Argentina 11: Glaciar Perito Moreno, El Chaltén and Mount Fitzroy

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The road from the Argentinian border was gravel, fields of flowers everywhere as we entered the country. We passed through Esperanza and El Cerrito, then we were back on Ruta 40 and finally reached Calafate via Ruta 11 and found a camping spot at El Ovejero, close to town.

The information centre and museum was close – so we headed there first.

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Both Perito moreno and Darwin had a major influence on the history of Patagonia.

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The wind blew like mad, very gusty, nevertheless we found a spot among trees in the back of the camping site which made the night bearable.

In the morning we researched the activities that we could do around Glaciar Perito Moreno. The town is neat and well organized, evidently a tourist hotspot as many travelers want to see the glaciar.

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Outside town is the Glaciarium – an informative stopover to learn more about ice, snow and glaciars.

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According to the local weather prediction we would have a splendid day ahead of us…..we were rock-certain about this.

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El Calafate is situated on Lago Argentino, and we spent time observing birds and people along the costanera. Early next morning we departed to the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and were lucky to see some Condors very close before finally reaching the glaciar.

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It is about an hours drive to get to the park.

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Being early was a bonus – not many visitors yet and we could stroll the long catwalks which run very close to the face of Perito Moreno. This glaciar grows at a rate of around 2.2m per day, resulting in regular calving along its approx. 3 km long face. It is the only growing glaciar ( all other are receeding) – however its total mass is also shrinking.

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The face of the glaciar is 70m high.

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Glaciar face is 70m high

We spent many hours here in beautiful weather and decided to return the next day as this was still covered by the entrance fee, including a nights camping, although the camping site Lago Roca was approximately 30 minute drive in the direction of town.

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If the ranger here sign off the ticket, one can enter the park at the glaciar a second time.

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Calving at Perito Moreno

Despite the change in weather we enjoyed the time and camped again in El Calafate. Wind and rained loomed dark in the sky.

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We passed Lago Viedma with its drifting ice bergs and its glaciar in the background before finally reaching El Chaltén. On arrival the clouds were low and we could not see much of the splendor.

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After getting information on trails at the information center manned by knowledgeable rangers and mountain guides we found a spot on camping El Relincho – the wind pumping, the air as cold as ice. The previous night 9 tents were damaged by the fierce winds. Tail-end into the gale we hoped for the best. The camping site was filled to capacity, pretty noisy, but we had a reasonable night’s rest.

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The next day was less rainy and we drove to Desierto, walked a little and decided to camp at Bonanza along the Rio Toro – pretty sheltered among a cluster of trees.

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As the weather had cleared next morning we drove to the viewpoint outside town to enjoy the panoramic view of Mount Fitzroy.

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Our subsequent trail to the viewpoint Torres was a beautiful trek worth doing – if the weather permits, one could walk right down onto the glaciar. Along the way we observed some Magellanic Woodpeckers feeding their chick as well as a number of Condors circling the peaks.

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Feeding Magellanic Woodpecker

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On El Relincho we camped again and stood with our back into the wind – however, during this night the gusts intensified to such an extent, that we feared our rooftop tent would finally tear – it sounded like gunshots every time it blowed up and then contracted again. At 4am we decided to close the tent and tried to sleep on the front seats – not the most comfortable night and icy cold with rain starting again in the morning – another normal day in Patagonia.

The weather prognosis predicted more rain and miserable conditions and we decided to leave – we would have liked to remain around these mountains for longer. Outside town some Condors bid us farewell.

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As we continued past Lago Viedma the wind intensified – nevertheless some intrepid cyclist battle it out.

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We realised that we needed to find a sheltered place for the night. In Tres Lagos we visited the local campsite Confiseria le Camping and a Belgian family with 3 kids travelling since 7 months assured us, that they have had a quiet night’s camping among the cherry trees below the offices. We joined them in the camping area and, after putting up our shade-net on the side of the vehicle, held by flexible ties, we had a reasonably comfortable night. The bonus were ripe cherries on the trees we could pick and eat fresh. In the evening we could sit inside the heated communal dining room. However, the showers were a misconstruction – water flowed out of the door in place of into the drains and we wondered who got away with such shoddy workmanship – the entire place was continuously flooded.

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Lago Cardiel

From here we took direction towards Lago Cardiel, a turquoise lake and popular amongst anglers, we were told. Nobody anywhere, completely desolate and we drove around, past Cerro El Puntudo.

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Here we made a gruesome find: a poisoned guanaco was set out to kill Puma and Red Foxes – however 3 Condors and 6 birds of prey died at the spot ( a ranger in the next reserve told us it is still a common occurrence and they do not know how to curb it as there are no laws that prevent this type of action).

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Close to the water’s edge at Bahia Griego we found a place to camp and could observe a multitude of birds and flamingos as well as scrub hares. We did not see another person around the entire lake – so peaceful and remote.

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We wondered how the holes got into some of the seeds on this bush -was it ants like on the whistling acacia in east Africa?

When we arrived in Gobernador Gregores we had to wait until the truck with diesel arrived. We also could not withdraw any money at any of the two ATMs in the town – here foreign cards did not work. This was confirmed by the information office. We realized that this area is really remote and rural, yet, at a later occasion, we had to return here as we lost a bolt on the front disc brakes, when we were pleasantly surprised by the service rendered. Please note that in this town all shops close for Siesta and only open again at 5pm.

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Wide open spaces – Patagonia

This post covers 9th to 17th January 2018