A Date on the Ice
Trip Start Jan 13, 2010
91Trip End Dec 20, 2010
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We left Bariloche Thursday morning at 9am to make our way 1400km to El Calafate, down in Southern Patagonia. To get there we would have a 28 hour bus journey down the famous Routa 40. To be honest, we were not looking forward to spending 28 hours on the bus but believe it or not this is the quickest route down. We were offered another bus which apparantly is on better roads but would take 36 hours instead. So we compromised on comfort and set off on what we were told would be a bumpy ride. We brought plenty of food and drinks and loaded our ipods with plenty to entertasin us. 28 hours seems like a long time to spend on a bus but actually it wasn't that bad. They played lots of movies to keep us entertained and made regular stops every four hours or so for bathroom breaks and to stretch your legs. All in all a good journey!
We arrived into El Calafate in the early afternoon the following day and headed off for the short five minute walk to our hostel. After 28hrs on the bus we were really looking forward to getting into our wee room and getting showered and putting on some fresh clothes. However, when we turned up at the hostel they had no record of our booking. After about ten minutes of confusion we were told that they did have our booking however it was for March not February. And typically they were fully booked. How silly did we feel??? Luckily the owner phoned his pal at Las Cabinatas, a nice hostel a few blocks away, who could kindly accomodate us so we happily plodded off to our new hostel which was a lovely little family run place.
El Calafate itself is a tiny little town situated on the shores of Lago Argentino, which apparently is the largest fresh water lake in Argentina. The main attraction of El Calafate is its close proximity to Los Glaciares National Park which is less than an hour away. Its name refers to the giant ice cap in the Andes range that feeds 47 large glaciers. The ice cap is the largest outside of Antarctica and Greenland. And the Peace de Resistance is the Perito Moreno Glacier. We spend our first day exploring the town (which doesn't take to long as it's basically one main street) looking at all the nice touristy shops and getting our tour of the Glacier organised for the following day.
Perito Moreno Glacier:
We were picked up at 8:30am the following morning, already very excited about our visit to the Glacier. The bus took about an hour or so to get into the Glacier National Park and once you are so far in to the park you see the magnificant Perito Moreno Glacier in all her glory. The glacier is not the biggest in the park but is the most famous due to its accessiblity. The bus dropped us off for 2 hours at the viewing platforms directly across from the glacier where you can walk along all the little walkways and view the glacier from various heights and panoramic angles. This was great as you could sit and watch as the glacier would groan and roar like thunder as huge chunks of the Glacier fall away into the lake.
Perito Moreno Glacier is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that are currently not retreating. Apparently the glacier is in perfect harmony as it grows by 2 meters a day it also sheds the same amount of ice at the front. A snow drop that falls at the top of the glacier high up in the mountain apparently takes 400 years to reach the front. The front of the Glacier is 3 miles wide, 74 meters high and reaches a depth of 140 metres below the surface of the lake. All in all it is a purely magestic sight.
After hour two hours of viewing the glacier we were then taken to the shore of the lake to get on a little boat for half an hour that would take us across the lake and to the base camp for our trek on the ice. Once moored we were split into smaller groups and allocated our lovely guide to the ice "Gerardo". He got us all set up with our crampons and a two minute demonstration of how to walk on the ice (no safety talk or demonstration here, we are in Argentina aftr all) and then we set off for a two hour climb onto the glacier. As you can see from the may photos that we took (I went slightly camera mad) it was absolutely breathtaking and also a little bit scary, particularly climbing down the steep sections of the ice where you were holding on for dear life). We climbed to various different sights on the glacier and generally had a brilliant, if not surreal time as you felt like you were on a different planet.
Towards the end of our climb we stopped off at a little area that had been set up for us all to have a wee whiskey and alfajores to celebrate our excursion onto the glacier. Gerardo collected ice from the glacier and poured everyone a wee dram of whiskey. We thought this was a really fitting end to our little visit to a beautiful and mystical place. It was an unforgetable day and one of our favourite things that we have done so far on our trip.
We spent the rest of our short time in Calafate relaxing and trying to plan the next part of our wee adventure. Next stop: Back to Bariloche for a few days!!!
Total Time Spent on a Bus: 92.5 hours