Sometimes I get asked – How did I end up choosing XXX as my travel destination?
More frequent than not the answer is – a photo or photos. That’s all it takes – once the beautiful image is seared into my mind. The hankering grows and grows.
It’s how I ended up choosing Bolivia as my first “adventure” vacation destination. Facebook can be a complete time suck and sometimes it can lead to inspirations and dreams. My friend liked his friends photos from Bolivia and after I perused through them. The seed was planted in my head. Within a year, I made that dream become a reality and I fell in love with Bolivia.
I am not exactly sure when or where I saw the first image of Cerro FitzRoy or Mount Fitzroy but it was stunning. So I tucked it into the back of my head, ready to pounce at the chance when I’m in Patagonia.
Then the chance came in early 2013, at the beginning of my 2013 Epic journey. I left Ushuaia for El Calafate and my friends wanted to go downhill mountain biking. It was the only day left in Patagonia before we had to travel to Puerto Natales to take the Navimag up the coastline of Chile. So I decided to day-trip it to El Chalten (Fitzroy) by myself.
South America has a great network of long distance buses with multiple bus companies to create a healthy, competitive market. The competition keeps the costs reasonable and affordable for locals and tourists. Between Chile, Argentina and Brazil – I noticed that the bus companies in Chile reduce the price of their tickets as the travel dates approaches, to help fill up the buses I guess. So if you’re flexible with your time and don’t mind a bit of a gamble, buy your ticket at the last minute. Plataforma 10 became my go to website to check bus schedules and pricing while in South America.
As I found out about Plataforma 10 after my stay in El Calafate, I inquired about the bus schedule at my hostel the evening prior. Of course they offered to sell me the bus ticket, but I declined as I was not 100% sure of my plans. Sure enough when I arrived at the El Calafate bus terminal, many others had the same idea and the ticket price at the terminal was a bit cheaper than my hostel.
I paid 240 ARS (Argentinian Pesos) for a same day return ticket to El Chalten with the Cal Tur bus company. The 3 hour bus ride was comfortable and uneventful with beautiful views to enjoy. Most of us chose to catch some zzzzz before our adventure of the day.
When we arrived at 11am, we were greeted by the very helpful park ranger and were given a short intro message of the Los Glaciares National Park. Bonus – NO park fees! Maps were available. Also, campers were requested to register themselves with the Park authorities.
As the bus dropped us of at the South end of town, I had to walk through the whole town of El Chalten to get to the start of the trail to Mount Fitzroy. It just so happens the trail head to Laguna Capri and Mount Fitzroy is at the Northern tip of town.
The town has a heart warming feel to it with a smattering of hostels and hotels amongst houses and small businesses. If you’ve forgotten anything necessary for hiking or camping, there are outfits that can gear you up properly. It’s quite an eclectic town and I bought myself a delicious smoothie along the way.
The hike up to Laguna Capri is clearly marked and requires approximately 2 hours in one direction with a 200m elevation change. Right at the start of the trail, I started chatting to 2 hikers and coincidentally one of them was also from Toronto! Talk about small world!
Jesse and Carol are also solo travelers who met up somewhere along the way on their respective travels. They’re headed for an overnight camping trip with a short stop at Laguna Capri, so we hiked up together.
It is always fun to meet like-minded people, while on an adventure. The weather was perfect, the scenery was breath-taking and the company was the icing on the cake! The best part is all 3 of us enjoy photography, so it wasn’t a hindrance to make a few stop along the way to capture a few photos.
When I arrived at Laguna Capri and in full view of Mt Fitzroy, my jaw dropped, ceremonially! The glacial water fed lake helped cooled my feet and it was so refreshing to splash my face with the water. As I sat at the water’s edge savoring the view and my lunch, I wished I had more time in El Chalten. Before I headed back into town, I promised myself to return in the future.
On the way back to El Calafate, the bus made a stop at Hotel La Leona. I did not know of the rhyme or the reason for the stop but I ventured inside to use their facilities. Then did I realize it was used as a hideout by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid waaaay back when! It was fascinating, I did not realize some people make a pilgrimage to La Leona for this unique bit of history lesson.
By 9pm, I was back at the hostel in El Calafate sharing my experience with my friends and they shared theirs. All in all, that was a lot of fun in just a mere 13 hours – alone but not really alone.