Fake Plastic Town and Icy Awe

El Calafate Travel Blog

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On the boat - headed for Moreno.

If the Disney Corporation ever need a new site for a resort in South America then they could do a lot worse than just buying up Calafate wholesale. They wouldn't need to do much development work to turn this place into Mickey's Magical Moreno Glaciar Resort. I imagine many visitors appreciate the pseudo-alpine architecture and newly-paved and planked road system and pedestrian areas by the lake. To me however, it all seemed just a little too sterile, as if the whole place had been only recently unpacked from IKEA boxes.

I once described Canberra, the purpose-built seat of government in Australia, as Milton Keynes without the concrete cows. Well Calafate is kind of a micro-Canberra with an added legion of outdoor equipment shops and travel agencies slapped down in the middle of it.

The walls of the glacier from the boat.
The only scruffy things I saw were the packs of semi-feral dogs roaming the streets, scrapping with each other, begging for food from the tourists and hassling the local horses. They were a welcome breath of foetid air.    

The main reason to stay in Calafate is to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, the largest lump of ice in South America's impressively-stocked natural chest freezer. Close up, this frozen behemoth almost looks like it has been painstakingly constructed out of blue polystyrene as a luxury holiday home for Superman. In reality, only mother nature could create something so beautiful on a scale more epic than any 10,000 Hollywood schlockbusters added together.

It looks like this has been Photoshopped but I promise that these colours are the same as when I took the shot.
I´ve seen some pretty spectacular things in South America but Perito Moreno more than deserves its seat at the top table of attractions on the continent. Touristy or not, I can't recommend a visit here highly enough.  

I spent roughly three and a half hours attempting to take it all in. First I took a trip aboard a tourist boat which makes you feel suitably insignificant, gazing up at the vast lapis blue walls towering above the lake. I then spent the rest of the time we had on the wonderfully-situated walkways that afford a panoramic view up the huge craggy slopes of the glacier. I stood there chatting and joking with an English couple, Jason and Kalin, the three of us transfixed, watching and waiting for the icy walls to calve ever-so-gradually defrosting chunks of ice into the water below.

Small people. Big ice.
 As usual, I wasn´t fast enough on the digital quick draw to capture any decent video. Jason however filmed a large section crumbling and crashing into the lake producing an echo that boomed its way up and down the valley. 

At the time it just seemed like a great way to spend a few hours but later, thinking about it a little more, I felt privileged to have the opportunity to watch something so enduringly ancient run its course for even a tiny slice of time. After all, this huge mass of ice has been there, shouldering a path through the rock for unknown thousands of years. In coming times some of its cousins are bound to diminish and perhaps succumb entirely to global warming. I sincerely hope that Perito Moreno will not be joining them. In fact I hope it will be there, still ploughing away, long after both I and Mickey Mouse are nothing more than a distant memory.      

iwantsalmon says:
Made me look forward to my trip even more
Posted on: Jan 17, 2016
homegal says:
Really enjoy your take on this trip!
Posted on: May 14, 2009
andycox_is_now_in says:
Mr Salad. You are in danger of getting a happy award. However, couldn't agree more about the awesome Moreno Glacier.
Really enjoyed comparing your much drier and wittier memories of Peru and Ecuador to my factfinder rough guide. Now just having to appreciate your trip from afar. Keep the updates coming.
Posted on: Apr 20, 2008
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On the boat - headed for Moreno.
On the boat - headed for Moreno.
The walls of the glacier from the …
The walls of the glacier from the…
It looks like this has been Photos…
It looks like this has been Photo…
Small people. Big ice.
Small people. Big ice.
El Calafate
photo by: Vlindeke