Perito Moreno Glacier

19 02 2008

Possibly one of the more touristy parts of Southern Pategonia. But I am a tourist, so I had to go and see what all the fuss is about.

The last update was in El Chaltén. From there we had a ride around two (big) lakes to El Calafate. The wind is more often than not a strong westerly. Going east is no drama. The second day we had to turn right, into the teeth of this wind. Four reasonably strong cyclists, sharing the lead, and we could only make 10km/h. 30km took over 3 hours. This is the famous Patagonian wind. All the stories we’ve heard are true – and there’s about 1000km of this!

I’ve now said good-bye to Jürg and Rahel. They’ve decided to move on a bit quicker from El Calafate (involving buses) to reach Ushuaia and go to Australia to meet more excellent people like me. What more can I say? Except possibly the truth: that they are keen to meet Jürg’s sister while she is also visiting Australia. Good luck getting there in time!

But I’ve met, and spent a few days with Stefan and Sabine, and along with Michiel, we’re a group of four again. So it’s the Germans, Dutch and Ozzie (stupid Australian who can only speak English) rolling on. I should have learnt German rather than Spanish before starting this trip…

11kBut anyway, the glacier. It’s 80km from El Calafate, Porito Morenoso we rode there. To avoid the wind, we left pretty early, but not early enough. About 1 hour into the ride, the famous patagonian wind sprung up, and we were struggling to make a decent speed. We did a good job of hiding behind each other, and made the glacier about midday. We spent the whole afternoon watching. You may think that watching a glacier speed along at up to 2m per day could be a little dull and I have possibly miraculously developed patience. Don’t worry, it’s nothing like that. The glacier calves often, and quite often they are big chunks that come off. We were treated to a few big crashes.
crash 1crash 2

The sound (when the tourists have cleared off – some people just do not shut up!) is really quite impressive. With the sun on it, you can hear the tourtured ice creaking and groaning. The pieces that fall off the leading edge are not really all that frequent, but there is sometimes a sharp crack (anywhere from the sound of a firework being launched, through a door slamming, to a bloddy loud bang, like a gunshot). The glacier feels so close, but it is still far enough away that by the time the sound reaches the lookout, the piece of glacier has fallen about 60m to the water, so searching for falling ice by ear alone is a frustrating experience. You’ve got to keep your eyes peeled! We argued discussed the distance we were from the glacier at one point – I think it was about 150m. I guess we could work it out (speed of sound, time taken for ice to fall 60m). Nerd.

Marco and the gangBy chance we met a great Guardaparque, Marco, who ecouraged us to talk up his knowledge on the web pages. And not talk about the excellent nights sleep we may have got close to the glacier, since it is after all illegal to camp in the park. We didn’t camp – how we got around the situation I will not say, but Marco allowed us to cook in his hut. Nice guy. Really. And we got to see the glacier in the morning sunlight as well (not really for sunrise, it was raining and snowing when we woke the first time – bugger that just for a photo!).

The wind helped on the return journey. 30km/h easily. Depending on the wind, the next part could be very long, or very short. A few rest days in Calafate right now – soon to be heading toward Torres del Paine and maybe a week or so of walking.


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4 responses

23 02 2008
Graham

Hey Stephen,
just been perusing your blog while sitting at a cafe in Singapore. Sounds like you are having a really great time and will have plenty of amazing times ahead too.
I’m off to tackle the Western Arthurs again in about 10 days time. Have replaced all my gear now and will be extra carefull not to toss it all off another cliff!!
Take care mate and have fun!!

Cheers, Graham

4 03 2008
Steve

You what? You’re going back there? Clearly I wish you luck in not dropping your pack. Take some good photos. Good luck with the weather. Lake Oberon in good weather… not many places better than that.

Good luck. Let me know how it goes!

1 07 2008
hitthedirt

Hi … great site, really enjoyed your post.

Just wanted to let you know that Bicycling Australia has a new website with free classifieds for people wanting to buy or sell bikes or bike parts.

We also have two online magazines with great feature articles, plus bike tech, body tech, where to ride and bike reviews for both mountain bikers and road riders. If you get a chance come visit – cheers

5 07 2008
Steve

I gather you realise I am Australian, and a cyclist, and likely to know about Bicycling Austrlia already? Or are you a spam machine and I should delete your comment?

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