Tuesday, February 14, 2006

El Calafate to Rio Gallegos, Argentina (with a stop at Perito Moreno Glacier)

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

12:30 a.m. Valentine’s Day

"Hotel Alonso", Rio Gallegos, Argentina

Fading fast. Just back from dinner at “RoCo”, a big restaurant on the main street (it's interior brightly-lighted with those bare compact fluorescent lights.) At 11:00 p.m. it was virtually full, a bottle of wine on most tables (water or ice being added to some glasses of wine.) The staff is "mature", in their 40s and 50s.

I ordered the lomo con salsa de hongos, a giant slab of steak smothered in sautéed wild mushrooms. Excellent, though way too much food. The cost was about $10. It took about half an hour to get the bill though. (I still don't understand this payment side of dining in Argentina and Chile!)

Body pretty worn out. I think that lately I’ve grown weary of the traveling. It's reflected in a paucity of thoughts, observations and emotions, and a general lack of engagement.

This morning

Up at 10:00 after nearly twelve hours of rest. Soaked in sweat, but feeling a bit better. A short time later, the manager knocked on my door. She wanted to know about my departure.

“Can I stay one more day?”

“No. A group is coming today, and they have the whole hotel.”

“What time is check-out?”

“10:00. But you can have some more minutes.”

So, even though my body doesn't feel up to the rigors of the road, I’m "coaxed" to move on. ("Enjoy your illness. It's just one of life's stages.")

I had just washed some laundry, which was hanging out to dry, so I did my best to delay. The final bill here, about $180, represents an expensive illness. Though I didn't have much of an appetite, I ate lunch at “Casablanca”, then went over to the internet café, but found them on the same schedule as yesterday: 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. I'll have to connect further down the road.

It's about 45 miles from El Calafate to Perito Moreno Glacier, the last five or so a construction zone with a half a dozen stops for equipment working in the road.

The glacier is a spectacle like no other I've seen on this trip: an enormous river of ice flowing from high in the Andes. At the mirador you can see all the way back to its origins beneath the peaks, some fourteen kilometers away.

Standing before the glacier, it is simple to comprehend how mountains are carved and ground to sand by this unstoppable force. What is impossible to comprehend is the time scale upon which this takes place. Over the hours, I watched the glacier "calving", massive chunks and columns collapsing into the lake before it. But the time it took that ice to be deposited as snow in the distant mountains, then travel to this point is unfathomable.

The face of the glacier is 50 to 55 meters high, and advances 2 meters per day at the center. I was watching this one column, hoping to see it fall.

Like so many hands in prayer

After 6:00, I moved on from Perito Moreno, returning to El Calafate for fuel, then embarking upon a 190-mile sprint eastward to Rio Gallegos. With the wind at my back, I cruised at 80 to 85 mph all the way. The temperature was mild, with a few sprinkles along the way.

The entire highway from Perito Moreno to Rio Gallegos is lined with fences, a very different feel from the wide-open spaces of Ruta 40 up north.

Arrived in Rio Gallegos around 9:45. This was the fourth hotel I tried. They were full and the clerk had just given me directions to a campground south of town. As I was getting on the bike, he came out and said he just had a cancellation. 80 Pesos, was more than I wanted to spend, but indications were I should stay.


babycondor said...

This has got to be one of the more astonishing photos you've posted. I stared at this in awe for several minutes. The tiny humans, the dramatic boundary, the immense sheet of ice....WOW!

Anonymous said...

3 comments (moved here due to post consolidation):

Tim Spires said...

That black background is awesome. It appears very surreal.

Dicky Neely said...


babycondor said...

Wow and Wow again!