We have traveled a little further north to the gorgeous and lively town of El Calafate and there are absolutely tons of treks to do whilst here, natural parks and reserve to see. You could spend a lot of time around here. It is a lot warmer than Ushuaia, in the town on a good day you can walk around in shorts and T-shirts and at worse you need a little jacket or coat when the wind blows.
We are both really enjoying it here, Ushuaia in frequented by a much older generation but also intermittently turns into a bit of a ghost town when cruise ship takes off. Frankly, when you are in Ushuaia the Antarctica fever is palpable, everyone is either fresh off a boat from the most magical experience of their life or clearly about to set sail, we had to get out!
If you only have one day in El Calafate, there is no doubt that there is one thing you must do! The infamous Glacier Perito Moreno. What makes Perito Moreno really special is that it is advancing whilst most Glaciers across the world are melting with each year that goes by. It also due to its size and location extremely accessible and you can join tour group who give you Crampons and guide you through your walk on the ice. Sign me up!
Walking on ice is an all-day affair, we took a coach to the national park in which it is located. You get to stop off at the Glacier viewing point for an hour, take pictures and on a hot summers day even witness a rapture, where some of the ice falls off and into the lake, the sound is spectacular! I was lucky that I had my camera on at the exact moment. Then it’s a £15 minute boat ride to the lodge where you have lunch and get ready to go trecking.
A short trek to base camp at the edge of the Glacier and its Crampon time! The guides fit them on to your walking boots, give you a short tutorial on how to walk and off we go.
At this stage, my excitement level was through the roof. It is one thing to look at one of the wonders of the world from a viewing platform [which was absolutely breath taking] and simply incomprehensible that you actually get to walk on top of it, see it streaming, drink its water and touch it if you will!
We were lucky to embark on our quest on a such a warm and sunny day. Walking in crampons was rather challenging. You have to stomp hard to make sure the spikes get stuck into the ice but you have to do so holding your foot flat as if they don’t all hit the ground at the same time you can break the ice and fall. This came much more naturally to Mark than me but once you get the hang of it, it is good fun. You have to wear gloves as the ice is sharp and if you fall you may cut your hands.
An optical effect makes parts of the Glacier appear blue which makes for fantastic viewing. It is a living thing, it is constantly growing, creating more ice but it also has a complex system of streams, running water, caves and so much more!
The views were just breathtaking and it felt really special to get so up close and personal with such an important Glacier. I wondered about how freely they allow tourists to walk all over this Glacier and if this could impact it in any way or speed up it melting. But once you are on the solid ice and see the magnitude of this beast, it becomes very clear quickly that little old me cannot even scratch the surface of this beast of an ice sheet. If anything it is more likely to swallow me up into its depths.
It was such an honor to walk on this Glacier, whose size has not significantly changed in the last 90 years and who remains a scientific wonder.
At the end of the trek on a flat bit of ice, the as a very cool surprise waiting for us! The guides had set up a bar with some whiskey and chocolates. The group made a toast with whiskey on the rocks, the next part was fantastic they went over to a clean part of the Glacier and hacked at a lump of ice which was the rocks they served the whiskey over!
Very cool indeed.
Now for the long journey back home, safe to say we slept the whole way back.