Monday, November 10, 2008

Glaciers, Mountains, Waterfalls and Whales - Part 1 of 4: Glaciers

Ian and I take a seat on Perito Moreno

First things first - since my South America album has been getting cluttered with too many pics, I will make separate albums for each excursion. You can reach any of them by navigating from any of them, by clicking on something like "Noah" in the upper left corner. Here are the direct links: (2 new pictures at the end) (New album, 131 pictures)

This and the next 3 posts will describe some excursions I am doing in the area. Last week Ian and I checked out a huge glacier "Perito Moreno", and went on a 5-day trek in Chilean Patagonia. On Wednesday, Ian Leon and I leave for Iguazu falls for 3 nights - then on Sunday or Monday Leon and I head to Puerto Madryn to scuba with seals, kayak with whales, and chill with some penguins (Ian is heading to Bariloche for that time)! I will post Part 2 (Torres Del Paine National Park) later tonight or tomorrow. Part 3 I will do this weekend, and Part 4 will be the following weekend.

Ahh the warmth back in Buenos Aires is very welcoming! Hard to believe just a few days ago Ian and I were huddled in our sleeping bags frantically trying warm ourselves up in the bitter cold.

Last I left off, we (Leon, Ian, Daniel, Caitlin, and I) were treating ourselves to a delicious 13 (maybe 14?) course tasting menu at a small restaurant in San Telmo, Buenos Aires. 4 Bottles of wine and dessert wine, about US$65 and 4.5 hours later, we were stuffed and ready to log some sleep hours before the next day, where we knew we would be staying up all night to catch our 5:45 AM flight to El Calafate, Argentina. I know all of you already know where El Calafate is on the world map because it's such an overwhelmingly famous place, but in case you have forgotten, it is here:

El Calafate, Argentina

We arrived in the mid morning and were immediatly caught off guard by how cold it was. That, and the murky wet weather was a bit intimidating. We made our way from the 1-airstrip airport to our hostel and quickly signed up for that morning's glacier tour. Unfortunately the bus was already full, but we were able to call our cab driver back and hire him for the day to shuttle us around (Leo, a Buenos Aires native, moved to Calafate 8 years ago to get away from the city. It made me curious to think about how and why he made the move. When he got here, there were 3,000 residents. Now there are about 25,000). When he told us that Torres Del Paine (where we were headed the next day) was colder than Calafate, we were not happy.

Disembarking the boat to the glacier

We caught the short boat-ride over to the glacier "Perito Moreno" (not what you may think translated as 'little brown dog' but instead named after the explorer Francisco Moreno. 'Perito' means 'Expert') and started the 'minitrek' after getting fitted with crampons. Walking up to the glacier it was hard not to marvel at it. It seemed alive, and you could actually hear how dynamic it was. I would say it sounded like a disorderly construction site: there would be a loud crack a big crash, a few minutes of silence, and then another crash. Seeing huge chunks fall off the end of the glacier and into the turquoise glacier water was amazing, and the sound had such a bold texture to it. A ripple was created each time through the water, and there were signs warning us not to get too close or else the wave could hit us (or worse, knock us over - instant hypothermia!). It's hard to convey just how massive this thing is

The short hike on the glacier was a lot of fun and very humbling thinking about just how massive this glacier is. When we were shown a map of the glacier and the enormous ice shelf behind it, it made the glacier look like the size of a thumb, where the ice shelf was the rest of a body - truly amazing.
My first time wearing crampons

Cool thing about this ice shelf is that it is one of the few places you can see trees by a glacier. Because of it's abundant water supply coming from offshore near antarctica, it can survive in such low altitudes. It also is one of the few glaciers in the world that is not receding, due to that same supply of wind+water.

We met a Canadian couple that was finishing up their RTW trip and it was fun getting their perspective on it. While I had been thinking my trip was a bit too hectic and fast-paced, theirs made mine look like a turtle's (they did something like 20 European countries in 2 months). Ian and I talked with them for a bit while we had lunch in a little lodge to the side of the glacier, but I got up and went outside on my own and had some one-on-one time with the glacier! Since everyone else was inside, it was a cool feeling being outside in the cold in front of the glacier on my own.

Soon enough we were boarding the boat to head back, and Leo was there waiting for us to take us to the boardwalk (a raised platform in front of the glacier that provided great views. It gave us a new perspective on the glacier, seeing it from above, and made it easier to comprehend the size of it. We could also see how the front of the glacier was approaching (at 3 meters every day!) the land in front of it. Once it makes contact, it acts as a dam and the water rises on one side of the glacier. After enough water pressure builds up, the glacier breaks and it is supposed to be an amazing event. Leo explained to me that the last two times it happened (2002 and 2004, I think), he had come every day for a week before it happened, but had missed it each time by a few hours. That sucks.

We made it back to the hostel in time for their BBQ, where we met some other travellers and booked our hostel and bus tickets for the following day to go to our launching point for Torres Del Paine National Park - Puerto Natales, Chile! We got up pretty early, had a quick bite to eat, and boarded the 5-hour bus.
Stretching my legs at a rest stop

Next up - The greatest hostel ever, Ian and my 5-day trek where we endured some serious brutality from the weather, and some funny anecdotes.

Comments encouraged, talk to you guys soon!



rick said...

noah -
guess i could say "cool trip" but the pun would be too trite
thanks for the clarification on perito (not perrito) moreno
i like your description of the sound of the glacier - maybe you can think of some way to capture that sound, record it as a loop, and compose some eco-music -

Adrian said...

you gotta post a video of yourself dancing in crampons on a glacier.

Ben said...

i get hungry every time I read your entries about argentinian food. All sounds amazing, keep the posts coming!

aunt nan said...

again- all i can say is thank goodness that i'm not with you! i'll stick to horses and rafts (and dog classes and cars) with you. lordy- what a epic. and you are a great evocative writer. keep it up- your fan, aunt nan