After many many hours on a bus and miles travelled, we arrived in El Calafate. El Calafate was one of the few locations (along with Iguazu in the North) we had identified prior to setting out because it was the gateway to Perito Merino National Park, home to a big huge glacier. Unfortunately it just so happens that these two chosen sites are at opposite ends of a very large country, hence the seemingly endless bus journeys to get to our destination. We had originally planned to stay in El Calafate for only 1 day, but after arriving at our lovely hostel, we decided to stick around for an extra day and add in a day´s hiking in the Fitz Roy range.
Deciding to save the best weather for the glacier, we made our trip to El Chalten and the Fitz Roy range on an extremely windy day. We soon found that as we gained height, as well as strong winds, we also had snow and rain to contend with. Despite this (and Paul´s insistence that ´this is a really bad idea´), we had a great day hiking on the hills. After 21km we decided to call it a day and had a celebratory drink in El Chalten; celebrating both our survival and also the first real test of what we loosely term our hiking gear. Inca Trail, we are ready…ish.
Day 2 saw us taking a mini-trek to the Perito Moreno glacier. Watching the glacier from the viewpoints, every now and then the tourist chitter chatter was interrupted by a thunderous roar as chunks of the glacier dropped off into the water below. The noise continued long after the pieces had fallen, as the water rushed through and under the glacier. It´s very hard to put the experience into words, but it did make everyone stop in awe at the glacier ahead of us.
After looking at the glacier from afar, we then had the chance to get up close and personal with a boat ride and mini trek on the glacier itself. Kitted out with crampons, our little group spent around an hour and a half on the glacier, before finishing up at an ad-hoc bar for a whisky before returning to land. Standing on a glacier with a glass of famous grouse (on glacier rocks) was definitely one of the more surreal moments of the trip so far.
Due to last minute planning on our part (again), our 2 day stay in El Calafate turned into 3, as the bus we needed to get was full. Although slightly frustrated as the only reason we needed to go further South was to catch our flight back up North, we did consider skipping the flight and making our own way to Santiago. That plan was quickly dropped, however, when we discovered that would involve another thousand hour bus ride, and instead we took advantage of having a quiet day in El Calafate.