The Glaciers

Trip Start Mar 11, 2005
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Trip End Jul 15, 2005


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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The one 'tourist attraction' we felt we had to visit on this trip was the 'Los Glaciers' National Park - and aren't we glad we did. The starting point to get to the Park is El Calafate and it was only 20 miles off route (we did try to get a lift from our route north to El Calafate, but sadly there was nothing doing). If you're only going to see one glacier then it has to be Glacier Perito Moreno, a glacier that is unusual because it is still advancing, and hence 'moving' at a pace of 2 meters (note for the old folks - yes, that includes Philsy - meters are similar to yards). So new ice is formed at the back, and if you're lucky, you can see (and hear) huge slabs crack and fall off the front. But the day after we arrived there was no trip running to the Glacier Perrito Moreno, so against our better judgement we signed up to a much more comprehensive (and expensive) trip that would take us on a catamaran through Lake Argentina and up to the various glaciers.

It was awesome. We soon came across icebergs (totally unexpectedly for us both), and they were the most beautiful ice sculptures in vivid turquoise and shades of blue, glistening in the sunlight as water trickled down their sides. And there were so many of them, some could sink the Titanic (let alone us!) and some were really quite small. We were taken up various 'arms' of the lake at the end of which were massive walls of ice: the glaciers. Geography lessons really don't do them justice: solid walls of solid ice creating a barrier to the water that can stretch literally for several kilometres. What can the first explorers have thought when they first came across them? Perhaps wait for 24 hours and hope that they will melt overnight! But the awesomeness of this landscape was really brought home to us when the captain decided to abort a run up close to one glacier after battling against ferocious headwinds that were threatening to drive us into icebergs, or the icebergs into us.



We wondered whether there would be any point in visiting the Glacier Perito Moreno the following day after what we had just experienced, but we had made friends with a couple of Americans who were going and we decided that whilst we were there we should go. We thought our doubts had been well-founded when we trundled along a route to the Lake that thoughtfully meant that we could see the local wildlife: an eagle feeding on the previous night's road-kills; a grey fox hiding behind a bush; and so on. (We see so much wildlife whilst cycling that we thought we might be included on the list!). But once at the Glacier, we were pleased to realise that this one was indeed special, and now we had the opportunity to look down on top of this vast expanse of peaks of ice (like a very, very large lemon meringue pie!). And we were privileged to see (and indeed video!) massive chunks break and fall away into the water with a sound that cracked like thunder. Unforgettable.

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