Parque Nacional Los Glaciars. Ice trekking..

Trip Start Oct 01, 2007
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23
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Trip End May 07, 2008


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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

We flew with Lan from Ushuaia to El Calafate for a miserly 60 euro each. Only took 1 hour and a half and was comfy with free drinks on board. The land along the patagonian steppe surrounding El Calafate is very flat and tends to be a great channel for 70 km winds to find their legs. The town itself has gone from about 2000 inhabitants to around 10,000 in just under 10 years due to the increase in national (Argie) tourism in the region. And you can see the effects of such fast growth with half finished roads around the main centre. It didn`t matter a bit though cause the place was still very nice and we were really only here for one thing .... huge glaciers. We booked into the I Keu Ken hostel and after a brief conversation with Maga (one of the many girls working or should I say hanging around the friendly hostel) we booked ourselves the boat trip for the first day to see the biggest glaciers on the boat trip and then the "Big Ice" glacier trek for the following day.

The boat trip was awesome. We set off from a small port on Lago Argentino about an hour from El Calafate on a huge Catamaran and we were immediately in the thick of it with large icebergs floating by us. Some twice as big as the boat above the water which as we learned is only 15 percent of the size of the iceberg as the other 85 % is under the water. We were told that one of the Glaciers we were going to see called Upsalla (widest glacier at around 10km wide) had just broken off lots of ice a day or so ago so it may not be possible to get up the channel through the icebergs to see it. So instead the captain went up a different channel to see a different glacier first called Spegazzini. Wow. This thing was enormous. 135 feet tall at it`s highest point and dwarfed all around it. We got close enough and the captain just settled the boat in sideways to the glacier while we all stood and listened and watched  mother nature doing the business with this mass of ice. Every now and again there was a loud thunderous noise when some ice would break off and crash into the water. It was spectacular and so loud. We couldn`t believe the size of this thing. Another one of those things you just have to go and see for yourself. The captain then decided to try to get up the channel throught the icebergs to Upsalla and we managed to get through as the wind had displaced the glaciers enough for a large boat to shuffle through. Upsalla was equally as huge. Not as tall but at 10 km wide it was hard to capture the size again with our small and outdated camera (we are deffo investing soon, missing loads of photo ops!). There wasn`t much action on that glacier as the wind had kicked up big time and we all had to clamber back inside the boat. We made a quick exit from the channel before the icebergs gathered together again to block our route out. The final destination was a small lake on which three smaller glaciers tumbled down the mountains onto it`s shores. It was full of icebergs that could go nowhere and we had to disemabark and trek for 30 mins to get to the coast of the lake. You could pick chunks of ice out of the water along the shore as big as your head. Of course muscles Byrne (not) tried to pick every car sized piece he saw up nearly doing his back in before settling on a piece bigger than his head. The trip was excellent apart from one thing.... Tourists. I`m sorry everybody but we`re no longer classed as tourists on this trip. We`re now officially backpackers as Phil a Canadian guy we met in the hostel told us. The tourists were the pushy ignorant twats who were pushing everyone out of the way with their enormous lensed cameras and complete disregard for everyone aroud them. One b*^ch nearly got chucked overboard after pushing me out of the way to get a picture of an iceberg. Muppets. These things have been around for millions of years yet they were acting as though they were going to melt in the next five minutes. In El Calafate you dont have much choice as the whole town all work for each other so even if you get a smaller boat to see the glaciers, price wise it can even be more and they are all run by the same company regardless of name anyways! Same with the restaurants!

Anyhow, next day we got up at 7 again to go do the BIG ICE trek. This was on a different Glaciar (the most famous one) called Perito Moreno. This is the only glaciar in the world that is still growing constantly (2 metres a day) and after we spent some time at the viewpoints listening and watching it shed lumps of ice we toook a boat to the other side of the channel to meet our guide and get our cramp-on (crampons). Our guide was Matt from New Zealand and he was accompanied by 3 argentines all suited up to take us on our trek. After a brief chat we put on our safety harnesses and set off for an hour trek through woods and along the side of the glaciar before we hit the ice for real. These things are big and scary from the front but they were just beautiful when you got out on them. Full of small streams and waterfalls and some ice lagoons of the most brilliant blue colour we had ever seen. Again the crappy camera won`t do the glacier the justice it deserves and I doubt any camera would for that matter. We trekked right into the middle of the glacier (3 km) and a few more kilomertres around different areas of it. We stopped at one particularly large hole and could hear a lot of water flowing below and of course everybody was excited to see what was down the hole. You could only get 2 metres from the edge of the hole because as our guide put it "you fall in you die". They had to hold your rescue harness as you leaned in to get a better look. The crampons are great though and give you an enormous amount of grip on the ice. It all made us fell like part-time explorers. Of course Me and Lou were late getting up that morning (which had nothing to do with the Argentinian wine) so we didn`t have time to get the sambos together as the bus was already outside. So when we all stopped for lunch me and Lou sat on the edge of the group trying to hide our gourmet lunch. It consisted of  2 apples, 2 drinkable yoghurts and a bag of biscuits. Still at least the water was free cause all you had to do was throw ice in your gob and let it melt or get it from the tiny streams. We also saw a huge cave were you had to crawl on your belly under the ice to get to a large tunnell leading up to the top again. Scary as hell under all that ice in the dark, needless to say Lou didnt go down!  Lou hadn`t got any sunglasses for the trek as she had left her other ones on a bus earlier and she ended up gettting "Glacier Eye" as she coined it after a few drinks in the hostel with a gang later that night but they are getting better now and no longer look like sunburn on her eyes.  She was pretty frightened she had done serious damage but she didnt and we went to the pharmacy to get proper eyedrops for it. 

4 days in a great hostel and we met another gang of sound people chatting all night and polishing off numerous bottles of the famous Malbec (grape type) red wine of Argentina. What next.....? South America just keeps coming up with spectacular trips. I guess we`ll just have to head on to Chile now to see what they have to offer.
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