El Calafate, Patagonia
From Bariloche I decided to fly down south before going back to Buenos Aires. To El Calafate. Home to some amazing glaciers and Lago Argentino. The town is also used as a starting point for trips into the Chilean Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. In this place you’re actually closer to the Pacific than to the Atlantic Ocean.
I stayed in a nice motel that was built at a converted airport runway, which was serving as a street now. One main thing that I wasn’t aware of before, but it’s paramount to the nature in that area, is the complete ban on use of plastic bags. Reason for it being strong winds. If anyone leaves anything lying around, sooner or later it will be blown off towards the Atlantic never to be found again. If the bag is made of paper, no problem as it will degrade, but if it’s made of plastic it will add to the pollution (also wild animals often choke on plastic) of one of the most amazing areas in the world: Patagonia.
Another thing you can do there is to book a trek on the glacier itself. You get on a boat and you get off on the other side of the lake (the pathways are on the right). You get special spikes to attach underneath your shoes and off you go. They do explain about safety as well as it is no walk in a park. You have to be very careful and luckily the guides know roughly where to take you.
The glacier to see there is Perito Moreno. It alternates in growth and retraction over the years and is one of the few glaciers in the world that still periodically grow. I highly recommend a walk along the designated paths, if you’re lucky you’ll see and hear some of the ice blocks falling down. And it’s not the sight that makes the biggest impression but the sound! Which I didn’t know about so I did wander there for a moment completely weirded out by what I was hearing and not knowing what was happening.
The colour of the ice I cannot describe. It shimmers and has so many shades of blue I wouldn’t know how to even name them. If you’re lucky with the weather it makes a lasting impression. You also get to feel the grandeur of the glacier itself, which you couldn’t feel from the pathways.
Part if that walk is “ice tasting”, the guides chop it off the glacier into glasses and pour whiskey over it. It takes the ice supposedly about 400 years to wander from its source to where we were standing. So what is melting on your tongue froze in 1600s. The realization is mind blowing and very humbling.