|Perito Moreno Glacier
Yesterday, we took the bus transfer from Ushuaia to El Calafate. You can fly the route, and in hindsight perhaps we should have done given the bus takes 22hrs. Still, being on the bus means you get to see miles and miles of nothing, cross the Straights of Magellan and then more miles and miles of nothing.
We pass through Rio Grande, the town played a big role in the Falklands war, there are monuments and half mast flags everywhere. It is clear that the memory is still painful for them.
Stopping in Rio Galleghos for 3 hrs to change buses gives us a chance to book the remaining bus transfers across the Andes to Santiago, so we are feeling much happier about the remaining arrangements.
Ok... So today we visited the Perito Moreno Glacier, just an hour from El Calafate. This glacier is currently unique in S America in that it is the only one NOT retreating. In the last 20 years it has performed a cycle of advance and retreat as usual. This is quite surprising given that some of the glaciers just around the corner have retreated by as much as 2km. Scientists have been studying the glacier and concluded that it is due to the unique set of mountains surrounding the area that have helped protect it from the global warm.
The tour we were on first took us, by boat, up close to the face of the glacier which fronts onto Lago Argentina. The lake is Argentinas largest by the way, no conincidence eh? Then we donned ice shoes and trekked a short way up on to the ice. This was not as far, steep or risky as the ice walk we did on the Franz Josef NZ glacier but was still fun.
At the end of the walk the guide chips off some of the ice, crushes it up and serves up whisky and ice, great huh?
The glacier is also one of the fastest moving as much as 25cm a day... Some glaciers move as little as 25cm in a year.
Then, after munching on our own packed lunches we set off to the final part of the day to the other face of the glacier. Let me explain, the lake is divided into 2 like a V with the glacier at the base, where one of the sides of the V is much smaller. The glacier as it advances periodically cuts off one side from the other, then as the water rises on the isolated smaller side it forces a way through. The process creates a tunnel leading eventually to a collapse, as recently happened in March 2007.
The face of the glacier on the larger part is more subjected to the forces of the lake and also faces the sun which results in lots of activity. If you see dramatic pictures of huge pieces of ice crashing into water on National Geographic, then it's proably of this glacier.
As we stood and watched we were blessed with a large lump (small by glacier standards but impressive none the less) that split off and crashed into the water. The wave was incredible! Actually, 36 people have been killed in the last 20 years by falling lumps of ice. Not us today though hee hee.
So, leaving the continual booming and cracking sounds of the glacier behind we finished another tour.
We had met Aya and Adam from Jerusalem and went for a lovely dinner with them, lots of wine and steak. Tomorrow we have to be up at 4ish for a trip back to Chile & the Torres Del Paine national park.