Patagonia, Argentina
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  Patagonia, Santiago & Easter Island
El Calafate

El Calafate is a very picturesque town with a population of 7000, located at the foot of Mount Calafate and on the bank of Lago Argentino. It is the entry town to the national park and is very and organised. The shops are geared towards the tourists and there are many tourist agents. Hordes of people from around the world come to El Calafate every year to see the glaciers and the Andes. So the business must be good there.

It was relatively expensive but a pleasant and fully civilised place where the sun did not set before 22.00 and the shops didn’t shut much before that.
The typical buildings are very bright colours with sloping roofs and the vegetation is bright green with many different flowers, including large roses. The climate is mainly dry with an average temperature of 18.6º C (65ºF), but the prevailing westerly and south-westerly winds make it VERY cold – jacket, woollen hat, gloves and scarves are necessary wear.  

El Calafate is named after a small bush, calafate (Magellan Barberry), which grows in the southern part of Patagonia. The locals state that anyone eating from the fruit will return for more!

Patagonian dishes combine the coexistence of aborigine and European immigrants - barbecued meats (especially lamb), local fish and seafood, smoked meats, autochthonous fruit jam and patisseries. Apparently, a wide range of white and red wines are produced in Patagonia, although we only saw a few.
Flamingos on the lake
Flamingos on the lake
The open plains
The open plains
Interesting cloud formations
Interesting cloud formations

Walichu Caves

Situated just 8km from El Calafate, this is one of Argentina's most historically significant treasures. Located just off of the shore of Lake Argentina, or Lago Argentino, these caverns are filled with archeologically significant Paleolithic cave paintings. They were discovered in 1877 by Francisco Pascasio Moreno, a notable explorer in the region.

A visit to the Walichu Caves will transport you back over 4,000 years ago, to a time when Argentinean aborigines used drawings of maps, people, and animals to aid fellow hunters and gatherers in the region. Created with materials such as gypsum, egg-whites, plant resin, and human saliva, many of the painting have survived the ages due to the protective environment of the caves. Those that have deteriorated due to thousands of years of weathering have been partially restored.

Signs of the Paleolithic Era
The Paleolithic Era, which began with the use of the first stone tools and ended with the introduction of agriculture, was marked by the necessity of hunting and scavenging activity for survival. Because of this need, many early human beings used cryptic paintings and sketches to illustrate maps of the land and successful hunting areas for their fellow tribe-mates to utilize. The Walichu Caves house many illustrations of the surrounding landscape and wildlife. The early humans of the area have passed on their knowledge of the plants, herbs, and animal populations in the cave drawings.

The Tehuelche People
Tehuelche is the name given to the numerous native tribes of the Argentinean Patagonia. It was one of these tribes that created the cave paintings that adorn the walls of the Walichu Caves still today. In fact, the name Walichu comes from the name of a Tehuelchian deity that was a central figure in the culture's spiritual practice. These early Patagonian dwellers are now believed to be synonymous with the Patagones, a race of so-called "giants" described by European explorers travelling within southern South America.


Long before the glacier age, some 9000 years ago, the forefathers of the “tehuelches” settlers arrived to this area from the north. When the white man discovered the coasts of Santa Cruz, there were many Patagonian aboriginal people. The 1889 census estimated 24,000, but in 1895 they had decreased to only 5,500.

They had an outstanding physical strength due to the permanent effort to survive in a hostile environment, typical of the aborigines of Santa Cruz. They showed solidarity, no ambitions and always ready to help those in need, including the first Spanish settlers.

Their supreme god was Elal, whom they believed had created the animals and the indigenous people. In their social organization, the Chief had the maximum authority and he was the only person who had more than one wife. Fathers showed great affection for their children and taught them how to ride horses, throw arrows and “boleadoras” (a hunting weapon made of big round stones tied at the end of a rope). They ate what they hunted, guanacos and choiques (ostriches), they gathered wild fruits, herbs, berries and seeds of which they made flour for their sustenance. They wore loincloths and covered their bodies with furs to go hunting, and they painted their faces with different colours to indicate whether they were at war or peace.

Their dwellings were tents made with logs, stones and guanaco skins which they laid on the floor to sleep on. No original inhabitants remain; they are completely extinct, except for a few descendants of mixed race.