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krisek El Calafate - A travel report by Krys
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El Calafate,  Argentina - flag Argentina -  Santa Cruz
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krisek's travel reports

World’s End. Argentina Trilogy 2. Perito Moreno

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First time I saw a picture of the Perito Moreno glacier in a book about wonders of nature, I was amazed. Then I saw a TV programme about it. But when I saw pictures taken by my friends, who actually went there, I knew I had to go to see it myself!

Perito Moreno
Perito Moreno
Actually, I planned to go to Argentina only and specifically to see the Perito Moreno glacier, and perhaps some other glaciers in the area. My schedule for the country was built around the trip down south, to the world’s end - the Glaciares National Park. Fortunately, it was easily accessible from Buenos Aires by air. The views of the Andes from the airplane were incredible, by the way.

The entry town to the national park, El Calafate was very clean and organised but one should consider that every second shop along the main avenue was a tourist agent. Hordes of people from around the world come to El Calafate every year to see the glaciers and the Andes. So the business must be good there.

It was relatively expensive but a pleasant and fully civilised place where the sun did not set before 10.30 p.m. in December. That was obviously great as it gave plenty of time for exploring the area. Isn’t it great to have twenty hours at the disposal to plan a day?

El Calafate is situated at the shore of Lago Argentino whose colour is hard to describe. First, when the sun was high in the sky, I thought it had a divine shade of turquoise. At about 3 p.m. I changed my mind and decided it was pistachio ice-cream colour, and I could not believe it. Seriously, I had never seen anything like that before in my life! My taxi driver who was forcing me to speak Spanish (he did not speak any other language but the strange version of Argentinean-Spanish) actually laughed at me when I confessed how astonished I was. His uneven teeth and a funny little moustache contrasted radically with the stunning Patagonian landscape. That was an experience, I tell you.

Well, as the sun lowered itself considerably (but still well at the angle of at least 50 degrees), and its rays entered the waters of the Lago Argentino, the colour shifted dramatically to pistachio milkshake. The water lost its transparency completely and at certain angle it looked almost white. That was simply amazing.

Favourite spots:
El Calafate travelogue picture
I started visiting the UNESCO listed National Park Los Glaciares from the obvious point - the unique glacier of Perito Moreno. It was one of few glaciers in the world that was moved back and forward. And when I saw it, it was advancing. Its sixty meter-tall and five kilometre-long front wall descended to the Lago Argentino and every few minutes a loud thunder of cracking ice was heard. It was very loud actually and sounded like a firing cannon.

It was very thrilling and spectacular to see a giant chunk of ice fall off the glacier's front wall into the lake! With every cracking sound tourists' eyes scanned the glacier’s front wall hoping to see that happening but majority of the ice cracking was actually happening inside the glacier itself.

The approach towards Perito Moreno from the main road offered extremely spectacular view of this magnificent glacier. It showed how the field of ice, like a tongue, descended from the mountains to lick the pistachio waters of the Lago Argentino.

What's really great:
Perito Moreno
Perito Moreno
I do not know how many times I might have said that since I have seen so many wonderful places of this planet there must be few that would still impress me. And when I saw Perito Moreno I could not believe my eyes. I have never seen anything like it before! In fact this was the first time that I saw a giant glacier descending to a lake from the mountains. It is hard to find the right words to describe appropriately how this looked like. And I do not even like snow and ice. And cold!

The wind was harshly blowing from the glacier's tongue throwing people hair in the air in various directions. As noses and ears gained increasingly deeper shades of red, it was harder for the mind to agree with the ever popular theories of global warming. I could clearly see the expressions of a few spectators' faces indicating that about an hour ago, they had arrived at a more sophisticated level of cursing that they forgot to bring their hats and scarves. I came prepared: warm trekking jacket and gloves!

Perito Moreno
Perito Moreno
With Chalten Travel ($60) I went on a boat to see a few glaciers - the Upsala, Agasiz, Onelli, Bolado, Seco and Spegazzini. The boat, called Upsala Connection, was new and could take about 200 people on board. When I boarded, all window seats were taken and although I brought my windstopping jacket, I didn’t like the idea of spending an entire day in the cold. As soon as the crew mentioned that I could join the Captain's Club for an extra $30 and sit by the skipper in a very comfortable cream leather armchair with a view and by a balcony, I didn’t think twice. My personal attendant, Daphne, told me that I could have anything from the bar in any quantity for free.

Upon reaching the cold front wall of the Spegazzini Glacier by 10.30 a.m. The captain moved the boat around so everyone could take their pictures. Daphne offered me a glass of whisky on the rocks with the ice of the glacier. I thought she was joking, but she pointed at a bucket of ‘fresh’ ice chopped from the glacier.

