14th Jan 2006 - Hosteria Los Torres, camping - Grey Glacier
Using the campsite as our base, and having the weather revert to sunshine we decided to have a team ride out to the Grey Glacier.
What I should of course mention was it was Andy's birthday (21 again) today, so we had a bit of fun as Maya had decorated the outfit with balloons and got Andy a few presents she had hidden away, and Bev knowing of the event had also got him a little something too.
So the ride out was with picnic too.
The road was bloody rough - and I don't care how often I get told you won't like Bolivia then - it was hard.
Bought extortionate juice at 1100 (550 normal) to ensure we’d get everywhere and some more reasonable priced supplies before going on.
Eventually we got to the viewing area (well after 20 min walk) and saw Icebergs floating in the water in fantastic hues of blues and sculpted into fantastical shapes by the thawing actions of wind and water.
Bev and Martina sat and took in the views and Peter and I wandered along the beach, he to the far end were views of the distant glacier could be had, and I wandered SLR in hand looking for those elusive arty shots of blue ice and contrasting scenery.
I found a small piece of a melted berg at the shoreline and we took it back and each had a bit to suck. Wonder how old that was, and whether there was some incurable disease frozen in it!
It was a magical place and there were few people there, making it more magic.
At long last we got one of our eagerly awaited wildlife sightings, Austral Parrots! The most southerly breed of parrot in the world, and as comical and mischievous as any other parrot. Before this trip I'd never expect to see parrots or parakeets this far south, but there we have it they are here in abundance !
Sunday 15th January 2006
Hosteria Los Torres - wild camp on way to El Calafate
Set out 'bout 13.00, Peter got a rear wheel puncture after a spoke snapped. just at border so stripped, changed spoke and repaired tube and stuck back together in a short time considering. as too late by time we exited Chile (very easy) at Cerro Castillo, the Argentina side was a little more trying, but the firm faced front was soon dropped and necessary paperwork completed without too much difficulty. Pain in the arse though as we'll be back into Chile again before we know it. If the two countries got on better I'm sure they could resolve to issue a 30 day pass or something. As it is foreigners have to register the vehicle on entry, then the paper is chucked on exit, and the next country does the same. if you look at the border down here it really is a bit of an inconvenience, still, locals don't have the same problems and we're in the minority. Chile is on elections at the moment so they're quite excited and TV is on everywhere in true election fever mode.
The spot we stopped at where Peter had his puncture had a small shop and cafe, but being Chile, the prices were frightening. £3.50 for a burger, even bare bread rolls were 28p each. I appreciate the places here abouts are rather cut off, but the costs are horrendous in comparison to Argentina, but then before their crash, the same would have been true of Argentina too I guess. Anyway it comes as a shock to pay more than you would at home.
As we were still a long way from destination and it was 18.20, El Calafate was too far. Absolutely bugger all about here by way of habitation - there was one hotel (run down) that we passed. I'm sure Bev and I would have been knocking on their door but seasoned travelers Peter and Martina naturally suggested the natural option was to wild camp.
The only problem was where. Where there's a will there is always a way, and though the roads here are built like British motorways with wide verges and long back set fences there are occasional estancia's and the like. It's not like back home were you'd find a small back road or a wood. A wood...now that's a laugh ! The only trees in Patagonia after the bottom bit are the ones planted by the farm buildings, and they're inhabited. The place is just barren sun-baked (don't get the idea it's too hot either !) pampas grasslands. So we found the turn off from the Ruta 40 (shockingly new tarmac which was a surprise after the initial repio at border north until there is a shortcut) which cut the corner, and was, yes, repio and found a petrol station.
After filling up we asked if there was anywhere to camp. They suggested behind the police point over road that had some trees and cover, but there were some others on the other side that looked favorite. We asked if it was possible and they said it was estancia land but probably OK.
We set up camp for the night and made tea, and all was well
Monday 16th January 2006
Wild camp on way to El Calafate to Lago Roco Nr El Calafate
Packed, bloke walked past with no problems
Repio, some unpleasant some good eventually got us to el Calafate, a real tourist town set up just for the glaciers really. Got some shopping and headed off to camp in park - one 'proper' site, one free.
After getting there on a great tarmac road we discovered the campsites were no more, and nearest one was over 40kms away, down a repio road. We could have stayed in El Calafate and got down the tarmac road quicker, bugger.
Anyway it turned out that Lago Roco is a great camping spot with the best showers we've encountered over here (a great selling point) and loads and loads of space at each pitch and all for £2 each a night.
As we set up the asado who should turn up? Martin and Silvia, it’s a small old world at times!
Tuesday 17th January 2006
Lago Roco Nr El Calafate
Well today we went to one of the premium tourist hot spots in Argentina and probably South America as a whole, the Moreno Glacier.
It is justifiably talked up everywhere, an immense wall of blue ice slowly crawling down 14 odd kilometers and just abutting the headwall of the opposite side of Lake Argentina.
After all the farce with the campsites in the park being closed, and the signs saying the road was closed to traffic from 12.30 to 16.30 we were a little concerned about making sure we got our visit in. With an entrance of 60 for us both that's about £12 you want to be sure of getting a quality time there.
We rode up with Martina and got there for about 12. The road wasn't shut at any point, so useless signing, and blow me if we didn't run into Andy and Maya just by the parking.
The place is certainly tourist hell, but you have to expect it really. The car park was full at the top (in fact at peak times private vehicles can't go there I think) and so we had to park lower and await the free mini buses. The queues were long though and we all agreed to walk the less than 1km. Lucky we did ! On the way we saw a path to right that showed a spectacular sight of the glacier but warned 'no entry without ranger advice'. we were in luck, a ranger appeared and we joined his group, and picked up some details as we got to the fantastic views you wouldn't otherwise get. The wall of ice is around 60m above water and 160 below (Get this, the Upsala Glacier a lake away is 600m deep below water level). The glacier looses 2m a day at the front, but is no longer advancing or retreating, it's fairly stable, in the eighties it was one of the few advancing glaciers in the world.
There were a few other snippets we picked up, but what was more important was the sheer magnitude of the thing itself and the stunning beauty of the formations and colours of the ice making up the walls.
The sounds were also magnificent with creaks and groans, but mainly bangs, crashes and splashes as sections moved and broke free and fell. No huge sections fell off whilst we were there, but a few fairly large ones did.
The pictures do more justice to the glacier than words, but its magnitude is hard to comprehend even in pictures....take it from us, that thing is BIG !
Back at base it was asada time and we had the whole gang again for a meat feast like you can only afford to do over here.
Posted by Simon McCarthy at January 26, 2006 07:11 PM GMT