Thrash, crackle and drop - Happy New Year!
Trip Start Nov 17, 2012
36Trip End Jun 12, 2013
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
El Calafate is a small town in Patagonia that is far and away most famous for the Perito Moreno Glacier. While it seems to be self proclaimed, it is apparently the 8th Natural Wonder of the World. Here are some stats, 30km long, 5km wide, average above water height of 60m, maximum total depth 700m... so it's big and moving at about 2m a day.
We took a bus for about an hour to the park to where you can view the glacier from a network of balconies within a couple of hundred meters of the glacier face. Forget the stats above, the thing is massive - and beautiful. In the first hour or so we saw two major ruptures. The first was a 20m x 3m x 10m slab crashing into the the lake below. The second was an underwater rupture with a huge, deep blue iceberg rushing upwards like a whale surfacing. After another 5 hours mesmerized by every cracking sound we started to name sections based on their shape that we thought were likely to go. Never mind that it had taken about 100 years to form and get here - we could will 'Choc Wedge' into action (we mean the ice cream not the unfortunate underpants event). With 10min before the last bus departed for town, we were getting a few sounds but no cooperation and then... CRACK as the enormous 30m x 15m x 5m Choc Wedge came crashing down - all coincidentally caught on video. Absolutely amazing to see and hear with everyone on the balconies cheering! Seems all our encouraging and mental telepathy paid off! See link to the video below (although you'll have to crane your neck - no time to edit video on the run).
The following day we caught up with a friend from Puerto Varas and visited the glacier museum before catching the bus 2 hours north to El Chalten, a tiny town but a Mecca for trekking that rivals Torres Del Paine.
We absolutely lucked out with the weather on our first day trekking to Laguna Los Tres. It is about 12km one way with a steep 750m ascent at the end. As we made the final few steps over the ridge line we were greeted with the deepest blue glacial lake (its becoming a cliche but it is genuinely the deepest blue we have seen) set with a back drop of the phenomenal Fitz Roy granite towers. A short ten minute walk further and you realise that it just gets better as there is an equally impressive grey, aqua lake about 100m below. We ate lunch taking in this amazing landscape (including seeing a mini avalanche) before Paul decided that a swim... with the icebergs... was in order. After some nervous thoughts about frozen water heart attacks, concerns for future generations of Carter's (see shrinkage reference from previous post) as well as a couple of failed attempts, he was in and put together some of the quickest freestyle that would have rivaled Michael Phelps before turning the thrashing for the shore.
After thawing out and spending some more time taking it all in we headed back down arriving in town at about 9pm to begin the New Year countdown. Turns out that all the restaurants in town were booked out but we found a small take-away which also sold beer (including chili beer) - result! After a bite to eat using only a knife and a spoon (no phrase book and couldn't remember how to ask for a fork Spanish!) we met up with new friends (from Ushuaia and El Calafate) for New Years celebrations in earnest. At the stroke of midnight everyone went to the street for DIY fireworks - one which hit a nearby parked bus! It's was a great night spent with good people - Happy New Year!!
Glacier trekking was on the cards for the following day which although perhaps stunted by our guides hangovers was a great experience walking with crampons on the ice amongst the crevasses, streams and tunnels of Viedma Glaciar. Its a completely different landscape and perspective on glaciers... the Baileys on glacial ice was a pretty good way to end.
Our last day in El Chalten was spent trekking to Laguna Torres. While it was a little cloudy it was still a spectacular lake at the bottom of a glaciar with huge granite towers again in the backdrop and condors flying above. Condors are absolutely huge and look like they could fly away with someone Wicked Witch of the West style - those of smaller stature would need to be careful in Patagonia (Ronnie, this could be worth noting!).
Next stop is Puerto Madryn although its a 24 hour bus ride which is a bit too much exposure to bus craziness for our liking...! Stay tuned on that one