Simply “Wow”

Posted by on Apr 10, 2011 in Argentina, General Travel | 2 Comments

Today we hiked on the Perito Moreno glacier, just about 70 km west of El Calafate in Patagonia (Latitude: 50° South). As Robin and I were tossing around some candidate titles for this blog post (funny ones like “Moving at a Glacial Pace” and dorky ones like “Holy Calving Patagonian Glaciers, Batman!”), we came upon the glacier itself and just stood there, speechless. There’s no need for a witty title. This glacier is simply awesome.

Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate

Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate. This is the glacier's north side, and the large semi-circle of floating ice is the result of calving. A huge section of the glacier had just fallen into the lake when I took this photo

But before I go any further, let me catch up on a few things that we did this past week. We left Buenos Aires on Thursday for a visit to an estancia (aka ranch) about 2 hours outside the city. Not a minute too soon, in my opinion. BsAs is dusty, crowded, reeks of diesel fumes and soot, and has a generally dodgy feel to it. Robin seemed to like it more than I did, but I wasn’t too thrilled with this city of 12 million. I wanted out.

At Estancia La Porteña, Robin rode some horses while I read a good book and played with the 5 friendly dogs that roamed the grounds.

Gaucho Paco and Chispa (horse)

Gaucho Paco and Chispa (the horse) help Robin get going on a ride

On Friday morning we hopped on another bus and miraculously made our flight to El Calafate. Aerolineas Argentinas had changed the flight schedule the day before and had sent me an e-mail at 4:00 in the afternoon. Didn’t they know that there’s no Internet service in the middle of a corn field? No matter — we made it with a few minutes to spare, and 3 hours later we touched down in Patagonia.

As we coasted in for the landing, I noticed that the landscape is very similar to Iceland. It’s barren, there are few trees, and rivers carve their way through the landscape like coiled snakes. Framing the lake that borders the town are massive snow-capped mountains. Unlike Iceland, there are pink flamingos in the lake (and not the plastic kind)!

Yesterday Robin headed out on another horse ride, this time with a horse named Robin. What are the odds? Apparently horsey-Robin likes to run fast and eat all the time, which sounds just like our human Robin.

Robin and Robin

Robin (human) and Robin (horse), aka 'Robin Squared'

And so today we headed for el glaciar Perito Moreno. After a boat ride across the lake, we hiked to the edge of the ice and strapped on some mean-looking crampons. Our guides then instructed us to walk as if “we were stomping on cockroaches” and we started climbing up the ice.

PARENTS & FAMILY MEMBERS, PLEASE SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH! Halfway up a rather steep section of glacier, a British girl in our group slipped, fell, and started sliding downhill headfirst and on her back. One of our guides literally made a diving catch and grabbed her before slid into a crevasse. It was an unbelievable quick and effective rescue, but one which I’d rather not have had to witness!

On the moraine next to the glacier

On the moraine next to the Perito Moreno glacier

The hike ended with a pleasant surprise: A “glacier bar” complete with alfajores (cookies) and whiskey. Our guide literally hacked off some glacier ice with his axe, and used it as ice cubes for the drinks! Mmmmmm…

Whiskey on the Rocks

Whiskey on the best-quality-rocks-ever!

The excursion, however, ended with a demonstration of natural power that we seldom get to see. Immense sections of the glacier, some as tall as 30 meters (100 ft), broke off and crashed into the lake below with thunderous booms. It was something straight out of a Natural Geographic special!

P.S. Check out the homepage slideshow for some other great pics.

2 Comments

  1. Ed
    April 11, 2011

    Robin the horse–how funny! I hope you took a few close ups of the two of them. Yes, speaking as one of the parents, we don’t need any stories like “127 Hours” in an ice crevasse. Good to have experienced guides around…

    Reply
  2. MXXX
    April 12, 2011

    OK. Next time just leave the whole story of near disasters out. You know concerned family will read that sort of thing. Agh! Please wear very good shoes with gripper soles.

    Otherwise, it sounds wonderful. I am so glad that Robin met her horse counterpart. I am left wondering how anyone in Argentina came up with that name, though. It seems very un-horsey.

    Carry on! Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground.

    Reply

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