Patagonia trip, Argentina - Sep 19 - Oct 2, 2018
We were on a trip to Patagonia and toured around Argentina and undertook a number of experiences. All of these were incredible and while there were some things that slightly detracted from the experience we were very pleased overall with the experience.
We happened to arrive at a time when a strike was scheduled which meant one of our days had to be moved around. This meant we stayed a day longer in El Calafate and had to find something to entertain us whilst we were there, which we managed no problem due to my interest in wildlife and the presence of a nature reserve at the edge of the town.
The strike also had a knock on effect that meant our transfer from the hotel to the bus station the next day didn't turn up and we had to very quickly jump in a taxi and head across to the bus station and similarly when we returned to El Calafate a transfer with a different company also didn't show up which meant a walk in the dark back to the hotel with no map.
We also had an issue with some cash machines which after an internet search turned out to be due to some Argentinian banks not working with European issued credit/bank cards. We found that HSBC and Santander were able to work fine and actually charged less overall for the withdrawals.
Activity 1: Canoeing on Lake Mascardi with Kawen Adventure Company.
Guides Julian and Rodrigo turned up on time and spoke good English. They talked us through the area, the wildlife and the plan for the day. After a morning of canoeing the weather ahead looked pretty bad and we made the decision to stop for lunch. We had lunch on the shore overlooking Lake Mascardi. Lunch wasn't just some sandwiches and a bottle of water. A full table was set up with a whole range of different food, pastries, salad and of course Argentinian wine. After lunch we carried on back to the start before heading back to Bariloche.
Activity 2: Horse Riding at Estancia Frugua
Another great day, however there wasn't a bi-lingual guide and my Spanish is pretty poor. We were due to go out in the morning and afternoon but for some reason we only went out in the morning. I suspect there was a reason for this but as we don't speak enough Spanish to hold a full conversation we were left in the dark a bit. We managed to communicate through most of it though. The food here was also incredible.
Activity 3: Mini Trekking Perito Moreno Glacier
Great day again. Good guides, spoke good English and a great experience overall. The trip out to the glacier was great and it just got better and better throughout the day. An experience not to be missed. Whisky on the glacier was pretty cool too.
Activity 4: Hiking in El Chalten
The hiking in El Chalten was incredible. We were fortunate that the weather turned to the good the day we arrived and stayed good for our entire stay but it is an incredible place and a must for anyone who likes the outdoors. The hikes we did were far from challenging and took in some amazing scenery. A couple of steep sections but nothing anyone who is relatively fit couldn't take on.
Activity 5: Valdes Peninsula and Whale Watching.
Again an experience not to be missed. After touring around during the morning and early afternoon seeing various wildlife, (guanaco, burrowing owls, mara, elephant seals, penguins and sea lions) we then got the chance to go whale watching and we were so close to the whales it was incredible.
Design Suites Bariloche - Very nice hotel and restaurant. Great views across the mountains and very friendly staff.
Hainen Hotel - Nice place but obviously not meant to be overly luxurious. It was great, served our purpose and the staff were friendly and accommodating when issues occurred.
Lunajuim - Really nice hotel, very friendly staff who really made us feel welcome.
Hotel Peron - Nice hotel, although clearly a lot busier than others we had stayed in so breakfast was a lot louder. Good views across the bay. Staff spoke less English, but we managed to check in.
Hotel NH Florida - Nice hotel and polite staff. Breakfast was incredibly busy with people finding it hard to find somewhere to sit and staff seemed to be struggling to keep up with providing enough cups and glasses etc.
Other small notes -
There were a few costs that we hadn't budgeted for nothing major but may be worth making clear to people in future -
Park Entrance Fee for Canoeing (300 pesos each)
Park Entrance Fee for Mini-Trekking (600 pesos each)
Park Entrance Fee for Glacier Boat Tour (600 pesos each)
Park Entrance Fee for Whale Watching (520 pesos each)
City Tax in Bariloche (approximately 300 pesos)
Total of approximately 4,340 pesos. All of the above also needed to be in cash. Once we'd resolved the withdrawals issue it wasn't a problem. Also worth noting that the fees are much reduced for residents of Argentina.
It is worth noting that while there were a few issues we had the telephone number of our local specialist who managed to resolve the issues as they occurred and generally put our minds at rest when we were concerned.
Overall this experience was incredible and one not to be missed.