It was another early morning as seems to always be the case in Puerto Natales if you are looking to have a productive day. After quickly packing up our things we said goodbye to our mini-home around 7:15 a.m. and took off for the bus station to meet our Bus-Sur ride to El Calafate, Argentina. Yes, that is correct. We are going back to Argentina, but only briefly, to see mas mucho grande glaciers.
Easily finding our bus and boarding we settled in for what we assumed would be a 1-2 hour ride to the border, only to find ourselves exiting Chile 30 minutes later. We stood in the cold with the rest of our bus wishing that the line would move a little bit faster than it was. But it did give us time to make two observations. First, the U.S. seems to be one of the few countries that could care less if you leave. Everywhere in South America you must first check-out of one before you check-in to another. Interesting. Second, apparently we were reading old news regarding Chile’s president who is no longer Sebastian Pinera, but has been Michelle Bachelet since 2014. This was all thanks to a lovely portrait of her in the immigration office.
Back in the bus, we drove for another 30 minutes until we reached Argentina’s immigration point where we again, disembarked, waited in a long cold line, ate our nectarines, got our passport stamped, and re-boarded the bus. Unlike our entry to Chile, we did not need to remove our big luggage from the bus for inspection, so that was a nice addition. The bus then continued on for 4 more hours across the hills and valleys of Patagonia while we both read and nodded off some.
We arrived at El Calafate’s bus station around 1:30 p.m. and set about finding our hostel. According to Google it was only a quick 25 minute walk away so we agreed to do it on foot. The path led us through the town that we quickly learned was much larger than Puerto Natales and a lot more touristy with craft stores, Patagonia/North Face outfitters, various glacier guide offices, etc. According to Doug, it was “a bit more Oregon.” Along the way we slowly left the hustle and bustle of downtown, up into the hills of dirt-road suburbia to finally reach our hostel.
Check-in went semi-smoothly. We were quoted four different prices. The first one was the one we had listed on our reservation with Booking.com in USD. The second one was that quoted price + 21% tax (something we neglected to read on the fine print of Booking.com. The third price was the second one plus a 15% fee for paying with a credit card. The fourth price was the second price in Argentinian pesos with an awful exchange rate. Argentina was already, once again, starting to get on our nerves. Well we were quite forgetful on our way out, now realizing that we had neglected to get money out of an ATM on our way. So we asked to pay later and chose to figure out our best option then.
We took our time getting settled before heading back into town to get some things done. The first item on the list: an ATM, and we were quickly reminded how much we dislike Argentinian ATMs as we tried to get money out of one but quickly realized that it had none left. Bah! Ok, onto another where we again realized that there was a very low limit that we’d be able to get out and it wasn’t nearly enough to pay our full hostel bill. We also realized that we had make another fairly major mistake – we hadn’t yet moved more money to this account so we would only, just barely have enough to pay for our room if we took it all out. Stupid, stupid, stupid. We shrugged our shoulders and decided we would just pay with credit card and attempt to figure out why the fee was so incredibly high, in hopes that it was a mistake.
We then went back to the bus station to buy tickets for a bus to visit Perito Moreno glacier on Sunday, opting for the 400 Argentinian peso bus over all the other 450 Argentinian peso buses, figuring we wouldn’t need the extra hour to wander half a mile of boardwalk. And then we just roamed through town, up and down a few streets, and off towards the lake which proved more difficult than expected before ending up at the grocery store to purchase some dinner items. We had agreed on our walk that we should probably cook in, to pay for the taxes and fees that we were being charged.
After talking with Ben two days ago about his method of cooking in South America (steak & vegetables) Doug had settled on wanting steak so that’s the first thing we picked up. The vegetables were a little more difficult because they were all moldy or rotten. And, surprise, surprise the only good looking ones were potatoes so that’s what we went with. We also grabbed some peaches to add some health to the mix and a few other items for breakfasts.
Back we went to the hostel, where we took a break before starting dinner. Doug set about making roast potatoes and steak while Lynn continuously asked if she could help. Eventually she got to cut up the peaches and bread. And when it was all done we sat down and enjoyed a lovely meal despite the absence of wine (a fellow hosteller dropped our wine from the refrigerator and it shattered :-(). We spent the rest of the evening holed up in our room playing cards (Lynn is still winning by the way). The whole while a giant family took over the hostel kitchen across the hallway from us and their children ran screaming up and down the hallway. We’re fairly certain none of them are staying here and they were assembly line making empanadas in the kitchen.
Just as we were about to fall asleep, Lynn’s favorite thing about South America happened…someone began playing a guitar in the common area of the hostel, which always seems to be just outside of our door. A series of swear words were uttered louder and louder until she threw clothes back on and went out into the hall…to do nothing…because they stopped on their own. Still though, why is this such a common thing in South America. We are really, really over hostels. (“And people and their fucking guitars.” – Lynn).
Daily Walking Mileage: 5.5
- Inflation has gotten worse in the month since we were last here. When we left it was 14 Argentinian pesos to 1 USD. Now it is 15 to 1 USD, but that doesn’t help us much because a lot of stuff is still quoted in USD.
- We are signed up to do a kayak tour of Glaciers National Park tomorrow, but may not be able to due to wind. If it’s cancelled we only get 50% of our money back, but we think we still get to do some of it… we think. We’re crossing our fingers!
- We have somehow unwillingly checked into a very religious hostel. There are a lot of signs praising God and the WiFi password is even “godisgood.” We don’t know what else to say about that one…