Day 2: Buenos Aires to El Chaltén
Today is the day we arrive at Explora! It all started when our pre-arranged airport shuttle driver picked us up right on time and promptly started driving to the wrong airport. Luckily, we noticed that he was going the wrong direction and changed course in time. We managed to get through the road construction and the airports crowds and found the right line (on the second try) to check our bags. Miraculously, we made it to the gate with enough time for coffee and breakfast. The concern about the lack of an airplane at the gate was quickly dispelled when we found out we take a bus to the plane.
The flight went well and we landed in El Calafate on time where we met our Explora driver and the one other passenger. After about an hour and quite a few guanaco sightings, we stopped for lunch at an old Gaucho bar turned restaurant established in 1894. Once we were filled with empanadas, hot chocolate, and brownies we got back on the road for the last two hours.
The terrain changed from flat, dry grasslands to giant picturesque mountains. A lookout of the mountain range was a convenient stop along the way, just before getting to the town of El Chaltén. We were able to see Mt Fitzroy and the surrounding peaks and glaciers. This is autumn in Patagonia, which means fall colors and high winds.
About 45 minutes past El Chaltén, a very small touristy outdoorsy town, we arrived at Explora — only about 48 hours after leaving home. The Explora Welcome wagon greeting us with drinks, hospitality, and room keys. As usual, the rooms have amazing views.
Since it was already 4:30, we didn’t have time for a full half-day exploration, but we were offered an 1.5 hour into hike around the property, which we quickly agreed to. Leaving right from the hotel, we walked about a mile towards the Los Huemules Reserve forest. Hiking through the trees, we saw various types of ferns, the ever important Calafate plant, and lagoons. Once we made it to the lookout, we enjoyed tea and cookies and then hiked our way back to the hotel.
First task was to find the spa. Next task was to freshen up and get a drink from the bar. All tasks were accomplished successfully. Before sitting down for dinner, we met with a guide to plan our next day. Given the fact we have 7 days to explore, we decided to start with two half days hikes – both of which will start from the hotel again. With that settled, we sat down for a delicious dinner and refueled. Every night, one of the menu options will be a traditional Argentinian asada, cooked in the smokehouse right next to the hotel. Tonight we had beef ribs and flank steak.
We are all looking forward to a full night’s sleep and tomorrow’s hikes for our first full day in one place since Wednesday.