Ice, Ice, Baby!

Trip Start Feb 03, 2013
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14
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Trip End Dec 13, 2013


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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hello everybody!

So since our last blog post two weeks ago we have had a cancelled flight, trekked on a glacier, walked until our feet were raw, had a bus break down, failed a quest for the marble caves, eaten some of Argentina's best chocolate and spent a tonne of money. I'll fill you in on the El Calafate stint in this post but there is lots to come.

18th Feb - So we left our hostel very early to get to the Jorge Newbery airport in Buenos Aires for our internal flight to El Calafate. We hadn't planned to go to the patagonia before we had left England so we had to have a quick shop in BA for hats, gloves and jumpers as we were told it was quite cold down there!

We flew with LADE who are a state owned airline operated by the Argentine air force. We were very excited about this and were expecting a little propeller style plane where the pilots do loop de loops! We were very eager and were third in the queue at the last check in desk in the airport. Thankfully we knew a couple who had done the trip a week earlier and told us what check in desk to go to as our flight was not yet on the board. Our flight finally came on the board and we soon learnt the plane would be stopping in three places prior to El Calafate, all adding to our excitement. As the queue for the check in desk grew we awaited somebody to check us all in. A lady finally turned up and informed us the plane had been cancelled. She explained she would try and get us all on another flight and to wait to one side. The lady then returned and all the planes to El Calafate were full so they would try and put on a flight for us  tomorrow morning. We later learnt that the reason the flight was cancelled was because the plane had been co-opted to fly Argentine dignitaries to Rome for the pontification.

We headed back to PAX hostel where we had stayed for the week when we were first in BA. The airline were paying for it so in hindsight we should of gone to the Hilton or something. The people at the hostel were very helpful though and phoned the airline who told us there would be a flight at 8am the next day.

19th Feb - Round 2 ding ding ding! So yet another early morning and this time we were 2nd in line. This time our flight was already on the board with a gate number so we were more hopeful today. Check in was very easy and we got the cash back for our hostel given to us out of a blue plastic box. There was only about 9 other passengers on our plane and it was only stopping at El Calafate. The plane was a small jet and because there were so few of us we all got a window seat if we wanted - I had an entire row! We also got breakfast and a drink (no loop de loops though). We arrived at the airport a few hours later and to my surprise the airport was really nice and modern. Our plane was the only one at the airport so our bags were already there waiting for us when we got to arrivals. Not one person had checked my passport the entire way!

We then caught a mini bus which dropped off us at the hostel in El Calafate. The view from the hostel was very nice overlooking the lake. 

We went out and took a wander of the town where the main street felt very touristy. It was pretty but not the secluded little town I had expected. We walked to Lake Argentina and saw a Flamingo and then wandered back. We passed a road where there was litter everywhere and I was not getting a great feel for the place.

20th Feb - Today we didn't do much. I'm not kidding. There's NOTHING to do in El Calafate other than the glacier so we took a quick walk then sat in the hostel all day writing blogs and reading.

21st Feb - Today was the day we would trek on a gigantic piece of frozen water. When we booked the mini trekking two days ago we were told to come today as the weather would be nicer than yesterday however it was the other way around and we started our day with red sky in the morning. A bus picked us up at 0830 and picked several others up on the way to Los Glaciares National Park. When we got there a couple of hours later two rangers got on our bus for us to pay entry into the park. I didn't mind having pay entry to get in to the park but what I did mind was that we had to pay three times as much as the Argentines - bloody cheek, they all have more money than us!

The bus then dropped us off at a small port on the lake where we then boarded a boat which would take us to the glacier. The boat had an upstairs which was outside so we went up there to get a good view of the face of the glacier. What we were greeted with was the most powerful wind I had ever experienced. I literally couldn't stand up straight and I nearly lost my sunglasses which flew off my face to the back of the boat. It was very cool getting closer and closer to the huge glacier which is 97 sq. miles and moving up to 2 meters a day. It is the worlds 3rd largest reserve of natural water.

We were split in to English and Spanish speaking groups once we got off the boat and followed our guide Deigo. He took us to the shore line and explained to us many features of the glacier. It was quite warm in Patagonia and in the summer temperatures could reach 30degC and it isn't at a high altitude so why all the glaciers? He explained to us that the glaciers here are formed because the winds coming from the Pacific ocean in Chile are forced up over the Andes where they then get really cold and produce snow. 14 km north of the glacier it snows 300 days a year. He said the snow that falls today would make it's way down the glacier and be at the front of it in 400 years. He said the glacier was 3 miles wide and the depth of the glacier was 700m with two thirds of that being under the water level. After our little geography lesson we walked along the shore for photos and saw a massive iceberg fall away from the glacier - pretty cool. 

Diego put our crampons on at the side of the glacier and we were good to go. He explained how to walk up and down glacier hills in them and we all commenced towards the glacier walking like penguins. Then we were finally on the ice. We were trekking on the ice for about 90mins and saw lakes, crevasses, drain holes and the most incredible colour blue you have ever seen. I asked why the iceberg and water were blue but Diego said it was an optical illusion and on a cloudy day like we had it appeared more blue but he assured us once taken away from the masses it was transparent. It was a cool experience to trek on a glacier even though the weather was cloudy and didn't make our pictures look all pretty. Towards the end of our mini trek we turned a corner and were greeted with a table of glasses with whiskey and biscuits. The whiskey was accompanied with fresh ice taken from the glacier, pretty awesome and definitely warmed the cockles. Our mini-trek was then done and we made our way back to unfrozen land and had some lunch. 

We then got back on the boat to the bus which dropped us at the observatory deck where we would stay for an hour. By now it had really started to rain and we got soaked. We walked to see the north side of the glacier and we had spent the morning trekking on the south side. We saw some really big pieces fall here. At first you hear a massive thunder rumble sound and then all of a sudden a big piece of ice would fall away from the glacier. First the glacier was teasing us with little pieces here and there (I say little they were probably the size of multi-storey buildings) and then we were finally rewarded with a massive fall which was so cool. Since the sun hadn't been on it all day we were lucky to get any action.


So our first glacier experience was an awesome one but we would see many more in El Chalten.

Next blog post coming very soon.

Hope you have all had a good Easter weekend,

K x x x 
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