The past few days since we last spoke have been jam-packed with spectacular scenery. We met our next Intrepid group in Buenos Aires and yet again, we have chanced upon a great group. There are 12 of us this time from various backgrounds and the dynamics of the group are fantastic. Our leader Ana is wonderfully sweet and very organized; a real joy to have on your side.
We set off for Patagonia and landed in El Calafate late in the afternoon. It was a blazing blue-sky day, quite unusual for these parts. I am beginning to think that disaster follows us but amazing weather precedes us! On approach we were treated to a fly by over the Perido Moreno glacier and the surrounding mountains; a very unusual and thrilling occurrence.The glacier is 32kms long and flows lazily into the largest body of fresh water in Argentina, aptly named Lake Argentina.
After a restful night we set out, full of enthusiasm, for an up-close look at the glacier. The sun was rising over the peaks and casting a yellow glow into the open valley as we drove. We came across an eagle feasting on a rabbit killed on the road and we watched from only a few meters away as he tore at the rodent’s stomach, completely unfazed by our presence.We eventually dragged ourselves away and the south face of the glacier soon appeared majestically as we rounded a corner and glistened under the yet again perfect sky. The first boat out onto the lake is by far the least crowded and worth the early morning… and the 50 pesos! As you approach the glacier you can hear the ice cracking and straining under its own weight. Occasionally, chunks of ice will break away from the face and fall into the lake, creating a wave. This is one of the only glaciers in the world that is stable, if not advancing and grows and retreats at a pace of around 1.5 meters a day. It is made for viewing with the front nearly touching the sides of the lake. It is placed so that you can actually view it from all sides on land and can have an overwhelming feeling of insignificance as it comes straight towards you. Albeit at a glacial pace! It really is something not to be missed.
The towns in this area are built on tourism and feel like a small ski resort towns.Wood and corrugated iron give a quaint and homey feeling with a plethora of cafes, bars and restaurants providing refuge for weary and windswept hikers. For the first time in months we are in a place where you can safely drink the water out of the tap! Wonderful.
We are now in El Chalten eating Calefate berry waffles. Yum. We had to try these local berries, which are much like a blueberry as the locals say that if you eat the Calefate berry when you are in Patagonia, you will surely return. I don’t know how that works but I just had to make sure I covered all by bases.
On our drive between the two towns we stopped for a coffee and a piece of home-made cake at a ranch. It was like I had gone to heaven. A beautiful log hut with huge glass windows overlooking the valley and surrounding mountains complete with a wooden deck. A zoo of animals milled around including a Choique (much like and emu but smaller), a Guanaco and her young (sort of like an Alpaca but from the camel family), a black house cat and several sheep.They all butted up against the front door, vying for a place inside with the family. Only the young Guanaco was allowed in as it was being bottle fed. I got to feed a baby Guanaco!!! So cute! For those of you that know me will understand how much of a thrill it was for me.
Yesterday was our 10 hour hike to Mt Fitzroy which juts sharply out of the landscape. It is unusual to see it in its entirety but as usual the gods of clear skies did not disappoint. In fact our guides (www.walkpatagonia.com), who had been hiking the track for years said they have almost never seen it as clear as it was yesterday.This place is known as one of the coldest and windiest parts, with rain and snow being the norm. On a clear day, this is without a doubt one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. I will not rabbit on about it but will simply put up some photos and they are the best way to demonstrate the beauty of this special place. Come here, you will not regret it. It is amazing! El Chalten is a great little place to cozy up to a beer from the local micro-brewery or drink endless cups of coffee and admire the surrounding cliffs.
Next we across the border to Chile for a few days of hiking and camping.
See you soon
Em and Stu xoxo