approaching El Chaltén. The Mount Fitz Roy starts to make its first appearances and that’s the frost on the cake! Guanacos, a type of South American camelid, can be seen all the way and are an absolute pleasure to enjoy if you like animals.
I love hikes but it was clear that I didn’t want to go hiking alone, and boy, there are so many hikes in El Chaltén! The village is known as “The National Capital of Hiking” so, no more to say…
While traveling on Las Lengas minivan I met another girl traveling alone for the first time so we started to chat and I asked her to come with me to the Chorrillo del Salto Waterfall, a 1-hour hike that can be easily done from any hotel. We got along really well and it was a relief no to have to stay at the hotel because I didn’t want to go on solo hiking.
This is the thing when you travel alone and especially as a woman: If there is another woman in your same situation there are great chances she is having the same fears as you. The important when you travel alone is not the fear of course, but the open state of mind that going on solo travel put you in. This is great because fear decreases and you allow yourself to improvise, deal with the unexpected and make interesting new friends!
Another useful thing you can do if you know you are not prompt to solo-hiking is to follow groups of solo travelers on your social media. Check if someone is going on a trip to your chosen destinations and contact them to schedule a Rendez-Vous upon arrival. I found them really easy to navigate on Facebook.
To sum up: O my first day I meet a bunch of people, one of them joined me on the hike I wanted to do and accepted to go dinner with me and the group I met at the airport. There was I, a girl, from the Facebook group I had also arranged dinner with so she came with us.
The result: W stayed together the whole trip. Sometimes we went hiking altogether, sometimes we Split. It was great to could have a group of travelers to hang out with during my holidays!
This is the first long hike I made, it’s an 8-hour round hike called Laguna Torre. We decided to go together and some others from the Facebook group joined us. We got to be a rather Cosmopolitan group of Argentines, there were people from Buenos Aires, Santa Fé, but also Río Negro (which capital is Bariloche on the lake district), Salta Chaco (provinces of the north).
We were all absolutely stunned: Each step farther into the road opened fantastic views of the valley and the Fitz Roy. Marvel was like breathing each step of the way. There was a wide-open cloudless blue sky that was absolute bliss.
When we got to the lagoon at the foot of the colossus granite peaks we made our picnic and hanged out for a while around the lagoon. Then two girls and I decided to keep going to the Maestri viewpoint, just 1.25 miles more. This is a steep climb through a rocky trail (watch out your feet!), but the views you get of the Maestri Glacier are spectacular.
We returned to the village more tan exhausted but willing to enjoy the happy hour on one of the many local bars on the main street!
This is another highlight of a hiking trip to El Chaltén. It is one of the longest hikes and I did with a specialized guide that I booked in private. They picked me up from my hotel and we head to Hosteria El Pilar where this hike starts.
The first miles you walk in a Wood of Lengas and Ñires, native trees of Patagonia, Mount Fitz Roy and the Piedras Blancas Glacier start to show. The viewpoint of the glacier is the first stop. Once we get out of the Woods, we continue through the valley to the Poincenot Campsite where the ascent to the lagoon starts.
Crossing the bridge over the river I could appreciate the mixture of colors that characterizes Autumn in Patagonia, and the mighty waters. Everyone had told me that I would be so tired when I reach the lagoon but actually, I was quite fine! I brought a hiking pole and it was really useful. When I reach the Laguna Sucia Viewpoint (literally “DIrty wáter”) I was shocked because the wáter was of an intense blue color… no dirt around.
On our way back I bump into one of the girls I met the days before, I was completely exhausted but so happy! At night, we rewarded our soul and body with a delicious plate of paste and a fabulous wine.
Personally, I was not afraid before traveling. I believe that if you follow the sanitary indications everything should be fine and that we have to continue with our normal life as much as possible. The worst that can happen to us in this difficult period of our lives is to miss the opportunity of spending happy days when we can. That’s the reason why I want to keep traveling!
The truth is that, once you reach a place 100% surrounded by nature you feel safer in a way, and when you hike, you can forget of the pandemic for a couple of hours. It’s only when you go back to town and go to a café or a bar when you have top ut on your mask that you return to the “new” normality.
My advices to keep traveling alone during the pandemic are:
The most important advice I can give to you is: If you’re a woman and are planning to go on a trip on your own, do it! You will be never alone. Travelers are usually very open, very curious about new things, places, and persons. It is not rare that this kind of bonds last and you finish by planning a new trip with your travel pads, or organize to bump into each other in any part of the world. There is nothing more beautiful in this world than finding a soul mate. And if she/he/it likes to travel, even better!
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