El Calafate travelogue picture
The next stop was a small Lago Onelli with three small glaciers. The beauty of this small lake were many small icebergs floating in it after they had broken off the tongues. The escapade included also a trek in a petite forest, which separated the Lago Onelli from the Lago Argentino. The woods gave shelter to wild cattle and pumas (mountain lions). The cattle went savage after it had been abandoned by the settlers when the National Park Los Glaciares was created in 1937. The cattle can be dangerous. On the way back, the boat approached the Upsala Glacier, the largest and fastest disappearing one in the park. The trip was over by 6pm. Almost two hours early as the boat was fast.

In El Calafate I stayed at Cerro Cristal hotel. Although midrange it was one of the cheaper options. It was a quiet hotel with a few small but clean rooms for about $40 including breakfast. For a few bucks extra one could stay in much better places! The hotel had free internet on offer, but it didn’t work well.

Fitz Roy
Fitz Roy
El Calafate had many tourist agents, plenty of shops and a good number of restaurants, but it did not have many pubs or clubs, unfortunately. In the summer the nights were in fact very short, but it would be nice to go out somewhere and dance a little, listen to some music, have a drink after a long day of adrenaline taking, admiring the views beyond belief, trekking on the glaciers, hiking in the mountains or... horseback riding! The only good pub-turned-disco was the Don Diego de la Noche. Well, it was the only one popular, attracting tourists and locals, because where tourists went, locals went. So, it was a good mix.

A few kilometres out of town there was Shackleton Bar & Lounge, which had nice views of the lake, but it was opening at random days, but usually open in the weekends.

Torres de Paine
Torres de Paine
When I visited in town, there were a few new cafes and patisseries opening, some serving great icea-creams. If one wanted to hang out in them, then great. The best one was Tango Sur, which also served small tapas-type finger food, often had tango shows or live music playing. However, the best places to kill time were outside the town. There were the shores of the magnificent lake with water of impossible colours and many hills around, some with incredible views of the fabulous snow capped peaks. The scenery was so picturesque that it looked unreal, as if it was a cartoon or computer-generated. The impressionists would get monkey brains there, for sure.

A few companies organised boat trips in the front of Perito Moreno ($8) lasting approximately 45 minutes. To face the giant and listen to the ice cracking so close is the ultimate form of hanging. But there was also another - a cabin in the mountains offering food and unforgettable scenery.

El Calafate travelogue picture
I really loved the service there and the food. It was truly homey and while cooking the meat in the traditional stoves, the personnel let me try the samples to check if it was ready. It was so personal!

Back in El Calafate, I loved two restaurants: the Michelangelo and the La Vaca Atada. The first one was expensive ($20), but their steaks were magnificent. I have no words to describe them. Bife de lomo was cooked to such perfection that it was melting gently in my mouth, but still juicy and so full of flavour that I categorically refused to put any of the (still delicious) pepper sauce on it. This was where my dream about the legendary Argentinean steak came true! La Vaca Atada wasn’t too shabby either. Their steaks were their speciality - equally juicy and divine.

Other recommendations:
Cerro Frias
Cerro Frias
In the last minute, before flying out to Trelew for Peninsula Vades and Punta Tombo, I took a four wheel drive up in the mountains (tour’s nickname: Cerro Frias, $35). It was an excellent choice and the views were superbly spectacular. It was then clear to me that when I was cursing the weather the day before, while cruising the glaciers, it was snowing in the highest levels of the mountains. The main panorama was perfect. The pistachio colours of the lake, the steep and snow covered mountains in the distance were exceptionally photogenic. When I realised that the Fitz Roy mountain, 300 kilometres away was clearly visible I knew that on the day I saw the Andes from the airplane, I might have seen a few thousands of kilometres of them. Instead of a car, one could make the trip on a horse. The tour included a magnificent lunch at a cabin at the foot of the mountain. It was based on all you can eat (incl. wine!) and everything was yummy! The service personnel were genuinely friendly too.

Published on Thursday April 3th, 2008

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Fri, Sep 25 2009 - 09:47 AM rating by pesu

Krys, just found this report - water and colours, absolutely fascinating! Superb text, stunning pics - congrats!

Fri, Apr 25 2008 - 01:05 AM rating by jorgesanchez

How lucky you are! I could not get to Perito Moreno. I hope I will in the future.

Tue, Apr 08 2008 - 01:35 AM rating by basia

Congratulaton !!!

Fri, Apr 04 2008 - 01:31 PM rating by rangutan

...discovering unknown land, just brilliant!

Fri, Apr 04 2008 - 02:32 AM rating by davidx

This is an almost indecently outstanding report! What an amazing place! beautiful pictures.

Thu, Apr 03 2008 - 06:13 PM rating by eirekay

Brilliant, as always!

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