El Chalten hitchhiking adventures

This is a two part (Part 2) story about two adventurous days we had in El Chalten (part of Argetinian Patagonia). We woke up nice and early excited for the many hikes around us and hopeful that Rikkis knees have fully recovered. Unfortunately, the weather was crappy so we decided against doing any big walks. Instead we did a short 3 km to the waterfalls and when we got there we were on our own which helped us get these photos!

We then walked back to the hostel for a gourmet lunch of 3 min noodles, and then this is when our day gets interesting. I thought we might spend the afternoon doing a 1 hour walk to a lookout point on the other side of town but instead we pulled the map out and decided to go to Lago del Deserto which was 37 km away from where we were, as there was a 1 hour walk up there which allowed you to see a glacier. We were after all in the National glacier park! Rikki asked reception about buses and she said the last one had been and gone, but suggested hitchhiking.

We decided “why not?”. We both have never hitchhiked and decided there isn’t a better way to spend a rainy afternoon in El Chalten. Also what could possibly wrong? It is a small town and there is only one road between us and the lago. The road is a dead end and ends at the Lago which we thought would be a nice and easy hitchhiking experience as most of the cars wouldn’t be going anywhere else.

We got ready and off we went. As we got to our hitchhiking spot we bumped into a familar face, a French girl (Juanita) we met in Puerto Natales and she was also hitchhiking to the starting point of another trail. After 20 minutes of waiting and waving cars down we decided to stand separately as 3 people may have been one too many. Juanita also spoke Spanish and managed to catch these two old men who were happy to take all 3 of us!! Here is a picture of us and Mario. Tomas was a bit older and wasn’t too keen on getting out.

Our friendly hitchhiking driver, Mario

I know what you are thinking – all smiles = off to a great start. Just 5 minutes into it Juanita handed the map to Mario to ask where he was going and showed him where we wanted to get off. The car went off to the side of the road and almost hit a big rock, as he wasn’t paying much attention to the road. The drive was really pretty!! We passed through mountains, still blue rivers and drove pretty much next to a lagoon.

Juanita got off where she wanted to and shortly after Tomas reached his end destination which is about 5 or 6 km away from where we wanted to be. During the ride, rikki looked at me saying what if they are dangerous but of course we could outrun them (well hopefully) and their trunk was filled with bread.

At this point there were 2 things that were on my mind:

1. Juanita is doing an 8 hour walk on her own and she is only starting at 2.30pm with the grey and rainy weather. If you do the math she would be finishing her walk at 10.30pm!!! Earlier that day we saw her and she was panicking as she had lost the only credit card she had on her during her travels with not much money or food left. So, we offered to buy her dinner if she gets back at 9.30pm.

2. ‎ We started walking and again it was so pretty. The water was really blue, the river bends were mesmerising, the forest seemed so green and we saw couple of men catching big fat trouts. It was then about 4.30 and I started panicking as we didn’t see many cars going back the way we came and we saw the buses leave. Not a good sign as we were hoping to catch the bus back!!

We had to keep going and reached the end about 5pm, but didn’t do the glacier walk as we (mainl me) were super worried about getting back. We were wet and cold as it didnt stop raining the whole way! This guy wanted to charge us 400 pesos per person for a ride back. I was desperate but I wasn’t willing to pay that. Thankfully, there was a small shop and this guy from Buenos Aires, who spoke English, helped us out by letting us know that if we asked the boatman down the road he would be able to give us a ride. So we asked and he said no, but the guy reassured us saying the boatman would for sure give us one, and just to wait.

Can you see how cold and unpleased I looked lol

‘not happy’ face

Whilst waiting, there were a few cars left and I was basically ready to jump in into their backseat when asking them if we could get a lift! Something I have never done before! I really didn’t want to walk the 37km back. And you know how I said earlier that hitchhiking on a road that is dead end would make an easy first experience…well I take that back!!

Boatman was a no show, and at 6.30pm we saw a couple drive up and drive down. I quickly took the chance to stop them and it was a French couple who were happy to take us thinking we missed our bus. But of course we didn’t….by this time I had already asked the 3 remaining cars if I can jump in. So I wasn’t going to explain to them that we didn’t miss our bus and that it was our pure lack of planning that brought us to that moment.

So we got in and they were super nice making sure we were comfortable, telling us if we need photos just ask them to stop and kept apologising for their driving. He had no idea the relief we had just being in the car on our way back to our hostel.

We got back to our hostel and got some wine to warm up and celebrate being alive (dramatic, I know). Juanita never turned up but as we were sitting and drinking our wine, this guy at our hostel found her card probably 20 metres from where we sat! We then headed out to her hostel to let her know the good news. She was so pleased and we found out that she couldn’t do the walk in the end as she got dropped off at the wrong place. Unsuccessful hiking day for both parties, but boy what an adventure!

After this we went to a burger joint that felt very English/Aussie for some traditional Argentinean food of wings, burgers and skin on fries!

Now for the big question, will I do it again? Like the dad, Michael, from My Wife and Kids would say “uhhhhh nah!”. Just not for me!

CaYf Kumu

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