The views along the ninety-minute drive to Los Glaciares National Park start with beautiful snow-capped pre-Andean peaks in the distance and evolves into Argentine steppe lands. Our tour guide Flor shares her knowledge of El Calafate, the regions of Patagonia, the ranching in the countryside and Los Glaciers National Park. Along the way we also learn that many families from El Calafate drive to Rio Gallegos about once a month for their major shopping and to take care of any government-related activities as it is the capital of the region. The shopping trip is 3 1/3 hours one way, and part of normal life in sparsely populated Patagonia.
We board a boat for a close-up view of the north face of the glacier. Flor explained that the glacier is stable; it grows a meter but also loses about a meter to calving each day. We are alongside the glacier for forty minutes and it calves three times, once creating a good sized bergie and wave which gently rocks us. From the boat we have a view of groups of people trekking up the glacier, I'm sure it's a very memorable experience!
After a few hours on the trails and having lunch in the visitor center we reboard the bus for our trip back to El Calafate. Flor provides everyone with a chocolate, flavored with calafete, the berry of the region. She then offers shots of calafete cordial. It is a little sweet and has a berry (similar to combination blackberry-blueberry) flavor. The local legend is that if you eat calafete you will return to Patagonia, and Flor has assured it in a sweet way. After hours in the outdoors including modest walking, and fortified by a small amount of the 24% alcohol cordial, most people fall asleep to the gently rocking of the bus.