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An oasis in the remoteness of Patagonia
The Cueva de los Manos (Cave of the Hands) is an impressive sight, in a remote and difficult to reach part of Patagonia. It consists of a series of walls of handprints dating from almost 10000 years ago. There are over 800 images, most of which are of left hands, though later images show animals and other scenes.
Visiting the Cave of the Hands was an optional extra on our 2 day journey down Ruta 40, and about half our group gave up a Sunday morning rest in order to go see this remote, spectacular sight.
We left Perito Moreno at 7.30 and it took about 3 hours to reach the caves. After we turned off Ruta 40 we saw plenty of wildlife, including Nandu and Guanaco. The scenery was especially impressive in the early morning light.
The caves were declared a UNESCO sight in 1999, and it costs 30 pesos to enter the site. There was even a permanent guard at the site, living in a hut near the carpark - difficult to believe anyone lives out here, so far from everywhere.
We had a two hour long tour of the site, and I was very impressed with the guides who gave a detailed description of the paintings and the history of the site in both Spanish and English. Most of the paintings are of left hands, including a bizarre example with six fingers. The paintings are in fact negatives as the artist placed a hand on the rock and drew around it creating the silhouette.
Little else is known about the people in the area or the function of the paintings. They were discovered in the 20th century by an Italian priset, Fr. de Agostini, who did much important exploration in Patagonia.
The area around the caves is beautiful and I remember wishing we more time to explore it, especially the bottom of the canyon where I could see the outlines of footpaths and trails. Above us we spotted condors flying overhead, another fascinating sight.
The day was perfect with not a cloud in the sky when we visited the glacier, (March) but the temperature was about 8 degrees C. Lake Argentino was a vivid turquoise. Our first look at the glacier was quite breath-taking. It is like an enormous meringue with many many sharp peaks. It was a dazzling blue and white and was absolutely pristine. Whilst looking at it we heard a loud crash and looked along the front face and saw a large section had detached itself and crashed into the water creating large waves. We went in a launch up close to within 80 mt of the ice and it was freezing. The rest of the time we stood watching and listening on the viewing platform. I would not have thought I could spend two hours looking at the ice, but it was fascinating. There were constant cracks, groans, moans and creaks and your eyes would skim across the glacier to find the spot where the ice was breaking away. Trying to get photos of the calving is very difficult because it is so unpredictable.
man i was soooo cold... under the winter coat i had a winter jacket, woolen shirt and t shirt hahaha
The evening meal in Perito Moreno wasn't included in our tour, so we had a choice of where to eat that evening. Most of the group were staying in Hotel Belgrano, and eating in the restaurant there, but we fancied something different, so we found a different place across the street from Belgrano.
I think the name was El Viejo and it was more of a bar than restaurant. They had no menu on display but the waitress rattled off a list of dishes on offer. All cost 25 pesos so Ruth went for the cordero (lamb) and I had the lomo (steak). Both were excellent - even in this remote area of Patagonia, the meat is as good as anywhere else in the country. After our 12 hours in a bus that day we felt we deserved a few beers too.
4x4 tours offers the best way to see the off road sights around Perito Moreno. The driver gives great descriptions of the area and it's a great chance to meet other travellers.
Meat is the food that is provided on any trips to the glacier. Better to check or bring your own food along on any trip.
Photo Equipment: There is so much to photograph and astonishing sights to memorize. Bring plenty of film or digital capacity.