January 9, 2006
This was mostly a day of planning. Jenny and I wanted to go on a trek near town, but we weren't quite sure where to go. We decided on a route that would take us to some lakes in the national park here, camp overnight, and walk over to another sight that I was promised would be impressive on the second day before heading back into town. After we decided where to go, we spent most of the day figuring out where to rent the gear we needed and buying food.
This afternoon, we took a short trip to the house of Andreas Madsen, the first pioneer to settle near El Chalten early in the 20th century. To get there, we had to cross the river near town in a cable car that was retrofitted over the remaining structure of the bridge that collapsed there a few years ago. After walking for about half an hour, we saw the house. Our enthusiastic guide explained the entire history of the house, including how Madsen went there to farm sheep and how he built it out of scraps that a government-run company had discarded. He also explained the history of the Madsen family, including the wife that waited for him to return to their native Denmark for over a decade before marrying him, their son who died in a car accident, and their other son who committed suicide at 17 over a lost love. Finally, our guide revealed that he in fact owned the house, was restoring it himself, and was also living there! The whole time I was there, I had thought that I was on an organized tour run by a big company, but this guy was just trying to raise some money to fix up the house. He was obviously very passionate about his job.
Before the tour ended, we walked around the Madsen house. Nearby was the graveyard, where everyone in the family was buried except the daughter, who is still alive in Buenos Aires. Next, we walked up the hill behind the house, which gave us a great view of the area, including Cerro Fitz Roy, the famous mountain nearby, and the town of El Chalten. At first, I wasn't sure if paying money to see an old house would be worthwhile, but the fact that I helped an historical landmark get restored made me feel good about my decision.
The photo album for this entry is here.