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El Calafate and Perito Moreno

March, 2008

Bus rides are bus rides. Some are bad and some are worst. The best are the clunky old ones that regular people use. Old ones are a nice ride, sometimes quiet and sometimes loud. Someone should write a book on bus experiences. As for advice on Argentine bus etiquette, let’s just say, keep your shoes on. Enough said.

El Calafate and Perito MorenoEl Calafate is the closest town to the glacier Perito Moreno and land development is explosive there with more hostels than houses and more are being built all the time. The main street has a multitude of Bavarian-like shops and restaurants, for those who like to shop and eat. The main attraction is the Glacier National Park some 40 minutes away. I did find a three-hole golf course in a hotel complex, so I asked Steve and Roh if they wanted shoot a game. The next day when we arrived at the course, the clubhouse didn’t have any balls.

‘You don’t have any balls?’

‘No, sorry.’

‘How can we play without balls?’


‘Do you mind if we look around. Maybe we can find some.’

‘Not at all’

El Calafate and Perito MorenoAn interesting side point is how the golf course gets rid of destructive earthworms and aerates at the same time. They have a legion of elegant pink/purple birds with long curved beaks that scour the fairways and greens.

After about twenty minutes in the bush, we found two lost balls and were ready to play. There were three greens and nine tee-offs so you had to play the same green three times. The first tee was right in front of the clubhouse, with several people sitting on benches watching. Our combined skill level probably amounted to less than a week of practice so we broke the sequence and started at a more secluded tee behind the club house. It was loads of fun but after about two hours we traded in the clubs for a cold beer.

The next day we caught a bus to the National Park and Perito Moreno glacier.

Perito Moreno glacier

“The 250 km. ice formation, of 30 km in length, is one of 48 glaciers fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field located in the Andes system shared with Chile . This ice field is the world's third largest reserve of fresh water. The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that are not retreating. Periodically the glacier advances over the L-shaped "Lago Argentino" ("Argentine Lake") forming a natural dam which separates the two halves of the lake when it reaches the opposite shore. With no escape route, the water-level on the Brazo Rico side of the lake can rise by up to 30 meters above the level of the main lake. The enormous pressure produced by this mass of waters finally breaks the ice barrier holding it back, in a spectacular rupture event. This dam/rupture cycle is not regular and it naturally recurs at any frequency between once a year to less than once a decade.” (

I was there for most of the afternoon hoping to see a huge chunk of the glacier come crashing down but there was no such luck. It was still an amazing event though, when small chunks the size of Volkswagens and maybe Landrovers, would break off and tumult into the icy water with a thunderous crack and splash. As the glacier advances up to 2 meters a day, enormous sheets of ice a hundred feet high get pushed up and wedged against each other in domino fashion. This parade of ice sheets goes on for 30 km. When the sun reaches high in the sky, the ice contacts (ice expands when it’s cold) and shifts, giving great hollow resounding cracks heard for miles. Being in places like this is revitalizing. I think this were I finally started to reconnect with nature; it’s hard not to reconnect in the presence of such a huge unstoppable force.

Perito Moreno glacier

That night we all gathered for pizza to say our goodbyes. John, Julie, Steve and Roh were headed to Bariloche, a natural playground for trekking, whitewater sports and horseback riding. I was headed to Ushuaia and the end of the world. Jessica and Lauren from Holland were headed there too.

Roh, Lauren, Jessica, Julie, John, Steve and me
Last Night Out

It seems I did a lot of waiting on this trip, for buses and rooms, orcas and glaciers. Maybe it’s different this time because I am pretty much stationed in B.A. so I feel more like a resident rather than a road junkie. Anyways, getting out on the road, reconnecting with nature and meeting new people was exactly what I needed. Perito Moreno was just the preparation; the best was yet to come. Now I was ready for the End of the World.

Next journal: Ushuaia and the End of the World

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