The next stop after Torres del Paine, as every Patagonian traveler knows, is The Perito Moreno Glacier. The ride from Torres was pleasant, if rather uninspiring, until I crested a hill and found this spread out before me. Wow.
I know the pic is rather long and skinny, but I had to stitch it together from 6 normal pictures since my basic camera just can’t handle a vista that grand. When you open it, imagine riding along a fairly ordinary rolling plain until you crest a hill and are hit with that view completely out of the blue. I believe the British term is ‘gobsmacked’.
Anyhow, I finished the day in El Calafate, a tourist town that looked just like what I thought Ushuaia was going to. It was hopelessly touristy, but still quite pleasant. I decided to splurge on a fine dinning take of the classic South American asado paired with a truly stunning Argentinian Malbec. I knew I was in for a tough stretch and decided I deserved the treat… Little did I know how tough.
From El Calafate it was an easy ride to the glacier, which I figured would be good for a picture or two before moving on. As I arrived and looked down on the glacier I realized that I had badly misjudged it. Even the somewhat truncated view from the parking lot was impressive.
After making my way down and around the wonderfully empty and beautiful raised walkways I was greeted by the glacier in its entirety. You could hear it creaking and cracking as it advanced, pieces falling off it into water with a roar and a splash. It felt alive and ominous- some great beast moving inexorably forward while all you could do was run in a panic around your ever decreasing spit of land…
Retreating from the awesome power of nature I rode around the lake to El Chaltén, a funny little town that is still shaking off its unhappy birth during the border conflicts with Chile while moving forward as a jumping off point for those wanting to explore the stunning mountains around it.
The big draw to the area is Mount Fitz Roy. A most majestic mountain… Or so I’m told. By the time I got there it was completely surrounded by clouds and not even remotely visible. Despite this, the ride wasn’t a complete waste. The road had that perfect kind of gravel that lets you push the bike around without ever quite letting it go, mixed with unexpected twists and elevation changes. Combined with the scenery, it was a riders dream.
I was also struck by how much the area reminded me of The Canadian Rockies in the fall. Remembering that it was actually spring there just added to the almost surreal deja-vu.
The next morning I awoke to the reality of winters fast approach…
And started to remember what I had been told about the next stretch of Ruta 40.