Days 20 to 23: Puerto Natales to El Calafate
Updated: Jun 21, 2020
3 days on the bike followed by a day at the incredible Perito Moreno glacier, one of the true highlights of all of Argentinian Patagonia
The 250-odd km from Puerto Natales up to El Calafate was a mix of tarmac and rough gravel with no settlements to speak of between the two, as I crossed the border again and left Chile to re-enter Argentina.
The gravel was pretty rough in parts but that also I meant I had the road largely to myself, as traffic mainly preferred to follow a tarmac route which took twice the distance to cover my gravel "short-cut".
My two nights on the road were spent first camped behind a rural police station, and then inside an abandoned house that a French cycle-tourist headed in the opposite direction told me about.
El Calafate is the base town for exploring what is arguably the epicentre Argentinian tourism: the Perito Moreno glacier. Spanning five kilometres across the largest lake in the country, the glacier stands on average an immense 74 metres above the water - about the same height as a 15 to 20 storey office block, with the solid wall of ice reflecting hazily back on the lake water. The behemothic ice mass rolled over 30km back up through the mountains, presenting a truly incredible sight. As well as seeing the glacier, I discovered a tourist agency that took people on crampon-assisted hikes across the surface of the glacier itself which was a fun and different experience.
As a a bit of a tourist gimmick, the guides even brought a bottle of whiskey and broke off a chunk of glacier ice so we could have "scotch on the rocks" like I'd never had it.