The Perito Moreno Glacier

On our way down to the other end of Los Glaciares National Park, we stopped off at the Patagonian hideaway of the real Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s situated in an almost impossibly remote corner of a remote province at the far off end of the World, so those outlaws really must have wanted to have been caught to have come to the attention of their pursuers this far from civilisation. Of course, they made it all the way to Bolivia before finally meeting their end and La Leona is now a cafe and tourist attraction.

However, another well known character from the history of the region is remembered here and that is Father Alberto de Agostini: explorer, mountaineer, naturalist, photographer and anthropologist. This remarkable man so loved the Patagonian wilderness that he explored almost every region of it during the early part of the twentieth century and left a unique and invaluable legacy in the form of written, photographic and film records. Actually, he was Peidmontese rather than Spanish or Argentinian but this doesn’t surprise me at all. Piedmont means “foot of the mountain” and my own Italian ancestors hail from the North of Italy. Many of them were keen Alpinists, some even claiming historic ascents, and they certainly looked towards the glistening peaks of Switzerland every bit as much as towards the fertile plains of the South.

Today we joined a local tour group to visit the Perito Moreno glacier and the word “spectacular” hardly does it justice. Even the coach driver’s tasteless gesture of playing the Space Odyssey theme over the intercom when the ice face came into view could not dull its grandeur and before we reached the Grand-Canyon-sized souvenir emporia an even greater treat was in store.

Information panels dotted along the walkways describe how the ice dam which separates Lake Argentina from the Brazo Rico waterway collapses every four to five years before being renewed as the ice advances. Well, either someone has got their facts wrong or global warming has a lot to answer for. By the time we reached the forward viewing point thunderous noises accompanied the calving that was going on all along the face of the glacier and the ice bridge was looking pretty flimsy. It dropped several lorry loads of ice into the slushy waters beneath while we watched and soon a huge crowd had gathered with their cameras at the ready. Needless to say, I wasn’t the one who managed to film the collapse.

Grahame and I are spending a couple of nights luxuriating in an upgrade in the hostel at El Calafate, in preparation for some more rigours as we travel back over the border into Chile and head on even further South tomorrow.  Believe it or not, there is even some more camping scheduled. During our last night at El Chaltain I was sure that the wind would tear our tents from their moorings and send us tumbling across the campsite like so many discarded plastic bags on a rubbish tip. I wonder what the mortality rate is on these Dragoman trips?

Anyway, thanks in part to my companion’s superior tent pitching skills and especially to my beloved sister’s loan of an all-weather sleeping bag, we made it to the dawn but I’m not looking forward to a repeat performance.

Categories: Latin America

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