Our second day in El Calafate was spent getting up close and personal with the Perito Moreno Glacier. Again, we used Tiempo Libre to book and coordinate the tour, this one was called, fittingly, Glaciar Perito Moreno.
We were picked up from our hotel at 9:00am, which was a fine start time but we didn't finish the other hotel pick-ups until somewhere around 10:30am, so it was a lot of extra time on a tour bus. There was a bilingual guide on the tour that provided lots of interesting information about the area both in English and Spanish. The tour bus drove us directly to the glaciar, though we made a few stops for good views along the way. Here was the best view for me:
Gretchen has developed this love of throwing items into water. Fountains, lakes, rivers, the bath, they are all seen as a place to throw miscellaneous natural debris. Here, she is headed toward the lake to throw some leaves:
We boarded the bus to continue to the main attraction. The Perito Moreno Glacier is the most famous of the glaciers in this neck of the woods, named after Francisco Moreno, who first explored the area in 1876 and remains invaluable to the area due to his role in defending the Argentine boarder during the Argentina/Chile boarder disputes (some of which still go on today...). The glacier has a front width of 4 km and is between 50 - 70 meters (164 - 230 feet) above lake level. The ice cracks and breaks constantly, and the glacier grows and recedes depending on the season, but studies have determined that the overall mass of Perito Moreno has not significantly changed over the last 500 - 1,000 years.
Each winter, the glacier "grows" by inching forward in relation to the land opposite. Eventually, the glacier touches the land, and then in the spring and summer, when the ice begins to recede, the lake water begins to force tunnels through the ice. With enough melting, the tunnel height grows, and it becomes more of a bridge. With a bit more melting, the bridge is overwhelmed by the weight of the ice, and breaks off to form a complete separation of the glacier and the land. This happens once a year, and tourists wait from the catwalks to witness the final breaking of this ice bridge. We missed the bridge breaking by 2 weeks, and from the You Tube videos posted, the breaking was spectacular. Here is where the bridge used to be, you can just make out the small amount of ice on our side of the water (the remains of this side of the ice bridge) and you can hopefully see that the glacier is now separated by a channel of water.
We were still able to see lots of ice falling, though not as much as the entire bridge, it was pretty cool to witness.
At the end of the day, we opted to take the additional boat tour that takes you "as close as possible to the glacier without walking on it" (walking on it is an option for those between 10 - 50 years of age and in good health). Understandably, you can't get a boat too close to the glacier, for fear that the ice above you will break off... which would be very bad.
Here is the location of the former ice bridge from the vantage point of the boat.
Here we are, finally making use of our winter coats. We had to get super close to the ice to need them! I will add that in order to get all of the other boat-goers out of this picture, we were making our way through the crowd in order to get a good background view of the ice and I was saying "Permisso, permisso" (excuse me) to get people out of the way. Gretchen, out of the blue, in her loudest voice yells "Permisso Chicos!" (Excuse me Kids!), which got everyone's attention, made the entire boat laugh and made it so that we could get an uninterrupted view of us and the big ice. I love this feisty chica!
And for the photo highlight of the day, some live action shots of ice breaking and falling. It really is a sight to see...
The big ice was way cooler than I had expected, and I am so glad that we made the trip! If you are able to make it down south on your trip, this is really something amazing to see. Be sure to go in summer (Nov - March) or you'll be in for a chilly trip...