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January 9th, 2012 | Argentina

El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier…

One of the main reasons people come to El Calafate, is to visit the Glacier National Park… There are at least seven major glaciers that lie on the western shores of Lagos Argentino and Lagos Viedma…

We spent our first morning in El Calafate, trying to sort out my Sim card, handing our laundry in to be cleaned, finding the best places to eat at later, and generally getting to know our way around town…

El Machos pose in the town's memorial garden...

The Glacier National Park lies due west of Calafate, and the ride there was made in good time… Great weather; light winds and a clear blue sky above us…

We rode across the wide flat valley west of El Calafate and then ran up against the foothills of the lower Andes...

Ruta 11 was a wonderful change after the rigors of Ruta 40...!!

The Big Fella had shown his Japanese friends a clean pair of heels on the way to the park, and we had to wait for them to catch up....!!

An hour later we were at the gates of the Park, where I had to pay 100 Pesos (R190.00) to get in, while my three Argie friends only had to cough up 40 pesos apiece…!!

Much laughter at this, and cries of “Ronnie Touristo…!!”…

We took the last 30 km through the park at a gentle pace… The road winds along Lagos Argentino, and is very narrow in places…

It is a solid concrete surface though, so no ripio to deal with…!! The Perito Moreno Glacier is the crown jewel of tourist attractions in these parts, so we had to contend with a few buses, and many cars and camper vans…

We had decided to get two different perspectives of the glacier, one by boat, and the other from the cliffs above it, where it crosses a narrow channel on the lake…

There are a number of large watercraft that take visitors out to the face of the glacier, and the car park at the docking area was crowded with cars and buses… The cost of the boat ride was an additional 70 Pesos, (R135.00) but was well worth it…!!

"Take us to the glacier...!!"

We fell silent as we drew closer to the face of Perito Moreno... The beauty of it held us spellbound...!!

I have skied on a glacier in Austria, but have never seen the full face of one before… Perito Moreno is so big, that we took about half an hour to motor close up to it, and during all that time it was clearly visible…!! I would later discover that we were looking at only half of the glacier…!!

My jaw dropped lower and lower the closer we got… It was one of the most spectacular natural sights that I have ever seen…!!

Spectacular...!!!

The Glacier was one of the "must see" places on the boy's bucket list... They were delighted to have made it here...!!

Enough ice for all the whisky drinkers in the world...!! And then some...!!

"Ronnie.... Look....!! This is ARGENTINA...!!", Pablo said proudly...!!

Met a bunch of Brazilian bikers on board the boat, and we shared a few laughs, promising to meet up again in Brazil... See you soon , boys...!!

The boat inched closer and closer to the wall of the glacier, and we could hear the creaking and cracking of the ice as smaller pieces of the face of it split away and fell down into the icy waters of Lagos Argentino… The captain took the boat to the western face of the glacier, nosing between the “growlers”, chunks of ice that floated all around us…

He then turned us around, and motored all the way back across the face…

We crowded the railings on both decks, hoping to see a massive piece break off and fall into the water, but despite the creaking and groaning of the ice, only smaller pieces broke away as we sailed by…

We spent and hour motoring back and forth, until finally the captain turned us around and headed back to the dock…

I stood at the rail with my friends, watching as the face of Perito Moreno got smaller…

“That was amazing, Amigos…!! We must now get up to the top to see it from above…!!” I enthusiastically suggested, happy to see that they were as keen as I was…!! This was a sight you could never get enough of…!!

Flying the colours at Perito Moreno Glacier...

We rode up to the large car park on the top of the bluff overlooking the glacier, and then tramped along the endless series of walkways that line the outer face of the bluff… Stairways take you down from the heights to the lower levels, and at every turn, more and more of the glacier comes into view…

That’s when we saw that from the boat, we had experienced only a small part of the glacier…!! It came down from the mountains in the west, and split Lagos Argentino into two separate halves…

A series of well engineered walkways lead down to the face of the glacier... Tourists are able to walk right down to the bottom and stand looking up at the massive ice-field...

The face of the glacier came right up to the bluff, and stopped barely a hundred metres from where we finally came to stand…

The pale blue light that seems to come from deep inside the walls of ice is a colour so striking, that it is hard to describe…!!

Magnificent in every way...!!

We stood listening to the ice crack and groan beneath us… When chunks broke off, it was like a cannon shot…!! The sound boomed across the chasm between us and the glacier, bouncing back and echoing off the cliffs, the sound waves loosening more ice…

Shards of ice, some the size of cars plunged into the water below us as we watched, and I managed to film a number of smaller avalanches of ice on my video camera…

We stood watching and waiting, hoping for the mother of all break-ways, as the glacier marched inexorably to it’s ultimate destruction… I had been told that late in the afternoon was the best time to witness the larger and more spectacular “explosions” of shattering ice, when the heat of the day finally began penetrating the outer walls…

My "I WUZ THERE" shot...!!

We waited in vain for “the big one”, and at about 7.00 pm left to walk back up the stairways to where we had parked the bikes… On our way there, and out of sight of the glacier, we heard an explosion that was louder than any we had heard before… A truly massive chunk of ice must have broken away and fallen into the lake to make such a loud noise…!!

We looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders… What we had seen was spectacular enough as it was, and the fact that we missed “a big one” did not bother us too much…

I could have spent a full day staring at the glacier… Many people do…!1 They come with blankets and picnic baskets, and take up a position directly opposite the wall of the glacier… They sit with cameras poised for action, watching and waiting for the extra special photo that will forever remind them of this amazing place…

Oh,...and the Big Fella was there too...!!

Perito Moreno…!!

If you ever get to Patagonia, make sure you put El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier on your list of things to see…

You won’t regret it…!!

©GBWT 2012

 

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