We left El Chaltén around 2PM (you can check that out here), tired from hiking, but excited to see the famous Perito Moreno Glacier.
Day 12 – New Year’s Eve
We wanted to spend New Year’s at a place where we could shower, and get Wifi to connect with family and friends. We found a campground managed by a family, minutes to downtown El Calafate – only 280 Pesos! We enjoyed the hot shower, and washed our clothes in the outdoor sink. I truly felt like some hillbilly as we hung almost every piece of clothing on the line, chairs, tables, and even the electric wires! We were on our way to starting the new year in clean clothes, smelling good – nothing could get better! Except of course, talking with our family. We are 2 hours ahead of Virginia, and 5 hours ahead of California. We got to talk to our parents and siblings – which was really nice. This year my nephew got to watch Star Wars, and he was eager to tell me all about his New Year’s plans. He also explained his theory that Mission Peak was once a volcano, and he was going to climb it the very next weekend – did I mention, Xander is obsessed with Volcanos right now, and happily shares where the nearest ones are to us. Getting back on topic, we felt truly blessed to share our love with our family. We also had befriended another WickedVan couple – Jakob and Kelly from Holland. We ended up roasting marshmallows, drinking rum, and plenty of Argentinean sparkling wine to welcome in the new year. Of course, no new year’s is complete with legal/illegal street fireworks, which we happily enjoyed for an hour, and then annoyingly put up with till about 5AM – they seriously love their fireworks I guess. It was great spending the evening with such a fun couple, and hearing about their travels. Although, after hearing about their version of Santa Claus I may never be the same. Jakob & Kelly – please stay in touch, and safe travels!
Day 13 – New Year’s Day
New Year’s day, as it often does, started out slow. We slept in, folded our clothes (thank goodness they were dry), and used the Wifi to plan out the next few weeks. We also looked further ahead and booked our WickedVan camper for New Zealand.
By afternoon, we were ready to leave and to explore El Calafate. First stop – gas and an ATM. Finding a working ATM in Argentina has proven to be a nightmare, but finding a working ATM on holiday is nonexistent. After trying all 4 ATMs in the town, we crossed our fingers that the cash we had would be enough, and set off to sightsee. We made our way to Lake Argentine in hopes of finding flamingos and other wild life. We were able to find flamingos, but they were so far away, it was challenging to get pictures. We drove for a few hours around the lake and were in awe of the beauty. Even in the crappy weather, it truly is a gorgeous place. We ventured toward Glacier National Park, in hopes of camping in the free campsite. Jakob & Kelly stayed there and said it was worth the drive, and it was free! We drove the extra hour on dirt and gravel road, to learn that the campsite was completely full – it was a holiday weekend, so shouldn’t have been a surprise. We stayed for a bit to check out the lake and scenic views the campsite offered. We drove back towards the main road to the glacier and ended up camping on the side of the road. No joke, we were surrounded by cows, and were treated to “Moos” till about 9PM and woken up with it early the next morning. It was such a nature experience.
We said “Good Moooooooorning” to our neighbors and hit the road by 9AM towards Perito Moreno Glacier. The drive to the entrance was about 30 minutes, and to our surprise cost 330 Pesos per person! We counted the cash we had 600 Pesos. Steve tried to negotiate with the employee on the price, but he didn’t seem to want to budge. He then asked if they would take US dollars – Oh yes, they would! Whew, after some math to figure out a conversion price on cellphones, we made it in, and had another 30-minute drive to go to get to the glacier parking lot. At this point, we had no cash, and prayed that the bathrooms would be free – Yes, they were. We opted to walk to the glacier from the parking lot, rather than take the shuttle (since we were broke).
The glacier was AMAZING! I can’t emphasis that enough. This was my first glacier experience, and many people we talked to after said that it was the best glacier experience in the world – even beating Alaska. I don’t know about that, I do know I want to test the theory and explore many more (hopefully before they melt). The glacier itself was massive, but what really gave me the tingles was the sound it made. You can hear cracking, breaking, and chunks falling somewhere in the mass. Steve and I had seen ice fall from the glacier, but wanted to capture it on camera. We waited patiently, like we would with wildlife photos, and after 30 minutes were front row to a gigantic chunk falling off making a huge splash and even bigger sound. We walked throughout the boardwalks which took about 2.5 hours (including our 30-minute wait and watch). On our drive out of the national park, we got lucky and saw a fox. He was hanging out in a parking lot, hoping for a handout, but posing for the camera. He was beautiful.
We left the park at lunch time and headed back to El Calafate to get gas, groceries, cash and head South towards the border. We didn’t anticipate, because the of the New Year’s holiday, only one of two gas stations in town had gas. We waited over an hour to fill up the tank. Steve attempted to get cash at the ATMs, and after 6 attempts, was able to get cash. By the time we got out of town, it was close to dinner time. We drove for a few hours until we got 20 minutes from the border, and ate dinner at 10PM (with the sun still out) before calling it a night.
Back to Chile – stay tuned!