Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 9)
Misty rain and low overcast skies greeted us as we packed our bikes for the trip to El Calafate. We prepared ourselves for another day of riding in rain and wind. But as we finished loading and started up the bikes, a bit of sun poked through the clouds, then a bit more and as we exited the town limits, we were treated to a nice bright rainbow. What a nice farewell from the spirits of El Chalten.
As we began our journey further south, the wind picked up again, gusts began to become a factor and we had to pay attention as we rode along the pavement. In no time, we passed the same lake that we had passed two days earlier in the snow and rain. Icebergs floated in the water and some had been beached by the strong winds. The clouds once again began to lower and it looked like we might be in for some weather sometime during the day.
But it was onward and southward, because although the day’s destination was El Calafate, it was what lay beyond El Calafate that was the real treat and the cause of our excitement. Only a short two hour ride southwest of El Calafate, the Perito Moreno glacier is indeed a spectacular sight and is also the third largest store of fresh water in the world. In addition, it is one of the few glaciers in the world that is still growing.
By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.
But it was onward and southward, because although the day’s destination was El Calafate, it was what lay beyond that was the real treat and the cause of our excitement. Because only a short two hour ride southwest of El Calafate, the Perito Moreno glacier lay waiting for us, and is indeed a spectacular sight. Few people from where I come from know that it is the third largest store of fresh water in the world and is also one of the few glaciers in the world that is still growing.
But we still had many miles to cover and while we were on the pavement, even with the wind, it was fairly easy riding. It gave me time to think about all the wonderful things we had seen and experienced already as well as think about all that remained to be discovered. It was during times like this that I felt my mind wandering and reaching. We had already covered so many miles and seen so many marvelous things, how could we possibly top what we had already seen and done?
And then my mind went to work. As we traveled wide open plains ringed by towering mountains, my thoughts seem to soar in each direction. It Scanned the horizon and seemingly sneaked peeks over the mountains that surrounded us. It just knew that there were more and better sights waiting. But how could anything be any better than what we’d already experienced, I asked myself? I didn’t know how, but for some reason I just knew there was more. So while I was daydreaming, I looked down at the instruments of my machine and glimpsed… myself. It was as if I was not really riding, but just flying along side some other traveler. It only added to the sense of freedom and excitement.
As I daydreamed, we were still riding the pavement and the wind continued to rise. Both in speed and in gusts. It was time to pay attention again. But my enjoyment of the fun did not diminish one iota. While we continued to ride, there were many signs that the wind would continue to rise. Not just the constant wind from our right, or the increasing gusts, but actual road signs! Trees bent by an imaginary wind told passersby that the real wind was to be expected. Oh boy! More wind.
You really can’t explain how hard and constant the Patagonian wind is, particularly on a motorcycle. It’s something you really have to feel and see to get the real experience. But there is a way to attempt to demonstrate part of the feeling and that is through pictures. Yes, pictures. You might ask how can a picture show the wind. Well they really can’t, but they can show the effect that wind has on other objects.
So as we passed Lake Argentino, we had the opportunity to take some pictures that can give you a feel for what the wind can do. As we approached the lake, we could see that it was not what we were expecting. It was not a “normal” blue, but instead was a pasty grey. There was no sign of blue whatsoever. As we got closer, we could see that not only was the water grey, but it was covered with ocean like swells and rolling white caps. It looked more like the ocean on a stormy day than it did a lake.
By the time we were close, it indeed had become ocean like. Breakers rolled in towards shore and actual waves broke onto the shoreline. the scene was completely filled with grey murky water created by the sand that had risen from the bottom, and rolling white waves at the surface. The wind was howling and overtook the sounds of the bike’s engines. All we could hear was the whistle of the wind and all we could see on the water was a tempest of windblown fury. This was no lake, it couldn’t be. It must be the ocean. But it was in fact a lake; Lake Argentino had been whipped into an ocean by nature’s own design.
We stopped alongside the lake to take a few pictures and tried to demonstrate the ferocity of the wind. Kim could lean back about 20 degrees and not fall over supported by the constantly blowing wind. It was amazing. But it was time to continue toward El Calafate before nightfall so we got back on the bikes and headed south. Ultimately, we were able to make it into El Calafate with plenty of daylight. So much so, we were able to park at our hotel and do a little sightseeing in town.
We found a couple of wagons outside of the hotel parked as monuments and they were large. Well large is an understatement. One of the wheels dwarfed Kim. It was huge. We continued our little tour and found El Calafate to be a fairly good sized town with shops, a grocery store, many restaurants, and even a little casino. We didn’t go inside, but we did find a delightful little restaurant in the outskirts of town where with very poor Spanish, I struggled through the menu to order dinner. It arrived and was delicious, so I guess I passed my Spanish test!
By the time we finished dinner, it was time to get back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep for tomorrow, we would be heading to the Perito Moreno glacier. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait for the morning to come.
Well the morning did come and it was a bright and sunny day. Even the wind had died down somewhat. Marvelous! We had a quick breakfast and got onto the bikes for the short two hour ride to the glacier. The ride was delightful. Once outside of El Calafate, the road was paved and fairly smooth. Devoid of almost any traffic, the road was easy going and as we got closer to Perito Moreno, it turned twisty. Narrow, and twisty, it made its way towards the glacier. Mountains popped up and we followed a river resembling a fjord so we knew we were getting closer. brightly colored bushes of pink and purple lined the road, with a backdrop of white-capped mountains. It was all a prelude to the spectacular sight that we would find at the Perito Moreno Glacier where we will take you in Part 10.
Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time