Ice Ice Baby

Trip Start Dec 28, 2011
Trip End Dec 12, 2012

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Given our time constraints in Argentina (we are taking delivery of two lovely reprobates in 2 weeks) and the huge expanse of nothingness in this vast country we picked up a cheap flight to El Calafate, to view the land of the glaciers.
We had one aim - to see Perito Moreno, a static glacier whose yearly fluctuations cause huge slabs of ice to crash spectacularly into the lake below. A day long mini trek allowed us to see exactly that. The glacier itself is absolutely enormous, much bigger than those in New Zealand and actually the size of Buenos Aires (and this is the bebe of the area). The advancing face spans 3km and we were able to amble around the man made viewing balconies to see it in its entireity. The colours and shapes are phenomenal - electric icy blue crevices combined with blinding white ice, slashed with dark streaks of moraine. Every view seemed to be a perfect piece of abstract art.

If we thought that the balconies allowed us to get up close and personal, the boat ride was even better. Just 300m from the enormous face you can start to comprehend why this monster piece of ice is so dangerous. The face towers 50m high and falling pieces can cause splashing and icebergs to fall over 200m away. For the most part the glacier is quiet, then suddenly thunderous cracking sounds occur, accompanied by ice falls that seem too small to make such noise. A pertinent reminder that the ice mass is moving up to 14m a day, ploughing through anything in its path.

We were lucky enough to go ice walking on the glacier with the Professor of Glaciology from the University. Complete with crampons, we made the slow slog up various peaks and got scarily close to beautiful but dangerous crevasses. We were told that if you fall into one of these every exhalation causes you to wedge further in, leaving you struggling for air.  I felt like Scott and it was certainly one of the more intrepid things weīve done.

Crampon walking is a fine art; head up at all times "resisting the urge to watch your feet as your body will follow you down" and baby steps with your legs wide apart. My walk was a cross between Forest Gump in leg braces and Robocop.

The landscape on the ice was mindblowing. The only comparison I can lamely think of is Supermanīs kryptonite palace. As you pass gaping holes you have glimpses of the icy blue glacial streams that run beneath and lubricate the slabīs progress down the mountain.
And if it couldnīt appear to get any better, our last descent saw us find a makeshift ice bar complete with chocolate and whisky (on the glacial rocks of course). A warming treat.

As we returned from our walk we were treated to the best show of the day. The sun had weakened a large section of the face and we were able to watch as a house-sized chunk smashed in to the water, complete with thunderous sounds. To see a glacier calving was exceptional and truly a trip highlight.  

Nights were spent enjoying vast amounts of meat at the "eat as much as you physcially can" BBQ. JK took full advantage of the free meat that evening, dismissing the salad as something for weak people. You know itīs time to leave one of these places when the whole lamb on a spit that was there when you arrived is all gone (and only four other people were eating there!). At our hostel we chatted to some lovely people, particularly a magician who demonstrated his incredible card tricks. We stared at his hands and he wasnīt wearing sleeves, but we still donīt know how he did it. Another girl in the hostel was a clowning acrobat leaving us wondering if weīd managed to stay in a special magic hostel. I toyed with the idea of getting out "pregnant belly", but JK said it wasnīt a trick, it was just gross.

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Chrismaca on

Hi wow that looks amazing. You were very brave to go walking on the glacier but I would have loved to have seen the iceberg fall. Lucky you.
Love aunty chris x

scabbybeast on

You could have tried granny bottom, model bottom instead

marcia on

just beautiful!

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