El Bolson - A breath of hippy fresh air
A vibrant full-of-life town filled with kind &open-minded human beings. We were very warmly welcomed with fresh water and hugs by the lovely staff at Earthship Patagonia, - an eco-friendly “earthship” surrounded by permaculture, organic vegetarian food, colourful gardens, friendly faces, adopted kittens and a pup, relaxing hammocks, and the most amazing outdoor showers! We were instantly in paradise.
For 138 peso’s / $12 AUD each per night, our “door room” was a luxurious canvas lotus-shaped glamping-tent, where we had a super comfortable double bed to share, draped with beautiful indian-inspired blankets, curtains & pillows. Our complimentary breakfast was the best that we experienced in Argentina, with home-made granola, jams, breads, coconut milk, tea’s, coffee, & of course Mate - a traditional Argentinian drink that is shared around at all hours of the day.
We spent around one week in El Bolson, which was just enough time to enjoy all the sunshine, spend a day or two relaxing in our heavenly accomodation & garden, venture off on a 3 day tramp, hire bikes to ride to beautiful waterfall’s that can be found just outside of the town, and wander around the Saturday markets in the main square.
After an initial few days of R&R, we packed up our sleeping bag, tent & hiking boots and set-off on a three day hiking and camping trip that we will always remember.. and maybe not for the greatest of reasons!
Day 1 we shared a 15 minute cab-ride with two friends that we had made in El Chalten, Chelsea & Tyler - a newly-wedded couple from California who were also travelling around the world for 12 months!
We were dropped off by the taxi driver nearby a swing-bridge & full of excitement, ready to start our trek! Chels & Tyler were fiddling around with their backpacks for a few minutes, so we impatiently headed off along the bridge and said that we will see them on the track soon!
The sun was shining, the birds were chirping & we were following a beautiful little trail along the river. All was fabulous until after an hour and a half we realised that our path that we had been following came to a very apparent end, and we came to the realisation that we had been completely off-track from the very beginning :(
We retraced our steps back to the beginning of the swing-bridge, and re-read the sign (which was all in Spanish of course).. ‘Access to Refugio Hielo Azul - Do Not Cross”. With sinking stomachs, we realised that we had just taken a 3 hour detour in the wrong direction.. turning a 6 hour hike into a 9 hour wild goose chase! Lesson learnt, never read only the first half of directional instructions!
After a hot & tiresome elevation gain of 3,500 feet, countless horse-fly bites, and a near-death experience with a killer-cow, we had never been more relieved to arrive to our camping spot for the night at Refugio Hielo Azul. After an entire day, we were once again reunited with our friends Chelsea & Tyler, and our spirits were instantly lifted. We set-up our tents, started collecting fire-wood, popped open a beer to share that Kirk had surprised us all with back from the village, and finally sat and appreciated the gorgeous scenery around us.
Refugio Hielo Azul was surrounded by mountains in every-which direction. We paid around 90 peso’s / $8 AUD in camping fees for the night, which included using the water and toilet facilities. There is also the option of spending the night inside the actual Refugio in dorm-style bunk-bed’s, however this would set you back around 350 peso’s / $30 AUD for the night. We much preferred the alternative of a night under the stars :)
Once we had burned through all of our firewood, enjoyed a hot meal & cup of tea, and shared a few hours of laughs, it was well and truly bed-time for us all after our unexpectedly large day.
Day 2 we continued our journey to Cajon del Azul (the Blue Canyon), and decided it was best to stick together! After hiking such huge incline the day before, Day 2 was primarily down-hill and only around 5 hours to the Canyon - how hard could this be, right? Well no.. once again we under-estimated the intensity of what we had ahead of us. Hours were spent scrambling down steep and loose rock, nothing but cliff edges and more steep & loose rock ahead of us.
Arriving to Cajon del Azul, finally our efforts from Day 2’s blistering hike had paid off. The water was sparkling blue, inviting us to jump in. And so we did! - however only for a few minutes as our feet began to turn numb in the freezing but refreshing water. The rest of the afternoon we spent by the river, enjoying the sunshine, beautiful views, and the amazing feeling of resting our exhausted bodies.
Just like Hielo Azul, it is possible to spend a night inside of the Refugio Cajon del Azul, however we once again chose to pitch our tent in the campground, sharing it with only 1 other couple who were camping, & around 247 sheep.
Day 3, November 24th, saw us arriving back to the town of El Bolson and we returned straight back to our home away from home, Earthship Patagonia. This marked a special day for many, Thanksgiving Day. We celebrated our first thanksgiving with a bunch of incredible souls at Earthship Patagonia, including our good friends Chelsea, Tyler, Jenna & Brant. We sat in a circle with amazing mountain and forest landscape backdrops, & devoured the most delicious vegetarian feast, accompanied with beer and red wine of course! The night was made magical as it was enjoyed with new friends - a group of people from all different parts of this world, coming together and sharing what we were all thankful for.
If we had our time again, or had recommendations for other backpackers, we would strongly encourage the hike to/from Cajon del Azul, spending a night or two at one of the refugio’s along the blue canyon river, as an alternative to the 3 x day tramp that we completed and detailed above.
However if your heart is set on a challenging few days, be sure to carry as less weight as possible on your backs, because you have some demanding terrain ahead of you!
Before leaving this relaxing little hippy-vibe town, make sure that you check out their local handicraft and food markets which are run every Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday - a great atmosphere and delicious local empanadas :)