We left Puerto Madryn to rejoin the calm and peaceful town of El Calafate, in almost 20 hours of bus… 20 hours in the same tedious landscape of Patagonia. The patagonian steppes are very very monotonous, and as we are in the dry season, the desert look of it is almost sad at moments.
El Calafate is a small touristic town, like a typical ski resort. Nothing happens during the day, but at night, the town gets animated. The houses are pretty, the gardens are well maintained and full of flowers (which is radically different look from the steppes). The town has also a nice view on the biggest argentine lake, the well named : Argentine Lake.
But what really makes the reputation of this town is being closest to one of the greatest glacier in the world : the Perito Moreno. One of the rarest on earth to still be growing. We have to admit, we came here only to see him.
Our 20-hour long journey between Puerto Madryn and El Calafate with the newly created RP company was way less comfortable than our first experience with Andesmar, but this company didn’t make any stop at Rio Gallegos, and we didn’t feel like waiting the whole day in a bus terminal in what is said to be “the worst city in Argentina”. We’ve grown tired of the patagonian steppes, and we arrived on Friday the 13th in what happens to be a beautiful town. Our hotel is far from the town center, but it is the price to pay if you want to stay in a double room at a reasonable fare, 42 euros in that touristic town. We walked 3 kms with our backpacks, that was quite a walk with all the equipment! But things were less harsh than our first walk in Buenos Aires. The way to the hotel is nice, and while we walked along the highway, we were walking along the Lago Argentina at the very same time. Its water is a very beautiful blue, that’s a pity it tends to be dirty near the banks.
The town founded on the lake banks has a lot of trees growing everywhere, maybe that’s a strategy to stop the wind coming in. Their barriers are made of poplars, growing very close to each other. When we arrived at the hotel, it was too late to go on a tour or expedition, so we decided to walk back the town center and eat our weight in meat in a parilla restaurant, Rick. The food was cheap for a all-you-can-eat BBQ, but the meat was not good, way too fatty and the vegetables did not seem to be very fresh.
Saturday 14th, I went to the town center in search of a Perito Moreno expedition at a reasonable price, and a way to go to El Chalten, the mecca of hiking in Argentina, 200 kms north of El Calafate. A guided tour for the Perito Moreno was quite expensive, 80 euros per person! Finally, I decided that we didn’t need a guide and only bought the round trip to the glacier, 20 euros per person (and the entrance fee at the border of the National Park, 20 euros for foreigners).
Luckily, we obtained a pretty good price for the bus ticket to El Chalten with a night in a hostel there.
We left on Saturday afternoon to see the Perito Moreno, a huge glacier more than 70 meters high, moving forward on the Argentina lake. The visit is incredible, the gigantic glacier cracks and roars while advancing on the teal waters of the lake. Several kilometers of walkways spread across the park so you can enjoy the ice monster under various angles.
We spent the whole afternoon there, 5 hours without growing tired of the view on the glacier. This really is a fascinating masterpiece of nature. Then, we took the bus back to El Calafate, and after walking back to the hostel, we tried to get a good night’s sleep, a short one, and left at 7am the next day to get on our next bus, to El Chalten!