Cycling Chile/Argentina '04 | El Chalten/Fitz Roy Index Day 20 Day 22
      Day 21: El Calafate -> El Chalten Of Mice and Us

Our first experience with public transportation was not really the best. At first, the bus driver refused to make room for our bikes even after we had paid extra 10 peso and taken the front wheels off. Determined not to be bumped one more time, we argued and eventually squeezed our bikes in.

The bus was loaded with mostly college age backpackers. Most of them must have being drinking all night. The bus smelt like a Sunday morning freshmen's dorm room.

It was a bright sunny day. Sitting inside, we had no idea if it was windy outside but the ripio seemed pretty bad. It was a long 5-hour ride. Fitz Roy range could be seen as far as 2 hours before we arrived in El Chalten.

The bus made a 10-minute stop at the national park administration for a short briefing by a park ranger. One of the trekkers asked for suggestions on how to deal with the mice at the camping sites. "Stay away from them." The middle-age ranger said. "There is nothing we can do."

The trekker then, after the briefing, told us that mice here fancied particularly anything rubber, from hiking poles, to toothbrush handle, to backpack buckles, on top of, of course, food. Brian looked concerned.

The bus made the final stop and the crowd soon dissipated leaving us with our disassembled bikes behind. Since Brian had to take his seat off to fit the bike inside the luggage compartment on the bus, his rack got loose. When he tried to ride up a curb, the rack fell backward. Now instead of two straight legs connecting to the frame, it got an artistic bend on one of them. Not good. Bad things happen in pair. When he tried to unscrew the stainless steel bolt to straighten the rack, the bolt broke. All our spares were too short. After more than an hour trying and thinking different strategies, including the idea of taking a bus back to get another bolt from Calafate, we found one long enough on the rack to switch with.

This was not the place to have your bike or any parts on it broken because once we left this town, there was no way back and nothing for a very long time.

We needed to find out when the boat was leaving. Nobody in the national park seemed to know. The ranger even told us the season was over for the crossing and there would not be any boats! On our way to the police station where we might get some information, a cyclist came in from behind. It was that British we met outside Calafate. He just got in after 4 days of difficult riding even though last night he was only 5km short of reaching Chalten.

We teamed up with the English man, Graham, found a tour guide company, and got the most trustworthy information so far about the boat. April 5 or 6. Not bad if that's all true, we had several days to spare in Chalten. With the scenery like that of Aspen but without any paved road, Chalten has a very charming small town, outpost appeal to it. We got ourselves a tasty pizza plus a small tip from the waitress: after filling the Mate pot, cover it with your hand, turn it over, shake, turn it back, and blow the fine powder off your palm. "It's a Chalten secret." She told us.

It was one of the clearest days in Fitz Roy according to the ranger, and the coldest too. Graham joined us at the camping area. Consumed by the fear of mice attack, Brian was obsessed with finding a mouse-free campsite. In the end, we had our tent on a river bed two streams away from land. Graham first worried about being washed out at high tide, but was later convinced to set his tent by ours.

Full moon rose over the mountain. A panromaic view of the whole Fitz Roy Range under moon light looked more like a black and white photo than a real thing. Our natural mouse-barrier must have worked, instead of any sight of mice, a curious kitty found its way around and made frequent visits to our camp. Spraying meant nothing to it and I grew too superstitious to do it when I met its bright greenish eyes in the dark.

Index Day 20 Day 22