March 2, 2010

Perito Moreno Glacier

March 2. Hosteria Hainen has a nice breakfast, with very robust coffee. We left at 8:00 in a bus, with a local tour guide, for the Perito Moreno glacier. The guide explained much of the lifestyle in the area, the various creatures we might see – the big ones – none of which we did see, except the Caracara, which is pretty ubiquitous. We drove to the end of a peninsula, surrounded by two legs of Lago Argentino, where the Perito Moreno glacier descends from the South Patagonia Ice Field, serving both arms of the lake.

Every couple of year, lately, the glacier strikes the end of the peninsula, cutting off the southern arm from the northern, and its outlet. Over time, the southern arm builds up water and eventually breaks through the ice dam to reunite the lakes. Today, the glacier has a remnant on the peninsula, with a channel about 30 meters wide between land and ice, and a good flow between, from south to north.

The weather was fine as we drove up, but there were clouds over the ice field. We spent a couple of hours walking the trails below the visitor center to view the many perspectives on the ice and watch for calving on the glacier's front. Small ice falls were common.

The park is very well developed and organized. The trails are amazing. All of the old soil and concrete trails are closed and are being replaced by catwalks and stairs with railings. This keeps the foliage (almost all deciduous, with the trees being kinds of beeches) and the soil safe. It also prevents fools from danger. A sign along the way informed us that between 1968 and 1988, over 30 people were killed by falling ice. As frequent as the ice falling was and as foolish as people can be, I don't doubt it.

By the time we were ready to leave, a storm had rolled down the glacier and treated us to a short, but fierce, rainstorm. While it cleared up soon enough, it was a timely reminder of how the weather can change here.

Upon returning to town, I walked out along the lake again, to confirm the black-fronted? Ibises I'd seen yesterday (photo pending) and the get another look at the flamingos feeding in the shallow water west of town. The wind, the famous Patagonian wind, turned me around after about 30 minutes, so I wandered in town for the rest of the afternoon.

After a nice dinner (soup, steak, and a fine Malbec), I called it a day. Tomorrow, we hit the road for El Chaltén, about three hours north, and then the trail, for real.


Dave said...

Glad to see the trip is going well. I thought you may be experiencing some logistical issues. Take lots of pictures! I need some new wallpaper for my workstation.

Bruce said...

Sounds like a wonderful start to the trip. I'm enjoying your posts, and happy that you are off to a great start.