El Calafate itself isn’t really much. It’s a small town with a lot of tourist stuff. Aside from the very centre of the town, roads are sandy tracks. There’s a hell of a lot of building going on, and one suspects it’s all hotels and hostels. I had nowhere booked to stay, which feels a bit weird when you arrive by plane. Somehow having no plan feels right when you arrive by bus; but by plane, my brain automatically feels like I should be able to tell a taxi driver exactly where I want to go. As it was, I got the shuttle bus to the centro and had a walk around. Found the tourist info place, got a map, and saw a flyer for a hostel that boasted it had been rated no.3 in Latin America by some website or other. That’ll do me.
The place is called America del Sur, and considering my previous experience of hostel life virtually put me off for life, this place isn’t half bad. In a way, I wish I’d not seen that it was rated so highly, cos then my view of hostels in general would’ve been bolstered. The dudes who run the place are all bearded – good start – and incredibly friendly. It’s just a simple thing, but they all remember my name and use it every time they speak to me. There’s a heated floor, too. Mmmm, that’s nice.
So, yes; essentially everyone else visiting the town is here to see one thing only. That’s Perito Moreno, a big glacier. Ever since I saw a photo a friend took when they visited here a few years ago, it’s always been on my list of places to go. When I began planning my trip to the Americas, this was the first pin on the map. It’s got a five kilometre front end, and reaches 50 or 60 metres high. There’s a peninsular facing the glacier front, which separates two lakes, so as it advances its two metres per day, that causes shards of ice to fall off into either lake. The sound delay means you see it before hearing it. If you’re lucky enough to be there at the right time, and lucky enough to not be in the loo, you’ll notice some ice crack and then the massive sound of the ice cracking. You’ll see it splash a big wave out from the base of the glacier, then you’ll hear the splash of ice hit the water.
I’d booked myself on an organised trip. The glacier is about an hour and a half from El Calafate, so it was really the only option. Me and a few other hostel dudes were picked up at 9am, we snaked around the town picking up more tired-looking people and eventually we were on the road, driving past the piercing turquoise of Lago Argentino. It was a great view out of the window, and would have been even better had our tour guide not insisted in rabbiting on constantly about the landscape. I’m all for a bit of information, but there are times when you just wanna enjoy the view not be barked at about the view. This is the Mona Lisa, she’s a girl, she’s wearing clothes, she’s got a cheeky smirk going on, the foxy minx. Etc.
Headphones blocked most of it out, though. Anyway, when I got there, first I went on a boat to get a close-ish look of one face, then up to the various viewing platforms to get an overall view. Magnificent stuff. Utterly amazing. Pretty much the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life, not counting Jerzy Dudek saving Andriy Schevchenko’s penalty in the 2005 Champions League final, of course. I’ll shut up and just show you some photos.
First, though, a picture looking the other way, away from the glacier. I put this one first because it was a beautiful view, but would get lost if I put it at the end what with the glacier being so stunning.
On with the show. First, the view from afar.
Now the view from up close on the boat.
And here I was lucky enough to be snapping away at the moment that some ice fell off.
And now some views from the viewing platform.
Not bad, eh?