21.02.2011 - 22.02.2011
It was good to be able to talk rubbish to Justin again as we both recounted the tales that we had while I was in Torres del Paine and he was back in Buenos Aires. I cannot imagine yet what it would be travelling without a buddy when we go our own ways next week.
We had 2 days of glacier adventures in El Calafate. The first glacier we were going to visit was the Perito Moreno glacier, which was about an hour away from the town. The tour guide was explaining the glacier to us on the bus ride there but i could not recall the information that she was explaining. Basically a glacier is formed by compacted ice that flows down the mountain. It is constantly melting but as it snows, gravity pushes the snow towards the lake and that’s where it compacts again.
We national park entrance was ridiculously expensive, 100 pesos for the entry. We stopped at the pier to take a boat to see the glacier from the lake. It was quite a spectacular sight. The sheer mass of the glacier was overwhelming. It didn’t look that big from our perspective, but in fact it stretches upwards to the mountains. From our perspective, it looks like a wall of ice on a lake. Perito Moreno had 3 sides of the glacier. One was the view from the boat on one side of the lake, the other 2 views could be seen from the parks viewing platforms which is where the tour would take us.
If you are lucky, you could see ice falling off the glacier into the lake. While on the boat, we saw a huge ice block fall off the top of the glacier into the lake, the vibrations rocking the boat as the waves reached us. Bits of ice from the glacier could be seen floating around the lake.
After the boat ride, we continued on towards the viewing area. The park is made up of walkways spanning the other 2 sides of the glacier on the adjacent hill. From here, you could see different angles of the glacier and could see it running down from the mountain above. The top of the glacier was mostly jagged edges that looked like spikes. It was possible to trek on the Perito Moreno glacier but you would have to pay a hefty fee of 650 pesos. We didn’t do it because we will be going to do another glacier hike the day after on a different glacier.
We walked around the walkways trying to get the best angle or the best spot to catch some ice falling action. We finally settled on one area that looked to promise a lot of ice splitting action. Apparently in 2008, an ice bridge that connected the Perito Moreno glacier to the peninsula collapsed. We saw the television replays of the bridge collapsing in the café. We stood at the spot where remnants of the bridge were hoping to catch some action there. Every crack and splash made us whip out our cameras and get to our feet hoping to see a block of ice falling. It was really frustrating when you hear a crash and it wasn’t where you are standing to capture it. The ice was teasing us. We waited there for about an hour and caught some smaller ice blocks falling off the bottom of the glacier. As we decided to leave, we heard a huge crash and we turned back to only catch the ice floating in the water. It didn’t happen once but every time we turned around, we heard more cracks and crashes and we just decided to head back and not feel like complete idiots who kept sighing at each splash we didn’t catch.
Back in El Calafate, we went to a Parilla which was a grill, to eat more asado. The parilla had their lamb being slow cooked and roasted over a wood fire displayed in the window. I was pretty much their marketing gimmick to get people in. The beef Justin had was not as good as the one we had in Buenos Aires but the slow cooked lamb was pretty awesome. It was good to feel pampered with good food once in a while.
The next day we were up early to head for another glacier further up north. The Viedma glacier was not as beautiful to look at as Perito Moreno but we were here to hike up the glacier. We took a boat out to the lake and floated around the glacier to allow for some pictures and just to view the magnificent ice structure from the lake. The boat soon docked in a narrow pass between the rocks which I thought was quite skilful and scary at the same time.
We then traversed up the side of the hill through the rocky cliff side. We were told the stone there was formed by the glacier and that it was different from most stones as they were smoother and had lines made by other stones cutting and rubbing against them. I couldn’t really tell the difference from the rock only that it seemed to be shinier and glowed a faint tint of green unlike just grey and black rock.
We worked our way up the cliff till we saw ice marking the starting point for our glacier hike. We put on our crampons and clambered up on the massive ice. We finally started our walk on ice which brought us up and around the glacier. It was uphill for most of the trek but the crampons made sure we had a good grip on the ice. We saw towering ice pinnacles and walls that formed the landscape and gaped down deep chasms that stretched for miles. The ice was covered with dirt and dust from the adjacent mountains, unlike Perito Moreno where the ice looked relatively clear because the mountains were further apart. Still, it did not dull any of the glacier’s grandeur as we walked under ice bridges and alongside towering walls of ice. It was a shame as the brochure promised a walk through ice caves but we were told that the caves have collapsed already. We also saw other groups of people climbing up the ice walls with picks and ropes. It looks pretty fun but it wasn’t part of our package.
We ended the hike with a glass of Baileys on the rocks with the ice from the glacier and started our hike down. Even if we didn’t trek up Perito Moreno, apparently the Viedma trek was much better as a Swiss couple told us that the Perito Moreno trek was more controlled and you had less freedom to move about other than your single file line you are supposed to follow. At the end of the day I wasn’t disappointed with the adventure of walking on ice. It truly was quite spectacular to just admire the beauty and the feel the glacier beneath my feet.