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It's icey in Patagonia

Brrrrrrrrrr!!!!

sunny

Our first bus was great, it was a cama one, which meant the seats were massive, two on one side of the aisle and only one of the other. We were given a cup of tea and a biscuit when we boarded, they then showed a reasonable recent film in English and later on we were given a pretty tasty dinner. Unfortunately for Adam the seats don't really allow him to fully stretch out his legs so he didn't get the best nights sleep but it could have been a lot worse. I was getting a little anxious that we were going to miss the connection as we were now over an hour late and still seemed to be driving through mile after mile of nothingness. Thankfully the town sprouted out of nowhere and we arrived with fifteen minutes to spare. While Adam dealt with the bags I went to buy the next ticket.

These buses are double deckers and if you get the front seats on the top then you get amazing panoramic views. We wanted those front seats but they had thus far eluded us. Our next bus seemed pretty empty and we were very hopeful as we climbed the stairs that they might finally be ours. Luck however was not on our side and the front seats were cornered off and the curtains were firmly closed. This wasn't the most enjoyable bus ride. No food was offered, there was no film, we were tired and the scenery was not that inspiring. Fillippe had spoken of the pampa which cover a large part of Southern Argentina, he said when you first see it it is interesting but after that it is boring. I can see what he meant. The pampa is fairly flat, baron land which stretches on for miles. The predominant colour is the brown of the earth and it is heavily dotted with clumps of hardy plants, a little like heather but unfortunately without the vibrancy. There are a few distractions from the endless void, for example a Llamas here and there and the odd Ostrich.

We arrived in Rio Gallegos and had a couple of hours to kill until our final bus journey began. We ate dinner and sat outside in the freezing conditions breathing in the undoubtedly clean air. Adam then pointed out that we were sitting at a bus station which might mean it was slightly contaminated, this and the fact that we were shivering led us back inside the terminal. No front seats for us yet again, we cursed the tourists who'd got them and willed it to get dark as quickly as possible. Yes we were tired and bitter. The journey was slow and we both attempted to get some sleep but all our efforts were scuppered by the fog horn of a man sitting on the other side of the aisle. We both clocked him to be a snorer as soon as he boarded, the three chins gave it away a little but I don't think either of us could have imagined just how extraordinary he was going to be.

When we disembarked we were met by a guy from the hostel we'd booked in to, he was going to be giving us a very welcomed lift. The front seat tourists came up to join us, they were staying at the same place. On the way the guy mentioned that they could organise a trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier for the following morning at 9am but we both knew neither of us would be sparky enough to enjoy it. After being shown to our room we turned up the radiator and fell asleep.

The following morning we had breakfast and then began a day of too-ing and fro-ing. We had a few things to consider, the first being that we wanted to go on a boat trip to see the glaciers and secondly that we wanted to see the Perito Moreno Glacier that would not be included on the boat trip. After a visit to tourist information at the bus station we went in search of the boat company's office which led us up and down the high street a couple of times. Finally we found it and the lady explained to us that when you enter Parque Nacional los Glaciares you have to pay £10 each and to go on the boat we would have to pay this, the boat ticket, and the bus transfers from our hostel. Then if we went by public transport we would have to go the next day to the Perito Moreno Glacier and pay for the bus and the entrance fee again as it is only valid for one day. This seemed so silly to us and was really going to add up, it consolidated something we had been considering early which the lady also suggested, we would rent a car for the day. It would definitely work out cheaper, we could go on the boat and see the other glacier all in one day and we'd have a bit of the freedom we like so much.

It was now early afternoon and therefore everything shuts down til about 4pm so we went back to the hostel for a bit. El Calafate is a nice place, very touristy though and for that reason pretty pricey. There are lots of shops selling high quality souvenirs and some nice clothes shops too, we didn't look. Finally at 4pm we went up to the rental car office we'd seen earlier but there was no one there. The only other place we knew which was cheap was right at the other end of town and so we fought against the biting wind. He quoted us a pretty reasonable price but we were wondering if the other place may be open now and might be cheaper so we walked back, it was still shut. Finally about 2 hours after leaving the hostel we had rented the car, booked the boat, been to the supermarket and booked our bus to Puerto Natales for two days time. We made dinner and then walked back at 8pm to pick up the car as we had to leave early the following morning. Adam had to quickly get to grips with driving on the wrong side of the road in the dark and thankfully it was a short and uneventful journey.

