One Gigantic Glacier: Perito Moreno

Another 28 hour bus ride south and I was in the lakeside town of El Calafate.  I checked into the Keu Ken hostel, a really nice establishment with a great vibe and friendly staff.  It was a nice sunny day so I grabbed the hostel´s guitar and sat in a rocking chair on the porch, admiring the view and strumming a few tunes.  Sometimes it´s nice to slow down and enjoy the simple things.  Like an asado with new friends.

That night the hostel put on the best asado that I’ve had to date.  For 120 pesos an endless supply of grilled chorizo, chicken, different cuts of steak, salad, wine and beer made their way around two large tables and onto our plates.  Over 25 fellow travelers joined in the asado and I was fortunate to land at the table speaking predominantly in Spanish.  Maybe it was the beverages flowing through me, but I could actually understand and participate in the whole conversation.  The asado lasted until well after midnight and I hit the pillow ready for an adventure the next day.

El Calafate is the point of departure to visit the majestic Perito Moreno glacier.  Along the way our guided tour stopped at an estancia, a traditional Patagonian ranch filled with horses and sheep.  I got a good laugh out of watching a group of sheep using their curved horns to scratch their asses.  And I laughed heartily when one particular oveja with a sweet blonde beard reared his head back and gave a little primal scream.  It reminded me of my one of my buddy Gabe´s signature yells.

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La oveja en la estancia. Reminds me of my best friend Gabe.

An hour and a half later, our van pulled into the Los Glaciares National Park, home to an ice field that is the world’s third largest source of fresh water.  At the first viewpoint, the epic scope of the Perito Moreno glaciar becomes evident.  Even from a few kilometers away and a high altitude that trick your perception into the minimizing the glacier, it is still enormous.  A wall of ice rises up from the green lake, framed on each side by impressive mountains.

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First view of the glacier.

Here´s a couple of facts about the glacier that I find astonishing:

  • It is one of three Patagonian glaciers that is actually growing.  Constant snowfall from the mountains gets compressed until it freezes, congealing to the existing glacier at a rate that is near the rate of ice melting and cracking to fall into the lake.
  • The glacier has an average height of 74m above the water surface and extends to the lake floor, around 100m below the surface.  The total ice depth is around 170m (558ft).
  • The glacier is over 250 square kilometers, larger than the entire city of Buenos Aires.
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Larger than Buenos Aires.

Inside of the park is a series of connecting walkways that provide many different views of the glacier.  Every few minutes a resounding boom, reminiscent of a gunshot, reverberates through the air as the ice cracks and large chunks plunge into the water below, creating a small wave that the push small icebergs further into the lake.  Occasionally a bright blue chunk of ice crests the surface, resulting from ice breaking off underneath the surface.  The ice is a translucent shade of blue because it has not been exposed to the oxegenated elements that turn the ice a milkier white color.  This rising of ice reminds me of my favorite argentine slang phrase ´subir como el pedo de buzo´.  This means to rise quickly in your job or a social scene, but literally translates as ´to rise like a scuba diver´s fart´.  Wish I could have used that one while working at J.P. Morgan to describe a stock.

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The ice is more blue where it has risen como el pedo de buzo.

Anyway, after walking for a few hours, we met at the harbor and boarded a catamaran to get up close to the glacier.  From the top deck, the sheer size of the glacier becomes much more evident.  From 300m away the ice wall is massive, like the legendary wall in Game of Thrones.  Another boat cruising past put everything into perspective as it was dwarfed by the ice.

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Chillin’, quite literally.

I saw some people beginning their trek on top of the glacier and wished I could join them, but it is very expensive to trek for only a few hours.  Back at the hostel that night I ran into a mate from the asado who did the ice trekking and said it was definitely worth it.  Being a man of foresight, he took a flask of whiskey with him to have some whiskey on the rocks with glacier ice.  A nice way to toast the epic beauty of the Perito Moreno glacier.

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