Tuesday, June 23, 2009

El Calafate & the Perito Moreno Glacier

I´m going to spare you most of the boring details of the crummy city of Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. The only reason we crossed the country was because we thought the buses didn´t run down the border of Chile-Argentina any further south than El Bolson this time of year. The city was dirty, prostitute ridden and rather ugly. Good thing I was incredibly sick for our stay and that our overpriced hostel had a television. It acted as our movie watching hide out until the next bus outta there.

One 1hr bus from Comodoro Rivadavia to Caleta Olivia, one 10hr overnight bus from Caleta Olivia to Rio Gallegos, one 5hr layover at the bus station in Rio Gallegos and one 5hr bus from Rio Gallegos to El Calafata later, we arrived. The town is nestled along Lago Argentina and for now remains relatively small though the fancy center with expensive shops and restaurants promises inevitable expansion. A loan road runs along the western shore of the lake awaiting future development. As we pulled into the station 3 or 4 representatives from different hostels were waiting for us. We stood back while they attacked however once everyone was paired off we were spotted. We usually blow these people off but after ignoring her for a minute she persisted and I caved. After talking we her we struck a deal to get a dorm all to ourselves (including bathroom) at 3 nights for the price of 2 por 80 pesos per persona todo. It wasn´t until our traveling feet hit their warm, heated floors did we realize just how good a deal we got. The hostel was beautiful and the common area had the best view of the sunset over the mountains and lakes as we walked in. We passed out early to prepare ourselves for our journey to the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Sans an alarm clock, Nate woke up at 5 and thankfully kept busy until he woke me up at 7. We had breakfast at the hostel and went to the bus station to get our tickets. With the 9am bus full we sat around with the dogs we picked up on the walk over and waited for the 10am shuttle. We were joined by an Asian couple, an English couple and 2 French guys. The ride out to the park was beautiful. In the lakes we passed floated icebergs unearthly shades of blue. As I was expecting them to be dropping us off and picking us back up hours later at a designated bus stop in the park I was mentally preparing myself for a rugged day as snow began to fall, hard. To my part relief and part disappointment it ended up being a safe, supervised, touristy experience. They offered us a boat ride to get upclose to the glacier and not knowing you could get equally as close from the foot paths we took the bate. The great advantage to the boat ride though was you could pratically touch the icebergs and saw just how magnificent they truly are. This one is particular might have been the most amazing thing we´ve seen - it was turquoise and dark blue all in one and Nate put it best that they lo ed off the boat our bus was there waiting for us. A short drive later we were at the visitor center where the entrance to the foot paths and a cafe are your only options. We bypassed the cafe and headed down the path. From the top you see just how infinite the glacier seems to go on for as it extends beyond the visual limit of the horizon. It is quite amazing to witness and so much more than a piece of ice. As we stood there the segundo snow storm of the day came outta nowhere and filled the air and covered our clothes. Undeterred we kept walking until we ran outta boardwalk and had to return to the bus. It was a good day.

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