Argentina – El Calafate
February 23, 2008
(February 18, 19, 20) Here we are on what is called the Patagonian steppe, home to only two species of native flora—the thorny calafate shrub and bunch grass. In contrast, the grounds of our hotel, Posada Los Alamos, are a cultivated oasis of cypress trees, a small golf course and even more unexpected, a profusion of lavender.
The reason for tourists to come to this wind-swept, arid expanse is to enter the forested Los Glaciares National Park and come close to the glaciers. The most famous is Perito Moreno, towering 60 meters above the lake’s surface and 110 m. below, and measuring 30 kilometers long.
It is a very fast moving glacier, advancing two meters per day. The front of it, however, remains in the same spot as two meters a day are also pared away into the lake in front, almost guaranteeing that a visitor will see a “calving” event, some quite spectacular. As the blue and white front edge of ice breaks off, there is a sharp rifle crack announcing the break and if one is quick with the shutter release, one can catch the resulting explosion of ice and water works as it hits the lake.Unfortunately, the Pereto Mareno glacier – said to be in equilibrium because of its unmoving front edge – is the exception. Our guide stated that most, if not all, of the other 350 glaciers in the area are receding at up to 200 meters per year. Wiki says that there are only 48 glaciers remaining. Global warming?
For us, one of the most startling aspects of the glaciers is their deep blue color. Color, too, is a distinguishing factor in Argentina Lake where the glaciers are found. Its waters are a milky, turquoise, explained as particulate matter carried by the glaciers now in suspension. Argentina is the largest lake in the country and second or third in South America with an area of 1500 square kilometers, roughly 60k by 20k.
There is another hotel worth mentioning that we have read about and saw but did not visit. Los Notros is actually within the park itself. The rates there are all inclusive and you don’t need to travel the two hours from town to get to Perito Moreno.
On the other hand, once you are there, there is nothing else except the glacier upon which every room looks over. Having said that about Los Nostros’s remote location, there isn’t much to El Calafate that one couldn’t experience in a reasonable slow drive-by.