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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

From Russia with Love - Day 447

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

Another magnificent Mountain, a huge bird and a lovely couple of sisters from Russia, with love. #ElChaltén, here we come.

We were standing at a viewpoint overlooking the #DelasVueltas valley with the river meandering its way through. I am always amazed how, over thousands of years, the sheer force of water can cause such large dips between mountains, and there before us was a prime example. As we stood admiring the view, we caught sight of a giant bird gliding in the air current. It was not any bird but an Andean #Condor, the largest flying bird in the world. The maximum wingspan of these enormous creatures is over 3m. We noticed a smaller bird was swooping down to attack it, and the Condor lifted one of its massive wings and effortlessly turned to avoid the onslaught.

We had come on our third trip in three days to #ElChaltén, named Argentina's Trekking Capital. The reason being is that the mighty Cerro #FitzRoy Mountains, named by Argentine explorer #FranciscoMoreno in honour of Robert FitzRoy, is here in the Los Glaciares National Park.

On the bus here, we got chatting to Valentina and Olga, sisters (2 of 3 like me) who on holiday from their home town of B, a province of Russia. Fortunately, Valentina spoke excellent English; she is a retired English teacher and informed us that in Russia, women can retire at 55; however last year Putin raised this to 60 going forward. We chatted about life, our travels and I was curious to hear about where they lived. I am so ignorant about Russia, I am sorry to say. Despite significant changes from socialism to capitalism, money is still tight for many people. Valentina shared how they grow lots of vegetables and have an orchard where they pickle, freeze, and dry the fruit as well as make jam. The family sound very resourceful. She has two grown-up daughters and showed us a photo of one about to dip into a hole in the ice. It’s an annual event that they often do, part of a religious ceremony connected to St John the Baptist, and the family like to participate despite not being religious.

When we reached El Chaltén, the sisters asked if they could join us on a trek. We were thrilled, we love chatting and getting to know people and they were a delight. As we walked through the town, another couple and a family with two boys who also were on the bus walked along with us. Tim chatted with the 15-year-old boy, practising his Spanish and the young lad practising his English. I could hear much laughter as they tried to remember the words and phrases. “It’s good to practise” Tim kept saying. “You need to say that in Spanish” I said.

The trail that we chose was a very manageable 7km round trip. We had been informed that the first part was very steep and I have visions of it being like Table Mountain. My new poles to the ready I was pleased to see that the path was relatively easy with steps at a reasonable size leading to a gentle slope through a lovely forest.

There were lots of dead wood scattered about, probably due to the weight of snow and the harsh winds that are often here. Valentina and I thought that a business selling kindling would be good. All you need is a donkey and some large bags strapped to it, and you’d be made!

At last, we reached #LagunaCapri, a beautiful lake with a fantastic view of Fitz Roy, the Torre needles to the left was clear most of the time. Unfortunately, one big fluffy cloud perched on the top of Fitz Roy peak kept rolling on top of itself instead of blowing off, so obscuring a perfect view. Oh well. I felt so peaceful sitting and eating our picnic. The picture before us was stunningly beautiful. I am in awe of the beauty that we have on Planet Earth, and am increasingly curious how places like this have been created. So, as a novice, here is my description.

About 100 million years ago, the heavy Pacific tectonic plate shifted and pushed under the South-American tectonic plate causing immense pressure and heat. The rocks transformed into Magma and this boiling liquid moved through the faults within the top plate, stopping below the surface. This cooled and formed enormous lumps of granite. Over time, the sedimentary cover eroded, and the granite was revealed. Here endeth the geology lesson.

Similar to seeing the glacier and Torres del Paine, we managed to extracted ourselves away from this majestic place as we needed to catch our bus back to El Calafate.

Tim took a detour to another couple of viewpoints and Valentine, Olga and I took our time going downhill, chatting and admiring the view. We both thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. I felt for Olga and hope that she didn’t feel left out. She couldn’t speak much English, and of course, we couldn’t speak any Russian, apart from “Nostrovia”, which Tim’s Dad would often call out when he was having a drink. As we reached the exit of the National Park, we bumped into the family and couple, so enjoyed a celebratory photo of us all. A lovely end to a wonderful walk.

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