Perito Moreno Glacier and El Calafate - big trip - diary - argentina - march 2003

A bit drops off the...

...awesome Perito Moreno Glacier

Monday 3 - Saturday 8 March

Approaching El Calafate we hit the first bit of tarmac since Sarmiento and glided into town. After a bite to eat we headed the 80kms to the glacier where there are a couple of campsites. The last 40kms or so are badly potholed gravel road and we had to pay 20 pesos each for the priviledge of entering the national park to drive in it. As darkness drew in we pushed the last 7kms on past the campsites to the glacier itself.

Even in the night it's an impressive spectacle, creaking, groaning and dropping big chunks off. After a night camping beside a japanese guy (no spanish, little english) riding his bicycle and trailer to Alaska, we went back to the glacier. The light wasn't too good as it was drizzling but after an hour the sun came out and we could see it in all its glory. The glacier is one of the few in the world which are advancing. This one moves 2m a day, is 60m high above the water and 5kms wide. When even small pieces fall off theres a loud bang as they hit the water below (the sound comes after a few seconds delay), and when a big piece, weighing many tons, hits the water it's a fantastic sight. After about four hours of being mesmerized and with some good pics of bits falling in on Ts 35mm camera we went back to town for a late lunch.

Landy mad fans

Mad for it

Mad scottish doris

Mad Japanese guy cycling to Alaska

Mad and drunk dutch couple...

...not a patch on mad R1 Sjaak (take 2)

El Calafate town centre is touristy but looks nice and is pretty relaxed - and the weather seems better here too. One thing we soon noticed was the large number of landies about, mainly used for taking tourists on trips in the surrounding hills. We asked one landy driver where we could find a workshop to use while taking off the leaking transfer box for the second time, (the first time in Venezuela we didn't change the right seal!) and he found one for us who promised that we could come round the following evening and spend the whole night fixing it if we needed.

The following day we prepared for the job by taking off the gearbox tunnel and cubby box. Arriving at the workshop the guys all looked at their feet - no we couldn't use this place. Shit - oh well, we'll have to do it in the campsite. We dusted off the hand winch ready to use as a makeshift hoist, only to discover the handle is missing - no idea since when. A quick trip to a local scrapyard soon provided a suitable alternative piece of metal tube and, using a tree at one end of the winch, we had the transfer box removed by 10pm, being experts now and all! An alchoholic dutch (aren't they all?!) couple were camping beside us and they provided a much needed beer and entertained us as they downed a bottle and a half of rum while keeping the camp fire supplied with 'dry wooood'. Wicked!

Helping Sjaak use windows

No gentle key presses here

Traditional asado style

The following day started sunny, but it didn't last long. Luckily the dodgy seal was changed and the transfer box closed up before it started to rain hard. Lying under the landy refitting the box, handbrake, exhaust and propshafts isn't much fun in the rain but a hot shower soon had T cleaned up.

When we left El Calafate we'd done about 50kms south when lo and behold, along comes Sjaak on his R1! A few minutes talking by the side of the road isn't enough with this guy so we headed back to the campsite for a couple of nights of heavy beer sessions and swapping of travelers stories of what happened since we last met in Lencois, Brazil.

We eventually managed to leave - there must be some truth in the legend that if you eat the Calafate berries (blackcurrant type fruits), you're sure to return.

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