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Published: October 25th 2019
Exciting day visiting Glaciar Perito Moreno. Bit of a lie in today as our tour pick up wasn’t until 8.15am. We are armed with hats, gloves, boots, ski socks and layers to keep warm. The company that does the tours is called Hielo y Aventura and we have chosen the Mini-Trekking tour. We wanted to do Big Ice, which is longer, but Maia is 15 and you have to be 18+ to do the tour. At the other end of the scale, 50 is the upper limit for Big Ice, so this was my one shot! (Too bad).
I am delighted that our tour guide and driver duo are called Dora and Diego - very cool! We have managed to bag the front seats on the bus, with the huge window as our TV screen of the journey. At one of the stop offs to pick up more tourists, we watch Diego prepare a cup of ‘mate’. He has a super-size bag of mate leaves, fills up his cup, adds hot water from his thermos, drinks it down, adds some more, has a bit more, then hands it to Dora when she’s back on the bus. Quite funny to see
this ritual in action. She has the mate while they’re chatting, then fills it up some more from her thermos and so it goes back and forth - very social!
Dora’s tour guide spiel is really interesting and informative as we drive the 80km from El Calafate to the Parque de los Glaciares. Some of the special things she explains about this particular glaciar are how it advances two metres per day, calving icebergs into the Brazo Rico. The glaciar meets a peninsular of land head on and blocks the water flow meaning that the water in the lagoon rises over time (one or two or three years) as it accumulates more water from snowmelt in the summer and rain as well as the glacial icebergs and water. At a certain point, the pressure from this build up of water finds a weak spot somewhere where the glaciar meets the land, and a hole appears where the water can escape to the other side. Then in a pretty short space of time (one to three days) the water flow creates an arch in the glaciar, like a 60m high bridge. Finally the bridge collapses and the water level returns
to normal until the glaciar advances again to meet the peninsula - fascinating! We also learn that this is one of the few glaciers that is stable rather than receding. From year to year, although the glacier loses 2m per day at the front, this is renewed with new snowfall adding to the glacier at the back (top) meaning that overall its size remains the same.
We get some fabulous views of the glacier as we approach, as well as a peek at some tantalising mini icebergs dotted around in the water of the Brazo Rico. Before we can get close we have to pay for entry to the national park. It’s 800 Argentinian Pesos each (just over £10) and luckily they accept card payment, as we are rapidly running out of cash. In fact, the incredibly helpful Susana at Linda Vista made me borrow 1,500 ARS in case the card machine wasn’t working - incredibly kind!
The first part of the tour, and my favourite it turns out, is the ‘pasarelas’ or steel walkways snaking in front of the glacier. It is awe inspiring to be in front of this monumental creature that seems to be alive.
You can hear some creaks and pops as small movements are happening, then greater sounds like gunshots and thunder as chunks break off and plunge into the icy water below. It’s such a magnificent thing to witness and difficult to get to grips with the scale of the glacier until you see a tiny boat on the water in front and get some perspective. When some of the chunks break off and look like a few ice cubes but sound like fireworks it makes you realise they were probably the size of a chimney!
When the glacier is quiet for a while you can explore the peaks and colours with your eyes. Again, it’s hard to comprehend the blueness when all the ice is white - the colours are amazing and so beautiful. Likewise, the shapes are just like thousands of silent sculptures. It is quite transfixing and I feel as though I could spend several hours just sitting and contemplating the glacier. Unfortunately our schedule means that we have under two hours 😔.
The next part of our tour is to see the glacier up close. We take a short boat ride across the Brazo Rico to
the side of the glacier. Bizarrely this is forest land right next to the glacier ie we are not at a high altitude nor is it particularly cold. Guides take us to the edge of the glacier where we put on ancient looking crampons to do our mini-trekking. The crampons are of course to give you a stable grip when walking on the glacier, but it feels pretty unnatural and a bit like walking in high heels to me. We are told to concentrate while we walk, hands out of pockets, mobile phones away, single file. It’s actually quite hard work crunching on the ice which is like massive sugar granules. Going uphill is quite difficult, going downhill is probably worse. You have to face down the slope and no sidestepping, which is counterintuitive (to me). The scariest bit was walking on clear/slushy parts of the surface. The white bits just felt like walking on a ski slope, the clear bits felt like walking on thin ice as if you might plunge through to the bottom of the glacier at any moment 😱. However, once you realise you aren’t going to slip or disappear within the ice, you can begin
to appreciate the beauty. There are ice pools, like rock pools but with no life, there are streams, there’s are crevasses, there are hillsides and peaks - and wonderful views out across the lake. It does feel special to be on the glacier, if a bit uncomfortable underfoot. The blues are again striking. It’s impossible to capture some of the fabulous hues on camera, and one shot that I take of a particularly beautiful pool just looks like a toilet bowl on my phone screen.
As the walking continues I’m fairly glad we didn’t get to do the Big Ice trek as I’m not really getting to grips with the crampons. We finally head to the ‘bar’ where we’re rewarded with a glass of whisky and glacier ice or iced glacier water. It’s a bit cheesy, but also quite nice! Then it’s time to take off the crampons and we feel like we’re wearing slippers. The glacier walk was good, but walking along the balconies in front of the glacier was easily more magical. Perhaps if you’re from a country where it doesn’t snow being on the glacier might be more exciting...
The boat trip back is our
last chance to view the glacier and is a peaceful moment. We are due to visit Glacier Grey in Chile, so I wonder how that will compare.
On the bus home we all drop off to sleep - it’s been another full on day. Back at Linda Vista we have to collect our laundry before the shop shuts, try to withdraw some cash to pay for our trip (try 4 banks with no joy - bloody banks!!) and get to our restaurant booking at La Zaine. We’re all a bit weary. The restaurant is nice and cosy. The food is fine but not amazing. Overall I’m actually finding all of the food pretty boring. I have spinach croquetas but they’re drowned in mayo, and a mushroom risotto which is ok. We have a bottle of Malbec again...probably shouldn’t.
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