After day hiking Chile’s Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, we head to Argentina’s Glacier National Park.
Day 8: Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales to El Calafate, Argentina
On our way out of Torres del Paine, we head to Laguna Azul for iconic views of the Towers which remain shrouded in clouds. But we do spot zorro, the Andean fox. After dropping the rental car in Puerto Natales, we board Bus-Sur for the six hour ride to El Calafate, Argentina.
Day 9: ice trekking on the Perito Merino Glacier
We arrive in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and take a boat to the Perito Merino Glacier. Strapping on crampons, we trek onto the glacier, meandering among the phantasmagoria of shapes and colors for about 90 minutes. It is a privileged, intimate experience of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field – the third largest on earth after Antarctica’s and Greenland’s. We end with an obligatory splash of whiskey over 400 year old glacial ice.
In terms of scale, the Perito Moreno Glacier brings to mind the Grand Canyon. It is 70 meters high, 5 KM wide and it extends back into the mountains an astonishing 55 KM.
According to our guide, Luis, the temperate glacier has been in equilibrium for at least the past 130 years (when scientists first began studying it.) That is, each year the glacier produces exactly as much ice as it calves. Consequently, the profile of the glacier where it meets Canal del los Tempanos and Brazo Rico is the same today as it has been for more than a century – and likely for a lot longer. Nature’s mysteries boggle the mind.
After our ice trek, we have time to experience the full view of the glacier from the viewing platforms.
Our place in El Calafate, Posada Jared Kush is about the best value B&B we’ve ever stayed in. After Torres del Paine’s expensive hotels, we’re back in our element at $75/night. The proprietors, Claudia and Federico, are exceptionally warm and pleasant hosts, among the nicest people we have ever met on the road. And Federico is a gourmet chef!
Day 10: El Chaltén, the north entrance to Glacier National Park
On our three-hour drive to El Chaltén, we have jaw-dropping views of Cerro Torre, Cerro Fitzroy, the associated range and its numerous glaciers. After lunch, we ascend to the Mirador los Cóndores for intimate views of the Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitzroy, and then to Mirador las Águilas for views of Viedma Lake and the surrounding steppe.
El Chaltén reminds us of Moab, Utah. Everyone is here to adventure in whatever way they are capable: trekking, backpacking, ice climbing, rock climbing, mountain climbing. Because there are very few vehicles, everyone in town is on foot, almost always sporting a backpack and hiking poles.
We are excited for three more days of prime El Chaltén hiking:
- Laguna Capri on the way to Laguna de Los Tres for good views of Cerro Fitz Roy
- The full Laguna Torre Trail with views of Cerro Torre
- Laguna Azul at the base of Glaciar Marconi and Lago Electrico
Day 11: our plans suddenly change
We awake to an email summoning us home to be with Patty’s elderly mom, whose health has suddenly declined. Getting from remote El Chaltén, Argentina to JFK as soon as possible involves quite the effort and the kindness, generosity and assistance of many people.
Hosteria el Puma has poor WiFi and does not have international phone service. When Pat connects to the local cellular service, it does not allow her to make calls but does manage to screw up her phone. Then there is the language barrier and numerous other constraints.
But Argentines are incredibly helpful. The tourist information center in the bus station lets us use their phone for a 30 minute international call to rearrange our flights all the while tending to Pat, bringing her tea and hugs. I call Posada Karut Josh and Federico answers. I explain the situation to him and say, “Federico, we need your help.” Without hesitation, he replies, “We will do whatever you need us to do.” Then Claudia took over, providing multiple options for getting us to our LATAM flight departing from Puerto Natales, Chile.
As we drive back to El Calafate, Claudia and Federico spend a few hours driving around town buying us bus tickets and getting us a hotel room (it was festival and accommodations were mostly sold out). As I tell them in a subsequent email: “You two have been bright lights illuminating the darkness, reminding us of the goodness inherent in humanity. We will never forget your graciousness, kindness and assistance in our time of need.”
Human beings can be so kind. As Pat writes to our kids: “Kindness is a universal language. From the cleaning lady and employees at the information center, multiple hosts at our hosterias, the car rental man and a gentleman from Germany (I think) (who we ran into randomly in two different towns) there were multiple acts of support and generosity both large and small.”
After about five hours, we had a plan. And after three days including seven hours (car), six hours (bus), 16 hours (on four planes), and four passport controls, we arrive home, exactly where we need to be.