The long road to El Calafate.

[Above] Celebrating a birthday in El Calafate.

The journey to El Calafate was long and tiring. I left the house at 7.45am and was hitchhiking on the side of the road by around 8.30. I waited and waited and waited. I was hoping for a truck to come by and take me all the way to Rio Gallegos - where my path would change from ruta 3 to route 5 - but strangely only 2 trucks passed in the first hour. I soon found out that it was a national holiday that day. Poo!

I waited for over 3 hours before someone eventually took me to Tolhuin - the next town. From there it wasn't long before I got my next ride to windy Rio Grande . It took me about an hour to walk out of the city limits, where I tried hitching for almost 2 hours with no luck. Tired and a little fed-up with hitching I walked all the way back into town and bought a bus ticket to El Calafate for the next morning. A 17 hour journey.

I camped in Rio Grande that night. The campsite was closed for the season but I camped there anyway. It rained whilst I was putting up my tent. It rained through the night. I dreamt of icebergs, chocolate and going to the toilet - an insight into my subconscious. I woke at 5.30 the next morning to find a thick layer of ice on my tent which I couldn't brush off despite all my efforts. I packed my wet tent of ice and dirt with frozen fingers.

My bus arrived to Calafate at about 1.15am. The town is being developed, so many of the streets don't have names. The name of my host's street is "29." I got a little lost and after passing the same barking dogs for the fifth time I finally arrived. It was 2a.m..

My hosts are really great! Last night we celebrated the birthday of another guest they are hosting. And so, in typical Argentinian fashion, we had an asado, i.e. barbecue. Yum! We sat down to eat at around 1.30a.m..

[Above] Fernando was the master chef last night. He did a spectacular job, though was unable to eat the fruits of his labor due to a sensitive tummy following the mal-digestion of a suspect chorizo a few days before.

[Below] The meat was accompanied by loads of salads, and followed by chocolate fudge - which was eaten - and a chocolate cake - which was not eaten but thrown at each other and smeared on each others' faces. Very tasty though.

El Calafate is a small town with huge tourism - mostly due to the national park and it's famous glacier within. I haven't been yet because I'm trying to find a few people to go with me. It's quite expensive for the bus ticket there and the entrance fee, but if you enter before 8am there is no-one there to collect the entry into the national park. So I'm looking for 4 other people to share the costs of hiring a car to get there early. Any takers?

I'm probably going to take a side-trip to El Chalten tomorrow to do some hiking and camping in the mountains of the Fitz Roy range. I doubt I will have internet access or mobile phone reception whilst there so I'll see you all in a few days. ;)