Saturday, November 7, 2009

Patagonia is the most gorgeous place in the world

Where to even start?! I'm in El Calafate, Patagonia right now having an absolutely amazing time! Never in my life have I seen so much breathtaking beauty in one place. I have literally been in constant awe for the past 4 days. My friend from Boston, Dave, flew into Buenos Aires on Monday morning for a two week visit, and we're spending 8 days of it down here in Patagonia.

We flew down to El Calafate (where I am now writing this in a café) on Wednesday for the first leg of the trip. We took it easy for the first day and did some planning, and then Thursday set off on the excursion of a lifetime to visit Perito Moreno, a massive, incredible, perfect, unbelievably beautiful advancing glacier! It's truly a wonder to see... and hear! Because of its constant movement (it is said to advance up to 2 meters per day), you don't need to be near it very long to see and hear huge icebergs calving off it and falling into the water below.

I can guarantee that no photo can do this glacier, or any scenery in Patagonia for that matter, any sort of justice. But I will certainly try. :-) This is the view from the glacier from the balconies, during the first part of our excursion.

And here is one of the may views from the back, after we took a boat around to the other side.

Then the most exciting part came-- an ice trek, complete with crampons, on top of the glacier itself!! It was so much fun, so unique! We wandered around the glacier by jamming our crampons into the ice (its like walking normally but more aggressively, like stomping), and just enjoyed reveling in the utter beauty of it all. The glacier was perfectly white, as were the clouds above, and so at times it appeared I was just walking through a perfect sea of white. I've never felt so exhilerated!

Then, as if the day hadn't been perfect already, we finished off the tour by arriving back from our trek to glasses of whiskey, poured over natural glacier ice. Perfect.

To top it all off we had ideal weather throughout the day. Apparently the day had called for rain or even snow, but instead we had perfect skies, "warm" weather (aka I was only wearing 3 layers instead of 4 or 5), and no precipitation. We really lucked out with some incredible conditions.

...and that was just Thursday!

Yesterday we got up early, rented a car, and took a road trip to El Chaltén, a tiny town, population about 600, completely surrounded by mountains as far as the eye can see. It's truly a gem. The entire road trip (about 2.5 hours via the famous Rt. 40) consisted of Dave and I staring in amazement at the scenery outside. There is literally NOTHING but incredible landscapes, the occasional cow, horse, or guanaco, and breathtaking views Lago Argentino, Lago Viedma, and the Andes mountains off in the distance.

Once in El Chaltén, we headed off to do a hike and see some of the spectacular views we'd both heard about. Once again we had a perfect day. The sun was shining brightly, and the sky was a clear blue with just a few fluffy white clouds. For a place famous for getting snow in summer and heavy precipitation, it really felt like the gods were on our side. We hiked for about 5 hours on the Sendero de Fitz Roy, a trail that took us up to incredible views of Mount Fitz Roy, several glaciers, and a lake called Lago Capri. We even drank the natural river water that was flowing by, as it is totally uncontaminated and refreshing to drink. (What a concept!)

Here's the river we drank from, with views of the mountains behind... Mount Fitz Roy is off to the left, buried in the clouds.

And this is a view of the mountains with glaciers nestled within them... can you make out the two bits of blue glaciers, one to the left and another to the right, along the part where the mountains meet the land in the photo?

I don't know quite how to capture with words the magic that exists in these places, but it is truly something special. I've never before felt so utterly blown away by the world. Seeing how much natural beauty exists makes everything else seem so small. At the base of Mount Fitz Roy, with the sun on your face and crisp air in your lungs, all problems disappear.

I don't think words like these even require a summary, but overall I can say I am having what I would consider one of the most amazing times of my life. And it's not over yet! Today, Dave and I will head to the airport and fly to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego until Wednesday evening when we head back to Buenos Aires. We plan to hike, relax, eat some fresh seafood, and hopefully see some penguins.

And the end of the earth!


atown said...

That looks awesome. I love the pic of you and Dave.

Nathan said...

Never thought I wanted to go to South America but your adventures down there are changing my mind :) Looking forward to more updates.