Nearly the End of the World

Trip Start Nov 08, 2004
Trip End Nov 08, 2005

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Sunday, January 23, 2005

Flying into El Calafate is a good way to appreciate the vast empty space that covers the bottom tip of the continent. Patagonia: a barren, windy expanse of dusty bleakness punctuated by the contrast of glistening lakes and volcanic hills.

El Calafate is the base town for the nearby Glaciers. They have formed over millennia from Andean ice fields being compacted and flowing towards the channels of Lake Argentina. Thereīs one road in and one road out.... and not much else for 100īs of miles until the bottom of the continent.

Lago Argentina is a stunning emerald green colour (apparently caused by minerals in the water)and its framed by more dramatic peaks. Itīs a weird thing to say, but the sky seems so huge here and the clouds are so fluffy!

As we set sail for a day of glacier-hunting the air has a really crunchy chill to it and the wind rips right through you, we are not used to this kind of cold now! Soon the boat is expertly dodging blue-hued icebergs which have broken off the glaciers. Winding around the lakes channels we arrive at one awesome glacier after another. Some have front walls which tower above us, and some stretch back for miles and miles, but the unique thing is that they all flow right into the lake.

Later we get off the boat and walk through a forest to reach the spectacle of "Lago Onelli" (sounds like an Irish pub!): chock a block with icebergs bobbing up and down. It appears to be a famous place for Argentines to strip off as we see several groups strip down to their undies for freezing photos! (We donīt join in...).

After seeing all this we werenīt prepared for what was to come the next day: the grandfather of all glaciers, the Perito Moreno. Itīs up to 200 feet high and covers 76 sq miles. The sight of this just made everything we have seen so far pale into insignificance.

An enormous river of ice, wedged between dark peaks, it gives the impression its coming straight for you! The ice is packed so tightly it has been forced up into jagged turrets, like some kind of Disney ice palace. Suddenly there is a deafening crack and a thunderous bellow as a huge chunk of ice breaks off and crashes into the lake below, it really gives you that neck-hair tingling sensation. If you werenīt expecting it, it could sound like a bomb! This happens every few minutes and is caused by pressure from the channel of water surrounding the front wall. Itīs one of the most active glaciers on the planet.

Obviously this kind of awe inspiring stuff is a major pulling card for tourists. Scores of rich, fur coated Argentines arrive by the coach load. Most of them stand around sipping their "Maté"- the local drink which appears to be a national obsession. Its made from a herb/leaf similar to tea which they crush in a little wooden pot, pour hot water over, and then sip through a wooden straw type thing. Its very social and you are not supposed to decline an invitation to partake, but Iīm telling you this stuff tastes gross! Itīs like the strongest, most disgusting tea you can imagine - and Iīm usually a lover of all teas! Wherever the Argentine goes, his maté and his flask goes with him.. be it to the beach, hiking in the mountains, shopping, the park or even to watch bits falling off a glacier! I reckon Argentina must have highest flask sales in the world!

We are now in Santiago for one day before flying to Rio. At last some heat! We will be going back to Argentina later in the trip though, not least because every single European or American man we have met so far has been unable to stop gushing to Jason about how totally beautiful the women of Buenos Aires are! (Ahh poor Jason..) What about the men? I ask... but they have never noticed...

Interesting Stats:

No. of cute Penguins seen - 0
No. of Penguins seen to date - 1 dead
No. of times I asked Jason/random people if "that mountain" belongs to the Andes - 369
No. of times Argentine seen without Mate - 1
No. of times I have conjugated past tense of Spanish verb correctly - 2
No. of people fallen alseep whilst waiting for me to conjugate verb - 5
No. of overweight Argentine women seen - 0
No. of bikinis tried on in Bariloche - 39
No. of bikinis not made for Elf sized women found - 0
% of Ozone layer now destroyed by pollution from Jason`s sandal odour - 23
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