DO NOT TRAVEL VIA TAQSA BUS
This is a strong recommendation to avoid, at all costs, taking TAQSA buses. The reason we chose to ride with them was they provided the only non-stop bus from El Chaltén to Bariloche. Traveling with TAQSA, however, will save you absolutely no time.
It should have been evident things were going to go wrong when our 3:50am bus was delayed an hour and half due to “technical difficulties”. We had only driven about 4 hours when all of a sudden the bus started jerking and then was slowly pulled over to the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere within the vast nothingness of the Pampa. It was dead.
It’s one thing for a company to have something knowingly go wrong. I mean they did choose to put us on a bad bus. It was made worse, however, when they had us sitting on that dead bus for hours without telling us what the hell was going on. The only reason they finally shared information was because some of the passengers demanded answers.
We waited on the side of the road 10 hours before a manager, and so-called-mechanic, arrived from El Calafate. Luckily, they did serve us our included breakfast/lunch meals during this time. The manager was unable to fix what the drivers had been unable to fix, but was no better at telling us what he planned for us to do. Finally, at dusk, we were informed, by one of the passengers (of course), that they were transferring us via shuttle to the nearby town of Gregorios. There, they paid for us to have a mediocre dinner at a restaurant, whose owners informed us, was used on a frequent basis by the company when their buses die. We waited there until 5:30 am without any word from the company about what they were planning to do with us. Finally, an irritated Chilean musician went to the company’s offices. There, he found a new bus had arrived from El Calafate but that they were still trying to repair the bad bus for our transport. He came and informed all the half-awake passengers. This information aroused our senses and had us up in arms and eager to get going. We all gathered our things and headed to the offices together, where we demanded they put us on the new bus. They listened and we were finally on our way.
So, the moral of the story is, do NOT NOT NOT take TAQSA bus in Argentina.
El Chaltén, Argentina and Glacier National Park
After two weeks of recuperating from our trip in Las Torres, we headed back into Argentina and into the wilderness. Again, we chose to skip over one of the country’s more famous sites, Glacier Perito Moreno, located outside the city of El Calafate. We made our decision based on the fact that we had seen the incredible Glacier Grey already and didn’t want to deal with the touristy crowds. Instead, we decided to head straight up to Glacier National Park to lay our eyes on the famous Mt. Fitzroy, located just outside the city of El Chaltén.
El Chaltén is a very small town, which, like Puerto Natales, mainly exists to serve as a gateway to a national park. All the same, it was cute and quaint and had a campsite in town for mochileros, called Albergue y Camping del Lago. From the campsite, it was about a 15-20 minute walk to the trailhead inside Glacier National Park. From the entry point, it was a short but uphill climb through wooded forests to Lago Capri. The forests were enchanting and quiet, except when some Magellanic Woodpeckers were tapping away at tree bark searching for grub. When we arrived at Lago Capri, were received by fabulous vistas of the mighty Mt. Fitzroy. It was then only another hour or so to the free campsite, Poincenot. This site boasts even more incredible views of Fitzroy’s towers, providing a comfortable spot to relax and enjoy a colorful sunset.
The second day in the park, Matt and I hiked to Piedras Blancas, which, as the name clearly establishes, is a location filled with white rocks. The backdrop, however, is a large glacier and additional views of Fitzroy. It was an easy hike and an overall lazy day that ended early, because the following day we woke up at 5:30 am to catch the sunrise at Lago Tres at the base of Fitzroy. The hike through the darkness was steep and took about an hour and a half to complete, but was well worth the burn. Like Los Torres, the towers are mystical when glowing a warm orange-red in the early morning sunrays. However, Fitzroy’s glow was even more vibrant. Just incredible! Although we had woken up early and done an all uphill climb that morning, it was no problem coming back down to camp and unhurriedly packing up our things for the next trek to the Agostini site. The hike there was pretty flat and was only about 3-hours long. We walked along several lakes and through forests filled with the changing colors of autumn until we reached the Agostini site, set beside the rushing waters of a river.
In comparison to Las Torres National Park, this portion of Glacier National Park, outside of El Chaltén, has short treks between destinations (no more than 4 hours walking at a leisurely pace), trails are fairly well-marked, and the level of difficulty is easy. The great thing is that all the campsites are free! I would highly recommend this to anyone who is in good health and doesn’t mind a few days in a tent. You get to enjoy similar landscapes and natural beauty seen in Los Torres but with half the effort.
We were fortunate that three out of the four days we were in the park were sunny and warm. But, you can’t hike in Patagonia without expecting at least one day of rain. Luckily, it was just a short walk out of the park to the warm refuge of the kitchen at the Albergue in El Chaltén. We didn’t stay the night, there, however, because we were catching a night bus to the famous town of San Carlos de Bariloche, located in what is known as the lakes district of Patagonia.