We head to the airport shortly, so I thought I´d write out a few quick thoughts as we get ready to go.
The daylight situation is remarkable. It is light outside by 5 AM and not dark until roughly 11. We are awake nearly all the time it is light, but it has not left us exhausted. The daylight makes it very easy to play, and you can start a decent sized hike late in the day and still have plenty of time to make it back safely. I understand the winter days are brutally short, but I also get the idea very few people stay down here through the winter.
The mountain ranges are impressive and make for more difficult travel. For example, the house we stayed in on Christmas Eve, Estancia Alta Vista, was only 20 KM from Estancia Cerro Guido, the place we stayed in Chile. Our hike at El Chalten was longer than 20 KM. However, the trip driving was a 5 hour trip over 200 KM through some very rough roads. The overland trip is possible with about 8 hours on horseback, but the Chilean government doesn´t like folks entering their country undocumented. Anyway, always shorter as the condor flies, but the Ford Ka has to stick to roads.
Dogs everywhere. We miss our pup tremendously, but it is hard to walk a block in El Calafate without coming on some friendly stray looking for a small something to eat. Once the sun finally sets, the valley fills with a symphony (okay, cacophony) of howls and barks and yelps. Bob Barker´s message never made it this far south.
There is almost nothing better than the food here. I don´t know if a cuisine could be more perfectly designed for my tastes. The diet consists largely of grilled meats and meat stews. Plus, forget all this organic and free range stuff we pay a premium for in the states. All the animals here feed on grasses along mountain slopes with amazingly large spaces to roam (the 60,000 sheep, 2,000 cattle, and 2,000 horses at Cerro Guido share 100,000 hectacres, for example). The animals here are likely very happy, and they taste very happy too.
Dulce de leche. This is essentially a caramel sauce served like ketchup. It is everywhere. The center of a table is not complete without a bit of butter and gobs of dulce de leche. In order to adequately blend into the local culture, I smear it on all my bread products. Delicioso.
We are already formulating plans for a return trip. There is just so much to explore and so much ground to cover. We never made it to the coast for whales and penguins, and we barely scratched the surface on the hiking. And did I mention grilled meats and meat stew? Any other takers?
It has been an awesome week in Patagonia. Now off to Buenos Aires.