Sunday, December 22, 2013

From the End of the World

Saturday morning our 9:00 AM boat was delayed until 3:00 PM, so we took a scenic bike ride a few miles outside of town.

At 3:00 PM, after an hour bus ride to Puerto Navarino, we boarded our chariot bound for Ushuaia, Argentina, a town of about 60,000 across the Beagle Channel. 

After a smooth (but rainy) 30-minute ride, we cleared customs and arrived in chilly Ushuaia, where we headed for our hostel. The next morning we visited one of Ushuaia's trademarks- a museum in Ushuaia's prison, built around 1900. It was enormous museum, with exhibits on everything from Antarctica to penguins to prisons around the world. There are worse places to get locked up, but it's probably a little cold in the winter...

That evening we flew 1,000 miles north to El Calafate, the gateway city to Fitz Roy. The airport was on a stunning glacial-blue lake, Lago Argentina.

On the bus to El Chalten the next day, we got our first glance of Fitz Roy, haughty in the distance.

We hiked four hours to the base of Cerro Torre from El Chalten and set up camp for the night. Quite a view.

I dipped a toe in and decided maybe it would be better to skip the polar bear swim. A kind Swiss man even grabbed a shot of the brothers (one of the few from the trip).

The next day we hiked to a glacier vista in the morning,

and then backtracked down the valley toward our next highlight.

While Cerro Torre was impressive, Fitz Roy stopped us in our tracks.

A close-up on one of the world's largest rock faces:

We planned on camping at the base of Fitz Roy the next night, so we continued hiking past the face and did a little side trip up to a frigid glacial lake. Brrr.

I picked up a piece glacier and enjoyed a homemade popsicle. Tasty. That evening we arrived at a refugio just as the rain arrived- a shelter from the storm.

The next morning we waited out the rain and then backtracked to the base of Mt Fitz Roy. Takes my breath away every time.

We hiked back to El Chalten the next day and then rode the bus back to El Calafate to prepare for our trip to the world-famous Perito Moreno Glacier. On our boat ride to the glacier we noticed there were cameras around- a fellow passenger informed us that the man with the bowl on his backpack is a TV-star chef in South America who travels to unusual locales and cooks. Celebrity chef count: 1.

The glacier itself was quite a sight. Hard to get perspective in this photo, but the ice is about 80 feet tall.

After a brief lesson on glaciers, we geared up and spent an hour or two walking around the ice, culminating in a glass of bourbon on the rocks- made from glacier ice.

After walking on the glacier we got to go to the viewpoint. The glacier itself is one of the lowest elevation glaciers in the world at less than 1,000 feet. It's also one of the relatively few glaciers that's not shrinking. It's about 3 miles wide and 30 miles long, and the scary part- the few hundred feet sticking up out of the lake only represents the top 10% of the glacier!

Note the tiny people in the foreground for perspective. Another interesting feature of this glacier- the ice actually cuts the lake in two. The water on the left (the south face) is about 60 feet higher than the water on the right (the north face), and every few years the water bursts through the ice, releasing millions of gallons of water- what a wave. The next day we left El Calafate for Buenos Aires- the end of the wilderness pieces of the trip. While Puerto Williams was more unique, Fitz Roy was eye candy. Definitely the prettiest part of the trip.

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