Glaciers and Poobreath the dog ...

Trip Start Sep 21, 2009
Trip End Apr 10, 2010

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Sunday, October 25, 2009

Well here we are in el Calafate, right near the southern tip of Argentina and the Antarctic. We arrived via overnight bus and then aeroplane, cost slightly more than a bus whose journey would have taken about 2 days longer. The airport turned out to be in the middle of nowhere and we ended up sharing a taxi with a Belgian couple, a trip that took us through some breath taking, arid scenery framed by mountains and turquoise lakes. The town itself, about 15 minutes drive from the ariport, is quaint and fairly touristy with lots of hostels, hotels, cafes, chocolate shops and outdoorsy type outlets. We'd like to think of it as the Cheddar of Argentina. Our hostel turned out to be very nice and fairly new.

Anyway, day one over and into day two ... very very windy and the wind is very cold as it finds its birthplace in the Andes and is particularly strong between November to March (summer and the 'windy season'). We took a walk, fighting the biting wind, to the Argentine lake, the largest in Argentina and one of the largest in South America. We discovered that the portion of lake attached to Calafate is not particularly accessible and didn't share the same amazing turquoise colour that other sections of the lake possess. Nevermind - there were some flamingos on the lake (although we weren't able to get that close to them either).  The town's setting is amazing, mountains on every side. Quite a harsh but beautiful landscape. A lot of it reminds me of times when I've had to trawl through pictures of beautiful and exotic places around the world for the Every Day with Jesus calendar. So here we are in Every Day with Jesus land!

We also discovered that in terms of clothing we weren't as underprepared as we'd expected - layering works! We picked up another canine friend, after being ditched by Ricardo in Ilha Grande, who we named 'Poo-breath' because he stopped to eat poo by the pavement. There are a lot of stray dogs around here. At one point we were surrounded and hoping that they wouldn't turn vicious. They seemed more interested in sniffing Poo-breathīs bottom, although at one point they looked like they might bundle him in vicious gangster stylee. Other than the walk we didnīt do much - we hadn't had much sleep on the journey from Buenos Aires. We did however treat ourselves to some gorgeous food in a restaurant located on a hill with a view of the town - beautiful. I had a steak while Gem had Patagonian Lamb with roast vegetables - possibly the best steak I've ever had. I'd give it a 6 out of 5. Beef steak is now firmly at the top of my favourite meats list. Gem's lamb was also delicious and we indulged in some Argentinian wine which was also mighty fine.

So, day 3 (today) ... We went on an hour and a half bus journey to one of the most famous glaciers in the world located in the glacier national park - although to be honest I'm not sure I know any glaciers by name so famous doesn't necessarily mean much (this one's called Perito Moreno). It was amazing though - recommended to us by Rachel Deadman. There were audible gasps as our coach rounded the corner and we got our first glimpse. Once off the coach we viewed the glacier wall from various platforms, stopping to gawk and mutter such phrases as, 'Wow!'. This thing is huge - really tall, very long, HUGE! And we're not sure our pictures do it justice. It's area is about 257km squared (bigger than Buenos Aires) but only a quarter the size of some of it's neighbours. It's supposed to be the only glacier in the world that currently grows at the same rate it melts. We tried various tricks to get the light reading right on our camera so apologies if some of the pics are a little dark - we were trying to avoid producing over-exposed pictures of white blobs. I'm not sure the camera catches the blue of the ice either - apparently created by 10 years of compressed snow. While we were watching a huge slab fell from the glacier wall and the effect was immense - big wave, loud noise - you could literally feel the bass - like at a gig or something.

After the gawking of the viewing platforms we were taken by boat to the other side of the lake from where we could gain trekking access to glacier. We were kitted out with 'cramp-ons' - spikes for your shoes - and were led onto the ice. We were taught this rather smooth and sophisticated walking technique which made us look like muppets carrying watermelons between our knees. Nevermind - the experience was amazing. We had to navigate over 30 metre crevices and past very strange and towering ice formations. At the end of the trek we were all given glasses of whisky over glacier ice. I took a photo of Gem holding hers, after which she told me 'it's making me gag' - not because it was bad whisky, but because Gem couldn't remember if she liked whisky or not. As it turned out she didn't. So I got hers too.

Bye for now.
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