Gawping at Glaciers

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
America Fel Sur Hostel

Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Thursday, November 25, 2010

We woke up at about 6am for our boat trip that we had booked the previous day, we had the free breakfast of the usual cereal and coffee and the bus soon arrived to collect us. After about one hour we arrived at a small port on the edge of Lake Argo, the largest body of water in Argentina at 1600 sq km, where we were to board our boat. I thought I had pulled a great fast one as the park entry fee (75 peso (12!!!!) I managed to hide some of our tickets so the guard didn't rip the edge off hopefully meaning we could mix them with up with new tickets for the day after saving us 75 peso.

We got on a really big almost brand new boat which was very posh and we knew that was probably where the 300 peso for our trip had gone, 50 each. We were joined on our table by two gay German guys, my Gaydar was clearly not on as it was only after a few hours the Lady started to point out the telltale signs. To get to the first Glacier, the Upsala Glacier (595 sq km and 60 km long, took well over an hour and we were constantly on the lookout for condors and pumas. This glacier is receding at a fairly rapid rate and has lots and lots of icebergs preventing you from getting close to the Glacier. Some of the icebergs were incredible though lots of different shapes, colours (obviously shades of white blues and blacks, not like orange, red and purple) and textures. While it is not very hot here it isn’t cold either but the wind was very strong and felt very cold, at times you could barely stand upright.

Glacier number two was the Spegazzini Glacier, standing at over 100m high, and as soon as we saw it quite frankly it took our breath away. When Rorie had told us "It will knock you on yer arse" we didn’t think this would be almost literally. It was huge and gorgeously white. This glacier has the tallest face in the national park and is about 100 feet tall at the face. The glacier itself just seemed to go on for as far as the eye can see. By this time we had been on the boat for a few hours so I expected a quick nip to Perito Morino (the parks most famous glacier) then back. Then they announced the cruise to Perito Moreno would take two hours just to get there. I was starting to think the trip wasn’t actually that bad value after all. We had our very posh lunch (perhaps we should say Lanch on this occasion) of parma ham and cheese on crusty bread (yes it was all reduced but exceptionally good). Some bits of the park we found really interesting, obviously what the glaciers have done over time (you could imaging the whole area would have just been one big glacier with lots of tributaries, seeing the condors (the biggest bird in the area) and keeping our eyes peeled for the elusive Puma’s. We also saw the wild cows, when the area was turned into a national park people were moved out of the park and many left their animals behind which now live wild.

While the Germans slept, the Spanish played cards, the Italians chatted and the south Americans drank the shared tea (mate) in one cup, they have a fancy cup with a straw and fill it up with tea leaves then keep topping up with water) I was making up games like draw a random person on the boat then let Erica try and guess who I have drawn, with my drawing skills this actually had the Lady going to the loo she was laughing that much. When we finally arrived at Perito Moreno again we were gobsmacked by the size and dumbfounded by the beauty of it. We sat up on the deck watching huge pieces of ice falling off into to the water with loud cracks as it sheared off the main glacier, the technical term for this we learned is calving. It takes 300 years for the ice to get from the top of the glacier to the bottom and this one is actually the most famous but not the largest at 30km long, 5 km wide and 60m high as it is one of a very small number in the world that is actually increasing in size (well at least not receding like most - it can move at up to 2m per day).

We then had about another hour to get back to the port before a further hour driving back to town, it must have been about 18:30 before we got back so almost 12 hours in total. We walked into town to find that we couldn’t get any more cash out of the credit card, with a lost bank card we were out of cash and it looked like no more was on the way. I therefore had a bit of a panic, (not enough to stop me buying a bottle of Gran Reserva for 2 some more cheap ham and cheese for lunch and we headed back to the hostel). To make matters worse our laptop seems to be slowing down at a rate of knots to the extent it now doesn’t even run skype (at least we think it is the laptop and not the internet connection), we finally managed to get through to the bank and found they had put a block on due to suspicious usage. My folks had managed to get my new cash card on the way to South America hopefully to rendevouz with us in Buenos Aires in the next week.

We had pasta again with a tin of tomatoes, mmmmm the Argentine dream, we are craving another meat fest now though as walking past all the restaurants seeing whole animals over open fires and listening to people talking about how good the steak is here or the blood sausage there is mortifying, not that there is anything wrong with dried pasta and tomatoes..... As we were now guaranteed to get money the next day the Lady was trying to book us on an ice walk for the next day, for me having already spent about 7 hours ice walking in NZ and comparing to the 2 hours on the ice for a half day or 3 hours for a full day trek it seemed quite daft to spend about the same money as it cost in NZ, also having looked at the photos from other people in the hostel it didn’t seem like you could really penetrate the glacier due to the size of it, it seemed like you walked a fairly safe and flatish route on one side. I did however have to compromise in the end and we agreed to go and do the walking boards and viewing points, at 10 each it was a lot cheaper but I was fairly cynical feeling a bit 'well it is spectacular but I have seen it, why would I want to pay to see it again?)

We decided it would be nice to watch a film and as no one was in our dorm we set ourselves up with a 1 bottle and started watching a film, after 40 minutes we were joined by two woman probably in their early 60’s who had been walking in El Chalten for a few days, they were both medical specialists and extremely, extremely posh using terms like “as her majesty would say” they had a good few fairly derogatory things to say about the North of England but I quite enjoyed their eccentricity, one woman talked through everything she did “oh, where did I put my Pyjamas, I think I’ll start by looking in my rucksack, maybe towards the bottom, I do wish I had spent more time packing my bag, oh look there is my knife, I wondered what I had done with that, oh I’m not finding them at the moment, should I unpack my whole bag or retire for tea and maybe one glass of red wine”. It was a nice change anyway to have some old rich eccentrics staying with us, they clearly didn’t stay there because they needed the money but said they looked for comerarderie in such establishments, I’m not sure how much in common they would have with most people staying in Youth Hostels but still fair play to them and as I say it was a nice change to speak to someone so different.
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