Hola! - well, would you believe it - i've been in the southern hemisphere for 3 weeks now - far too long - i'm clearly getting a dose of the Ben's - that's where you find minor things start to irritate you and you start whining at people that are merely serving but not in charge (i owe someone a big apology) (sorry, Bennie) - and according to Foreign Office advice (www.fco.org.uk ) - if you start to suffer from these symptoms - i should avoid driving and the use of heavy artillery - well, as Paraguay had been removed from my itinerary i was a bit puzzled by this - so i rang them & they said - "delete the artillery, sir, and substitute machinery" - so, job done! (Krupps! - did that joke just backfire on me?) (awkward Boris Johnson-type joke) (best Google it) (maybe not)....
So - El Calafate - a sort of Argentinian Kendal (without a Booths) (sadly) - parts of El Calafate would fit well in Carmel - and while Carmel is all well & good in California, it isn't quite what i'd hoped to find in Argentina - but, hey that's probably progress - and yes, i do mean Carmel and not Cartmel, sticky-toffee pudding fans (though i could do with a pint of Hawkshead green label as served beautifully at the Kings Arms in the square in Cartmel) - i tell thee lad - there's more hops in a pint of Hawkshead green label than they use in all the beer in Brazil & Argentina!
So - Calafate - the main town for the Patagonian lakes and the glaciers. Did you know that the Patagonian glaciers contain the third largest body of ice in the world after Antarctica and Greenland? As part of my tour we went to the Perito Moreno Glacier - one of the natural wonders of the world, apparently and at the end of the Lago Argentino - and the trip included walking on ice - gosh, now wouldn't that make great TV for a Saturday evening sleepathon? Yes folks - roll up, roll up - watch a bunch of people walk on ice - and, er - not fall over - well, you see, they gave us crampons & with these natty devices you can virtually walk up sheer walls of ice - ok, maybe not sheer, but pretty damn steep - and down again, obviously....
The glacier is about 5km wide and rises to 60 metres above the level of the Lago Argentino with a depth of 110 metres below the water level. The glacier appears to be neither retreating nor advancing - making it one of only a few that aren't receding. You can actually see film of chunks of ice breaking off from the glacier on You Tube! The top of the glacier is advancing at about 2 metres a day while the bottom about 0.8 of a metre - hence the ice breaking off in the way it does. The glacier seems quite dirty - but that's just from the sediment it picks up as it makes its way down the valley. The ice also looks blue - the more dense the more intense the blue and this to do with light refracting from the ice. The icebergs in Lago Argentino look for all the world as if Wolverhampton Council has commissioned some hopeless sculptor to shape random bits of scruffy ice in the water in the name of art. It isn't until you get closer that you see the intensity of the blue and the intricate shapes and lines. In addition to Perito Moreno we also saw the Upsala Glacier - named after the Swedish university city - the glacier is receding at about 200 metres a year.
So, yesterday evening i dropped my laundry off - the clothese were nicely washed & folded for only 18 pesos - so top marks to the friendly ladies in the laundry :-)
Best place to eat in El Calafate is Pura Vida - great food and lovely fresh bread :-) and the other place is at the other end of town near the flyover - Viva la Pepa that does crepes and also sells well-chilled Antares beer - served by the gorgeous Erica - www.vivalapepacalafate.com
I stayed at the very comfortable Quijote Hotel - where they serve refreshing Margaritas and Pisco Sours :-)
Did you know, by the way, there's a new pizza delivery service in the USA? Yep - Dominatrix Pizza - the delivery lady wears leathers & beats the toppings out of you....