El Califate is about 215 km farther along Ruta 40 from El Chaltén. The biggest attraction is the Perito Moreno glacier. (Click for more pictures) We spent three nights here in the MarcoPolo Suites which was probably the best value we had on the trip – not counting the cabaña in Bariloche. We had a double with private bath for slightly more than we paid for a 6 bunk hostel in El Chaltén.
We spent much of one day strolling through a conservation preserve inhabited by a great variety of birds. The suggested time for the stroll was 1 1/2 hours. We took 3 hours – and shot lots of video. The reserve lies along the shores of Lago Argentino, the largest fresh water lake in Argentina. It has several arms fed by multiple glaciers including the Perito Moreno Glacier. The lake covers 566 sq miles and has a maximum depth of 1640 feet (deeper than Lake Superior).
We did the obligatory trip to Perito Moreno Glacier: arrange for bus, bus takes you along Lago Argentino with a stop at the National Park entrance where they extract 100 peso’s each (about US$25) for a one day pass. Some on the bus were dropped off to take a tour boat to look at the glacier from below. We had done much the same at El Chaltén and the Viedma glacier, we went directly to the ‘cat walks’ for safe viewing.
I guess it makes some sense to stay safe. The sign announced that over a 20 year period, 32 people had been killed by pieces of flying glacier when they got too close as the glacier calved off a big chunk of ice.
As we looked at the imposing wall of moving ice, there were frequent loud cracks which sounded like explosions. Much of the cracking was internal and didn’t signal a chunk of ice falling from the glacier face. But we did see quite a few small pieces fall from the face and occasionally a large piece would fall.
I badly wanted a video of an iceberg falling off. But where do you point the camera and when? I finally settled on placing the camera on the rail such that most of the face was covered. I shot a 30 sec clip then deleted if there was no ‘action’. I repeated this with no luck. Then just before we had to go, I caught a piece falling from the far end of the ice face!
The face of the glacier towers more than 74 meters above the water level. It moves roughly 2 meters per day and the face is about 5 km wide. It is one of the 48 glaciers fed by the South Patagonian Ice Field. This ice field is the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world. It is really impressive! Only Antarctica and Greenland have larger ice fields.