The casino in El Calafate

El Calafate

Looking at the front of the glacier

Looking at the front of the glacier

The right front of the glacier

Walkway along the glacier

The left side of the glacier

Panorama of the glacier

The vast right arm of the glacier

A river of ice

El Calafate, Argentina

Los Glaciares National Park

April 27, 2008

Still, there's always a way around

There's something tying our feet to the ground

A moment passed, we hear how it sounds

And it seems a little less profound, like we're all going the same way down

- The Airborne Toxic Event

As disappointing of a town as El Calafate is, the sight of the massive and sprawling Perito Moreno glacier nestled between snow-capped peaks certainly makes up for it. There is, in fact, nothing to do in El Calafate, except shop in touristy overpriced stores or eat in touristy overpriced restaurants and maybe visit the absurdly garish casino on the main street. The town has a decent location on a nice lake but without the presence of the glacier some 80km away it probably wouldn´t exist. Apparently the town was trying to be environmentally conscious so they had outlawed plastic bags at the grocery stores, requiring you to bring your own bags or means to carry things and if not they may provide a cardboard box. And at least there are public buses that go out to the glacier so that you aren´t forced to take a tour to get there.

While the glacier itself is very nice, when I visited they were rebuilding the majority of the access trails, which are all elevated walkways, to the different viewpoints of the glacier so there wasn´t that much to actually do there, unless you took a one hour boat tour. The boat tours, while maybe giving you a different perspective, don´t get any closer to the glacier than the walkways do, I suppose because many people have been killed by the falling ice, which does happen rather frequently and is unpredictable. At the glacier there are constant cracking, splitting, and rupturing sounds and pieces of ice of varying sizes periodically chip off from the glacier into the water below.

Taking the public bus to the park gives you about four hours or so at the glacier and after walking the few paths I decided to walk down the road towards the lake to get a different view. After walking down the hill I managed to stumble across what must have been a trail that they had planned to construct but then reconsidered, as there were concrete footings that had been poured but no walkway ever constructed. The trail of these footings led straight towards the right side of the glacier. Not seeing any signs saying that the area was prohibited, but suspecting as much since no one else was there, I continued until reaching a large smooth rock arcing out from the lake offering an excellent view of the glacier from water level. I had to stop following the path as I needed to return for the bus, but I suspect that it leads all the way to the very front middle section of the glacier, an area definitely off limits and rather dangerous with regard to the falling ice.

After arriving back into town I obviously had nothing to do. I browsed around the shops looking at postcards and I had a difficult time determining if the pictures were from Torres del Paine or El Chalten. Based on that I decided to pass on stopping in El Chalten in part because it looked very similar to what I had already seen but also because of the difficult bus times. There were only buses leaving at 7:30 or 8am from El Calafate and return buses only at 6pm from El Chalten and arriving at 10:30pm. The additional 9 hours of bus travel on top of the 40 hours it would take to get to Buenos Aires from El Calafate were too much for me. Next stop Buenos Aires.