Ice to see you, to see you ice

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Argentina  ,
Sunday, April 15, 2007

It might be hard to imagine as you read this after being stuck in a tube train or traffic for two hours following an arduous day at work but this travelling lark can be quite stressful and exhausting at times. There have been several days when I've said to myself "What the hell am I doing?" (Day 5 at Adelaide, for example). Lately it's been "¿Donde esta el aeropuerto?" (yes, I'm even speaking to myself in Spanish it gets so bad). But then you meet some inspirational people, or bury yourself in a huge steak and a bottle of vino for the price of Maxim back home, or else you have a day where you see or experience so fascinating everything is good again.

On the face of it, watching ice melt doesn't sound like it would be that much fun and after the disappointment of Torres del Paine I wasn't expecting much at Argentina's Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Maybe because my expectations were so low that it helped make it such a fantastic day. Ignoring the hard sell at the hostel for glacier tours I instead had been recommended an alternative tour run out of another hostel. Together with Jo and fellow Navimag boat person Helen who I'd bumped into on the bus north I signed up for the day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier.

The National Park is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field which feeds dozens of glaciers including Perito Moreno. This isn't the biggest - although at 20 miles long and covering almost 100 square miles it isn't a tiddler - but it is one of the most accessible. It is also one of the few glaciers in the world that isn't retreating. It also isn't growing but it does move forward about five feet a day which means an awful lot of ice falls off the front. Oh, and the terminus wall is on average 200 feet above the water and nearly 600 feet below.

The cracking and splintering of the ice goes off like gunshots in a thunderstorm and from a safe distance across an arm of Lago Argentino - 38 people have been killed by falling ice - I stared mesmerised looking for the next fall. The problem is, you hear the almighty booming crash seconds after the ice splits and crashes into the water so unless you're staring at the right place at the right time all you see is ice bobbing to the surface and the subsequent tidal wave. I was lucky enough to see a couple of big falls (or 'calving' to give it a technical name) plus a couple of smaller ones (perhaps what the Germans might call a calving klein? © Brummie Mike).

This great trip also included an hour on a boat which took us past huge blue icebergs and up closer to the splintering face. The sheer size, power and natural beauty was stunning. It was definitely a day I didn't think about airports; in fact it made me wonder why Mr Anderson at high school made me learn about the creation of bloody ox-bow lakes in geography instead of glaciers.
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