Another border crossing, but this time it’s from Puerto Natales in Chile to El Calafate in Argentina, for the main reason of visiting the incredible Perito Moreno Glacier and not just for the K9 capers. Everyone must see this amazing and still-advancing glacier at least once in their lifetime!
Only a short bus trip from Puerto Natales (Chile) to El Calafate (Argentina) this time, which takes just over 5 hours (CH$12,000) with the Bus Sur company, and leaves around 07:30 hrs.
You cross back into Argentina from Chile, so make sure you don’t have any fruit, meat, or other, with you as it will be confiscated at the border.
With only a brief stop at Turbo to drop-off and pick-up more passengers, we are soon on our way again.
Turbo seems small, deserted, and dismal. I’m glad to push on to El Calafate.
Originally, El Calafate was a sheltering place for wool traders, until officially founded by the government in only 1927.
El Calafate is another hub town, which is geared up for tourists as a stopover to greater destinations such as Los Glaciares National Park (Perito Moreno), the Cerro Chaltén, and the Cerro Torre. Also close by is Lago Argentino, which is home to many Pink Famingos that are sighted on a regular basis.
If you find yourself in this town, then another remarkable trip that many tourists indulge in is the bus connection between El Calafate and Bariloche along Ruta 40 – it’s supposed to be amazing.
El Calafate offers loads of cafes, restaurants (cheap and expensive), and all types of shops offering a plethora of snow gear as of course, it snows a lot in this southern region of the globe.
Stumbling upon a store that sells good quality second-hand snow gear, I decided to indulge in a very thick snow jacket and snow pants, as I’ve been freezing ever since arriving in Patagonia.
We are not geared up for this bitter icy weather due to the continuation of travel from a month in Morocco, which saw warmer climes to Argentina.
At least the sun shone threw several times during our stay in El Calafate. This makes walking around town and sight-seeing a much more pleasant experience, instead of ducking into the first warm cafe at any chance just for a break from the cold.
I’m surprised to see that almost everywhere in El Calafate accepts credit cards – just confirms that this is a touristy town and geared up for travellers.
Looking for 35 mm film in South America?
So far, it hasn’t been easy to find film in South America, especially Black and White film. Sadly, although I left Australia with many rolls, I only have a couple left, so need to buy another stash from somewhere pretty soon.
I did manage to find Black and White film (“Lucky” brand) in El Calafate. But as the film is out-of-date, I gave the film a miss as I’m quite particular about fresh film.
Lugging a 35 mm film metal camera with lens around, which is heavy in itself, but add this to my DSLR Canon camera and zoom lens, then this is not too optimal whilst travelling.
As mentioned a couple of times in this post, the main reason for travelling to El Calafate is not only to kill time whilst waiting for the Navimag Ferry, but mainly to visit the fantastic Perito Moreno glacier – renown for its incredible beauty and sheer size.
If you are interested, then please read my most memorable and amazing experience of this glacier: Moon walking on ice – Perito Moreno Glacier
Arriving in El Calafate at a civilised hour for once and not in the middle of the night, finding Las Cabaῆitas (AR$200, Double) is relatively easy in the daylight.
It is always comforting to have the first night’s accommodation booked when you arrive in a new town, especially when walking around with a 17 kg backpack.
This ‘A’ frame-friendly timber cabin is very cosy and a cute abode.
The owners are lovely and the hostel boasts a warm and friendly family-feel. I really like the hostels (Hostals) in South America as typically, they are family-run and safe, with mostly having 24/7 security and manned reception area.
Breakfast is included in this room’s price. A lovely morning surprise is when the owner delivers a different home-baked cake as part of breakfast, which arrives each morning at your door. A most welcomed gesture and a very kind touch. Not to mention that these cakes are wonderful and the aroma of warmly-baked cakes wafting through the cabin in the early morning hours, is divine!
Due to El Calafate’s remote location, food is expensive here as are the four available supermarkets.
The town is geared up for eager tourists and trekkers with loads of cafes and restaurants. Many grills grace the streets and meat is on every menu – lots of meat.
As our hostel has its own fully equipped kitchen, we made most of our meals to save cost, but also as the kitchen is a great place to meet other travellers and share wonderful travel stories.
Make sure you indulge in some Argentinian wine whilst here, which is amongst the finest in the world. If you’re a lover of reds like I am, then Mendoza’s Malbecs are excellent. The inky dark colour of this grape, makes for a wonderful winter beverage. For the white wine lovers, I’m told that the Torrontes grape from the north-west around Cafayate and Salta, is fresh and aromatic, and very good.
If you have cash to spare, then try the famous La Tablita for the best Patagonian lamb in the world, apparently.
Calafate Hostel y Hostería Hi
Ventured out for a meal one night and stumbled upon this gorgeous timber hostel along Gdor. Moyano that includes a lovely restaurant. If we hadn’t had our accommodation pre-booked, I’m sure we would have stayed here as it’s just a beautiful building.
The restaurant, pasta, and service are good, and meals are charged at reasonable prices.
Dog Update – K9 capers
It is in El Calafate that typically, 4 to 5 dogs would follow us all over town…and for hours.
Packs of dogs and quite embarrassing!
To paint a picture, one day we had one stray follow us around town for kilometres. On venturing into a shop, the stray sat curled up in a ball in the sun at the door, waiting for us to come out again. Quietly emerging from the shop so as not to wake the stray, but he immediately woke up and continued to follow us once more, all over town. We just couldn’t shake this stray.
It is also in El Calafate that we observed a dog walking down the road, pass a local, which the dog didn’t follow, but then turn around and started to follow us instead. I would like to know, why the strays follow foreigners and not locals…can anybody shed some light on this for me please? Do we have a different scent to locals?
Back to Puerto Natales
After the incredible experience similar to moon walking on ice on the Perito Moreno glacier, it is time to leave El Calafate.
South America is full of incredible experiences and mesmerising vistas so on to the Southern Patagonian Fjords, on a Navimag Ferry for a few days for more spectacular scenery.
I hope that the sea and weather are kind to us as once on the ferry, there is no getting off or turning back, on this 4-day journey…