Friday, July 17, 2009

Calafate and Glaciar Perito Moreno- Feb. 08

It seems I never wrote anything about Calafate, a town I didn’t enjoy that much. It’s an extreme tourist town, pretty expensive (the most expensive internet café I’ve ever seen was there- 12 pesos (4$) an hour! And it was really slow, to boot), and kinda fake-feeling. I’m weary of writing something like that about a town of a few thousand people after spending less than 48 hours in it, but that’s how I felt. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with preconceptions; they play a huge role while backpacking, and, at least in my Argentina and Chile trip, I very rarely went out of the regular backpacker tracks, so I had preconceptions about almost everywhere.

Anyway, the reason Calafate is such a tourist town is the Los Glaciares National Park. It’s a very big park on the border between Argentina and Chile (in the Argentinean side, I should say), full of (you guessed it) glaciers. The main attraction by far is the Perito Moreno glacier, another huge field of ice, but with a twist: the glacier “advances” about an inch a day, and on one of its ends (the end the tourists see from the lookouts) it crashes oh so slowly against the big mass of rock that is the mountain the aforementioned tourists (me included) are standing on. The pressure that is caused by this causes cracks in the glacier, and every once in a while pieces of it (ranging from the size of a small rock to the size of a 4-story building) break off and come crashing down into the water below. It is an awesome (in the real sense of the word) sight, and the glacier makes a really strange, eerie sound: a sort of deep, distant creaking. That coupled with the occasional sound of the chunks of ice breaking into a million and a half pieces on the water surface, a sound that takes a few seconds to get to you (you stand about a km away from the glacier’s front edge) makes for a great soundtrack.
We spent the first hour and a half there almost alone, since we did the “Israeli trick” there: instead of taking one of the tour buses, that drive you there after the park opens, and give you about 2 hours there, we rented a car, woke up at 5am, went into the park before it opened (avoiding the entrance fee), watched the sunrise over the glacier with only about 8 people around, and made a day out of it. About 2 hours after we got there all the buses came in, and suddenly there were hundreds of people everywhere. I’m very happy we did it this way. From other places I’ve been in (Iguazu is the best example) I know how the crowds can really fuck up your experience. You just can’t compare how impressive the glacier is when you’re in a small group of people who keep quiet. Actually, I hate that expression, “you can’t compare”- you can compare it- it’s much, much better this way.

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