Published: January 12th 2011January 11th 2011
Perito Moreno Glacier and No Estancia Final destination
Our flight to El Calafate was some 2 hours delayed. As it turned out later, flight delays were more the rule than the exception. Never mind the waiting time, we were very much ready for our next destination – a small city in Patagonia situated on the border of Lake Argentino. El Calafate is a pleasant city and although we read a lot about how touristy it is, it didn’t bother us. On the contrary, we found it pretty cozy. We stayed at Mirador del Lago, a good hotel by the lake offering the views of the lake and a good breakfast (Maria’s “must have in the morning” croissants and coffee, and what seemed to be very typical in Argentina –ham and cheese platter). Weather and chocolate
There are a couple of things to note about El Calafate. One is weather changes. It was very cloudy when we landed, but in another 30 min the weather changed completely - sunny and bordering on hot. Hot, of course, is a relative notion as for most of the days, we still had to have
our hats and jackets on. Another is chocolate shops. For such a small city, a number of shops with chocolates made by artisans was pretty astonishing. The choice of flavors was also pretty surprisingly good and came handy – there is something to be said about the combination of red wine and chocolate. On this trip, it was our favorite combination. Food
Food in El Calafate is pretty expensive. The first night we had an ok pizza and 4 ok empanadas for 40 dollars + 5 dollar tip. Next day we had a better experience with Maria ordering lamb stew with vegetables and Matt going for fish. Grocery stores were also pretty basic, but somehow when one doesn’t have a big choice, the choice becomes easier. Perito Moreno
We were in El Calafate to do two things: Perito Moreno Clacier and visit the Estancia. The first on the list was Perito Moreno. We woke up at 8 am on the dime with the departure scheduled for 8:30. But it is Latin America and we were promptly picked up at 9:30. As the winding road took the bus towards the Glacier, there was
a moment still miles away from it where we saw it. The glacier was impressive, much more so than any picture. It is classified as World Heritage site and situated at the latitude equivalent to the one of London. Thanks to a special microclimate created by the Andes, it is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that is growing. We spent two hours walking trails from which you could view the northern half of the Glacier in its entirety. One if the most amazing aspects of the glacier was the sounds. The glacier is 5 km wide, about 170 meters deep (74 meters above the surface water), and about 30KM long. That comes to about 15,000,000 000 tons of ice creeping along at 2 meters a day. So the cracking noise through the structure makes for a low constant rumble with sometimes huge thunderous splashes as pieces break off. Even the smallest pieces of falling ice were noisy, so we could only wonder what a spectacle the falling bigger pieces of ice would be.
After the walking tour and several photos we got on a boat ride to the Glacier. From a distance the Glacier looks like snow capped
soft white powdery mountain tops, but up close it is just pure ice. After a short stop at the camp at the base of the Glacier where we were provided with crampons, we were taken on an hour and a half trekking on ice (“mini-trekking” was the name of the tour we took). We trekked well in to the Glacier and got to see its amazing structures. We got some idea of the rivers running through the Glacier and saw one craves where water dropped a good 75M Down. Don't fall!!! The mini-trekking ended just on time – our ankles started to feel the discomfort of the crampons – and with a nice gesture of whisky on the Glacier ice.
The day ended with a dinner at the local restaurant. By that time, Matt turned into a red tomato (the sun was surprisingly strong and the reflection from the ice didn’t help either). He was wearing a bright white long sleeve shirt that only brought up his red face out even more. People were looking at him funny and Maria’s advice was, – “Imagine that you are a hard core mountaineer!” The dinner was satisfying. Maria finally got her
lamb stew and red wine. Yamm! Matt, as the hard core mountaineer, ordered fish. Way to go, Matt! We finished dinner at another restaurant with a orange soup and a chocolate ice cream dessert. Fooled by Estancia
This was supposed to be “the Estancia” (or sheep ranch) day, but we got the day to ourselves. Our tour got cancelled because of the weather conditions – Maria was very upset and didn’t believe at first, but the wind was truly unbelievable. We took time to get up and get going which was welcoming. After breakfast, we got our feet and sneakers dirty trying to get to pink flamingos, but the area near the lake Argentino was way too watery and too covered with poop, so we took a few pictures of flamingo and moved on. Our next stop was Laguna Nimez. We eventually got there, passing the house of the Argentinian president, but only to admit to ourselves that we were not really bird lovers and didn’t really want to hike in what was sure to be a beautiful bird sanctuary. We turned around, tried to make some alternative arrangements for the days to come, had lunch and
got on the road to El Chalten. Rent a car and Hold the doors
Renting a car was a good idea. Although pretty expensive (300 USD for 3 days), having a car made us more independent and able to think creatively. Considering the strong wind (30 to 40 mph with gust of 70 to 80 mph), one thing that we had to be super careful about was opening and closing the doors. Matt did good - no broken doors or accidents. And for those who don't believe - you really need to hold the doors with your both hands when you open and close, otherwise you might have to say bye bye to your doors.
There are more photos below