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November 24, 2004

Glaciers Galore

The day after we arrived in El Calafate from La Cuarenta, most of the same group went to see the Moreno Glacier in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, and it was amazing. At first we stopped to see it from afar, and it seemed cool, but just a big expanse of ice. They then dropped us off at the viewing area and said we had 3 1/2 hours there, which seemed like way too much time. But when we got down to the glacier, I was mesmerized. Several viewing platforms allow you to see the glacier below or almost at eye level. It sweeps down between two mountains on the opposite side of a small arm of Lago Argentina, and advances across the water to meet the peninsula on the other side (where the viewing platforms are). When it comes all the way across, it closes off one a small part of the lake from the rest--the water levels are even different--but sometimes it will break and water will come rushing back through. It's a fast-moving glaciar--it split from the peninsula just this past March, but it's already completely closed off again.

Small chunks fall off fairly frequently, and as they drop into the water they make loud, booming splashes. The sound was incredible. We also got to see some really big pieces calve off and fall into the water. The first one was unbelievable--the sound of it cracking off and hitting the water was a roar in my ears. It set off some sort of chain reaction underwater, and about 100 feet away, an enormous, shiny, blue piece of ice--probably the size of a small house--slowly rose up out of the water, turning over as it appeared. It was like a special effect out of a disaster or alien movie. We all watched stunned, mouths open, trying to make sense of what was coming up out of the water.

After all this drama, we were spellbound. We had our eyes on a few other precarious-looking pieces, and when one fell, Mi-Sun from Paris said she had used telekinesis to make it fall. (In my video of the event, you can hear my say "You did it?" and then Murray from England said "Make it all fall!") We waited, and through luck, physics, or telekinesis, a few more pieces fell dramatically into the lake before we had to pry ourselves away to get some lunch. Later, we took a boat trip out to the other side of the glaciar, and got pretty close to the 60-meter face of it. The bluish hue of the ice is beautiful, and it's so cool to see all the cracks, jagged edges, and funky formations that make up the huge glacier.

That night, all of us, except for two that had stayed in the park to camp, had dinner together, which was a lot of fun. Yet again, I feel really lucky to have taken a long trip with a great group of people. It wouldn't have been the same without them.

I also found out that I hadn't been able to get a reservation at the fancy estancia that I'd contacted, so I decided to take another glacier trip the next day, with Lia, from Argentina, who'd been in the Rte. 40 group. I thought it would be nice to see more than one glacier in the park named for its many glaciers, and this all-day boat trip took us to see five of them. It was a sunny but insanely windy day, so we'd bundle up to go outside and take pictures, then return to the cabin (unlike many other boat trips so far, where I've stayed outside much of the time). The glaciers were all incredible, and all unique in their own way, because of their size, setting, or color--some had black stripes from all the embedded rocks. Upsala, the largest we saw, has many icebergs in front of it, which made for a dramatic approach. On a map, one can see how far north this glacier spreads and how huge it really is, but from this perspective at one narrow end it seemed relatively small (or maybe I'm just jaded with all these huge glaciers!).

Both nights in El Calafate seemed really busy, with running errands, meeting up with people, planning future excursions, etc. It seemed like a nice enough town, but very touristy, and I didn't see much of it--most people are just in and out to see the glaciers. So after more running around after the second glacier tour, Lia and I decided to slow down, and took time to visit the artisan's market, organize our bags, and then have a nice dinner. I'd been looking for a splurge, and found a great one, worth every penny of the US$18 I spent (definitely the most expensive meal yet). We had an appetizer platter of smoked Patagonian specialties like venison, wild boar, and salmon, plus some nuts, olives, wild-boar salami, cream cheese with nuts in it to spread on toast, and several types of cheese and cheese rolled with more smoked meat. It was amazing, and the flavors were unique and interesting. I normally don't prefer smoked meats, but I enjoyed getting to taste some unusual Patagonian flavors. I had asparagus ravioli with a creamy smoked blue cheese sauce for my entree, and it was also delicious. Of course, we also shared a bottle of wine, a malbec from Mendoza, a wine-growing region of Argentina.

On the bus to Puerto Natales (where I am now), I spent more time figuring out my itinerary, and I'm feeling good. I have a solid, realistic itinerary for the next few weeks, with plenty of time, I think. I booked a ticket from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires for December 9, so I have two weeks and a day until then and it should all work out fine.

I've also been a little sick--after just commenting to several people that I hadn't gotten sick on this trip, of course--just some annoying cold symptoms like sore throat, congestion, and a minor cough. I think I'm getting better, and somehow avoided a worse illness. It certainly wasn't the cold air, late nights, and alcohol that healed me, so maybe it was the homeopathic pills that Murray gave me while traveling down Rte. 40 a few days ago! I argued that they didn't work, but maybe they did after all.

Posted by Amy on November 24, 2004 11:08 AM
Category: Patagonia

New Photographs are phenomenal.
Keep up the good work and enjoy travelling.
You make the world look beautiful.

Posted by: Anshul Arora on November 24, 2004 12:01 PM
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