Trip Start Sep 26, 2010
Trip End Jun 10, 2011

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

won·der   [wuhn-der]

-noun: the emotion excited by what is strange and surprising; a feeling of surprised or puzzled interest, sometimes tinged with admiration.

lust  [luhst]

-noun: a passionate or overmastering desire or craving, ardent enthusiasm, zest, relish.

I used to think that I had a bad case of wanderlust.  Now I think I have found one of the reasons that drives me to explore this planet of ours: wonderlust.  This is apparently not yet a word, but aptly describes the near incessant search for all things wonderful in this world.  In my internal dictionary, this is my word of the day for today.  Of course with the right level of curiosity you can find wonder in your own backyard and this is often just a matter of perspective:

    "We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time." - T. S. Eliot

However, there is something unexplainable in experiencing wonder in places that you did not ever imagine could exist.  It is sort of like the first time you ever saw a rainbow, a butterfly, or the Grand Canyon.  Before then you did not think it was possible nor could you have constructed it from parts of things that you had experienced.

Whenever you are at one of these magical places you know it.  There is an incredible serenity, peace, and the strong desire not only to not a leave the place but also to not take your eyes from it.  It is not a love but an incredible sense of wonder that fills you.  A wondering how you could not have imagined that a place like this exists, a wondering of how this place came to be, and a wondering how that no matter where you look, it continues to be new, beautiful, and in essence, full of wonder.

We have come across a few of these places, Antelope Canyon in Utah, the Columbia Icefields in the Canadian Rockies, the ruins at Machu Picchu, Torres del Paine in Patagonia, and here today at the Perito Moreno glacier, also in Patagonia.  My photos here do not capture the grandeur or allure of this location, nor will I likely be able to adequately explain the surroundings and our experience in written words.  Ok, I'll  try...

Imagine standing on a viewing platform 300' above the level of a lake on a sloping hill of rock, brush and the occasional tree.  300' is about 30 stories up a high rise building and from here you have a good view of your surroundings.  Below you is an ice cold grey blue lake with many chunks, small pieces, and flecks of white ice tinged with light blue.  The sky above is a crisp clear blue, interspersed with white puffy clouds.  There is a cool and reasonably strong breeze blowing toward you but you are comfortably warmed by the bright sun in a lightweight pullover. Before you is a massive river of ice.  By massive, I mean positively huge.  It is about three miles wide at the front end and extends up and away from you toward the snow covered mountains in the distance.

You wonder how much ice is here.  ALOT.  You learn later that this glacier is a part of the Southern Patagonian Icefield, the third largest chunk of frozen fresh water on the planet next to Antarctica and Greenland.

You wonder how far away those mountains in the distance are from where you are standing. They are nineteen miles away.  This river of ice is covered with a chaotic jumble of jagged undulations 20-50' tall for as far up the glacier as you can see.  The sun lights up these peaks showing their many facets and edges, each one different, new, and raw. There is an intriguing blue light that seems to be coming from inside the ice giving the sense that it is somehow glowing.  This is the reflected sunlight bouncing around in the interior of the glacier.  The deep crevasses of the glacier are darker in color and approach a radiant lapiz blue.  The front of the glacier towers about 250' above the lake at the terminus.

You wonder how far down the ice extends into the water of the lake. Almost 350', there is more ice below the waterline than there is above. There are patches of compressed ice near the waterline that are clear but appear dark blue showing the inside of the glacier.  You cannot perceive the glacier to be moving but realize that it is alive because of the loud cracks, crashes, and bangs you hear on occasion, sometimes near, sometimes from far into the glacier.  About every 20 minutes a huge chunk of ice separates from the front of the glacier, plummets in slow motion downward, and crashes with a thunderous roar into the icy water below.  From the speed of the fall and the size of the splash you realize that chunk was about the size of a large yellow school bus.

You wonder when that will happen again and wait in anticipation.  Given this display of forward motion, you ponder the length of time it took for that ice to fall as snow, be compressed, and make its 19 mile journey to the front face.  Later you realize that at six feet per day it took almost 46 years and you wonder about the storm that produced the snowflakes in 1965 that just fell off the front of the glacier.  Your gaze skates across the front terminus and you get caught in the deep blue glow of the hundreds of cracks and crevasses.  You look up and with the wind catching and almost blowing off your hat, you catch the myriad of shapes caused by shadows thrown by the thousand of tiny peaks scattered across the top of the immensely wide field of ice in front of you.   You are full of wonder and long to understand and fully appreciate what is in front of you.  Try as you might, you cannot look away.  Every time you look back the scene appears new and you wonder how that is possible.

You finally peel your eyes away and are filled with a strong desire to experience that again.  You smile having just experienced something so wonderful.  Something inside you yearns to look back just one more time.

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