Thursday, April 30, 2009

El Calafaté and the Perito Moreno Glacier

We arrived in El Calafaté during what is Patagonia's late fall. The colors of the surrounding forests and plains burned with brilliant oranges, yellows, and browns. Around every corner, as we walked through town, it seemed to be expected that a scarecrow would be found nailed into someones lawn or signs for nearby pumpkin picking would appear. The whole area seemed like a familiar small town right before a festive Halloween and Thanksgiving season. People out with their rakes, piles of multicolored leaves on the curbs and renegade ones drifting through the wind and onto the streets and sidewalks.

The sun rose late and set early, so it was difficult to judge time. On the second day, we were up before the daybreak preparing to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of three main attractions in the immediate region. Being so far south, the air was crisp and perfectly cold; it found the holes in our sweaters.

As we rode on the $25 (USD)-bus to the national park, the country opened up and the plains grew on both sides of us, stretching to the mountains rising on the horizon. Snow capped peaks surrounded us on all sides.

The first sight of the glacier appeared forty-five minutes and $15 (USD) after our departure, wedged between two mountains. Amazingly blue icebergs drifted in front of it like criminal escapees. The glacier continued to play hide-and-seek with us as our bus winded through the valley. Occasionally, the semi-tour bus would pull over and stop for photo-ops of the glacier and wildlife. The bus driver would clumsily stand up from her post and mutter a few Spanish words, assumingly, about the view or the creature in sight. Then she would turn back around and continue on.

By the time we reached the glacier, our camera's were already half full with this picture or that. As we stepped out of our ride, we were surrounded by more of the Autumn colors and the white and blue gleam of the glacier. The front wall of the glacier seemed to be stretching out to us, or oozing out from in between the mountains. Staring at the mass of ice was made it seem as if you could actually see it move forward; as if you had the ability to see fine, infinitely small details. It was breathtaking.

As we walked along the steel grate path that conveniently and safely always sat just six inches from the ground, we looked out at the natural beauty before us sitting a quarter mile away. Resting our elbows on the railing, we snapped photos with the rest of the tourists walking the same circuit.

The glacier was pristine in its existence. Beautiful blues and whites painted the wall immediately facing us, with long thin brown lines running diagonally. In the distance, cracking and crashing sounds rang out as parts of Perito broke off and escaped.

We continued to walk the circuit, up and down steel stairs, across the grating six inches from the dirt. Pictures were taken and coversations had of how beautiful the glacier was. Twenty minutes later, we found ourselves up top - near the new construction, concrete and brick overlooks with more railings half built, the sound of brick saws loud in our ears - finished with our tour. Three hours and twenty-five pesos to spend while waiting for our return bus.

We sat in the café, cushioned chairs behind large pane glass, eating our two apples and stared out at the glacier...past the railings, walkways, and lookouts and wondered if the bus would be any earlier than scheduled. People around us sat, almost uninterested in the natural beauty outside, and ate their strange gourmet looking meals that were heated in microwaves while they weren't looking- a Wawa or convenience store dressed up with venetian blinds and nicely dressed servers; prices jacked up for no good reason. The gorgeous ice stuck behind the sound of construction.

* This is a photo montage.


  1. Absolutely gorgeous photos. How lucky you are to be able to see and hear the glacier up close. Isn't that eerie blue color of glacier ice remarkable? Sort of hot and cold at the same time.

    How much has the glacier receded due to climate change? Prognosis?

  2. The view was pretty amazing to see. As for the recession: it's hard to say since this is the first glacier I've witnessed. There was a bit of breaking off, but I don't know what's been due to global warming.