Patagonia – Day 11: The ride to Perito Merino Glacier

Date: 11/20/2014 Thursday
Starting Location: El Calafate, Argentina
Ending Location: El Calafate, Argentina
Mileage Today:  109.9 Miles
Mileage Total:  1440.7 miles

Updates to previous posts

Since I’m now in a place where the Internet is alive again, I’ve gone back and made a few updates to previous posts.  In most cases, I’ve added some video.  To those of you that like the video from the helmet cam on the dirt/gravel roads, you should go back and check out the following posts

Post # 7 – Entering the Estancia (Video of the arrival at the Estancia)

Post #7 – The great Guanaco chase (Video of me chasing a Guanaco at the fence)

Post #7 – Added gallery of photos of the grounds of the Estancia.

Post #7 – Added video of departure from Perito Merino

Breakfast

Boy, I’ll bet I sound like a real breakfast snob by now.  That’s probably not the case but, as the most interesting man in the world (according to my sister) I like to think about breakfast in a special way. It just so happens that the folks in Argentina don’t share that “special way”.  And so it the story continues again today.

This will shock you, but we started our day with lots of carbohydrates.  No fruit was available, but we had our choice of 3 different types of bread, and croissants.  On these delicacies, we’re ale to put butter, jam, or caramel.  Sounds great, but trust me, it’s not quite a bonanza.

We needed to leave by 7AM, so it was critical that we start eating breakfast by 6:30, earlier if possible.  Well, I’m usually up early, and today was no exception.  So, up at 5:00, in the lobby working on the ‘Blog at 5:30, and the coffee was not available until 6:28 AM.

But, it all began at 6;30, and by 6:45, I had eaten all of the carbohydrates that I could manage, and was ready to go on my way.

Interview with Alain about Patagonia

Alain Dupuis, the guide that is driving the support vehicle and I had a few minutes to chat about our time in El Chalten, and also about the Patagonian winds.  Alain has climbed some of the worlds highest peaks, and has ridden numerous miles around South America on a motorcycle, but for the last year, he’s been working with Compass Expeditions to make our trips better, more fun, and richer in many ways.  Notice how I corner Alain, but how he comes out dancing…

The ride to the glacier

The ride to the glacier was about 75 or 80Km.  The road was magnificent, and it contained numerous sections of right-left-right sweepers, not to mention any number of decreasing radius turns, and quick rises.

The road is emblamatic of the roads of Northern California, and it includes drop-offs, water, lakes, etc.  This really was a great road.  We went in heavy, and turned up the wick.  Distance, events, etc.

The Perito Merino Glacier

PeritoMerinoGlacier01This thing is beautiful.  Hmmm, let me put that in perspective.  You see, I learned all about glaciers today when I visited the Glacier museum.  So, I’m a freekin’ expert, or at least I’m capable of playing one on TV. So, with that said, from the parking lot we stopped at the viewing post at the top of the hill, and while we were looking out at the glacier, we noticed a wildly engineered set of stairs and ramps that could lead visitors several hundred meters below, to a series of terraced viewing areas.  These viewing areas would allow the old and the young alike to walk down to, almost the level of the lakes.

PeritoMerinoGlacier02AI have to admit, the Argentinians have done me proud.  I looked at this engineering marvel, and could only come up with one minor improvement.  In my humble opinion, because of the difficulties with the weather, they should have replaced the wooden railings with a synthetic material that will stand up better to the weather. Other than that minor change, this engineering marvel brought tears to my eyes.

We began to climb down the stairs, and with each step, we were closer to the glacier, and found ourselves in better and better viewing areas.  The problem was that each time I decided to descend a little bit more, I seemed to be at a point on the trail where I missed the calving events.  I was starting to feel like I had missed it.  The glacier had given up the front end, an I had missed it.  I silently wondered if I had missed “the big one”.  You see, Eduardo our guide had been coming to this place for 10 years, and had never seen a massive calving event.  Now, it seemed that history would replete itself, and I would also miss it.

Well, as this whole thing turns out, I not only saw a little calving, but it seems that I managed to capture on video an amazing, catastrophic calving event.  Go figure.  Damn good luck I would say.

This is going to sound crazy, but over the course of an hour, just about all of us had witnessed something spectacular.  Now, we’ve all been told how much of a statistical anomaly it is to see this type of event.  So, when they happen, you want to be sure that you’ve recorded it, and captured the essence of the moment.  That’s what makes this next video even funnier.
Tom desperately wanted to capture the calving event perfectly.  So, when Jay started talking, Tom showed that he could see this once-in-a-lifetime event slipping away.  Enjoy.

The ride after the glacier

After we visited the glacier, we were free to experience El Calafate, and the surrounding area.  It had been a long day, and a long week so being the youngest of the group (yep, I still can’t believe it either) I decided that I would go out and see the countryside.  As I traveled around, I took a little time to soak it all in, enjoy the vastness and epic landscapes of Patagonia, and I even managed to take a few pictures.   Enjoy…

Patagonian Roads

So, what’s all the big fuss about these roads?

If you’re a motorcycle rider, and you dream of riding in Patagonia, chances are that you have no idea what you should actually be dreaming about.  How do I know?  Well, because I didn’t have any idea what to expect, and it seems that with each new day, comes a new “type” of Patagonian road.

And while all of this is true, what’s also true is that I’ve managed to come to a conclusion or two about these roads.  You’ve already heard me whining about all of the gravel, so I won’t go there again.  But, besides the gravel, Patagonia has some truly extraordinary roads for motorcycles.  But, at the same time, it also has some roads that are well and truly straight, and go on forever.

For those of you lacking in imagination, this is what the song “The road goes on forever” must have been based on.

PatagonianRoads-TheEssenceA

So, what about tomorrow?

Now, each time I ask Eduardo for details of what tomorrow will bring, he does a nice job of blending reality, with a dose of controlled narrative.  By that I mean that if it looks like it’s going to be an especially tough day, he dulls it down just a bit, so that we don’t get too anxious.  But for me, hell, I’m anxious all the time, so I’m always looking for the facts, so that I can manage all aspects of the ride.

With that said, here’s what we can expect tomorrow…  Tomorrow is going to be the 2nd longest day of the trip.  We can expect to travel more than 500 Km, part of which will be on “the old Route 40.   Apparently by taking this route, we save about 70Km, but at the same time, we’ll be riding on some very technical bits of road.

Given what the riding is like in CA, I think I will greatly prefer this type of riding/trail to the deep gravel.  I’ve done all of my off-road training in what I believe is roads that are just like Eduardo described.  But like I said, you never know what tomorrow will actually bring.

We will however have to make a border crossing into Chile.  Our destination for tomorrow is Torres Del Paine National Park.  In case you’re not an expert in the geography of Patagonia, like the author, I’ll share with you that this park is in Chile.  After we spend 3 days in the park, we’ll make our way back into Argentina, and continue South, towards Ushuaia, AR, on the Island of Tierra del Fuego.

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.

Comments

    1. Hi Doc,
      I had really hoped to be able to post more videos of the riding, but they simply take too much time and too much bandwidth. So, I’ll post them after I get home.
      Glad that you feel like you’re riding along side.

    1. Yes, I’m surprised that more people haven’t commented on this. The video is simply staggering, and quite rare. It was a very loud and beautiful thing to see.

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