The trip Ushuaia – El Calafate takes 18 hours, with a ferry to take and 2 border crossings (indeed, you go from one city in Argentina to another city in Argentina, but you must pass through Chile). Taqsa is the only bus company offering this direct route
Contrary to the drivers of Bus-Sur who do not explain anything about the administrative procedures, with Taqsa, as soon as we arrive at a border, we are the first to queue up and pass them. To enter Chile, it is necessary to fill out a form and one of the drivers comes to see each one of us to tell us what to fill out. Then, all hand luggage is scanned to detect the slightest trace of fresh fruit or meat
Our passports are filled with Chilean and Argentinean stamps now. Luckily the customs officers try to maximize the space and make up to 4 stamps on the same page
Arriving at midnight thirty in El Calafate, we decide to walk 15 minutes to our hostel, a decision that frightens me a lot considering the deserted streets, but in the end everything went well
El Calafate is a very pleasant city on the shores of Lake Argentino. It is the obligatory place of passage for all those who want to either visit the Perito Moreno glacier, continue to El Chalten or go down to Torres del Paine (Chile) from Argentina. We decide to stay here 5 nights, to rest a little, and to recover from 2 excursions that we will make here. The city in itself has nothing extraordinary, the Argentino lake is surrounded by mud so to be able to touch the water of the lake, it is necessary to walk a little further than Google Maps suggests
Rest day after the exhausting bus trip the day before (even if we slept for a good part of the trip, it’s still very tiring). We take the opportunity to make all the bus reservations, transfers to Perito Moreno and excursions. We don’t manage to withdraw money, there is a long queue in front of the ATMs, apparently the Argentines are getting ready for a long weekend and withdraw money en masse. Fortunately, all bus tickets and excursions can be paid by credit card
We are shopping in a small supermarket near the bus terminal, we think we are in war time because the offer is so limited, the faded vegetables are looking at us, looking desperate… while the cold roasted chicken is waiting to be reheated in the microwave. We will learn later that there is another supermarket, more supplied
It’s the day of the Perito Moreno glacier, I dedicated a whole article about it here. Transportation was provided by Taqsa for 500$AR/person
Back home, we finally manage to withdraw money from the Banco de la Nacion. Victory! We won’t starve in El Chalten (where there are only 2 ATM)
We will spend a whole day at Torres del Paine (2300$AR) with the South Road agency. I also wrote an article about Torres del Paine here
Completely exhausted, we are fat and dull and do not go out until 12:30 for lunch. It’s Sunday but El Calafate is touristic enough to keep its city center open (not like Punta Arenas in Chile). Alleluia because we die of hunger. We stop to a small restaurant named “Casablanca” to take two salads. In a meat country like Argentina, salads can be as expensive as a good steak. I order a mate (the national drink) hoping to have the traditional Argentinean pot, but finally I am simply given an individual bag (like a normal tea) with a pitcher of hot water. At first, this mate looks like a smoked tea, but as soon as it is well infused, the taste becomes very bitter. JB doesn’t like it at all
Here, as everywhere in Argentina, ice cream (helados) is very popular. For 45$AR, I am entitled to a small cone with a ball of ice cream 3 times bigger than the cone, all this accompanied by a small spoon
We go to the real downtown supermarket to stock up for the upcoming treks. There is even a butcher’s corner and sausages!
Back to the youth hostel where JB tries to book the hostels for the next few days with an unspeakable Wifi
We sympathize with our neighbors. Everybody does trips of several months in South America and very few speak Spanish (relief lol it means that I can still afford to suck in Spanish for a while). We share our good plans and projects for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. A common point between serial travelers: we don’t care about Christmas. Destinations are chosen at random, more for the financial side than for the holiday atmosphere
It’s very good for JB to stay in the same place more than 2 nights in a row (it’s true that we haven’t done it since Vietnam, at my parents’ place, 4 months ago…). We decide to reduce (a little bit) our travel rhythm and to try to spend between 3 and 5 days in each place. It will be easier to plan for me and it will reduce our transport budget (one of the most important in South America).