El Calafete is in southern Patagonai and while it isn’t the most southern town in Argentina, it’s pretty darn close. It sits between an endlessly flat, dry and barren landscape to the East and towering mountains that rocket up the the heavens to the West. The Atlantic side is really really flat and is speckled with an unlimited number of multi coloured lakes. Other than a few very resilient shrubs and grasses nothing grows here and it’s single most striking feature is the milky green Río (River) Gallegos which twists and winds it’s way through the barren land on it’s way to the Atlantic.
El Calafete’s main strip is pretty cute with lots of shops catering to trekking and tourists. We found a really great little restaurant with a bit of a hippie vibe that make kick ass crepes which was a nice change from the typical meat and veggies that most restaurants serve. The main attraction in the area is the Perito Moreno Glacier. The pictures don’t do it justice, but the face of the glacier is 120 feet high and in the afternoon on a sunny day the ice warms up and huge pieces of ice break off and come crashing into the lake below. When it happens it sounds like a cannon is going off and the impact on the lake below rockets water 160 feet out and 120 feet high.The wave that it creates is big enough that you could almost surf it. In a zen like trance we watched the powerful forces of mother nature at work as massive pieces of age old ice continually broke off and crashed into the lake below.
It was here that we saw the most wild life as well. The area is home to Alpaca’s and Emu’s which I saw many as they roamed the desert like planes eating the sparse dried grasses. Had we been in a rental car I would have been able to get better photos because we would have stopped on the side of the straight and deserted roads to get up close and in person with them, but the bus driver must have seen a million of them because he but hardly turned an eye. I on the other hand was glued to the window with my camera in hand and as we raced by I was madly snapping away. I could easily download a photo of one of these strange and interesting beasts, but somehow to me that’s cheating.
Old guy selling empanadas from a shopping cart.
I haven’t really gotten into the food in Argentina in my posts so here’s my quick two cents. If you were a gluten free vegetarian on holidays in Argentina you would be screwed because they love eating their bread and meat. I’m guessing that that’s because the cost of vegetables is so expensive. Every hotel we stayed at included breakfast in the price and breakfast includes; a basket of bread, a selection of very sweet jams, dulce de leche (which is a sweet carmel like spread), sugar coated croissants, sugar coated corn flakes, sweetened yogurt (either vanilla or strawberry), coffee with warm milk and a juice. The first few days I did what I was taught and ate everything that was given to me and then after a while I realized that if I kept it up I was going to have to buy bigger pants and board shorts so I cut back. The funny thing is that Josi finished up reading the book Wheat Belly on this trip which is basically saying that the whole reason that middle America is so dam fat is because of it’s addiction to wheat. Our goal is to be gluten free, but that was shot to hell in Argentina because bread is the staple to their diet. We didn’t really notice a typical lunch, perhaps empanadas? For those of you who don’t know what they are, they are similar to a pizza pocket except that the inside isn’t very saucy. They range in price from cheep to pretty cheep and because of their ease we often took them with us on our hikes. Dinners all come with a big basket of bread, which we eventually stopped accepting. The server usually looked at us funny, told us that we had to pay for it anyway, and then eventually took it away. Minutes later another server usually came along with more bread assuming that our waiter messed up which we also turned away. Prior to turning the bread away I was waking up feeling pretty funky and I was figuring that it was the steaks or other big heavy meals that we were eating, but I later came to know that it was the half loaf of bread that they were feeding us. The one thing that they do have dialled food wise is their steaks. They come tender, cheep, huge and delicious. I didn’t eat many, but in the last month I still ate more than I have eaten in the last 5 years back home in Canada. The secret to why Argentian food tastes so great is their Chimmy Churry sauce. We put it on everything and it rocks.