El Calafate

Published: June 6th 2012
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After a hassle free 28 hours of bus trip, we finally arrived at our destination, El Calafate. We were now in the heart of Patagonia and the temperature had definitely changed from the pleasant heat of Bariloche. It was still by no means cold though and in comparison to English winters, you could almost go as far to say that it was mild, however this was the Patagonian summer and could only imagine how cold it would get in their winter.

Our hostel was a strange affair, looking more like a ‘Holiday Inn’ than a hostel, placed on the widest, most empty, random road we had ever seen. Donna and I joked that it looked almost like we were on some kind of airport runway rather than a road…turns out, we were right and in fact, this was the old airport runway….. this was a strange place!

The day we arrived we did very little other than walk around the small town (which took under 20 minutes) before seeking out a pub in order to watch my football team Newcastle Utd lose in the last minute to Arsenal on the small TV in the corner of the room. This was a bitter pill to swallow, however at least I wouldn’t be ridiculed by anyone here like I would have been back home! As we now had an idea as to where everything was and had explored the area, we now felt ready to welcome our second guest of the trip…Lou. Louise is one of our best friends from back home who we have known for many years, and we were very much looking forward to her arrival after not having seen her for over 6 months.

So, the next morning arrived, and as if by magic, so had Louise who was waiting for us in reception. It really was great to see her again, and although it had been ages since the last time we had spoken to each other face to face, it felt like it had only been a week, and we quickly started catching up on each other’s stories since we had left England.

After catching up with each other and having stopped laughing at how white Lou was, we decided to speak to reception in the hostel and ask what deals they had to offer for some of the sights of El Calafate. We eventually decided on seeing the main attraction being El Moreno Glacier for the following day, and then a boat trip the day after in order to see both Glacier Spegazzini and Glacier Upsala. After having made such a hard and important decision, we decided to reward ourselves and so headed to the pub for a drink. Unlike the previous day’s weather, the sun was out in full glory and we managed to comfortably sit outside with a few frosty beers and slowly watch Louise’s white skin turn a bright shade of red! That evening we treated ourselves to an amazing meal in one of the Parrilla restaurants close to the hostel, and chatted into the night in-between mouthfuls of delicious meat and swigs of tasty Malbec.

Glacier Moreno was the focus of Day 2, which is arguably the most popular thing to do whilst in El Calafate. Because of this, we assumed that there would be all manner of buses going there day and night. We were wrong! Turning up at the bus station at 12.30pm, we were told that there was only one Bus Company that run a bus to the glacier in the afternoon, and they happened to be full. Drats. This was going to be a problem as Louise only had just under two weeks in Argentina and therefore we would be on a pretty tight schedule if we were to do everything we wanted to do in that time. So, we decided to ask the information desk what we could do in this situation, to which we got the answer ‘Taxi’. This seemed an obvious choice, however we were a little worried that this was going to cost and arm and a leg. As it happens, the taxi between the three of us worked out only a tad more expensive than the bus, plus we would get the comfort of a car instead of yet another stuffy bus.

Our driver to Glacier Moreno was very friendly, and was more than happy to tell us about things we were seeing on the way including wildlife, trees and the surrounding areas. He also very kindly let us take some pictures of the Glacier from a fantastic viewpoint before you reach the viewing area, which was our first glimpse of Moreno. Included in the price of the fare, our driver would also wait 2 and a half hours for us whilst we wandered the viewing decks in order to take us back to Calafate, so we were all set.

Along the boardwalks of Glacier Moreno, there was a cold chill to the air, and the wind was making the temperature drop even more, however I don’t think any of us really noticed. The site in front of us was just simply stunning. Donna and I had never seen a Glacier before, and although Lou had seen one in New Zealand, she mentioned that this was a completely different experience. Moreno is just huge, and the closer you get to it, the bigger it gets until you can’t quite believe what you are looking at. I’m struggling to describe how it feels to be there looking at this unbelievable piece of nature as I just can’t find the words, but what I can say is that the three of us were truly in awe of this thing, and were completely drawn to its beauty.

The boardwalks have several different paths that you can take in order to see the Glacier from different angles, as well as getting to see it from high up, and low down in order to admire the height of it. Whilst at the bottom, we stood for ages waiting for a piece of the Glacier to fall off as it regularly does throughout the day. We could hear loud thunderous noises coming from the left and right of us, which we later realised was the sound of some of the glacier breaking away. Disappointingly, it always seemed to be far away so we never got a glimpse, however all of a sudden, right in front of us, a huge piece of Glacier fell off crashing and banging as it entered the water below. It was fantastic to witness this and all of us had a little cheer for having seen it. Once one part had fallen though, Donna seemed to get a little obsessed and was desperate for more to fall off….fortunately for her, another large piece did fall and although it didn’t look much from where we were standing, we estimate that it was probably the size of a small car!

After having seen such an amazing thing such as Moreno, it was hard to believe that anything else could even come close in the tour we did the next day. However, we were all optimistic, and so the three of us went down to the port via bus where we would board a large boat in order to see two more glaciers. The boat itself was pretty large and we were quite clearly the youngest people on the trip by a good 20 years or so, and therefore we had an idea as to the sort of tour this might be. This didn’t matter though, as we were there to see the glaciers and admire the beauty of Southern Patagonia, and so off we went into the cold icy waters of Lago Nahuel Huapi. The trip didn’t disappoint in any shape or form. Both Glaciers and views were stunning, and the gore-tex clad, camera wielding tourists were as rude and annoying as ever!

I think in some ways, the first of the Glaciers (Spegazzini) that we saw was even more incredible than Moreno from yesterday. This may have been due to the view that we had of it from the boat, or just because of the way the clouds made it look so awesome and moody, but either way, the trip was off to a great start. After this, we slowly made our way to the second of the glaciers (Upsala) which has receeded quite dramatically over the past 20 years or so apparently, and this made for even more amazing viewing. The reason for this is the vast chunks of ice that had fallen from the glacier, creating hundreds of icebergs dotted around the lake. It looked like something out of a Superman film and was simply breath-taking.

So, after yet another amazing trip from El Calafate, it was time to move on. Well nearly anyway. We returned from the tour around 6 in the evening, however our bus wasn’t due to leave until 3am! We managed to fill the time here by eating and then chilling out at the hostel where the kind receptionist let us sit and watch the Football as well as Trainspotting which happened to be on in the hostels lobby. Come 2.00am, we got a cab down to the bus station and started to wait for the early morning bus. It was then we got some horrible news in that it would be delayed until 4am…..!

Not being morning people at the best of times and having not had any sleep at all, we were a little narked by this, however, what can you do? I decided nothing, and so made a makeshift pillow with my bag and decided to try get an hours sleep in before the delayed bus arrived. Unfortunately, the guard that was on duty was playing by all the rules this morning, and I was told that I wasn’t allowed to sleep in the bus terminal…… I was not amused.

To be fair the bus did arrive just before 4am and so we were finally on the move again. Where were we going? To the town that boasts being the most southerly town in the world before Antarctica….Ushuaia

Additional photos below
Photos: 31, Displayed: 28


6th June 2012

Your photos are stupendous. Amazing to think that, at one time, glaciers covered a good part of the earth.
11th June 2012

Thanks regarding the pics! It's pretty easy however when the views are that good! Yep. crazy to think that...what a world we live in!
7th June 2012

Glacier paradise...and don't they know how to lay on tourism in their National parks?
11th June 2012

All of their national parks are amazing! Chile was the same too. Currently in NZ and they seem to know the score on how a park should be run....need to speak to someone in England to see whats going wrong there!

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