“I’ve been to Hollywood
I’ve been to Redwood
I crossed the ocean
for a heart of gold
I’ve been in my mind,
it’s such a fine line
That keeps me searching
for a heart of gold” Neil Young – ‘Heart of Gold’
Now I find myself across the border, in Argentina.. With a heavy bag, and a heavy heart, but not with a heavy wallet – the spending has really picked up its pace since exiting Bolivia. The Argentine peso has slipped almost 100% against Sterling over the last 6 months. Nobody seems to have told the hotels and restaurants I’ve been patronising though.
With my thick, predominantly cotton clothing, aviators and alpaca wool hat, I didn’t fit in here. Everyone else was clad in non-sweat, hi tech, gore tex clothing, and carrying walking poles too. But where would I fit in looking like this? The 70’d probably. El Chaltén didn’t exist then, it is younger than I am, founded 28 years ago, and has expanded into the number one destination in Argentina for hikers.
My first impressions of Argentinian Patagonia are very good, the skies are a deep azure and the wind hasn’t followed me over from the Torres del Paine. I’ve been staying at a ranch a few kilometres outside the town of El Chaltén. I didn’t realise it was so far out when I booked online, upon arrival I lugged by bags across town to where Google Maps promised the ranch was, only to discover the mistake – the ranch was miles in the opposite direction! The setting made up for the out of town location though, it was so picturesque, with the rolling hills and verdant fields, the animals, I was there for 5 nights in the end, before tearing myself away from the ranch (Estancia la Quinta). Thats what places like El Chaltén do, you just come for a couple of nights and end up staying for weeks. I met lots of travellers who had to come to work in the towns restaurants for the season.
“Walking is a virtue, tourism is a deadly sin.”
― Bruce Chatwin – ‘What am I doing here’