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The Brave Turk Juan

Posted by Engin Kaban on August 11, 2010

The Brave Turk Juan

Argentina #1o: El Chalten

Day 100-101 (April 3rd – 4th):


We are at the intersection of two roads. The weather is clear, but just as cool. There is no sign of life other than a few vehicles that pass by every few minutes. Our view comprises plains that spread out all the way, mountains in the background and lengthy roads. There is not a single building and person in our sight. The only thing we hear is the wind. We may have to wait here for a while. Perhaps no car will pick us up and we may have to camp by the road. We simply don’t know. It does not really make a difference anyway. Patagonia is spectacular. Aaand, today is my 100th day of my trip. Hundred days in the roads of South America…

In the morning, Gülcan and I left the house in El Calafate, and hit the road. Through three different vehicles we have managed to make it to this junction that is about 30 km away from the town. From here, we need to move on to El Chalten road, where the traffic is even scarcer (10 instead of 20 vehicles per hour). I really hope that a pickup truck picks us up so that we can continue our journey while enjoying our view in the back of the truck. I wish I had asked for something else. After a while, a pickup truck does stop. They ask us to jump on to the back of the truck. We are very happy. Our happiness does not last that long however; soon after we start freezing, shivering and feeling numb in the following minutes, we condemn the driver for this. The driver speeds about an average of 130 km/hr in the empty and flat roads. This means that we are exposed to severe gusts even in the most shielded part of the open trunk. We then wonder what is in the luggage that is lying on the back seat; it must be something quite valuable, otherwise, he would have offered us the backseat instead. After two hours of torture with the wind, we arrive El Chalten. The driver dares to ask us how our trip was. I reply, “cold.”

Nevertheless, I recover from this trip all right, but Gülcan feels completely off due to the wind. She feels miserable and falls asleep in the hostel we find. On the other hand, I, with the excitement of having arrived at the heaven of trekking, plan a short and simple route from the map and begin my stroll. With the last light of the day, I climb a hill that is right by the town and watch as the darkness sets in over the town.

El Chalten is a placid town that is situated in the tiny basin in the middle of rocky mountains, with a population of 200. Because of the countless walking and climbing routes and the famous Fitz Roy Mountain that is right next to it, thousands of European nature-enthusiasts fill this town. There are plentiful hostels, camping areas, internet cafes, supermarkets and other items that we may need.  The town is in such a perfect location that it is possible to do daily walking trips and return on the same evening to your hostel. Alternatively, you can bring all the camping equipment, and spend a few days in the nature in the designated camping areas in the national park.

We were going to cook a decent vegetable dish for our host in our last evening in El Calafate, but could not make it. Thus, we came to El Chalten with our eggplants, potatoes, carrots and onions. Because Gülcan does not feel well and because I feel lazy to cook myself, we fall asleep early in our first night. The next morning, our biological clocks and growling stomachs enable us to rise before dawn. We are probably the first in the hostel’s history to cook a vegetable dish that early in the morning. Even though we do not have many of the essential ingredients like salt, I still feel the taste of that meal up to day.

Safe and sound we prepare. The first thing we do is to move to a hostel named Hostelling International, the place that we could not stay the first night due to being full. We leave our stuff and immerse ourselves into the spectacular nature of El Chalten. Because it is going to be a daily trip, we only take small bags, and a little bit of food and drink. Both of our walking performance is quite good, so we continue our trip fast paced. At some point, we notice two people yelling from the top of a hill nearby. Even though we cannot make out who they are, we realize that they are children and they are asking for help. We don’t quite understand what they are saying, but I shout “wait, I`m coming” to them. It is interesting that none of the other campers respond to the cries of these children even though they hear them. Gülcan remains on our route should she need to call for extra help. I reach the children after a brief climb. They are two boys, and around 11-12 years of age. They look very scared. One of them is continuously crying. Apparently, they lost their father. I cannot make sense out of the fact that a man loses his children in a place like this. In any case, we leave the children with two women who are on their way back to their hotel. As we continue our trip, we run into a man who, Gülcan feels, looks upset. She approaches him, “excuse me, have you lost your children?” Bingo! We found the father. I don’t see any sign of joy and excitement in this man for having found his children, however. It would be absurd anyway to expect such a reaction from a man who manages to lose his children on the top of a hill.

The name Engin is very difficult for Argentineans to pronounce. One person I met on the road had told me that my name was difficult and added that my name would be Joan from then on. I had no objection to that. Juan is a very common name here. Since then, I always introduce myself as, “I am Engin, but you may call me Juan.” It is quite fun. Similarly, when I had a trip to Morocco last summer, someone started to call me “Ahmad.” Likewise, I was introducing myself with this name in Morocco. Let’s see what happens when I travel to the Far East. Since Gülcan knows this Juan story, she starts to call me “The Brave Turk Juan” for having saved the children on the hill. Apparently, a similar incident had happened to Gülcan earlier, and an Argentinean had started to call her Julie. The brave Turks Juan and Julie continue to travel the Patagonian land inch by inch.

After an 11-km walk, we finally reach our destination. Ahead lay Torre Glacier and the lake. Impressive. Now, it is time to take a break for food and enjoyment. I enjoy my canned corn, one of my favorite foods in the wild and in civilization, by the lake. Once again, I admire the perfect and wild life of Patagonia.

We follow the trail that ascends by the side of the lake and enables us to near the glacier. Every meter, the glacier looks even more captivating. Even though it cannot compare to Perito Moreno glacier, the fact that you can reach here just by walking and that the glacier greets you is even more impressive perhaps. As for the other glacier, you need to travel on a vehicle and need to walk with hundreds of tourists on a metal platform in order to achieve a good view. Here, on the other hand, you reach the glacier only after three hours of walking.

As we begin our return, we notice that no one else is left. As it is going to get dark in two hours and that we have a three-hour walk ahead of us, it is logical to get going. We say, “Never mind, we are the brave Turks and Patagonia is in our jurisdiction” and hit the road. Moreover, we decide to take a different route in order to experience different places. It is not easy to get lost here anyway; the walking paths are very obvious and there are lots of informative signs at junctions and even small maps. If you are already used to nature and have some sense of direction, there is no problem. As we reach a point that has the view of the entire town, it is already completely dark; perfect timing. An owl that is standing on the top of a rock greets us here. He is, as though, saying welcome, I am with you and don’t worry. He is only one of the players of the fabulous nature of Patagonia.

We cook dinner in the fully equipped kitchen of the hostel. I enjoy my time on the puffy couches, my favorite part of the hostel. Another day ends in Patagonia. Tomorrow is the time to camp in nature.

Engin Kaban

June 14th 2010 – Santa Fe

7 Responses to “The Brave Turk Juan”

  1. il Piergi said

    Well, if Engin (Énguin?) is difficult, I can only imagine how should Gülcan sound to Spanish-speakers . . .

  2. il Piergi said

    And post more fotos of Gül/Julia! 😛

  3. il Piergi said

    And post more photos of Gül/Julia! 😛

  4. 🙂 🙂
    You’re Italian, aren’t you? 🙂

    Man, you should ask those yourself. I am out…

  5. Piergi said

    Well, what’s happening? No more posts? I see you’re in Trujillo, now.

    I’m in Montréal, big changes on the horizon . . .

    Ciao ciao!

  6. I am in Lima. Soon heading to the Amazons.
    All is fine. Just spent the last 3-4 weeks with as little internet as possible 🙂 Only the real life hehehe.

    What’s happening in Montreal???

  7. […] For “Juan”, please check: […]

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