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Solo Claire

El Calafate and Torres del Paine

ARGENTINA | Friday, 12 December 2008 | Views [1568]

photos of pumas - thanks to Esther

photos of pumas - thanks to Esther

Spent a few days in El Calafate not really doing much as trips etc were quite expensive.  Ended up booking two trips together which gave me a slight discount. Didn't reallly have sufficient time to trek in Torres del Paine so opted for a day trip instead. I also decided against trekking on ice as I have previously done that in New Zealand and I reckon walking on ice is walking on ice no matter where you are. Therefore I just went to view the Perito Moreno Glacier. It is an advancing glacier and is in a constant fight with the lake for supremacy. It advances onto land essentially cutting the lake into two but then the pressure from the build up of water gets to be too much and it erodes the ice causing massive calvings. I ended up going with an English girl who was in my dorm. First we did a boat trip which brings you close to the glacier and then went towards the boardwalks. While we ate our packed lunch there had been quite a few small calvings so afterwards we stood at the edge to watch in case of a big one. The glacier is about 22 stories high and we were just in time to see a massive collapse. It was expected to happen because there had been lots of minor ones in that area so I caught it on video. The video is quite shaky because I was sandwiched between people who kept bumping into me but you can see it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lVLTi9H1jk It was quite impressive and loud but because there are no points of reference in the video it kind of loses some of its spectacularity.

The following day I was up bright and early to head to Torres del Paine. Despite it being quite close to El Calafate, it takes ages to get there. Some of this is due to the ice fields but also the only point of entry from Argentina is quite south of El Calafate. I reckon the Chileans do this on purpose as it encourages tourists to enter the park from Puerto Natales instead.  It was quite strange to be part of a tour group, driving up to sights taking photos and driving off, rather than trekking. We came upon 3 puma cubs playing in the centre of the road. Everyone piled up the front of our minibus to watch them. They were really cute about the size of a pet cat. After a few minutes, their mother started to call them and they left the road and headed through the scrubs to her. I was so engrossed in watching them that by the time I thought to take photos they were almost out of range for my camera. Esther, a Swiss girl on the trip, forwarded me some though. At the time I presumed that it was common to sight the pumas but our guide had only seen pumas once before in her 8 years working in the park. When we stopped at the ranger office the rangers all wanted to see the photos as some had never seen a puma.  We headed on to look at the famous granite peaks which give the national park its name but the clouds were quite low so we only got a few good sightings of them. After hiking up Cerro Fitzroy, I wasn't too impressed with the long-range view of them but if I did the hike it probably would have been better. It was quite strange to see other mountains there because they have a dark sedimentary layer on top, followed by an exposed granite layer below. They reckon that the glaciers eroded the sedimentary rock from below and that they never reached the height of the higher layer. We did a hike for about an hour and drove around looking at the differently coloured lakes and got to see flamingos too. Then we headed back to Calafate, arriving 17 hours after we had left. It was a good day and I am delighted to have seen the park but part of me wishes I had done the hike as it would have been a better experience.  



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