Day 101: Culture Shock

Thur. 22nd November 2012

Mountain overlooking El CalafateWe pack up again ready for the cold of El Calafate in Patagonia, but we were not ready for the rain as we left the hotel. Being in a city, the hotel has few windows and so the first view of the day was when we left the front door. We had assumed it would be sunny like the last two days – wrong, wrong, wrong, it was chucking it down. This must be a sign to move on after a really enjoyable stay in Buenos Aires

Shops on the main streetAfter an uneventful, but bumpy flight we catch our first view of Patagonia, mainly barren brown countryside, no houses and Lago Argentino lake. In fact, the first buildings we see are the airport hangers, quite a contrast to the approach over Buenos Aires. Its not just the change in countryside that comes as a surprise but also the change in temperature. It is supposedly around 12C here, but with the wind that is blowing it feels colder. A big difference from the warmth of Buenos Aires.

Hostal SchillingThere is a minibus service into town which is quite cheap and efficient, though there  was quite a performance allocating all those booked on the transfer to town on the correct minibus, as the service drops you right at the hostel door. We all stood on the pavement outside the airport repeating the name of our accommodation when asked seemingly at random by the driver. Eventually we had all been allocated a minibus! Our hostel was just off the main street not far from the bus station – well the place is so small nothing is far away. We are now closer to budget for our accommodation as the two nights here including breakfast cost US$98 in total.

SAM_2608The town of El Calafate reminds us of Mammoth in California or an upmarket Aviemore (but nice). The town is just a main street with utdoor clothing shops, souvenir shops, Tour Operators and restaurants. Our first stop is Heilo y Adentura to arrange a trip to the Perito M0reno Glacier tomorrow. The main decision is whether to go for the Big Ice Trip or the Mini Trek – basic difference is 1 1/2 hours or 3 hours walking on the Glacier. Either way it will be a long day as the drive is 70 km each way. However the decision was made for us as the Big Ice Tour was fully booked.

Yummy EmpanadasWith the trip organised we could now deal with our rumbling stomachs as the food on the plane at lunchtime had just been savoury nibbles, a lemon biscuit and a chocolate coated biscuit. By now it was gone 4pm so time for Empanadas and beer – you cannot get decent tea anywhere but the UK so we have given up on afternoon tea. The rest of the afternoon disappeared rapidly on blog writing and planning the next few days accommodation and activities, using the ever present free hostel WiFi.

A whole lotta meat - our ParillaAs we know we will be grabbing a quick late supper tomorrow we opt to visit a Parrilla and try their speciality. We ordered the special which included lamb along with the beef, pork, chicken, sausage and black pudding all sizzling on a charcoal fired hotplate. Accompaniments are all extra and no veggies in sight, so we share a French fries. Is this meat dish what the Atkens diet is about? – not in the quantity we shared! Off to bed early ready for tomorrow’s adventure. Luckily the room has metal shutters as we are not used to it still being light until nearly 10pm, whilst the weather is bitterly cold especially when the wind blows.

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