Leaving Calafate the bitumen soon runs out and its standard Route National 40 dirt for most of the way (though they are working on upgrading the surface at the moment). One of the few points of habitation (this is seriously empty countryside in the main) is the Hotel La Leona. It has apparently housed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in its time. For us it made a welcome break form driving over the dirt, and their home made cakes were particularly good. One is left with an impression of empty, very windswept, pampas in this part of Argentina.
Eventually we turned off Route 40 and took the detour to El Chalten. El Chalten is a "wild west" town. In complete contrast to Calafate, the streets are dirt, and there are few hotels or restaurants. We preferred El Chalten to the more artificial aspect of Calafate. In particular I can recommend the "choclateria" good home made chocolate, in a building that we really thought had been abandoned from the outside (see photos below), but warm and welcoming inside.
You stay at El Chalten to walk up into the mountains, and in particular to admire Mount Fitzroy. If you follow that link, there are photos of the walks and of the snow capped chiseled peaks around.
|Hotel Le Leona (Spanish for "lion", pumas used to eat travellers here)||Hotel Le Leona, note the ever present wind|
|Hotel Le Leona and the pampas||...pampas|
|Road north to El Chalten with the "big skies"||El Chalten ranger post|
|El Chalten hotel, basic but adequate||El Chalten hotel|
|The Choclateria in Chalten||The Choclateria in Chalten, see what I mean by "looks abandoned"|
|Inside the Choclateria in Chalten||The mountains round Chalten|
|Church at Chalten||View of Chalten from the mountains|
Walks from El Chalten and Mount Fitzroy