Patagonia: El Calafate Fun on Glaciers and Zip Wires
We left Ushuaia and took another flight (10 and counting shouts Greg!). It is possible to get a bus from Ushuaia to El Calafate but it really isn’t easy. The journey is more than 20 hours with changes and on bumpy roads. It seems that it would have been easier for us to have gone into Chile but there you are!
El Calafate airport is quite far outside of the town so we took a taxi to our hotel alongside a beautiful lake.
My first impression of Patagonia and El Calafate were that it is very pretty along the lines of Wales. Rolling green hills and lakes but on a bigger scale.
Greg and I are struggling a little with Antarctica come down. We’re not sure if this is an actual thing but it is to us. After the experience of a lifetime we are feeling like nothing else will compare. I think we are a little homesick too, which doesn’t help. I hope this passes soon and we get our mojo back.
Our hotel was nice, a little New Year treat for us not to stay in a hostel. We had chosen Hotel Bahia Redonda on Booking.com. The bed was sooooooo comfortable. After decamping, we set off around town to book excursions and have a look around.
Things To Do
Paul (Antarctica) had recommended that we did the Big Ice trip. This is a whole day hike on the Perito Moreno glacier. His photographs looked amazing and we were sold. Unfortunately, because we are in the main Argentinian holidays we discovered that it wasn’t as easy as that. All of the tour operators are fully booked for over a week, by which time we will be further north.
There were other things that I’d wanted to do, particularly kayaking that were also fully booked. I guess that this is the problem with doing things as ad hoc as Greg and I do. We get complete flexibility but sometimes we either have to pay more to do them or they are not available.
We wondered around a few of the tour operators and booked two tours that we could get on. These were Mini-Ice, which is half a day on Perito Moreno and zip lining on Cerro Frias.
El Calafate is a really nice town, so we are happy to spend a few days here. It is full of restaurants selling barbecue lamb (see Welsh!) so Greg is planning on eating a lot I feel. We are planning on catching up with Amanda (Antarctica) here for a night too.
Zip, Zip, Zip, Arggggggggggg
The tour company picked Greg and I up from our hotel at 2pm. We drove to the ranch on Cerro Frias. There people were doing a variety of activities, horse riding, zip lining or hiking. Us zip liners were taken up to the first line. Oh my, it was high.
We were told that we would have to run off the platform as otherwise the wind would stop us half way across. Oh yippee! Greg and I started hyperventilating. Luckily for us there were two kids there to show us how it was done. These two, from Chicago, volunteered to go first and threw themselves off the platform. Not wanting to be humiliated by a couple of teenagers, I put myself forward to go next. I was worried if I stood there long enough I would find an excuse why not to do it.
I ran (well kind of skipped, jogged, threw myself clumsily) off the end of the platform. Phew, it held me. I didn’t die. Once I stopped panicking and managed to look around I realised how beautiful the scenery around me was.
We had 5 different zip wires to travel down and it was so much fun. We zipped over horses, cows, houses and beautiful valleys. The guys running the course were really friendly and funny. We were both really glad that we’d done it. I’d recommend it.
Around the ranch we saw a number of condors. We had constantly talked about them on the Inca Trail but not seen them. They are truly magnificent. A massive, majestic birds (all the M’s then).
New Year’s Eve
Zip lining evening was New Year’s Eve and we had planned to meet up with Amanda for a large night on the town in the Music Bar. Amanda was out hiking so Greg and I walked into town to scope things out. What a surprise we were met with. There was literally 1 restaurant and 1 bar open! Ooops, perhaps El Calafate is NOT the place to be on New Year’s. We sent the bad news to Amanda. She had met up with someone else from the Antarctica, Tanida, and we decided to meet in the only bar open. They said that they were doing bar snacks, excellent.
The bar was impossibly busy. I was handed a very large wine menu. Upon choosing a bottle of wine I was told that of the 150 wines on the list, they only had one. Haha, guess that one will do. The four of us spent all night trying to get drinks and food with limited success. Our waiter appeared to have lost the will to live and disappeared just after midnight. When we tried to leave we couldn’t even get the bill. Being the trust worthy souls that we are, we calculated how much we owed and I shoved it in the hand of the bar manager.
A disappointing night all in all!
Nature Reserve “Laguna Nimez”
New Year’s Day was a lovely, peaceful affair. El Calafate has a nature reserve and bird sanctuary. It is well maintained with a walking trail, signs and bird huts to spy on the birdies. Greg and I spent a really nice, relaxing few hours walking around looking at all the birds. Just enjoying the natural beauty of the place.
Ice Ice Baby
It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday. Mini-Ice day!!!!
The Mini-Ice adventure began at midday with a pick up from our hotel. The bus journey was an amusing one with a young lady opposite Greg writing rules for a swinging party. Apparently S&M is allowed with prior consent! 75km from El Calafate we arrived at the entrance of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Here there are a number of different walkways offering different views of Perito Moreno.
Whilst we were walking around (1 ½ hours) there were so many carvings of the glacier, which were really impressive. Loud noises and awesome ripple patterns, together with the bluest blue of the surfacing icebergs.
The glacier is 250 square kilometres and is one of the few glaciers in the world that is not moving backwards.
Glacier hiking beckoned. At Bajo las Sombras port we got a boat across and then walked for a few minutes, again admiring the view. At this stage we were fitted with crampons. We got a lot of information from the guide about the formation of the glacier during our 1 ½ hour hike.
The colour of the glacier was impressive and there’s no denying that it was beautiful. We wondered if we would have appreciated it more if if we had visited prior to the Antarctica. The hike was a lot of fun and actually the mini was fine for us.
The hike ended with a glass of whiskey using ice from the glacier, which was a nice touch. I have to confess I didn’t drink the whiskey (Fiona and Heather, don’t disown me, I’m just not Scottish!). Greg drank his though, but you can see from the photos perhaps he didn’t enjoy it that much!
All in all, we’ve enjoyed our time in El Calafate. It may not be the place to party but it is a great place to experience nature.
Our next stop is El Chalten, the home of hiking!!
Travelling plans for the next few weeks have changed. We have decided to bring our departure date forward by a couple of weeks. Argentina is costing us much more than we anticipated. I guess we’re homesick and want to see Juno. We are ready for our next stage of our adventure (skiing). With 2 weeks left we decided on El Chalten, Mendoza (wine!!) and Buenos Aires. A little bit of reorganising got us onto our new agenda.
If you enjoyed this blog, perhaps you’d also enjoy our blog on hiking El Chalten. Leave us a comment folks and we’ll reply.