Travelin’ Mind – Captivated by natural beauty.

Chalten History Sign-1Reflecting on the early part of my journey when I rode the Alaskan Highway through Northern BC, the Yukon and to Haines, and then the Canadian Rockies and down through Glacier National Park into Montana, I’m remember how much the mountains, snow, ice and vast expansiveness of these natural settings captivates me. In one post I wrote, “I don’t think I can take it anymore, I’m getting overdosed on the amazing scenery.” From El Calafate to El Chalten and the lakes near San Carlos Bariloce I’m once again hypnotized by the mountains, trees and alpine beauty. Just what is it about a bunch of rocks and granite jetting into the sky that moves the soul and ignites the spirit? Are we simply programmed to be in awe at such marvels of nature in the same way the curves and sensuality of a beautiful woman can break a man’s concentration under most any circumstances?

But here I am in the northern part of Argentina’s Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. EVen after a pounding rainfall Chalten’s dirt streets began to dry with the spattering of sun that poked out several times today. But all day not a glimpse of Fitz Roy, the marvelous jagged granite peak of the range of mountains in these Andes that shares its name. Travelers from all over the world come here to trek through the valleys, skip through the meadows filled with wildflowers or march up the mountain and over glaciers — all to gaze upon that big rock.

But today I hold off my plans to trek to the base of Fitz Roy. Instead, i explore the dusty town which is undergoing a rapid expansion. New housing for the workers needed to service the increasing tourists is under construction. More streets are lined out and drainage systems along with rebar for future concrete side walks and roads lays waiting for completion. El Chalten will change.

Chalten Murky Skies

In El Chalten. Roads one day will be paved.

Chalten Town

El Chalten is rapidly changing but still retains a certain charm.

Chalten Old Restaurant

An original building from El Chalten’s early days. Sadly, the restaurant never opened when I was here.

Those who travel here come by plane, bus or rental car and leave the same way. The few that make the overland journey from afar include motorcyclists like me, bicyclists and four-wheel overland vehicles. This week I seem to be the only motorcyclist in El Chalten. Yesterday I passed a couple bicyclists heading this way on what must be a true test of endurance or simply a suicide mission given the rain, wind, chill and physical barriers that make getting here by bike nearly impossible. But for them the reward might even be greater than mine, having brazed and defeated these tough elements. I suspect they’ll be here in a couple days. While I’m not exhausted, I’m simply in a zone. Surrounded by natural beauty in a remote village in Argentina, I’m happy with the notion that I rode here.

And it’s not about chocking up another “must-see” location on a world travel checklist. Nor is it about speed nor trying to achieve some self-mandated goal of crossing so many countries, logging more miles and spitting more gravel and dirt in some insanely short amount of time if only for bragging rights back home. No, it’s more. And walking through this town under the shadows of grand mountains that perhaps more than fifty percent of the time are shrouded in clouds or simply obscured by murky skies, that one doesn’t feel the grandness until the mountains and skies choose to act in concert and reveal their naked glory with lighting provided by that big ball of fire. And today I was lucky. Patience paid off as Fitz Roy appeared for less than 30 minutes as I trekked the bluff just west of town. It’s these moments that words can’t describe and pictures won’t show that move and reward me for my commitment to continuing this odyssey.

Chalten Valley

Valley looking north from El Chalten.

Chalten Bw

Fitz Roy and its distinctive peak reveals itself for a brief photo shoot.

Chalten Peak Color2

Fitz Roy in color and clouds.

Later eastern skies threaten the steppe with looming rain while clouds move in from the west and once again obscure Fitz Roy’s distinctive peak. The eight hour round trip trek to and fro the mountain will have to wait until tomorrow when I hope luck continues to follow me.

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