Tuesday, 10 February 2015

0202 El Calafate to Perito Moreno Glacier

10th Feb 2015

Well, I was sitting there doing my blog outside the “Recepcion”, sitting wrapped in all manner of furry things to keep me warm on a freezing night as I tried to get my blog uploaded, and in drive two Troopies !!  Couldn’t believe my eyes – Going to have to sell mine soon if they keep getting this common !!  Anyway, it was two German guys, Bruno and Roman, who shipped over to Montevideo on Grimaldi and are just starting on their trip north to Alaska.  After they had checked in and got set up, they came over for a chat about what lay ahead for them as they headed north.  As for me, I eventually got all my blog and photos uploaded  by 1 am, (sorry, did not annotate the photos or do the maps – Too tired), and went off to bed.

Woke up bright and earlier and got showered etc before the hoardes in the camp site woke up and got moving.  It is a big camp site, and very popular, so I really wanted to get everything done before I got over run by all the back packers trying to get a shower !  Then had a long chat with Bruno and Roman and gave them some web site links and addresses that they will find useful on their trip, and after they had set off, I wandered out of town at about 10.30.   I was headed to the Perito Moreno Glacier about 80 kms away, so there was no hurry – Some facts on the glacier first. 

We are in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, which is a Unesco World Heritage site.  The glacier itself is unique in that it is purported to be considered “stable” size wise.  It has a 5 km wide front, and is up to 60 metres high at its front on the lake, and is 35 kms long, and is advancing rapidly, up to 2 m per day.  This means there is lots of creaking and groaning, and frequent calving.  Where it is unique is that one can get within 100 metres of the face from land, so it is easily accessible to all without having to take boat trips.  A long series of walkways take you right to the glacier, and you can occasionally see condors in the sky above as well.

The drive to get there from El Calafate is quite normal – Rolling steppes, not much vegetation, a few guanaca, and LOTS of wind !!  Since I was in no hurry I decided to see everything on the little peninsula, going out first to Puerto Bandera.  Not a lot there !!  A few boats tied up, a small Argentinian Naval Base, and a few sheds.  And WIND !!   On the way back to the main road, I passed a small lake with 6 very pink flamingos in it (on the far side from me, of course), and with their backs to the wind, and me (of course !).  But flamingos really do get to the oddest places that I would have least expected – I always thought they would be in tropical Africa – not down here in the wind swept steppes of Patagonia !  Anyway, there they were, trying to stay upright on one leg despite the wind !

Then it was on round the southern side of Lago Argentino,  with white tops and quite big waves whipped up by the wind.  Finally we rounded a headland and got a first glimpse of the glacier – Its BIG !!    At the first mirador / lookout over the glacier, the wind was so strong that they even have big perspex screens up so you can stand there !  There were a few guys up on the bank above trying to
lean at 45 degrees into the wind !  Shortly after that we entered the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and for our 215 pesos (about $20), we were given a couple of pamphlets about the park, and told where to go to get to the lookouts.  Shortly afterwards there was another (closer) lookout, and there were a bunch of Chilean BMW bikes there, and before I could get out of the car, they had all come over for a chat.  Turns out they were from Costa Rica (or at least some of them were), and on later inspection of their bikes I think they had actually hired them and were just touring the area together.  Anyway, a nice bunch of people, and after a few photos together, we moved on up the road.  We were to keep bumping into each other at the glacier during the afternoon.

Once parked up at the glacier, I walked the 1 km or so round to the glacier lookout rather than take the free shuttle bus (getting fit from all this walking !).  The walkway is excellent and goes all the way round the shore, passing some large icebergs blown up against the shore – They were so very blue, with the sun shining through them.   As you get closer to the glacier, you can hear all the creaking and groaning – it really is as though it is alive.  I was there for a couple of hours, and although little bits were dropping off all the time, the only big “calve” was right up the far end, so it was too far away to be overly dramatic.  And over looking it all is the sharp peak of Mt Merino.  But it really is an impressive sight, and a very peaceful place to just sit and contemplate nature. 

Except for the howling wind !!!   I was well wrapped up in thermals and fur hats, and was very pleased that I was !!

I eventually wandered back to the car park, and as I passed one of the big icebergs that were near the shore, it put on a little show all of its own, just for me !   A big crack, and then a huge piece broke off and splashed into the water, and then, because the balance was now all different, it slowly rolled right over into a new position.   Fascinating to watch.

Then it was back through the park, passing the bright red and ever present Chilean Fire bushes which were covered in flowers.  There are no camp sites in the Parque Nacional so you have to go out and around the lake to the other side, where there is a free one as well as a pay one – I chose to head for the free one since I was well showered and well wifi’d recently !    Dirt road unfortunately, but not too bad – Until suddenly a great big bumble bee somehow managed to fly in my window and stick on my jacket just below my chin !!  Fortunately he was a bit groggy from hitting the window, so he wasn’t moving too fast – But I was !! Screeched to a halt and jumped out just in time for him to take off in the wind – Probably wondering what the hell had just happened !!

Lots of Estancias out here in the steppes of Patagonia – Really just like country properties in Australia.  Quite a lot do tourist accommodation, and from them you can do horse riding and work on the property if you want.  I soon got round the lake to my free (National Park) camp site, and it is well spread out amongst the scrubby trees to provide both some privacy and some shelter from that wind.

Sausages for dinner tonight – Need to cook them up so I can get them into Chile tomorrow when I cross the border – Apparently cooked meat and veggies are OK – Just not raw ones.  While cooking them I found that they are actually vicuna sausages !!  So I am eating local – And very good they were too.  Not another soul in sight -  A peaceful night by the south side of Lake Argentino.  

Photo are here :-


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