Saturday, December 21, 2013

El Calafate and surroundings (November 12th - 13th, 2013)

Thirty hours after our bus departed from Bariloche, we arrived in the small town of El Calafate - the main entry point to the southern part of the Los Glaciares National Park. We were quite tired after the bus ride, but nonetheless eager to be out and about. Thus, we spent most of the day talking to various people who had information about things to do in the area, and buying food for an upcoming camping and trekking trip near El Chaltén (this is an even smaller town, and we'd heard that camping food is scarce there). We also marvelled at the very long queue at the gas station - both car drivers and pedestrians with canisters and PET bottles were lined up. We were told that the petrol workers were on strike, so gasoline was brought to town only once in a while.

A statue of Francisco Moreno, welcoming us to the National Park information center

In the afternoon we went to a museum - the Glaciarium, which is a glacier interpretive center. They had information about how glaciers are formed, how snow turns to ice, and about the early explorers and scientists studying glaciers. It was rather interesting, but in the aftermath, we considered it not worth the money.

The next morning, we took a bus to the Perito Moreno Glacier. This is a beautiful and well-accessible ice formation, with a size of approx. 250 square km. It is also one of the few glaciers in Patagonia, and perhaps the world, that is currently not shrinking.

We hopped off the bus earlier than most people, because we wanted a view of the glacier from a boat. The ticket office had a bit of a surprise for us - the boat ride would cost either 120 ARS or 12 USD, making it the best exchange rate we'd seen in the whole country. The boat ride itself was great! We got our first, and probably closest view of the spiky blueish up-to-100-meter high wall of ice. It was rather cold and windy on the boat though, and I wished I'd have some more clothes with me. 

All aboard!

Approaching the glacier

This was as close as we could get

Back on land, we found our bus: the driver had promised to come back for us. We continued to the walking circuits, from where we could see a different face of the glacier. We walked around for several hours, stopping every once in a while to listen to the ice breaking and falling into the lake. We even saw one block of the ice with the size of a skyscraper collapsing into the water. It was all truly beautiful!

On a walking circuit

Some ice had collapsed into the lake

Eventually, it was time to leave. We reached the bus stop a couple of minutes before the agreed time, and started waiting. A lot of buses stopped and left, but ours wasn't among them. We were getting a bit worried, but some other people from our bus were also waiting, so we knew that we hadn't missed it. In the end, the bus arrived a half an hour late. Fortunately, we still arrived in El Calafate early enough to catch another bus up north to El Chaltén, for which we had already bought tickets.

Some more photos of the glacier and El Calafate can be found here. 

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