Walker and I met in Scotland, but what we didn't exactly realize for years was that this meant we both had a bit of an arctic magnetism in our blood. We thrive on trips north to cooler climes: Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Sweden and Norway. And so for years, we dreamed about the other extreme: the south. And in the best surprise ever, Walker's parents gave us the incredible gift of a trip to Patagonia in November.
After a few day layover in Buenos Aires, which was surprisingly bursting with purple blossoms and the glaring green of spring, we boarded an Aerolineas Argentinas flight about three hours due south, to the port of El Calafate (bonus: Aerolineas is a Delta SkyMiles partner so we had nice seats and no fuss with the heavy carry-on camera gear.)
It was after 8:00pm when we landed in the small, mountain huddle of a village called El Calafate, and the long, southern light lay against the Lago Argentina turquoise, the huge glacial lake the town of El Calafate sits in. Turquoise. I am going to have to search for some new synonyms for the colors of water, because that was what struck me first and what most often took my breath away in Patagonia.
Our time in the Argentinian part of Patagonia was spent in the Calafate region at the hotel called Eolo, which was a 45 minute drive from the airport. The hotel's driver picked us up, and by happenstance, the hotel's general manager was also catching a ride. From our first moments in the car, we could not have been more impressed with the Argentine's love of this wild place, and their care to show it to visitors with great passion. We'll share more about our stay in another post, but the hotel was our base for 3 days of trips to the two famed glaciers in the area: Perito Moreno and Upsala. Just look!
Our very first day in Patagonia, so long anticipated, we woke up to what we had been well warned of: rain. We pulled out our waterproof layers, and just kept laying them up and up until I looked about as round as a puffy donut. And baby, the icing dripped out of the sky. Starting as a drizzle, as we were picked up by our guide for the day, it would coat every inch of us as we viewed the glaciers for the first time.
Our guide Christian, a geology Ph.D student, was arranged by the travel company Knowmad Adventures, and knew everything about glaciers. The Perito Moreno glacier is famous partly because it is quite active, losing about 2 meters of ice a day. Thankfully, it grows at the same rate from above, so has maintained its size.
We started the day with a boat ride, operated by the only licensed tour company in the park (I believe), Hielo Y Aventura. The next day, Walker and I would do a trek with them.
The boat itself wasn't a highlight since the windows had fogged up from the rainy weather, but you can see from the scale just how enormous the glacier was. Christian told us the ice was about 75M tall; that's about 22 stories!
The boat was super cold outside with the driving rain, and we kept coming in, sopping wet, hoping to dry off, but remaining damp.
Thankfully, Walker braved the elements to preserve the iceberg art we floated by.
Wonderfully, the glacier is also surrounded by a series of platforms and stairways on three sides that allow a clear view from slightly above of the shape of the ice. Since it's in a National Park, Los Glacieres National Park, the area is meticulously clean. (I'm mixing in some photos from the next day, since we walked here again in sunnier weather and got some different angles.)
And a big surprise was foliage blossoming into ardent colors: reds, golden, purples, just across the way from the enormous glacier. The photos don't really show it, but you'll see in other posts.
And unforeseen benefit of the rainy day was that we were largely alone with the glacier, and the colors (our guide predicted and Walker assured me was true) would look better in the camera with the sun's glare. I could have stood looking that that dense, dry, packed ice and snow for hours; the sight truly was hypnotic.
Veins told years of paths down from the mountain.
Of course, the entire time, our eyes were scanning for calving, when sheets or pieces of the glacier front fall off into the water. We saw a few small chunks and the echo of their fall reverberated so strongly it shocked us. And then we did see a fairly large piece slide off into the water, creating waves for minutes. And that sound will stay forever of the slide then slip into the lake.
Last thing to mention about this glacier: Perito Moreno has a thin ice dam, which is one of the things that makes it famous, because every so often, when things warm up just enough, it breaks, and created a huge distribution of water between the two lakes it connects. Obviously, we weren't there, but our guide said he had camped out to watch it once, and the sound was incredible.
The color of the minerals in the ice was enough for me.
How crazy and beautiful is this planet?! Up next: hiking on the glacier itself!