January 8, 2006
There has been a change of plans. There isn't a bus that goes to Ushuaia for four days, and neither Jenny, who I've been traveling with for the last week or so, nor myself feel like sitting around town until then. Rio Gallegos is a world away from home. It's a city of about 100,000 people, it's cold, windy, desolate, and there's absolutely nothing to do there. Actually, now that I think about it, it's exactly like Rochester, Minnesota, which was my home before going on this trip! It's definitely a great place to leave.
This afternoon, Jenny and I took a bus to El Calafate, which is near the Perito Moreno Glacier, an attraction that everyone raves about. Still, as luck would have it, a bus was going to El Chalten, a few hours north, as soon as we got to El Calafate. We decided that it would be better to go to El Chalten first, and backtrack later. The bad news is that we had to spend nine hours on buses during the day today.
The guidebooks will tell you that El Chalten is a remote frontier town, but I can already tell that that is changing. Although it is at least fifty miles from the nearest paved road, big hotels and trendy restaurants are everywhere, and with all of the construction around, more are going to start popping up soon. They even have Internet access here now, but it is only via satellite, so it's slow and very expensive. I imagine that five years from now, there will be McDonald's and Starbucks all over the place. The town is overrun with tourists, although most of them are Argentines because January is the biggest month for people all over the country to go on vacation. Maybe this town isn't quite so touristy the other eleven months out of the year, but I won't be here to find out.