This is Patagonia, 25 000 square kilometres of empty spaces that include Rio Negro, Chubut and Santa Crux provinces. Winds from the Pacific drop all their moisture as they are cooled while rising over the high Andes on the Chilean border. Then, the dry air is warmed as it races down the eastern slope and over the semiarid land to the Atlantic.
Prosperous Calafate, on the southern shore of Lago Argentino, caters to tourists attracted by the spectacular Parque Nacional Los Glaciares 80 km west of here. This is looking east on Calafate's main drag, avenida San Martin.
The devaluation of the peso was a boon for this tourist town whose population grew from 2000 to 5000 in the last two years. Here is looking west on the same avenue.
I stayed in the brand new Huemul Hostel where a room with bath cost 8.30 US$.
Beautiful Lago Argentino, the largest in the country (70 x 20 km), collects the meltwater from the glaciers on the Chilean border (use your slider to look towards the east where Calafate is located).
Driving along the "Brazo Rico" of Lago Roca you get this first glimpse of the Perito Moreno Glacier at the foot of the Perito Moreno Peak on the left. Francisco "Perito" Moreno was an explorer who surveyed this region and founded the Argentine park system.
Boats bring you close to the glacier so you can see the occasional "calving" of blocks crashing down in Lago Roca. Using the slider you will see how the advancing ice has butted against the rocky shore of the Magallanes peninsula, blocking the outflow of Lago Roca whose level rises to several dozen meters higher than the Canal de los Tempanos on the other side of the obstruction.
This picture of the Magallanes Peninsula shows the ice dam on the left and the Brazo Rico extension of Lago Roca on the extreme right. The next picture was taken from the wooded hill not far from the ice dam.
This panorama shows how the glacier separates Lago Roca below Perito Moreno Peak on the left from the Canal de Los Tempanos at a much lower level on the right. When the level of Lago Roca gets high enough, water infiltrates and eventually breaks down the ice dam allowing Lago Roca to empty into the canal and hence into Lago Argentino. When I took these photos, water had been accumulating in Lago Roca for several years since the last breakdown of the dam in the late 90s'.
Pictures of the channel made the headlines of all the papers when the dam broke down again on March 17th while I was in Buenos Aires!
I wonder why this mountain is called Cerro Frias. I would have chosen a different name as would most people I'm sure.
There is not much to see in Patagonia but there is a lot of it and it is often beautiful.
This has been called Cerro de Elefantes by the local people.
Another beautiful vista of Patagonia.
Personally, I love the wide open spaces of deserts and of the sea...
How about this isolated hotel by the river as a quiet place to meditate?
Patagonia is an ideal place for panoramic composites. If you look carefully you will see Mount Fitz Roy on the horizon to the left of where the road disappears into the foothills.
The vertical face of Mount Fitz Roy (3405m), is dramatically impressive but the lower peaks of the nearby Torres del Paine in Chile are more beautiful.
It was raining and cold when I went on a day trip to El Chaltén at the foot of Mount Fitz Roy. This is the Rancho Grande Hostel with the bus waiting for us to go back to Calafate.
Here is a beautiful young guanaco on the side of the road.
It was a tame guanaco going back home with the household cat.
We made a small detour to deliver a parcel to this shepherd living alone in this isolated house kilometres from nowhere. He was pleased to see human faces and chatted a few minutes about his lifestyle watching over his boss' sheep on his horse in the nothingness of Patagonia. It was a rough life. The hand I shook was hard as a board but the smile was warm. I refrained from taking more pictures...
It is thanks to people like this that the great landowners live in luxury on their estancias of several thousand square kilometres.
And finally one last panorama of beautiful Patagonia taken the following day on my way to Puerto Natales in Chile.