Patagonia & Perito Moreno - Beware falling ice

Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Thursday, March 18, 2010

I know at the end of the last blog, I promised avalanches and a massive trek in Torres del Paine. That was such an experience that I thought I would dedicate a whole blog to it, hence that will be covered in the next posting.

The trip down south is well and truly on and I wanted to write a little about Patagonia. We're heading further and further south, until eventually, we’ll hit Ushuaia, the southern-most city in the world. If you want to book a berth to Antarctica, Ushuaia is the city that you’ll be leaving from. For those of you who are interested, Patagonia is cold at this time of the year, really cold. Add to that fact that we are also camping our way through most of it and it makes for a very interesting holiday. It was a good idea that I didn’t read too much into our trip before leaving the sunny shores of Australia or I might not have come at all.

Patagonia is flat, cold, desolate and windy, and it can also be quite a boring drive to boot. All you see is brown grass, clouds and the odd llama. Don’t expect much rain here either. The Andes rise up in the east like a wall of Secret Servicemen around Barak Obama at a G40 Summit meeting, halting most rain clouds that gather from the Pacific Ocean. That leaves Patagonia with more wind than a fat man after a Mexican buffet and drier than something that’s very dry (fill in your own metaphor here). A description like that is unlikely to make you open another browser to make travel arrangements for your next holiday here. So why would 20 travellers pack every single piece of warm clothing they own, throw it all into an overland truck and start the journey from warmer climes down the famous RN 40 highway? I can tell you that one of the 20 (me) just flat out didn’t know what he was getting into at all. Nicole did a wonderful job at planning this trip and for the Patagonia leg of the trip, ignorance truly was bliss for me. But Patagonia does make up for it by giving you some of the world’s most beautiful glaciers, flora and fauna to make the trip worthwhile. I think the next few blog entries from us will be testament to that.

With my birthday around the corner, we drive down further into the cold and stopped off at the town of El Calafate, our base for a visit to the Perito Moreno Glacier. This glacier is one of the most beautiful glaciers in the world. Standing at 60m in height, 5kms wide and over 35kms deep, it’s one of the few glaciers in the world that is actually advancing. I guess Al Gore didn’t come here to take pictures showing a receding glacier for his movie "An Inconvenient Truth". It bucks that trend. Global warming or not, the glacier advances every day and that makes for some pretty dramatic sights when the glacier meets the water (the body of water is called Lago Argentino). The viewing platforms were on Peninsula Magallanes and from that peninsula, you actually hear the ice groaning and creaking. Eventually, a massive chunk of ice melts enough and cracks off (and sounds like a gunshot) then falls into the lake and makes a massive splash below. The blue colour that is revealed from the fresh ice is something else. I know I’ve probably said this a few times and I’ll probably say it a few more times before this trip is over, but photos really don’t do this place any justice. It seems silly to say but you could sit here, watching and listening to ice falling all day. I managed to capture some ice falling and the sequence is in the pictures that follow. Only the most detail oriented people will notice the difference. It's hard to keep the sequence small enough to upload but big enough to see.The only thing that managed to lure us away from the peninsula was a boat ride on the lake to see the glacier up close and feel it towering over you from water level.

If you want to google something cool, then search for Perito Moreno glacier and look for the images of the ice bridge falling down every few years. Remember how I mentioned before that we were looking at the glacier from the Peninsula Magallanes? Well, with the glacier advancing bit by bit every day, after a few years few years the glacial ice actually touches the peninsula. This keeps building for a little while until there is an ice wall between the glacier and the peninsula. This wall isn't supposed to be there and the currents from the lake mean that a small hole is bored through the wall after it forms. The hole gets bigger and bigger until an ice bridge forms between the glacier and the peninsula. The water continues to flow through this hole, making it bigger and bigger until the structure of the bridge is compromised and the whole bridge collapses. This process takes quite a few years. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourselves.

The next night after seeing falling ice, we held a joint 30th birthday celebration for Laura and I. Laura’s birthday was on the 20th of March and mine is a few days later so we had dinner and drinks in El Calafate. It was a great night and you can see from the photos, the mixed grill that was meant for 4 was swiftly polished off by Nic and I (mostly me).

In our next blog, we trek through Parque Nacional Torres del Paine for 4 days covering some serious kilometres and camping the whole way.
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