Perito Moreno, El Calafate, Argentina
20.01.2011 - 26.01.2011 10 °C
I don’t think you ever forget the first time you hear that roar. Huge columns of ice, up to 75 metres high, , creaking, breaking and tumbling down into the clear water below. . The sight of a 30 km long glacier wedged in the mountain valley, the blueness of the glacial ice. Mother nature at her most impressive. I was told not to bother with Perito Moreno glacier as apparently ‘I will see enough of these, many times the size’, when I get to Antarctica. Yes, that is right, you read this correctly, in a moment of craziness, seizing the moment, living the dream, blowing my budget, whatever you want to call it, I had booked myself onto an expedition to the Antarctic!!
Let me go back a bit to explain how I ended up here in the first place. Well, I had firstly been inspired by a lady I met in Peru who had just returned from an incredible boat journey to Antarctica. I didn’t even realise it was possible for tourists to get to Antarctica, assuming it would take far too long to get there or reserved for the very rich! She had just turned up into the city of Ushuaia in Argentina, the most Southerly city in the world, and booked onto a last minute slot on a 12 day expedition. The idea had seeded in my mind and over the past few weeks had flourished into a huge urge, a relentless itch, an unquenchable thirst for the adventure, the wilderness, the unknown, I MUST GO TO ANTARCTICA!! My goal then was to get down to Ushuaia as soon as possible and see what I could come up with.
From Salta I flew to Buenos Aires and stopped over for one night. I stayed in a smart hotel in the Palermo region of the city with the biggest and most comfortable bed I had ever slept in! Well maybe a bit of an exaggeration but after getting so used to roughing it I was in pure slumber heaven lost in those big fluffy pillows and crisp white sheets. It was a real shame i had to get up next morning at dawn to catch a flight to Ushuaia. Turns out my flight was delayed for three hours and it was bedlam at Buenos Aires airport, no communication whatsoever, not even in Spanish!. There were hundreds of people completely in the dark as to how delayed the flight was going to be queuing to go through x-ray, which they did not open until about 30 mins before the flight actually left, when ever that was. All I could think of was that bed grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr a missed opportunity for the mother of all lay ins..
The flight down to Ushuaia was an exciting one. The landscape changed dramatically, the Atlantic ocean, then the vast dry plains of Argentina giving way to lush mountains of Patagonia and finally the dramatic landscape on the island of Tierra del Fuego. There I stood at the end of the world, looking out across the beagle channel towards the mystical white continent. Do I don’t I, do I don’t I??? Please someone help me, do i blow my budget on Antarctica? Will I ever get a chance to do this again? The beagle channel was named after the ship that my hero, Charles Darwin, sailed around the world on his epic voyage. This place had a special feeling about it, of past explorers, of adventure into the unknown. SOD IT I AM NOT GOING TO MISS THIS FOR THE WORLD! And with that, a surge of inspiration, I booked myself onto a ship leaving in one week, the same ship as Angela and Simon from my guest house.
Soooooo then, a few days to kill, and less time now to explore Patagonia than I had originally hoped. I found a reasonable flight leaving for El Calafate near to Los Glaciares National Park, and off I went to discover some famous glaciers. A nice ‘warm-up’ for my upcoming adventure I guess! As I had decided all this so last minute and it happened to be peak of the peak season, I ended up in the only bed available in El Calafate, in Fawlty Towers. Slightly out of town, in the middle of nowhere, gale-force winds howling through gaps in the windows, OAPs sitting in the floral print reception getting drunk on sherry!! The only saving grace was the incredible view from my room across a beautiful lake filled with flamingos, wild horses playing nearby, a very typical Patagonia scene. I spent two days exploring the national park. The first day I joined a small group led by a crazy local guy to get close and personal to the Perito Moreno glacier. Some walking terraces have been set up at a safe distance to avoid getting covered in icy water every time there is a collapse but, believe me, close enough to really appreciate the awesome scale, the power, of this natural beauty. Our first sight of the Perito Moreno glacier was pretty special. We turned a corner and there it appeared in its full glory to some cheesy dramatic soundtrack that the crazy guide had put on to get us in ‘the mood’. As if seeing this natural blue wonder wedged in the valley wasn’t enough, we were also greeted by a condor gliding overhead!!! WOW!
On my second day, I froze my bits off on a boat through the icy waters of the national park. The scenery was incredible, the bluest of lakes and canals punctuated with icebergs, mountains covered in rivers of ice, some glaciers even bigger than Perito Moreno and man were we close! That now familiar rumble and there we go, another huge chunk of ice breaks off right in front of us, the boat bobs around from the mini tsunami. Tired and cold on my return to El Calafate, I warm up with yet another empanada accompanied by a huge glass of Mendoazan red. Just about a week spent in Argentina and already I am getting sick of all the red meat but I will never get bored of the wine here, no way