El Calafate, Glaciers and 35 Hours on a Bus

Trip Start Aug 23, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2006

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wrapped up Route 40 with  my arrival into El Calafate Saturday night the 9th.  Got lucky once again with my hostel and was able to secure a bed in the best hostel in town...America del Sur.  I didn't get in until late on Saturday...and upon arrival I didn't think I would be able to book a tour for Sunday.  Sunday is the day of rest in every city in Argentina and there really isn't much going on besides touristy stuff.  Fortunately the guy at the hostel (Ivan) hooked me up and got me on a boat tour for the following morning.  My other tour is mini-trekking which I signed up to do on Tuesday the 12th.  Mini-trekking is actually hiking on the glacier itself which should be fairly cool.  The hostel is great.  The floors are all heated so you leave your shoes at near the front door so the floors (and your socks) remain clean.  The dorm rooms are probably the best I have had yet.  Two bunk beds and each room has an en-suite bathroom...nice.  Gorgeous views of the lake from the dining room and on windy days you can actually see icebergs floating around the lake.
Up very early the next day for an all day excursion...boating around several of the glaciers.  The boat dock nearly a two hour drive from the hotel so I got the chance to catch up on some must needed sleep. Upon arrival at the dock, we all boarded our boat which was a a huge catamaron yacht full of Spanish speaking tourists...great.  I was the only one aboard who neeeded English.  On the way out of port, we passed several small icebergs each one more bluer than the last.  The bluer the ice is, the longer the ice has been forming in the glacier/berg.  The blue color is caused by the intense pressure forcing all the impurities and oxygen bubbles out of the ice...leaving a blue color.  First stop was a glacier named Speeenguzza which was amazing as we saw several huge chunks of it fall off.  Second stop was supposed to be Upsula, the largest glacier in South America...but unfornately due to the high windes and huge bergs floating around it, we could only get close.  But even getting close was impressive.  Back at the dock we were abandoned by our bus so I caught a ride along with a couple other tourists with two maintence guys in their full size pick up truck back to El Calafate.  I did managed to hook up with Kevin, the two Dutch girls and the Swiss couple for a night of dinner and drinking.  They had met up with a couple English girls from our Ruta 40 road trip so the whole group of us when to a 2 for 1 coctail bar where the Swiss couple got hammered...it was quite amusing actually.  The rest of us paced ourselves and went to dinner around 11PM then back tot he bar around 1. 
I spent Monday the 11th exploring Calafate and walking around town.  The town itself is pretty unimpressive...not much to do besides eat, drink and walk.  The real action is at the glaciers and if it weren't for them, El Calafate would not exist.  Back at my hostel I ran into two other Dutch girls I met in Bariloche...small world huh?  Seems we all three had signed up for the same activity tomorrow so that was cool...now I had friends to hang with.  We sat around the hostle table with some other folks drinking some wine and chatting the night away.
Woke up early morning on Tuesday for the activitiy that I was realy, really looking forward to doing...Mini Trekking.  You bascially get driven to the edge of the Perito Moreno glacier which is one of the most actively moving glaciers in the world.  Do a small boat tour around it then get dropped off just to the side of it and get a briefing about what  you are about to do.  Essentially everone puts on crampons (metal attachments on your shoes for ice walking) and we set off for 2.5 hours of walking up the peaks and valleys of glacier...cool stuff.  The sites and feeling of being completly surrounded on all sides by ice was amazing.  We got to hike up some farily steep traverses and drink some of the melting glacieral water before turning a corner and seeing a table of glasses, whiskey and chunks of fresh glacier ice.  The tour company decided to buy us all around of drinks and we sat there for a few minutes enjoying our last few mintues on the ice...and the whiskey.  The Dutch girls and I gooffed off a bit and took some photos which I will try to post soon.  We hiked back to the shore, had lunch then took the boat back to our bus for more time at Perito Moreno...except this time on the viewing platforms near the most active part of the glacier...the middle part which advances 13 centimeters per day.  So much so that huge chunks of ice come crashing down every so often making an incredible noise and splash.  We only had one hour on the platforms and I did manage to see a few things fall...but not enough to satisfy my desire.  The hostel had an amazing BBQ dinner that night complete with all you can drink wine so that pretty much made me set for the night.
So....Wednesday the 13th I decied to return back to Perito Moreno on my own as I really wanted more time trying to capture some major ice falls.  You can just catch a bus out there on your own, pay the park entrance fee and spend nearly all day on the viewing platforms taking photos and video....so I did just that.  I got extremely lucky and managed to get some amazing ice falls.  The files might be too large to this site to handle, so I will need to figure out another way to let you guys see them.  I spent about 4 hours just hanging out, camera ready and loved it all.  Back in El Calafate I went walking around and heard a comiton from a local bar.  Turns out it was the playoff game for the Argentine soccer championship...La Boca vs. Estudiantes.  I pull up a seat at the bar and start ordering beer and watch an incredible comeback by the underdog Estudiantes to beat the heavily favored
Thurs 12-14 Leaving for BA at noon...I looked long and hard for a flight but to no avail.  Thus I am off on the longest bus journey yet....4 hours from El Calafate to Rio Gallegos, a 3 hour layover and then 33 hours from Rio Gallegos to Buenos Aires...yuck.  The long part is all coche cama (nearly a full bed), so hopefully it won't be that bad.  The good news is I end up in Buenos Aires early Saturday morning the 16th for my final 7 days of holiday.
See you in B.A.
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