Morning rains and gray skies dissuaded me from taking an early morning hourlong ride to the Perito Moreno Glacier until later in the afternoon. By the time I took the road along the lake I was treated to a massive rainbow over the now turquoise blue Lago Argentina. Of course, the winds had another bout with me, but soon I was riding inside the National Park and protected UNESCO World Heritage Site making my way toward the massive ice.
The roads inside the park are all dirt and today and yesterday’s rains made for a slippery yet mud-free ride to the southern face of the massive snow pile turned to ice. I was rolling into a mild downhill turn when Perito Moreno’s prodigious enclave stunned me. For thousands of years snow has accumulated, turned to ice and today like every day, it continues to slide down the mountains and into Lago Argentina creating a massive damn of ice towering above the surface of the lake more than 1,000 feet. You have to see this to believe it.
The tiny shack sitting just 50 yards from the docks on this windswept inlet serves as Hielo y Aventura‘s ticket office for the catamaran that takes those inclined to within a few hundred feet of the glacier’s southern face. The wind stirred up a halo of dust around me and the bike as I parked and removed my helmet, gloves and custom Westone earplugs. Before I could step up to the window a massive gust of wind grabbed ahold of one of my gloves and in a matter of seconds it was scurrying along the dusty parking lot toward the lake. The bus driver waiting for his passengers to return from their boat ride alerted me to the theft. I darted toward the lakeside and as my glove continued to roll it flew under some sort of racking sitting by the lake. The glove tumbled down toward the lake. I dove under the racking and reached for the glove downing a mouthful of dust during the rescue and adding more dirt to my riding suit. As for my right earplug? I’m not sure what happened, but sadly it’s gone. I wrote it off to the wind, but happy at least to have retrieved my precious Held glove.
To make matters worse, the office informed me that the 4:30pm departure, the last of the day, required 10 passengers or it wouldn’t go. I caught my breath and waited. It was 3:55pm. A young couple from Buenos Aires pulled up in their late model Fiat. Then a taxi’s cloud of dust emerged a middle-aged, olive skinned woman in fine clothes, wearing delicate makeup whose long and narrow fingers constantly made futile attempts to keep her hair in place . We made four. The clock ticked and we waited. Hoped. There would be no other boats until morning. And unlike other parks in Chile, USA and Argentina, the 30 pesos entry fee was only good for a single admittance. We waited. At 4:25 I was ready to ride over to the north face of the glacier and write-of the lost opportunity to get close to the glacier. Then leading yet another dusty trail of brown dust,t a small mini-bus barreled down the hill toward the office. Out popped a dozen or so eager travelers ready to board the catamaran and flirt with Glacier Perito Moreno.
The wind was practically unbearable. At times freezing cold spray would douse the deck of the boat. But for about 25 minutes after a 20 minute ride the captain circled several times ensuring that all sides of the boat had equal opportunities to see and photograph the glacier. By 5:30 we were debarked and I was riding toward the north face of the glacier.
A series of walkways and observation platforms gets visitors within a few hundred feet of parks of the glacier. Here I watched the spectacle of massive chunks of ice dropping off the glacier and falling a hundred feet or more into the lake. It starts with creaking sounds. Sometimes a thunderous moan. And others a smack. At first it’s difficult to hone in on where the sounds is coming for when suddenly a massive eruption in the water sends waves violently rolling while broken pieces of ice bob in the water until a massive chunk of ice rises out of the water in a glory of glistening blue, white and crystal and then bobs slowly, up and down until slowly floating out toward the middle of the lake. Some of these chunks of ice are bigger than five or more story buildings. And the power in which they slam into the water creates such a massive sound that the travelers on the platforms rise, cheer and return the noise with booming applause. Spectacular.
The walls of the glacier are 200 feet tall. Huge chunks such as the aqua blue,
are the size of a couple tour buses such as in the foreground here fall off the
glacier causing a spectacle of sight and sound that leaves you with your jaw hanging open.