Sunday, 12th January: The Glaciers of Patagonia

This morning we awoke early as the transportation was picking us up at 7:15 an early breakfast consisting of breads, cheese, fruit and extraordinarily cakes such as lemon meringue pie and apple crumble. I’m not sure if this is what the Patagonians eat at this time of the morning or whether there is an assumption that tourists from out of town eat it for their breakfast at home. Whatever the reason we sampled a few things and tried to make ourselves a little full as we had a big day planned and managed to miss the opening times of the supermarket last night. Therefore our lunch contained a multitude a snack items none of them being particularly nutritious.

The van was a 15 seater (including the driver) and we picked up a full load on our way to Punta Bandera, a small port on the northern side of the glaciers, which sails straight into Lago Argentino, the largest glacial lake in the area.

At Punta Bandera we waited for the gate to open and then proceeded along the path and onto the pier where the national park ranger collected our entrance tickets (130 Pesos or around $25 each). Unfortunately the tickets that we’d been given by our guide had not been stamped for today. Therefore we needed to walk back to the ticket booth in order to ensure that the process was done smoothly and we were permitted entry. Having done this we boarded the boat to take us on the lake to the various glaciers we would see today. The boat was like one that you would see going out to the reef from Port Douglas. It had a lower and upper deck and would have seated about 250 people.

We travelled at a great rate of knots until we came to a thinning of the lake which then formed into a fjord. Carefully the captain manoeuvred the boat around a series of icebergs…yep Titanic style. This was in an effort to try and get us as close as possible to the Upsala Glacier. Some of the icebergs were massive and radiated the gorgeous blue colour that comes from compacted ice. Many of them also made interesting shapes and we had fun trying to create our own “what does it look like” and especially liked the “Scottish terrier” iceberg that would have been at least four storeys high. With so many icebergs around we were unable to get up the face of the glacier but could see it at a distance. It was one of those glaciers that slowly reduces in size almost seeking the refuge of the water. It rolls down between the mountains and has a really wide frontage. Around the glacier were mountains that today with the sun shining sparkled at their peaks. You can imagine that this is what Norway looks like in the Summer and Norway is what this place looks like in the Winter.

We spent some time looking at the glacier, taking photographs and also marvelling at our surroundings. Another day of blue sky, white mountains yep we have been very lucky. This time though we were bobbing around on a boat in greeny blue glacial water with the promise of more to come.

Our next stop was the Spegazzini Glacier. This glacier is the tallest. Whereas Upsala had a gradual decline into the water, this glacier started from way up the mountain face and then had almost a roller coaster drop into the water. It also had a unique looking texture about it. Something kind of distinct that indicated it was definitely a glacier and not just snow. If you’ve ever done the experiment where you make Chrystal’s on string, imagine those chrystals a million times bigger and packed so tightly together that they give off the most incredible iridescent blue colour. The way these “Chrystal” shaped pieces interlock together then creates a massive separate but united creeping mass that at any moment can have a piece break off. So you’ve got the appearance of a glacier and to see them from a boat gives you perspective on just how massive these things are. Like the Northern Lights, the other incredible thing is that these things were here before us and will hopefully be here after us…we are just a small dot in their existence; this is nature at its absolute finest and therefore seeing them is very special.
The last glacier we visited today was the Perito Moreno (Perito meaning expert and moreno being the person who others considered the expert). We were on the northern face today and tomorrow when we hike on it, we will be on the southern face. This glacier is one of the most distinct symbols of Patagonia. Just the northern face alone is 2.5km long; a sheer frontage standing tall like a huge wall protecting the entire convergence where two mountains meet. It was truly an awesome sight and another one of those moments where you are not sure where to look as there is a sense of anticipation that at any moment a piece may break off and come crashing into the water.

We stood on the boat deck and watched it for quite some time, taking an inordinate amount of photos and trying to capture the size and grandeur of what we were seeing (unfortunately photos just can’t do it justice). Heading back the 45 minutes to port, we evaluated all we had seen and how memorable a day it had been, knowing that tomorrow would be a chance to see Perito Moreno from the southern side.
Tonight we ate at a place we tried to get into last night but there was a 90 minute wait. Today we went at Aussie dinner time and the place was almost empty. The appeal of this place is that it has a section where there is an open fire going and they cook lamb on it. You can order lamb or any other meat combinations and then the meat is served to you on its own little cooker, continuing to cook whilst you put each piece on your plate. We went the grilled lamb and a mountain of “sheep” appeared ready for us to devour. It was extremely tender and coupled with a salad was enjoyed by all (Philip didn’t partake of the salad). At around $75 for the three of us it was once again a reasonably priced meal with a lot of food.

Today had been a great chance to get an overview of the area. We love the town; small and compact. It has a really nice feel about it and some great shops and restaurants to explore. It’s hard to believe that beyond the vastness of the dry, arid landscape you have these incredible glaciers that leave you speechless. How special!

By |January 15th, 2014|Argentina, Our Trips, South America|