A friend of ours sent some cash monies our way with some advice, “Spend it on something you normally wouldn’t.” We had visions of fancy dinners or hotel stays, but these were quickly replaced with something a bit different. While we were living back in Vancouver between the Central and Southern legs of our trip, I stumbled upon an Instagram photograph of someone walking on a glacier in Argentina. Neat. When a little bit of extra moolah comes our way or a special occasion comes up, we usually spend it on experiences (or food…) rather than stuff or expensive hotels. Don’t get me wrong, I like stuff and lovely hotel rooms with big beds and fancy linens, but the things that we look back on with the fondest memories usually involve an experience or amazing meal.
So we wandered into the office of Hielo & Aventura in Calafaté, Argentina and booked our tickets to walk on the Perito Moreno glacier. To be honest the process was easy and the company was very professional – like, the most professional company we encountered on our entire drive south. We set off a couple of days later and entered the southern sector of Los Glaciares National Park on our own (the company does not provide transportation to the Park so you either have to take a bus or drive there yourself), ready to board the boat that would take us to the mighty glacier. But first we took a boo from the wooden viewing platforms in the park for some optimal glacier gazing.
Perito Moreno is monstrous with a width of 5 kilometres, an average height of 240 feet, and a total ice depth of 558 feet. It rests in the Argentino Lake, moving slowly across at a rate of 1.1 to 2.64 metres per day. This movement is due to the pressure and force of the glacier’s weight. It is one of the only glaciers in the world that is actually advancing, not retreating. Eventually the pressure pushes the glacier into the shoreline, forming an ice bridge. As the ice bridge blocks up the water’s movement, a damming effect occurs, rising the water level as much as 30 meters above the main level of the lake.
Occasionally the pressure from the glacier ruptures the ice bridge, sending a ton of ice chunks into the water and creating a spectacular sight. The last rupture occurred on March 10, 2016 and we missed it by 15 days. The rupture before that occurred four years ago. By the time we showed up there was a huge hole where the bridge of ice had once been.
We jumped aboard the Hielo y Aventura ship, appropriately named Perito Moreno, eagerly anticipating our first close-up views of the glacier.
If you’re lucky you can witness the glacier calving, which occurs when chunks of ice break off. It is a pretty awesome sight to see a massive piece of blue ice crack off and plunge into the icy cold depths below, sending a spray of water and wave outwards. Before and during calving the ice makes a loud gun-shot-like noise. It is pretty incredible to listen to the sound of a chunk of ice that is likely bigger than an office building break apart.
With the help of our guides we donned crampons from the dark ages (or should I say ice age… wink!), which would prevent us from slipping and sliding our way over the glacier.
The white wooden pole on the right was placed into the ice by scientists who are monitoring the melting rate. Apparently earlier in the year the ice was at the top of the pole.
Whiskey time! We tried some of this fire-y concoction of Argentine whiskey (Blender’s Pride) with ice from the glacier floor.
Feet freed from our heavy crampons, we headed back to the truck which was parked inconspicuously among a sea of grey and white vehicles.
We found this greasy spoon diner in El Calafaté with prices we liked, tasty milanesa napolitana and incredibly cheap glasses of red wine with very generous pours. The place was a hit with locals, who ordered pizzas to go, fresh pasta, empanadas, and a myriad of other baked or deep fried treats.
We saw a couple of diners munching on the milanesa napolitana and had to try it for ourselves. Breaded meat cutlet + tomato sauce + ham + cheese + yummy green stuff. Dip that deep fried goodness into some mustard and your calorie count will be satisfied for at least a couple of days. Speaking of which, trekking starts mañana.