So today we went to the Los Glaciares National Park in El Calafate. We arrived by air to El Calafate yesterday not really knowing what adventure was in store for us today. Everyone kept telling us that El Calafate is amazing. Ok, it’s amazing. But we did hear it repeatedly throughout our trip when I spooled our itinerary.
Picture on right is from air — I thought it was all clouds — but no, its snow covered land as outlined below.
Anyway, I’ll spare you the noise. It turns out that El Calafate was probably to this point the most incredible site I have possibly ever seen. I have to think about it because I have seen the Great Wall, Iguacu Falls, Machu Picchu, Bala Falls… So all are real interesting. This is a natural wonder that connects you with nature. Nobody built it — its just a living and moving gargantuan thing.
It is a 250 square kilometer (about 100 square miles) glacier field named Glaciar Moreno in the Argentina national park referenced above. But this is the smallest of the glacier fields which is even more amazing — but the others are not easily accessible. Further, its situated as a finger to a massive snow field in the Argintine-Chile Andes border which looked like clouds when we flew down from Bariloche. I had to clean my eyes to see if I was imagining the amount of snow down from the plane. The town, El Calafate is really built around tourism which has grown in the past 10 years to this site.
So what is it and how would I describe it? It is a huge area of glacier which starts in the high mountains. It is fed by 300 days per year of snowfall. True, 300 days per year. If you look at the background in my pictures, it was snowing about 5 miles away in the mountains and never stopped. In fact, this enormous glacier is what is known as “living neutral” — it creates as much new glacier as it loses to the feeder Lake Argentine. Anyway, the glacier has a 200-300 foot vertically high wall right where it hits the lake it created which is so clean, you can drink out of that lake. It is too difficult to describe unless you see it in person, but its like a 3 mile wall wide, 20-25 stories high the entire length and 30 miles long. Get it? Massive. And when your there, you really feel, hear and see it live. Pieces of the glacier drop into the lake periodically with a big boom, like a thunder storm, but its the shrapnel hitting the water and creating a large wake of snow, ice and turbulent waves.
It started with the drive from our hotel to the glacier. It was at one of the turns that we did see the first sight of the field — and it was mesmerizing. The word, shock also comes to mind. We then drove to a boat which was pre-booked and it takes you across the late until you see the giant wall of the glacier right up front within a hundred feet. I can’t describe it. We were like pebbles next to this behemoth wall.
Our next path was to disembark and walk to a glacier adventure team who then give you a bit of a story about the glacier. After which, was the best part. We put on a pair of Crampons over our hiking shoes. We then walked for 90 minutes along a path throughout the glacier. Of course it can’t be a pre-defined route because the glacier is always moving and it gains and loses crevices every day. No two days are the same on the glacier field. Some of these crevasses go down hundreds of feet. So you learn how to go up — and how to go down. At first, its pretty scary and not intuitive. It really does feel like going up and down a massive ice cube. After a while, you make do, although you never really nail it fully. Good enough. Well, that experience of walking on the massive field is just one of those things you will always remember. Its not flat. It goes up and down, I’m guessing 50 to 100 feet or more with these giant peaks just feet away from you and mesmerizing holes carrying water down these deep blue holes. The ice is never ending and like mini mountains of ice but really carved throughout with deep blues and whites. Some areas have dirt because the glacier has been dragging the bottom bedrock for 15 miles.
After the ice walk and 3 or 4 hours later, we took a car to the public viewing location. Only a small amount of people walk the ice — most go to public viewing. In any event, it’s a great view from anywhere.
I can go on and on about the experience but we all get the point. I will probably see some incredible stuff in coming weeks in Antarctica, but I don’t think that I will ever forget this day — this experience to see just the fast size and scale of this natural wonder.
So when we got back to the ranch, we had pre-set an outing at 5:30pm to go on horses which were housed here. Sun-Down here is about 9:30pm now. Neither Paula, nor I had been on horses other than once in Collingwood when we rented time on some horses (or more like mules) to go on a path around some farm for a birthday. This was a bit different, just because of the surroundings here blow that away. Were in a valley surrounded by snow capped mountains on one side, the enormous Lake Argentine on another and dry fields on a 2,000 acre ranch flanked by huge dry mountains on another. Figure that out. All different vast views from one location. Our hoses were 16 year old slow creatures, but it was a hoot. We went out for about 90 minutes through the fields, but we did little and the horses took us for a ride although it was wide open fields and uneven terrain. It was cold so we dressed up in tons of layers. By the end, I felt pretty comfortable.