Yesterday we flew out of Buenos Aires in 30 degrees heat, and landed 1500 miles further south, El Calafate, at a latitude of 50* South! I think this is the furthest South we’ll ever get to! We’re almost at the end of the world, and on a level with the very BRITISH Falkland Islands! And it’s cold AND we love it! After seven weeks of blistering heat it’s actually a joy to put on merino base layer, fleece, big North Face jacket and hat!!! Still sunny though!
This is Patagonia and it’s been my ambition to come here since reading Paul Theroux’s The Old Patagonian Express when I was a teenager. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, a bizarre mix of The North Yorkshire Dales, The West Coast of Scotland, Canada and the Antartica on a massive scale! El Calafate itself is like a small ski resort but based in the Wild West! It’s on Lago Argentino (I’ll let you translate that one) which apparently is the 3rd largest body of fresh water in the world. It’s shines a shimmering emerald green colour. And it has outdoor shops from all the very best brands in the world!
We ate at a posh restaurant last night, blowing about 8 weeks budget on one meal, but worth every penny! Tenderloin steak like we’ve never had before! And grilled vegetables! If I was 25 years younger I’d say “Awesome”!
On going to bed we put the gas fire on full pelt to heat us up, but had to get up a couple of hours later as we were slowly being casseroled! So once again I didn’t manage a complete night without sweating!!! Doh!
Today we had a full day arranged for us at the Perito Moreno Glacier, just 50 miles from the town. The ride there was ridiculously scenic, and this time we were the youngest on the bus! This is not a place for cheap back packers as its bloody expensive compared to everywhere else. So all the more reason to come here!
The glacier is one of the very few in the world that is not receding. Our first view of it from 4 miles away was impressive, but as we got ever closer it just got more and more spectacular! The mouth of it is 5km wide, and it travels for 30km at a speed of roughly 2m a day. So by my reckoning, the ice at the front face has been on the go for just over 40 years…..
First was a boat trip right up to the south face of it. Sixty metres high! But another 110m of it below the water line! It was constantly cracking and groaning, and occasional shards would splinter off with a boom and crash into the sea. Simply stunning!
The afternoon was spent on land opposite the northerly face of it. We were literally less than 200m from it and found a great spot to sit in the sun (can’t believe it reached 20 degrees at the bloody glacier!!). We were mesmerised by it, and sat for two hours just watching and listening. We were lucky enough to see two giant calving events, where blocks the size of several houses break off and crash down, causing huge wave surges and thunderous noise. I just can’t describe it with enough panache to do it any justice, suffice to say I have honestly never seen such an amazing natural display in all my life.
To really make my day, as the first calving happened, the sleeping Japanese guy next to me was woken by the cries of “oooh” and “aaaah” by the dozen people there, but was too late to get his camera up! He turned to me and said “oh that’s shit man, I’ve been waiting here hours for that, and I fell asleep!” Priceless Mr Migiyoki!!! Keep at it!
I really don’t know how today can be topped? I actually said to Charlotte on the way back that the only thing I need now is an erupting volcano, only to read that one in Chile not very far at all from us is erupting today!!!
Tomorrow we’re having a day trekking in the mountains! Tally Ho chaps!!!
Some photos below, sadly all taken with iPhone as my camera is still at the repairers (hopefull).