I arrive at my hotel in Buenos Aires, leave my suitcase and go to Florida Street to exchange money. My flight departs this afternoon from Aeroparque, the small airport near downtown BA.
I have my mountaineering gear, boots, warm clothes and thermos bottle ready and I’m set to go and admire one of the most impressive wonders of nature that exist, I can’t wait!.
The flight to Calafate is three hour long, I arrive at night, at arrivals there are some kiosks where I can pay for the transfer that will take me to the hotel, I also book the return and when I exit on the right there is the mini bus that will take me to my bed, I have not slept a wink.
I arrive at Calafate Hostel where I am greeted by a friendly young man and enter my comfortable and warm room, outside it is -2 degrees. In the morning I have breakfast, put on my equipment and I’m ready.
I have booked a tour with Calafate Tours and they pick me up at the hotel around 8 am. It’s still dark, it’s August, that is, the middle of the austral winter.
At the beginning of our journey our friendly guide tells us the reason why there are no trees, it is due the strong winds, and the round rocks we find along the way are called “erratic blocks” pushed by glaciers 20,000 years ago. We are lucky enough to see a carancho and an eagle, an Andean condor, a reindeer, a skunk and some native birds. Wonderful.
We are going to skirt Lake Argentino, the largest lake in the country. Behind the Andes mountain range is the southern Patagonian ice field, a plateau of more than 1000 metres above sea level. It snows a lot, 16 metres at more than 1000 metres at sea level, it squeezes and loses the air between the flakes, it compacts and every year snow falls and does not melt. It takes about 5-15 years to go from fresh snow to glacier ice (or blue ice)
One of the arms of the lake is the Brazo Rico where we will find our friend the glacier that, sometimes, forms a dam when it rises on the peninsula called Magallanes and blocks the water that flows between the two arms of the lake that go to the sea, hence parts of the coast of the Rico have no vegetation, because of the rising water.
There it is, the Perito Moreno, the most famous glacier in the country that can be visited and larger than the city of Buenos Aires. The visit starts with a boat trip that I couldn’t book but our guide got an extra seat, thank goodness because I felt a bit dissapointed. I didn’t know what a big surprise this experience had in store for me during this water ride and how lucky I was going to be to see what I saw.
We get on the boat, I can’t describe the feeling I feel, I’m in awe and as the minutes go by I get into a state of ecstasy. It’s cloudy, and it seems that this makes the blue colour bluer. We’re watching the south side from the vessel.
Suddenly, we hear it roaring, it begins to fall, a good chunk comes off, the captain of the ship handles it deftly and distances us far enough, because what we don’t expect is to see a blue formation in the shape of an ice blue whale come out of the bottom.Stendhal syndrome attacks, it’s AWESOME. I feel very LUCKY to have witnessed this spectacle of nature, they tell me that it doesn’t always happen, because I not only saw it fall, but emerge with a living form, while I write I am invaded by that excitement I felt then. You can see the full video on instagram, I had the phone in my hand, which I just held, because I couldn’t take my eyes off the wonder I was seeing.
We return to the minibus and from there to the visitor centre, where they explain us how the different colours of the balconies work and give us two hours to walk around and admire the Perito.
From the first footbridge I can see the south face and the place where the glacier rises and forms the dam, next to it is the Canal de los Témpanos (ice floe channel).
From the next footbridge I have before me, in all its splendour, the north face of the Perito. There are viewpoints, I look for solitude so I can concentrate on listening to how it roars, see how some pieces fall and take thousands of photos and videos, as many as you can take of a piece of ice.
What surrounds the Perito is exquisitely beautiful, I feel the peace and calm. I don’t want to leave, in fact, there is a restaurant where we can eat something, but I have brought some cereal bars so I can stay at the glacier the whole time.
On our return I feel so happy and I immediately write to Silvia, she will visit it in a couple of weeks, and she can’t imagine what it’s like to see it and feel close to it.
The “beach” of Calafate is frozen and becomes the biggest ice rink I’ve ever seen. I want to have dinner and I go to El Bodegón which is next to my hostel. I am greeted by two very funny dogs, the service is excellent and the food is delicious and abundant.
In the morning, after breakfast they pick me up at the agreed time. While I wait, I continue reading the book Las Malas by the Argentinian writer Camila Sosa Villada, a story that touches your soul, it’s about them, the transvestites, their stories, their strength, their invisibility. A marvel of a book.