Argentina - El Calafate and
the Perito Moreno Glacier
-- Story by Erin --
Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002 - It would be a 300+km journey from
Puerto Natales to El Calafate, starting at 5pm. The ride was scenic and on a nice
gravel road up to the Chilean border town of Cerro Castillo, and up to the Argentine side
where there was a tiny border shack. When we entered the Argentine side, the road quickly
deteriorated to a very hard, rocky ride. About 200 kilometers later, (60km before
Calafate) the road became paved, hurray!, except you have to run a slalom course of huge
potholes on both sides of the road for the rest of the way in. We arrived in town just
after 8pm and gassed up our bikes, downed hamburquesas (hamburgers) and cokes, and rode
through town towards to the Perito Moreno glacier. We wanted to surprise Frank and
Rosa by turning up late at night, rather then noon the next day.
It was after 9pm, and sunset was 45 minutes away -- Chris
assured me we would make it. There were no signs in town pointing the way to the
glacier. On a gravel side street we noticed a sign which gave the distance to the glacier
as 72km so we took it. It turned out to be a long secondary route, in bad condition
(though very scenic), out to the glacier! We had to ride slow as the road was bad, hard to
see, and very twisty. The sky was turning dark with clouds and the night closed in on us
and, as we neared the glacier (more than an hour later), it began to rain. We could hardly
see when we finally came to the camping area just 7 kilometers from the glacier. It's a
National Park campground which has organized "plots", toilet, and cold water
showers (but the nearest food is 72km back in town). To our surprise, Frank and Rosa
were not there----probably decided to take the opportunity for a nice hotel room in town
with a good bed for the night, we thought. We quickly put up our tent in the drizzle, and
then went to sleep.
Jan. 6, 2002 - Sunday morning we went to the glacier to
check it out. The weather had cleared a bit so the sun was shining on the huge glacier.
Perito Moreno is an interesting glacier because one can get so close to it, and also
because it is constantly breaking apart, making a huge sound and dramatic splash in the
water. It's a the biggest glacier either of us has ever seen, and the prettiest! One
could stay there all day (and many people do) and just watch the action of the glacier.
It's a definite "must see" attraction!
Around noon we returned to the campground in the hopes that
Frank and Rosa had arrived. When we found no sign of them, Chris took off into
to town to look for them. Not 30 minutes later they showed up in the campground
(they had been up the road at the glacier). Luckily the guards at the park entrance told
Chris they had already entered the park so he returned to the campground.
Indeed they had stayed the night in town in a nice
guesthouse, since they hadnīt expected us to arrive the day before. We relaxed around the
campground, enjoying the scenery of the lake and the snow capped mountains around us. A
group of local Argentines were out for the day making a big asado (BBQ lamb) meal and
having fun with their friends. They had fished out a couple of big pieces of glacier ice
out of the lake to put in their drinks, which they shared with us. Its an interesting
feeling drinking something that you know is a few thousand years old! No surprise---it
tastes just like water!
Monday, Jan. 7, 2002 - We returned to El Calafate while
Frank and Rosa ran around to the local travel agents to organize the next several days of
their trip and to organize shipping the bike back to BA. They decided to fly to BA
tomorrow (Tuesday) and then take the ferry to Uruguay and Punte del Este (the St. Tropez
of South America), to get some fun in the sun before they returned home to winter in New
York. After 10 days together we couldnīt believe our time with them was over. We spent so
much time planning and anticipating their arrival, and then time flew by when we were
together. Hopefully they can come for another trip and see us again in Central America!
All during the time we were together with those guys I had a
bad cold and it was just getting worse. Same with Chris. We ended up staying another
4 days in El Calafate trying to get over our colds and attempting to figure out a new
problem with Chris' bike. While we were out at the glacier, his bike didnīt want to start
(again!) when it was cold, but bump starting worked this time to get it to run. We had to
get that problem fixed because the next leg of the trip was going to be over 800
kilometers over very difficult gravel roads and where there were literally no towns and no
help in sight. After checking the fuel line, the carburetors, the spark plugs, etc. we
finally found a motorbike mechanic in town who diagnosed the problem, the valves needed
adjusting -- they had settled after the work on the engine. This is not an easy thing with
our bikes since it means changing the shims (big motorcycle talk for me!). However since
the valves were too tight we simply needed a bit of metal shaved off the existing shims.
This all took about 24 hours and the mechanic had it all fixed in no time.
Chris here: Mono the mechanic worked from 8pm to 4am
grinding down the shims with sand-paper by hand. He had also cleaned the carbs for
me the day before. Total bill was US$20!
MECHANIC IN EL CALAFATE
Jose Luis Garriga (a.k.a. Mono -- for
ph: (02902) 491 232 or 491 479
While we were waiting to get the bike fixed,
Jason showed up with the two "Swiss lads", Marcel and Peter who we were camping
with in Ushuaia! Marcel made a great dinner over the fire around 11:30 under the
stars. Marcel said the secret to being a good cook is to make sure everyone's
starving! There was a nice reunion and we agreed it would be fun to make the next
leg of the trip together, safety in numbers and all that.
Frank & Rosa near the campground with
the Perito Moreno Glacier in the background
W O W
It's about 50 meters high, and stretches
back about 14km to the base of the mountain.
Some of the guys from the local rugby
team showed up for a weekend Asado
Frank & Rosa heading out to the
airport -- Rosa is talking of meeting again in Central America, which would be a blast!!
Thanks for coming out guys!