After a bus ride that clocked in at 29.5 hours over barren landscape, which included the now-accepted as typical “liquid only” toilets and sporadic air-conditioning, combined with severely irritating (loud, inconsiderate, etc.) tourist passengers, numerous extended stops in various cities, a mini food crisis, and a fairly long walk uphill on a dusty dirt road, we made it to our hostel in El Calafate. And I’m pretty sure it was well worth it.
El Calafate is a small town, essentially in the middle of nowhere, far, far south in Patagonia. It’s claim to fame? It’s the nearest town to the south face of the Perito Moreno Glacier, possibly Argentina’s most famous. We’re spending two nights here so we could have one full day at the glacier, and tomorrow we leave for the even more remote El Chaltén. This city is supposedly tiny, and known as “the trekking capital of the world.” There are no ATMs, sparse internet, and I believe the town only has about 600 year-round residents. But, it literally sits right next to the Fitz Roy mountain range and the Continental Ice Fields, so we plan on spending an exhausting 4 nights/3 days hiking, and hopefully glacier trekking/ice climbing our hearts out until we’re too sore to move. I can’t wait! Beware: this means we don’t expect to be in contact for several days.
In the meantime, we spent all day today at the Perito Moreno Glacier, which we think may be our favorite thing we’ve seen so far…ever. It’s hard to explain without witnessing it for yourself, but the constantly changing shades of blue as the sun and clouds shift in the sky as the day progresses, the continually shifting ice, the jagged edges juxtaposed atop the rugged mountains and turquoise water, and the thundering sound as the glacier calves, is simply incredible. We were lucky and today was not a very busy day, and yet a multitude of languages swirled around me, all expressing the same thing: “¡Mira los colores de azul, que impresionante! Que magnifique! Wow!” Just the drive to the national park was impressive; with every turn and hill we came closer to the glacier, and, what luck, we had a rainbow arching over the entire thing as we neared! Not to mention, we manged to pay $AR15 instead of AR$100 each for the entrance fee because we asked about student discounts. Then we took the first boat ride of the day to get a closer view of the glacier, avoiding the majority of the crowds, and even though the bus we took wasn’t part of a tour company, they worked out logistics so we would still have transportation to the rest of the park, free ! And we saw astonishing ice shelves crash from the glacier, and got some of them on video! I think a great word to describe the day is: lucky.
Just a few weeks ago before leaving Buenos Aires, we watched the movie “127 Hours,” and in the beginning of the movie, the main character fatefully says, as he’s holding himself up in a narrow rock canyon, about to drop into a glittering blue pool below: “nature’s always moving, let’s just hope it doesn’t happen now.” I think when I see mountains, forests, and landscapes in nature that have taken thousands of years to form, I’m awestruck by the detail; by the patience of nature; it seems like it will be the same forever. Today I was awestruck by the dynamic force of nature: this glacier is moving, now. It’s growing. It’s expanding. It’s constantly changing, and you don’t have to wait long to see and hear it (see videos above). It’s destruction in a beautiful way; when a sheet of ice the size of a 3 story ice crashes into the lake below, it’s a good thing; it’s helping the glacier expand, or as I liked to say, it’s creating a baby glacier!
We took far, far too many photos, and I made an unedited Facebook photo dump into two albums, which can be seen HERE and HERE. And a final video of the best glacier action, which I’ll post even though I haven’t rotated it yet, can be found HERE.
For now we’re taking our sunburned selves off to bed, to hopefully sleep in a bit tomorrow.
Sharon and Tyler