There is a reason why I am custodian of passports, tickets and other important docs whenever we travel. Tremendous organiser that he is, Matt AKA the travel agent, had misplaced the voucher for the bus to El Chalten. Tension brewed in the camp and a few early morning cross words were exchanged… where was the voucher, did we actually have the tickets, what time did it leave?!?
We hurriedly threw the last of our bits into rucksacks, washed down our delicious breakie of home made croissants and cherry jam and packed the banana bread, before legging it to the bus station. No biggie in fact, we arrived in plenty of time to exchange the voucher (Don’t. Ask.) and pick up fresh tickets. Phew! We didn’t want to have to get the later bus as it would mean arriving at a campsite at dusk.
On route 40, we crossed back and forth over the Rio Leona, milky blue from glacier melt. The road cut a swathe through the steppe, punctuated by patches of tough bunch grasses and small thorny bushes. In the distance, on the horizon, the rugged landscape giving way to the mountains, but in the early morning light we could only guess which one was which.
A pit stop at the La Leona Roadhouse, made famous by its 1905 “gringo” visitors, Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid and his wife Ethel Pace, was welcome. A chance to stretch our legs and knock back a cafe solo.
Nodding off to ‘spot the wildlife’, guanacos (lama) grazing and caracara (vulture-like bird) perched on the roadside fence posts, we soon arrived at El Chalten. A frontier town if ever there was, with a growing mix of hotels and hostels to satisfy the many day walkers and trekkers alike, plus restaurants, bakeries, cafes and it’s own micro brewery.