Ah, Mariano otra vez! Our driver from two days prior had once again arrived in the 18 passenger van (getting up at 5am to drive from his home in El Calafate) to collect us and take us to the El Calafate airport in time for our early afternoon flight to Buenos Aires. Again we were the only passengers. As he had done on the first trip, Mariano stopped halfway through the drive at one of the few signs of civilization one sees on that long road from El Calafate to Chalten, a place called Café La Leona. Turns out it has several claims to fame, one being that it was named for a puma (La Leona) that killed some locals, and also it was a stop on the South American wanderings of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, before they went on to be killed in Bolivia. I also visited with the local mascot, a baby guanaco named Paco, who looked cuddly but had a tendency to lay his ears back…I’d seen already that guanacos lay their ears back when annoyed, and had seen one spit a good 6 feet at another guanaco, so I didn’t push my luck.
Finally we arrived at El Calafate’s airport, in time to fly back to Buenos Aires. Paid a domestic departure tax this time (but not when we first flew to Ushuaia, so why now?). The flight went first south to Ushuaia and then on to Buenos Aires, using up about 6 hours of the afternoon. This time the young woman in the taxi booth by the baggage claim area said the price to the centro was 115 pesos. (The next day when we returned for our long flight home, the price to the airport was 90 pesos. Clearly Buenos Aires taxi prices are a very flexible thing!). Arrived at our hotel (the Gurda Tango Boutique Hotel in the San Telmo area, another winner for amazingly warm, helpful staff) and got a good night's sleep.