After a month and a half in Chile we crossed the border into Argentina, a whole new world of different colored money, new grocery store selections, regular hours for commercial establishments, lots of pizza, and a different kind of general personality. We noticed the change almost immediately. As soon as we got past our border crossing and into the small town of Los Antiguos, people looked more fashionable, they were out and about in town, and there was a bar, open and ready for us, bustling with locals and travelers, something we hadn’t seen for some time.
We spent a few hours in Los Antiguos before boarding an overnight bus south to El Calafate. The landscape quickly transformed as the sun set, and the further south we drove, the tall, snow-capped peaks and turquoise green rivers gave way to flat, dry and windy pampas.
El Calafate is a popular Argentinean Patagonia town because of its proximity to the Perito Moreno glacier, a major tourist site. We stayed for 3 nights, which was the perfect amount of time to be reinvigorated by the town’s liveliness, something we had been missing after we spent the last few weeks in some very sleepy towns. Of course, we visited the star attraction, the glacier, which was indeed gorgeous, immense (unbelievably the size of New York city) and very blue. Admittedly, this recap is being written after our subsequent 10 day trip to Antarctica, where we were in an amphitheater of glaciers around the clock, so the “wow” factor we felt at the time of visiting Perito Moreno is no longer as pronounced. However, the glacier was quite impressive, especally because of its blue color, and we did a really fun excursion that included 4 hours of hiking on the glacier with cramp ons followed by a well deserved whiskey on the rocks, rocks made of glacier ice.
Here are some more El Calafate highlights….
- On our overnight bus ride into town, we awoke in the middle of the night to the brightest full moon either of us has ever seen. It was like someone was outside shining a bright flashlight in our faces.
- We were greeted at our hostel by 2 gregarious brothers and their cute puppy, Floyd. They hosted a BBQ on our first night in town, our first Argentinean “parilla,” and wouldn’t even let us pitch in since we were Argentina and parilla rookies.
- We did a full day trip to the Perito Moreno glacier. It was a long, but rewarding day. We actually took a boat around the side of the glacier, then hiked alongside it for about an hour before getting fitted for cramp ons and setting off on a guided 4 hour hike on the ice. Our guides treated the glacier like it was a giant ice playground, leading us to crevices, crevices with waterfalls, ice tunnels to walk through, streams to fill up our water bottles with fresh glacier water, and pretty much anything they could find for us to play on. The glacier shifts and changes daily, as it actually grows in the winter and then retreats back in summer, so there is always new stuff to explore.
- On our boat ride back along the glacier face, as we sipped on our whiskeys on glacier ice, Danny saw a huge chunk of the glacier calving off (about the size of a bus), and blindly grabbed my arm to get my attention, which knocked the whiskey glass out of my hand to shatter on the ground. It was the beginning of Danny’s glacier calving obsession, but luckily the only cocktail calving incident so far.
- We spent an afternoon being birdwatchers at a protected bird reserve. Unfortunately the wind at the reserve was right up there with Chile Chico, but we did get to see a few hundred pink flamingos hanging in a lagoon.
- Cooked up some homemade gluten-free pizza so I could join in on the Argentinean pizza craze!
Below are some El Calafate pictures, but as usual, all of our El Calafate pictures can be viewed on Flickr, here.