You might be surprised to know that not every day of travelling is wonderful. Some destinations are somewhat underwhelming. However, today's trip to the glacier is the kind of day which makes travel so intoxicating.
A small tour bus picked me up at the hotel and then climbed the hill overlooking El Calafate to pick up another couple of passengers.
We had a very nice young lady as our tour guide. She spoke alternately in Spanish and English all the way to the glacier pointing out what we could see. And here we have some flamingos on Lake Argentina.
It's relatively dry countryside. The Andes capture most of the moisture out of the winds coming from the west.
The Andies in the distance. It was a bit chilly but my fleece jacket was warm enough. Most of the others on the bus had a heavier jacket with them.
Our guide said that this was what sounded like a Parilla bush. You could pick the flower, crush it in your hands and the smell help clear your nose.
Lake Argentina which is the largest lake that is totally within Argentina.
The Calafate plant.
It has thorns but also berries at the right time of year. The locals make jams from the berries and also a liquor.
We stopped to look at several birds including a condor, some eagles and hawks.
The real mountains ahead.
The bus stopped at the entrance to the National Park so that we could pay the entry fee. Foreigners pay more.
And then finally you see the glacier off in the distance. At this point, it might be helpful to read about the glacier and also the man after whom it is named, Perito Moreno.
This wall of ice is about 40 meters high. The boat looks very small.
Nothing grows above a certain height here. The reddish tinge is autumn leaves.
Our guide pointed out that nothing much grew right beside the water. We found out why later.
We reached the visitor's center and our guide on the right took photos for some of the guests.
Visitors center. It has a large cafe and rest rooms.
And there is the glacier. It's a stupendous sight even if it is not the world's largest or even Argentina's largest. It is, however, one of the most easily accessible.
This Google map shows what is going on. There are two faces to the glacier, the south face which we had seen during our approach and the north face which we would need to walk to.
Note that there is a narrow channel between the glacier and the land where the road ends at the visitors center.
Water flows into the lower lake and from there through the channel to the northern part of the lake.
There had been a forecast of rain but fortunately, it held off while we were there.
To view the north face, you have to take a series of walkways to viewing platforms. The upper-level platforms are wheel-chair accessible.
The north face is higher than the south face and gets as high as 70 meters.
The surface of the glacier. The ice is under tremendous pressure and there are constant sharp sounds as the ice breaks.
Every few minutes small pieces of ice break off. Occasionally larger pieces fall and create ripples or waves and finish up as icebergs.
The channel between the two faces.
Some of the ice looks bluer because it has been underwater and has less air trapped inside it.
It was fascinating watching the shadows of clouds drift across the surface.
I did not walk all the way down to the lowest platforms so I returned back to the top.
It had been a little chilly out there with some wind so the cafe looked pretty good. I sat by a window that looked out on this dead tree and drank an espresso doble (double) that cost $2.
Everybody on the bus then went on the optional boat ride.
There are several boats and we were on the largest one.
If you look closely above the white bus to the right, you will see a dead tree. It is dead because most of it has been submerged in water at one time. Our host described how every few years the channel closes up when too much ice comes down the glacier. The lower lake then starts to fill with water until the ice is cleared one way or another.
There were a few drops of rain now. We had been lucky with the weather.
Our boat was a catamaran. It's about a 10 minute journey to the ice wall.
Iceberg. You can see how high the water can get when the ice dam forms across the channel.
Scraped clean by ice.
The south wall may not be as high as the north, but it still is impressive.
The channel to the right.
Ice cave. The boat stays about 200-300 meters away from the wall. You never know when a monster hunk will calve off.
That distinctive peak.
The walkways from the visitor's center.
It started to rain again and I decided I would rather be warm and dry.
You can also do a tour where you put on ice crampons and walk on the glacier. Not for me.
The south end of the south wall.
A couple of videos. As impressive as the views are from the walkway, it's even more so from water level.
Before we started on the way back to El Calafate we were each given a glass of calafate liquor which tasted similar to the plum liquor from Poland. Supposedly if you havesome calafate, you come back. We also got a chocolate.
A stray dog that hangs around the ticket shop cadging food from tourists. We were told not to give the dog anything.
I was seated at the front of the bus and so enjoyed a long conversation with our young tour guide on the way back. It's interesting to hear how the tour guide system works and what her plans are. She does not go to the glacier every day, but it is one of her favourite day outings. The city of El Calafate is very prosperous with the tourism industry bringing in a lot of money to the district.
She was interested to find out about my Aussie background and told me to watch a film called Mary and Max. I told her to look up the lyrics of Waltzing Matilda when we were discussing national anthems. It was a wonderful day.
Finally some food photos for Robin.
My first night in El Calafate I went to the El Cucharón restaurant across the road from my hotel. This lamb casserole was excellent. Yes, the wafer thing poking out of it does taste like a Sao biscuit. On my way out I spoke briefly to two Aussies who were enjoying steaks. The wife said her ribeye was really good.
So I returned after the glacier trip and ordered the ribeye steak, a glass of red wine and also a bottle of water with gas which I am getting to enjoy. It's very refreshing.
The steak arrived with a fried egg and chips as well. The egg and the chips were the best part since they had given me a crappy cut of the meat. Like the curate's egg, parts of it were excellent.