About a week after we arrived in Argentina, we set out on a trip to Patagonia – a gigantic region that encompasses about a third of the total area of Argentina – where one could easily spend a month or more exploring the amazing scenery and incredible wildlife. Because our time was limited by the start of the girls’ school, we settled on just 2 destinations – Calafate, the ‘gateway’ to Las Glacieres National Park, and Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world and the jumping-off point for ships heading to Antarctica.
From Calafate, we took an expedition to Las Glacieres National Park to see the Perito Moreno glacier, an enormously popular tourist destination in the area, on the order of Half Dome or Ol’ Faithful.
The Perito Moreno glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. This river of ice moves slowly – about a yard per day – from its source roughly 20 miles away. The end of the glacier is a wall of ice about 3 miles long and rising 200 feet above the surface of the water in Lake Argentina.
We signed up for a ‘micro-trekking’ tour of the glacier. After strapping crampons onto our boots we set out on to the ice with our group and Claudio, our dentist-turned-guide.
It took a little while to get used to the feeling of walking up a steep slope of ice without something to hold on to. The surface of the ice was very hard and sharp; we wore gloves to protect our hands from the texture, more than from the cold.
After the micro-trek we hiked back through a lovely forest that borders the glacier.
It felt remarkable to walk through this lush forest full of flowering orchids and fuchsias just alongside an enormous river of ice.
From the forest we went back to the site where our boat had first landed, and enjoyed a picnic lunch on the rocks.
This time of year (summer) in Patagonia its ALWAYS windy, but when the sun is out the temperature is very comfortable.
An extensive system of boardwalks crosses the hillside across from the glacier’s ‘ablation zone’, where huge chunks of ice separate and crash noisily into the water with satisfying frequency.
The cracks and crevasses and sub-surface rivers of water were a deep turquoise color. However, there is some disagreement in the family as to whether the surface of the glacier looked as blue as these pictures suggest.
‘True blue’ or not, it is one of the most beautiful and remarkable places any of us has ever been to, and something we will remember all our lives.