Just like Titanic (sort of)

Trip Start Sep 19, 2005
Trip End Mar 19, 2006

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, October 14, 2005

Another big "wow, nature is amazing" from Argentina!

I arrived in Calafate on Tuesday after a flight with the Argentinian Airforce passenger service (company motto: the Falklands belong to Argentina...!), it was a little propella plane and we stopped on the way for a coffee in a random airport! Have been having such a good time here that I am staying an extra day. The hostel I am at is great, with beautiful views of the Andes and small rooms. The communal areas are comfy and very condusive to lounging around, so I am having a relaxing day today, to do all the things I havenīt had time for whilst rushing about to see glaciers etc! So today I am getting photos burned onto a cd, getting laundry done (yay, clean socks!) and doing a travelpod entry for you all!

Plus, have organised almost the whole next week of my travels. Its been weird as so far I have just been turning up in a new place and arranging things as I go along, but ferry schedules demand a bit of planning (more of which later) so I have had to be a bit more organised.

Anyhow, back to the nature bit. Calafate is jammed almost up against the Chilean border, which is essentially the Andes. On this side, there are huge snow fields which compact to form a whole load of glaciers. Calafate is a really touristy (and v expensive) town, where every other building is a hotel, hostel or souvenir shop, to serve all the tourists who come to see the glaciers. But still, its beautiful, right on a huge milky blue lake with the odd iceberg floating in it. I arranged 2 tours through the hostel, one was a whole day in a catamaran boat which travelled to see 4 or 5 of the biggest glaciers, and one was a shorter tour to see one of the most active and acessible glaciers, called Perito Moreno.

The first tour was long, very very cold and amazing. We saw huge icebergs, got completely frozen by the really strong winds on the lake, and saw the highest and I think the widest glacier in the area too. The weather wasn't great so within about 5 minutes I was wishing I had got around to buying a hat and gloves, but it was fun all the same. The lake branches off into several (relatively) smaller channels where the glaciers approach, and sailing down those really felt that we were at the end of the world, with the Andes looming over us. The weather was so bad we couldn't see one of the glaciers, and at one point we got onto the shore and walked through a wood to see another smaller lake with 2 more glaciers flowing into it. I can honestly say I have never been so cold in my life! One of the glaciers (the biggest) is receding so much that there are 7km of icebergs in front of it, so we couldn't get near it.

Yesterday I went to another part of the national park to see the Perito Moreno glacier. The weather had cheered up a bit and I had bought a hat and gloves, finally, so it felt lovely and cosy after the day before! The Perito Moreno glacier is the most active in the region, moving about 2 metres per day! It calves so much at the face, though, that it is actually quite stable, size-wise, and doesn't advance. The ice a a spectacular blue colour, an optical illusion formed by the light, and it is 60 metres high (about the height of a 15 storey building, fact fans) and something like 30km long. We did a hike over the beach and up towards the side of the glacier (scrambling over boulders and up hills - NOT good at all for my ankle which I have strapped up today). I was glad I did it though, we got the most amazing views of the face of the glacier, and then climbed up the hill to see right over the surface too. I had my sandwiches sitting watching the face of the glacier from a bench which was just amazing, watching huge chunks calve into the lake and form mini icebergs. We got to spend about 2 hours on the balconies and catwalks overlooking the glacier, then went on a boat trip which took us to within 300m of the face of the glacier - pretty amazing to see it so close. The glacier is so active that there are cracks and crevasses everywhere, with pointed spires sticking up into the sky. The shape is really irregular - from far away it looks like a solid wall of ice, but its very pointy close up. When it calves, there's a thundery cracking noise, and then bits fall into the lake and make a big splash. The bigger bits sink then bob back up and float away. It was dropping bits of various sizes almost the whole time we were there!

Anyhow, after all that excitement you can tell I need a day off from sightseeing. The next part of the plan is: tomorrow, fly to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. I was going to take the bus, but it involves leaving here at 3am and getting there at 9pm, and I'm just not that hardcore!! Plus, its only about 100 pesos more to fly. This country is SO big, I can't tell you how many times I think that every day! From Ushuaia, I am heading into Chile. Next Thursday, there is a ferry which will sail up through the Chilean fjords (there are no roads) to Puerto Montt, arriving next Monday. The ferry only goes once a week, hence the necessity of planning a bit so I don't miss it!

Anyhow, am waiting for another machine to add some photos, so they should be on later today. Hope everyone is well, talk to you soon. Lots of love Sarah xx
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