Bariloche and the Lake District of Argentina were difficult to leave. We were blown away by the scenery and really enjoyed the time spent with our new friend Roxi. It was time to move on though since much more of Argentina remained to the south of us. Summer is fleeting in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego and the higher latitudes (40 and 50 degrees south) are best explored while the weather is warm.
From the Lake District we moved east from the Andes to the Atlantic coast and spent a few days exploring Puerto Madryn and the nearby Peninsula Valdes. From there it was a 20hr bus ride south to Rio Gallegos where we changed buses for the final 5hrs to El Calafate. Yes, our bums are blistered.
Reserva Faunistica Peninsula Valdes was about as barren as the deserts in the Southwest United States. A tour van drove us along the endless miles of dusty, bumpy roads to the points of interest along the shoreline. What the landscape lacked in interest the presence of wildlife more than made up. Even along the two-lane dirt tracks we saw guanacos, rheas and large hares.
The first stop on the Peninsula Valdes tour consisted of a boat ride to get a closer look at some of the inhabitants of the peninsula. Here the group gets a close-up look at a seal colony.
One of the seals was a rare albino pup seen here sunning on the rocks. I think that is mom back there yelling at him to put on his sunscreen.
Just off the coast of the peninsula we ran into two large pods of dolphin. Here is a happy dolphin doing jumps and flips and showing off for our boat.
The next stop on the tour was at a colony of seals on a beach. These guys were lucky the day we saw them because there were no orcas. The orcas actually swim up to the beach in the surf and grab a little seal snackie from time to time. Bet ya can’t eat just one!
The parking lots were full of interesting critters too. Here a very mellow armadillo poses for pictures and hopes for treats.
The fox also knew how to work a crowd.
Here is an unusual sight on the peninsula, a solitary Rockhopper Penguin. He wasn’t so much hopping as he was napping. Nice hair dude!
‘Wait for me! These legs weren’t meant for mountain climbing!’ The third stop on the tour was the penguin rookery. These fun little guys in formal attire are Magellanic Penguins. Yes, that is Magellanic as in Magellan but it is not pronounced the way an English-speaker would think. It is pronounced Ma-hay-jyan-eek. One of us is terribly massacring the explorer’s name!
Grooming time. An adult penguin with one of the brood. ‘Don’t forget to wash behind the ears junior!’
Last stop on the peninsula tour, the elephant seal colony. These big lazy guys must have easily weighed 1000 lbs or more. This was about the height of the activity that we witnessed.
Carrie actually looks pretty much awake considering the fact that the previous 20hrs were spent on a bus and there were still 5 more to go. She and Pat made friends with these two women, Maria and Yamila, from the far northern part of Argentina. They had a 12 hour lay-over before catching their bus to Corrientes, Argentina. That trip is 4 days long! Yamila gave Carrie a ring and necklace made from coconut wood as a present. What friendly people!
Never, ever, use El Pinguino bus line!!! The bus was ratty and the staff was sketchy not to mention some of the passengers. There were 3 young men who kept eyeing us and another couple of tourists in the back of the bus. We could overhear them saying stuff like ‘gringos’ and ‘en el noche’ and ‘ha ha ha’. They had greasy, long hair, tatoos and scars. At the very first stop out of Puerto Madryn an official looking person in an Army uniform boarded the bus and asked the slimiest of the bunch for his documents. We were hoping the young gentleman would be escorted off and maybe to jail, but that was not to be. He was permitted to continue on to the next stop where he thankfully disembarked.
El Calafate at last! The town is quaint and our hostel (I Keu Ken) was nice, but the main attractions are the glaciers. This is the Upsala glacier. The photos really do not convey its massiveness.
Nope, this isn’t a plane or a movie theater with a really tiny screen. It is the inside of a tour boat catamaran that skims along the glacier lakes near El Calafate. The screen you see is a chartplotter with our course, speed, time since departure, time to destination and restroom occupancy status. After each stop the ‘professional’ photographer would show a slide show of the pictures that he took. Of course those were available for purchase after the tour. Pass the popcorn please!
Drop a chunk of this in your single malt. Adding glacier ice to a drink results in a loud pop. This ‘chunk’ was large enough for our catamaran to pass through. Better have a lot of single malt if you want to plop this one into your drink!
If you have seen this couple please report them to the FBI. Do not try to apprehend them yourself. They are armed and legged.
The Perito Moreno glacier is the star of all of the glaciers. It is very active in that it calves very frequently. Here is a huge portion of the glacier’s wall in the process of calving. The big thundering crack that we heard was a clue that something big was going down.
The calved section makes a huge splash as it crashes into the water below.
A large wave is the result and it marches from the glacier to the other side of the lake.
This gives some perspective to the magnitude of the glacier. The passenger boat in the background has three levels.
Time to go for a stroll on the glacier. Pat is getting cramp-ons secured to his feet by one of the guides. These are large metal spikes that grip the ice so you don’t slide down the glacier on your fanny.
Water, water everywhere and all of it good to drink. Glaciers have rivers and pools of water throughout them. No need to carry bottles of water, just take an empty cup and dip in when you get thirsty.
We didn’t need the rescue equipment in the cooler, but one person did slip into the small pond just ahead up to their knees. Brrrrrr!!!
This is the blue hole of death. It looks like a bright blue water slide but I doubt the outcome of the ride would be very pleasant. The guide held each of us one-by-one as we leaned over the abyss for a better look and a few photos. Spooky!
Here is our guide showing off some pick-work and climbing ability. He looked like a monkey scampering around on the glacier.
The area of the glacier that we hiked on was fairly straightforward and relatively easy to navigate. Most of the glacier looked like this though. I don’t suppose they recommend that people like us with 30 seconds of training attempt to explore it.
The reward at the end of the trek. Glacier ice, whiskey and cookies. We’d do it all over again!