We crossed into Argentina from Southern Chille to El Cafafate, Argentina to see the amazing Perito Moreno Glacier. Most glaciers worldwide are receeding at alarming rates. The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the very few that is not. It is actually regenerating at the same rate as it's cleaving and is in a state of equilibrium. We needed to see it! The town of El Calafate is near the glacier, and would be a full day trip from Puerto Natales and the Paso Río Don Guillermo border checkpoint in Torres Del Paine, Chile to El Carafate, Argentina.
We arrived at the Paso Río Don Guillermo border checkpoint in Torres Del Paine where a small fox was sitting watching us, as we got off the bus. It was interesting seein widlife so near and unafraid of people. The whole process of checking out of Chile was easy, quick and orderly compared to getting into Chile, and we headed down a desolate dirt road (Y-205) to the smaller, quieter, and less organized Argentina border checkpoint some 8 kilometers away. e. It was good to be back however in Argentina. 25 years have passed since I have last visited and I was particularly excited to be home!
Torres Del Paine to El Carafate
The distance between Torres del Paine in Chile and El Calafate in Argentina is 157 miles (253 km) on Route 40 and can be reached by car in three and a half hour, yet the border checkpoints added a total of 2 hours and the bus station which lies outside of town in El Calafate added another hour to organize transport into town. Leaving Torres Del Paine with it's beautiful mountains and greener to the stark treeless rolling hills of Argentina was shocking. It was like a different world where no life appeared to be flourishing. We heard how great the buses were in Argentina and Chile, yet apparently we didn't go with the right company, as our uncomfortable trip to El Calafate was the longest 4 hour ride of our life.
We arrived at the bus station outside of El Carafate and tried to get a sim card to book a hotel. We were a bit disappointed in how truly ugly the area around the bus station was. It was devoid plant life and mostly grey rock and dirt. We found a sim card and started looking online for a hotel. We sat at the bus station for at least an hour, booked a hostel on Agoda, and grabbed a taxi to our new diggs. We were not really digging the diggs", however the price was right albeit, and only a 10 to 15-minute walk into town. The Patagonia is outrageous expensive and this option, however rustic and lacking in decor, was in a price range we could handle.
El Calafate is a charming city once you get downtown, a touristy town, but nice none the less. The main drag is called Ave. Del Libertador and has everything from restaurants and bakersy to museums and tourist trap attractions. That evening, we ventured down to Avenida Del Libertador to a small restaurant called La Lechuzita. We ordered our first meal in Argentina and I ordered a steak of course and Shelly orderd the homemade ravioli. It was great to sit in an Argentinian restaurant, people watching and taking our time eating (as those in Argentina do). It's not uncommon for people in Argentina to sit and talk for an hour after they eat. We also booked a trip for the next day to the Perito Moreno Glacier.... The real reason we were here.
The Trip to Perito Moreno Glacier
We hopped a bus to Parque National Los Glaciares from the main bus station we arrived from the day earlier. The prior day, upon arriving, I had left a coat on the bus and when we went back to the bus station to catch the bus to Perito Moreno Glacier, they had found it, and returned it to me. It's cold in the Patagonia, and my down coat was all I had besides flannel shirts and a rain coat. Warm and happy, we headed down the highway for the 1 hour and 30 minute ride to the glacier.
The views were incredible and the weather couldn't have been better! Beautiful mountains, glacier lakes with their creamy greenish-blue wates, flowers blooming along the road, and widing road that offered another stunning view with each turn. It was amazing how the ride got progressively more beautiful and we finally reached the checkpoint on the road where you buy tickets to Los Glaciares National Park. The price was 500 Argentinian Pesos, which at the time was around 29 USD.
We left the outpost where we we bought our tickes and soon we could see the glacier for the first time. I was beautiful and exciting to see it, our first glacier we have seen in our lives. The actual size and grandure of it was impressive.
Parque National Los Glaciares
After arriving at the glacier's parking lot, we walked down the hill with incredible views below and an anticipation of what we would see. The blue water of the fjord below with mountains towering over the water was picturesque, as we made our way down the path, we looked up and saw two Andean Condors gliding through the air. What an awesome site, they had to be thousands of feet up and still looked huge!
The fjord below had icebergs floating near the shore from gigantic pieces of the glacier that had cleaved off and floated over to the edge of the visitors center. The visitors center was for some reason closed the day we were there, however the paths leading up to the glacier viewpoints was open. One of the most impressive things we noticed was how much more developed this tourist attraction and natural wonder was. Chile and Torres Del Paine, had no infrastructure, dirt roads, and very little in the way of pathways or established viewpoints. Perito Moreno had it all!
The sign in the parking lot however had alot of dont's too, which was nice, although I couldn't use my drone I brought which was disapointing and actually probably a good thing too. As we walked down the path we heard this enormous boom. It almost sounded like a sonic boom from an aircraft, however different. Loud and echoing throughout the canyon, we realized what it was... a cleaving piece of ice from the glacier!
The Perito Moreno Glacier Cleaving
We made our way down the paths to various view points and vistas that kept us in awe from different points of view. We loved the walk and finally made it to a viewpoint we loved and we sat down and stayed for hours just sitting... watching... in awe. I could write and describe the beauty and majesty of this truly immense piece of ice, but it's indescribable. You can't begin to imagine how huge the glacier is, our view was only half of it. Here are some stats:
|Area||250 km2 (97 sq mi)|
|Length||30 km (19 mi)|
|Width||5 km (3 mi)|
|Thickness||170 m (560 ft)|
What's impressive is when you see the ice cleave into the water below, the splash from the ice (some the size of a school bus and larger) create a splash that fires to the sky over 600ft in the air. It's amazing, awe-inspiring and beautiful. The sound it makes begins with a cracking sound, and then you see it fall and then..... BOOOOM. We couldn't get enough of it. The ice cracks constantly as the sun of the day melts some of the deep crevasses and causes the glacier to break and creek. It almost seems alive. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
The Pictures speaking for themselves
We stayed for as long as we could, until the last bus was going to leave the park. It was one of the most memorable days of serene beauty we have experienced. We made our way back to El Calafate and caught some dinner and went to bed.
The next day we spent the day exploring El Calafate and walking around. Not much to say really about the town, we did find some Argentinian empanadas and facturas which included medialunas and alfajores. Facturas are like little-sweet pastries, medialunas are small honey glazed croissants and alfajores are almost like a moonpie, but instead of marshmallow in the middle they have dulce de leche. It was great to partake in all the sweets and foods of Argentina I remember from 25 years ago, however the next day we decided to head the Buenos Aires, get out of the cold Patagonia and warm up in the capital.
Change In Perspective
We have never gone anywhere where the beauty is so immense and beautiful, that we could sit and do absolutely nothing but stare and watch. Perito Moreno Glacier is one of those places. We live in a world of climate change, retreating glaciers and shrinking beauty. It was indescribably beautiful to see a place like Perito Moreno Glacier where there are still places unaffected by global climate change and shrinking beauty... a glacier that is rare in this world that is actually still advancing.
We can't do much to change the world around us. We can't change the the disappearance of beautiful places. We learned that there is an urgency to see them however. We learned that places like this glacier exist and if we don't see them now, a special place like Perito Moreno Glacier will disaapear. Get out and see the world around you before the special places retreat.