So the trip from Cordoba slowly fades from my mind as I struggle to understand why my airline (Aerolineas) has changed my airports forcing me to get a 2 hour bus transfer across Buenos Aires to get my connecting flight to El Calafate…
Anyway the plane is old, the snack is a packet of mini cheddars, but soon I drop off to sleep (for all of 15mins) I’m woken by the fact that my tray table is still down because no-one’s collected the empty cardboard box that contained my scrumptious nuts and cereal bar! Lol
Anyway the three hour flight is over and we land in what appears to be a desert… No lie! I only just manage to see the Tarmac of the runaway literally seconds before we touch down. As is customary (so I’ve found) passengers clap on successful landings…and then immediately proceed to get out of there seats to retrieve their belongings from the overhead lockers well before the ‘plane has come to a complete stop at the airport gate’.
Stepping off the plane I’m greeted by the bluest sky I’ve ever seen – the landscape is truly amazing (but this is nothing) Soon I’ve collected my bags and instead of doing the backpackers ‘wait for the local bus’ I hop in a cab for the 20min break-neck speed ride into El Calafate town.
The town appears from nowhere as we hurtle towards it…
And to be honest my first impression is as I’d been told. It’s a tourist town – catering for all your tourist needs – hiking, trekking, climbing, skiing, cycling – you name it, you can pretty much do it here!
My hostel is just off the main strip near the bus station. It’s clean, doesn’t smell, and has decent size dorms. As I’m escorted to my room by the helpful manager, she opens the door to reveal that I will be sharing the room. I’d been kinda praying that I’d be lucky enough to have my own space, but alas this is a hostel not the Hilton!
After unpacking the basics- which basically means nothing, I dump my bags into my locker and head towards the main strip, eager to book the adventure I’d travelled all the way down here for – glacier trekking!
As I walk through be hoards of travellers each more kitted out in outdoor year than the previous, I arrive at Hielo & Aventura – the only glacier adventure tour operator in town.
After 5 seconds of careful thinking I decide to book the ‘big trek’ – eight hours trekking and hiking around the Perito Moreno glacier. There’s just time to hire some ankle high trekking boots and gloves… Apparently the most important items I’d need. Before heading back to the hostel there’s jus enough time to stop a local restaurant to sample the famous local dish of Patagonian lamb. It’s a whole lamb that’s seasoned and left to cook over an open grill for hours until the meat is tender and the skin is crispy like pork crackling. The half portion I ordered ended up as a full one, and I tried my best; but I couldn’t finish it. It also might have something to do with the large portion of sweet potato fries I ordered too 🙂
Once back in hostel heaven, I find out my roomy is Japanese and although not speaking great English he tells me that the ‘big ice’ trek is the best! I fall asleep eagerly anticipating my adventurous day ahead.
6am and my internal alarm wakes me up. Still a little groggy I somehow manage to shower, dress and pack my bag of supplies – water and biscuits! (I’m sure I’ve seen Ray Mears pack something similar) 🙂
My tour guide, Mario arrives at 7am and I’m whisked away on the transfer bus to see some more hotels and hostels as he collects the seven other trekkers. (Is it just me or do you look at other peoples hotels/hostels and wonder whether you should have stayed there instead..lol)
We make our way into the national park (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares). and towards glacier Perito Moreno.
The approach is a scenic as ever… Beautiful rolling hills surround the road as we travel through barren roads. Then just as I think I can’t take anymore – I see the lake… So so blue! And then in the distance in the middle of the lake separating the mainland from a small island is a mass of white! That, we’re told is the glacier!
How can that be I think to myself? My head is trying to comprehend the sheer size of it (200 sq km).
We get closer and closer, and as you are fully aware, objects get bigger when they get closer… But this big?! I still can’t believe it… This mass of white is enormous! We drive with the glacier to our right and continue straight towards the viewing platform.
Did I say Wow before??? The noise created by the moving ice as it scraps against itself, is haunting, especially as we are the only people there. Then just out of the blue, interrupting our picture taking, we see a large chunk of ice break free and fall to its icy doom into the freezing water…
The sight is awesome, but the sound that follows is heart-stopping! We’re so lucky to have seen this. People come and wait for hours to get a glimpse at this, and in 15 minutes we’ve seen it all. Next stop is the glacier itself! (And I’m excited)
We drive back to a small port, that sits next to the glacier. Up close and personal now and I’m still in awe of its size!
We travel by boat to the small island and begin our hour long trek through the forest towards the glacier. We’re not doing the mini ice trek that takes you over the tip of the iceberg, we’re trekking for an hour through the forest before hopping on the ice in a more secluded spot and spending 3 hours covering it’s beautiful terrain.
At this point I would write more, but I won’t. I think the pictures say all I need to say about this truly magical place! Enjoy!