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ARGENTINA | Saturday, 16 February 2008 | Views [679]

Patti:  WOW!!! Yesterday, Valentines Day was an amazing day. It was actually my best day in South America so far. The main event was an all day tour of Perito Moreno Glacier, accessed from the town of El Calafate, Argentina. Our bus had a tour guide who described the history of the area as well as the local flora and fauna during our ride to the glacier. She hit the play button of the sound system to perfectly synchronize the dramatic music with our first sighting of the glacier as we rounded a corner in the highway on the bus. It was very funny (and impressive)! We boarded a boat to get an up close view of the glacier for about an hour. Different than the Athabasca Ice Field in Banff that I have seen, this glacier actually flows down to end in a lake. It stretches to the opposite shore of the lake and on each side of the glacier, there are sheer cliffs of ice that that reach to the lake bottom. The actual glacier sides are about 60 meters above the lake level so approaching by boat is awesome. One of phenomenon of this glacier is that there are many occurrences of big pieces of the glacier breaking away and falling into the lake (called calving). Within 5 minutes of our initial approach to the glacier on the boat, there was an enormous sound of thunder and a huge chunk of ice broke away, making a tsunami type wave.  Very cool! There were many small icebergs floating around the boat that had previously calved. We then had two hours on land to observe the glacier from a system of boardwalks on the shore. There was a fairly constant sound of thunder from the shifts and cracks of the glacier. Many small pieces of ice were falling into the water and we witnessed three huge calves. Two were large sheets that shattered on their way to the water level and one was like a huge tower that broke away and then toppled over. Each occurrence was preceded by a rumble to provide a warning for what was about to occur. It was definitely nothing like either of us have ever seen before.

 

The timing of this day was very good for lifting my spirits. We were sad to leave our heavenly accommodations in Bariloche on February 10 and then spent close to 35 hours on the bus over the course of the next four days to make our way into the heart of Patagonia. To break up the journey, we took one full day off the bus in the dingy city of Rio Gallegos (why do people live here?). The beds in our hostal were horrible. Amy accurately described the mattresses as hot dog buns. There were some good moments in these 4 days. The scenery leaving Bariloche for the first few hours was beautiful; one of our bus stops was timed perfectly so that we could watch the sunrise from the shore of the Atlantic Ocean; we had two good restaurant meals; and we got laundry done.

 

Currently we are in the town of El Chalten, which bills itself as the trekking capital of Argentina. There are several hikes into the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares that are easily accessed with the trailheads starting right in town. We plan to do a 3 day backcountry hike starting tomorrow and if all goes well, we will do another overnight hike before leaving the area. This will also depend on the crazy wind and whether it drives us mad over the next few days. At present, it is blowing loudly outside our room and on the walk to our accommodations with our backpacks on, it actually blew each of us so hard that we had to catch our balance. Nothing is ever perfect.

Tags: Sightseeing

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