November 25 to November 27, 2011
El Calafate in Patagonia, Argentina is the gateway to the Los Glaciares National Park. The town itself is quite cute with plenty of eateries, hotels and souvenirs. But people don’t come here for the town. They come here for the glaciers – the massive flows of compressed snow that make their way from the Andes to Lago Argentino.
The main attraction is the Perito Merino Glacier. Its ice peaks tower 60 metres above the lake, dwarfing the tourist boats. It is 5km wide at its widest point and is 35 kms long. It’s massive and it is beautiful.
You can get to the glacier by sea and by land. We jump on the bike and head out to the national park. Leaving the town the weather closes in and it’s cold and bleak.
We forget about the weather when we round a corner and see icebergs floating in the lake. The ‘wow’ factor is high. We round another corner and there is a sign warning us of a view point – the view point of surprises. The surprise is our first glance at the glacier. Words are inadequate to describe the majesty of the Perito Merino Glacier.
Standing on the paths overlooking the south face of the glacier you can hear it crack, deep inside. Periodically bits of the glacier fall into the lake and float off. We are lucky and see two ‘ice calvings’, as they are called. The cracking sound is like a massive clap of thunder and then the ice crashes to the water.
We can’t get enough of the glacier so we take a boat trip onto the lake to see Merino from the water and visit three other massive glaciers. While Merino continues to grow the other glaciers are receding, slowly but surely up the mountain face.
Our boat cruises past icebergs. Small blocks of ice bob past as we head to Upsala Glacier. We can’t get too close. There is an ice arc blocking our way. The icebergs are massive and magnificent. The blue hue is actually an optical illusion. The icebergs and glaciers absorb all colours of the spectrum except blue.
Next stop is the smaller O’Neill glacier but it was just a taste of what was to come– the magnificent Spegazzini glacier. You can see where smaller glaciers join to make the gobsmacking glacier. The boat turns giving everyone on board the chance to absorb the brilliance of the natural beauty and get some good photos. We do need to stand firm to make sure we don’t lose our spot on the rail. But the chill in the air entices us back inside.
We make friends with Steve a fellow biker & Gail from the US. He started chatting when he saw Brian and I wearing our MotoGP beanies! Two hours later we arrive at the base of the north side of the Merino Glacier. We’ll let the photos tell the story.