A fifty-five minute plane ride over tan folds of suede hills, then desert sand and sage will bring us to El Calafate. This land looks a lot like the American southwest, but instead of flat topped mesas of red and ochre, black, jagged mountain peaks surround the valley.
We are met at the airport by our driver, who does not speak English, but we learn that we have an 80 km drive to our hotel by the Perito Moreno glacier. I do manage to understand that we are passing a 70,000 acre ranch owned by an English family, the Browns. I ask if they raise cattle, he says somethng I don’t understand, and we settle for goats. Not too sure I got that one right.
Lago Argentino borders the road. It is huge, and of a blue I have seen no where else. It isnt aqua, exactly, or turqoise, or blue. It is opaque and chalky. I ask the driver about the color, and he says it is that color because of the glacier. Later, when we see the glacier, we realize it is true. I now know the meaning of ice blue.
As we round a bend near the end of our journey, the driver says, "Look!!" He sounds proud and excited, as if he has not seen this hundreds of times. It is the glacier, the wall of spires which is Perito Moreno. We gasp. It is stunning.
At the hotel, you look out on the glacier from every room, including the common rooms. The hotel is spacious and light, all wood, an architecture between ranch and chalet. Its tall, wide windows look out upon the waters of Brazo Rica, an arm of Lago Argentino, the blueblack hills beside it, and the dominating mass of the glacier. The hotel is called Los Notros, after the name of a flower which grows there. It is a hotel which is run by young people learning the hotel business, all under 30. The hotel itself is built of recycled wood, and so is the furniture; the water comes from snow melt tumbling down the mountain, the heating system from gas cylinders, and there is no concrete anywhere. It blends nicely with its surroundings, and everyone is once again smiling and kind. .
We climb three staircases up the mountain to our cabin. We are all admiration for the young man or men who will bear our luggage up all these steps. The climb is good for us, though, and in our cabin we sit and look at the view before dinner. The glacier is a presence, a looming city of blue and white gleaming towers inexorably sliding toward the valley. You can’t take your eyes off of it for long. Its color changes from hour to hour, depending on the strenght of the sun, the clouds, the time of day
We have an excellent dinner in the central dining room. The menu is set, and included in the price of the room, so you don´´t have to spend too much time thinking about it. This hotel is 50 km frm the nearest town, El Calafate, and yet the food is fresh, copious, and exquisite. The staff are smiling and helpful, as they all seem to be here in Argentina. At 10:30 pm we are ready for bed, but it isn’t yet dark and we are drawn again to the view, to watch darkness fall slowly over the mass, whiter now in the last dusky moments of daylight. It seems to grow as its whiteness looms, and the black mountains fade into the blackness of the night.
- The Beagle Channel
- Perito Moreno – South Face and North Face