Believe it or not I'm going to start with another bus ride. Not because of comfortable seats, or great movies, or even stupendous service!! Oh no, we've definitely toughened up since the trip to Mendoza so these treats are well and truly behind us now. Nevertheless, we certainly weren't prepared for the events that occurred during the bus ride to El Calafate!
Only 3 hours into our journey there was an almighty crash which brought the bus to an immediate stand-still. All the dozing passengers sat up completely startled by the noise and both of us tried making sense of what just happened. Truth be known (speaking as little spanish as we do) we never found out exactly what occured, but all we do know is we were stuck by the side of the road for the next two hours whilst the 3 staff from the bus and at least 6 passing truck drivers addressed the problem. Being the nosey sod I am I couldn't help but sit by the stairwell and watch the comedy unfold. There were flip-flopped feet sticking out from under the bus whilst the other 8 men supervised - well, they chatted amongst themselves and of course smoked endless cigarettes. Every so often there would be a deafening series of thumps as the owner of the flip-flopped feet would hit what sounded like a large mallet against whatever was either stuck or broken. The only thing that changed throughout this entire episode was when one of the truckers got into his cab and drove off into the wilderness, making a huge u-turn and finally pulling in adjacent to the bus so his headlights lit up the fiasco!! Watching him bounce up and down in his cab as it clambered over the uneven ground was highly amusing. Topped off only by the look on his face when he got out - a look that said he may have regretted being so helpful!!! Obviously the tedium did finally set in so when the banging stopped and the wheels started turning again we were all very happy bunnies indeed. The first few minutes were still very tense however as we wondered whether the endless banging had indeed worked, but we were eventually reassured and settled down again for a well earned sleep.
After thinking we'd had enough excitement for one bus journey, at 3am there came another loud crash followed by what sounded like ice cubes falling down the stairs. We all thought the waiter had taken a tumble so upon further investigation we were all horrified to find the side window of the bus had just smashed and what sounded like ice cubes was actually the shattered glass tumbling down the stairs... UNBELIEVABLE!!! We were now driving along with glass everywhere and wind gushing in. So during the next scheduled stop the glass was swept up and the bodgiest of bodge jobs was made of repairing the window. It's pretty difficult to sleep with flimsy plywood boards slapping against the frame when you're driving along at 80kph! Suffice to stay none of the wood made it the full 600km so we all just resigned to the torrent of wind which blew in. Still, no one was hurt and it's another story to add to the never-ending list of crazy events that comes with this travelling game!
So now on to the main event... To El Calafate to visit the most amazing glacier imaginable - Perito Moreno. After a one hour drive from the main town you enter the national park and almost immediately you're greeted by the most spectacular wall of blue ice! Both myself and Faye were blown away by what we were seeing, but the sheer size of the glacier was still yet to reveal itself. We meandered through the tree-lined road for a further 10 minutes, each time we caught another glimpse people would stand up and rush to the left side of the bus gasping and taking the necessary snaps. The journey ended by the side of the glacial lake with the ice hidden from view, so when asked if we wanted to take a boat ride for a closer look we all agreed. The huge catamaran taxied slowly out on the lake so we could get up close and personal with this enormous blue monster although we were not allowed to go any closer than 300m, nevertheless it's still towered over us! This thing is a shade under 200ft high, 5km wide and 25km long so it leaves you speechless when you're that close. I took plenty of photos but they really didn't do it any justice, so if we can ever upload them (courtesy of Argentina's unimpressive wifi) then please judge for yourself. Obviously we were all hoping a piece would break off, so when it finally happened we all shrieked liked school kids on a field trip! The excitement only increased once we found out that said "small piece" was in fact the size of a car - still small by glacier standards! Photos taken and hands completely frozen we were taken back to shore for the next part of the adventure - to stand within touching distance on a ready made platform on the opposite peninsular.
Nothing can prepare you for standing next to something so ridiculously huge, and the fact that it's forever moving forward. The noise it makes as pieces of the ice bend and break deep inside the glacier is deafening! Like you're right underneath the most spectacular thunderstorm - minus the lightning of course! The only thing better was when it happened right at the edge, huge pieces breaking away and falling into the frozen depths below! We stayed for another few hours, hearing continuous claps of thunder, each time the crowd's heads would turn frantically, trying to guess where the next avalanche of ice would fall. Not many experiences have been that humbling so if you ever get a chance to visit a glacier then please, please, please do not pass it up. Regardless of what type of person you are, I defy anyone not to be touched by it's beauty and sheer enormity! Life doesn't get much better than that let me tell you!
Nothing much more to report on El Calafate really I'm afraid, it's a fairly sleepy town and most people just stop for a night or 2 just to see the glacier. It's very charming and has a few nice coffee shops and restaurants (the patagonian lamb is to die for - Faye said they do a nice salad as well!!!). So, glacier seen we decided to up sticks the next day for more amazing adventures in El Chalten - a beautiful little town 4 hours north. But this blog entry is already too long, so over to Faye for the next instalment....
PS: My beard is now coming along nicely and my outrageous beard envy has now subsided thank god! However, it's now been replaced by sun tan envy! My pastey white pins are not a pleasant sight that's for sure!!!