Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

57. Glaciers (El Calafate, Chubut, Argentina)

Puerto Madryn sits at 42 degrees south which is about the same as Hobart, Tasmania, or, a little bit north of Christchurch, NZ. From Puerto Madryn I caught a night bus another I think 12 hours south to Rio Gallegos. Rio Gallegos is at 51 degrees south, which makes it a lot further south than anywhere in Australia or NZ (Invercargill's at 46 degrees south - source).
I'd planned to go to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego from there, but the buses were booked out for 3 more days. As were the flights. So I changed my plans a bit and decided to head to El Calafate for a few days.
El Calafate is 80km from the entrance to Parque Nacional Los Glaciers on the map (see map in entry #56 below). Of the 5 glaciers in the National Park, Moreno Glacier is the most famous and accessible. To see the others you need to take a boat tour, whereas you can reach the lookout for Moreno Glacier by bus. So once again I set about finding the cheapest way to get there, and once again I met a couple of girls (this time Irish) doing the same thing and suggested we hire a car as it should be cheaper. Well, it would be if we could find 2 others to fill the car. By the time we'd hired the car that night it was too late to find 2 others, and unfortunately nearly everyone in my hostel had already seen the glacier. But I managed to find a couple of German guys in the bus station early the next morning, who were up for sharing the car.
Last time we'd hired the car one of the Amercian girls had done all the driving as she was used to driving on the right, but this time I'd already signed up to be the insured driver, so on the way there it was slowly slowly as I got used to driving on the other side of the road. We duly arrived, the sky had cleared, and the 60m tall, 5km wide, and 30km long Moreno Glacier didn't disappoint:

Glacier Perito Moreno - 02 - Glacier pano
3-shot panorama

Glacier Perito Moreno - 03a - Michelle Bri Matt
The Irish girls and me in front of Moreno Glacier

The glacier advances 1 or 2 meters a day, but as it advances pieces of it fall off, which make a great cracking and then splashing noise that echoes around the lake. It's spectacular, and everyone's waiting around with their fingers on their shutters hoping to get a picture of the ice falling. I got a splash:

Glacier Perito Moreno - 06 - Splash
The splash from an ice fall

At the viewpoint we had lunch before heading down to the lake shore a while, checking out the icebergs - the first time I'd seen one. The bluish tinge the ice has is from the sunlight filtering through.

Glacier Perito Moreno - 15 - Icebergs
Icebergs in the lake

Finally, we took a boat ride which took us within about 60m of the ice face.

Glacier Perito Moreno - 20 -
The ice wall as seen from the boat

The drive back to El Calafate was a pleasure, I'd gotten used to driving on the right and the gravel roads were fun. We filled the tank and returned the car, and it worked out a lot cheaper for us - a tour bus to the Glacier costs $90 pesos, a normal bus $60, but we paid $35 each including petrol.

El Calafate is a pleasant but very touristy town. The surrounding landscape and climate feels a lot like the South Island of NZ. The town is pretty enough, with a pinetree-lined main street and lots of nice restaurants and hotels. But it's pricey - food in particular seemed to cost twice that of Buenos Aires. A local told me 5 years ago there was 2500 people living there - now there's 18,000, with 400 new residents arriving a month. There's now 42 4-star hotels, and in December they'll open the new International airport which will accept planes straight from Europe. All this growth is because of the tourism upswing in Argentina, and everyone's coming to see the glaciers.

Another afternoon there I went and checked out the bird sanctuary on the edge of town, it was OK, but I froze in the strong cold Patagonian wind. There's flamingos there (I didn't expect them this far south) although the viewpoint is too far from the lake that they stand around in for me to get a photo. So for me the highlight was when I passed what must have been a harrier's nesting area, as the male screamed and then swooped on me to scare me away. It happened again later in another part of the sanctuary, but the second time I stood my ground trying to get a shot of the female coming in... it got real close, almost whacking my head, and I was outta there!

Laguna Nimez - 08 - Harrier
Hovering over me in the wind

Laguna Nimez - 09 - Harrier
Swooping in

Shout-outs to my former MARCS colleagues who've been emailing me to say hi.


  • great photo's!. They really add value to the blog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:26 AM  

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