When we set off the following morning it was a straight road to the port at Punta Bandera where the boat departed from.
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El Calafate sits on Lago Argentino and it was the first time we'd had an uninterrupted view of the milky turquoise glacial lake. We were now entering the National Park which is the second largest in Argentina, 40% of which is covered by ice fields from which thirteen glaciers descend into two great lakes. Lago Argentino being one and Lago Viedma, further North, being the other. As we drove along a very straight road the vast scenery opened up in front of us.
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The foreground still dominated by the scruffy pampa was now accompanied by snow capped peaks and broken up by lakes of varying sizes.
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We found the port with no problems and parked up, as I was part of this expedition we were a little early and we sat in the car for a bit until I had to go see what was going on. I thought travelling might mellow me in this department, but I just can't help myself! I bought our park entrance tickets and soon bus load after bus load of people began to arrive. It was now as we stood in a ever expanding queue that we wondered how many boats there were and if we were in the right place. The lady had never told us there was more than one and so we just waited to see what would happen. When it was our turn to hand our ticket over to be checked we were told that we were in fact in the wrong place and we had to dash over to the other side of the port and join the end of a long line. For this reason, despite being early we were last to board our boat and could not find seats next to each other. We would have been able to sit across the aisle from one another but there was a bag placed on one of the seats and the woman sitting next to it indicated through hand gestures that she wouldn't move it, and we presumed she was saving the seat for someone. I sat down and Adam went in search of another seat, a little annoyed by this as no friend seemed to be appearing I tried to question her again. Now she seemed to be suggesting she didn't know who it belonged to. I just hoped we didn't have to stay seated for too long.

Thankfully we didn't and soon we were outside looking at the minty green water being frothed up by the propellers.
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We saw our first iceberg, which looked as light as a piece of polystyrene as it floated gracefully in the water.
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We were informed that the ice is obviously see through but it appears to be blue-ish as this is the only colour which does not pass through it. Soon the ice bergs began to get bigger and this was because we were coming up to a wall of ice. Beyond it were the Upsala and Spegazzini Glaciers. Unfortunately about a month ago they had become inaccessible as huge chunks of ice had fallen off the front of Upsala and come to rest at the mouth of this junction of the lake.
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We stayed in amongst the icebergs for a while and they were truly breathtaking. These great, irregularly shaped, giants, almost close enough to touch didn't seem real. They had a kind of otherworldly presence about them.
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Leaving the maze of ice behind we ventured on to a glacier that we could see up close, the Onelli Glacier and as we approached we were confronted with a wall of ice over 100m high.
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It cut through the mountains so decisively but it seemed hard to imagine how it ever happened and how ice could really have that power. It extended up the side of the mountain and again just seemed unreal, like someone had gone overboard with their artistic license.
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Every now and then there was the rumble and sounds like gun fire as lumps of ice broke away and fell into the lake below. Everyone cheered and the will for it to happen again, this time when the cameras were ready, was almost palpable. Adam pointed out that it seemed a little off that we were all here cheering on global warming in action.
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Back inside we munched down the packed lunch we had been advised to bring and some of the oldies on one of the many tours drifted to sleep while we moved on to the next glacier. As the other two glaciers had been removed from the itinerary we did go over to look at one side of Perito Moreno. It is one of the few glaciers in the world which is actually moving, it descends into the lake over a 5km frontage and a height of over 60m.
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Again we marvelled at nature and the sheer size of what was in front of us. It really is difficult to explain in words, but if you get the chance I strongly recommend you go see for yourself.

We then made our way back to the port, quickly jumped back in the car and made our way over to the viewing platforms where you can see Perito Moreno from above. On route we stopped and walked down to a lake, after spending theday on a very crowded boat it was nice to be on our own.
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Adam skimmed rocks and I attempted to but I was frustratingly bad at it, so I went and sat on a big rock.
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Back in the car we drove along the winding roads which were being worked on by men without any warning, thankfully we weren't going fast.

We parked up and walked along the wooden walkways and came to one of many viewing platforms. Seeing the glacier from above was definitely worth the effort.
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The different perspective changes everything and the true vastness of the ice field is revealed.
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The vivid blue hues and dull roars just add to the drama. The top of it is riddled with deep, uninviting, crevasses and Adam joked that this is where Superman lived before he died.
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We then walked to down to see the other side of the glacier before calling it a day and heading back to the car.
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Having safely returned the rental we trudged back to the hostel via the supermarket. It had been an incredibly long but exciting day and we had an early bus in the morning. We both looked forward to bed.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 12:27 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world

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