Tag: glaciers

Goodbye to old friends, hello to new friends

Though we were sad to be leaving our friends in Puerto Natales and the beautiful scenery of Chile behind, we were happily not leaving Patagonia yet. Just a 5 hour bus ride and a border crossing later and we arrived at El Calafate – the heart of Argentina’s Patagonia.

As we got on our bus early that morning, we connected with Bern, a friend from Boulder that is also doing a bit of world traveling. Ted and Bern had been emailing and trying to meet up for several days, and finally we ended up on the same bus headed in the same direction. Bern is originally from Austria, but Ted and I met him through our Ultimate frisbee league in Colorado. I didn’t know Bern all that well beforehand, but we got to do a bit of traveling with him and I can now vouch that he is one of the most likable people on the planet.

Upon arriving in Calafate, we headed to a coffee shop to discuss our next move. Halfway through our coffee we met another American couple who had just arrived to town. Dave and Jesse are from New York City and are also doing an around the world trip over the course of the year. Little did we know this coffee meeting would turn into a week of travel together in Argentina, and a rendezvous months later in South Africa.

The THING to do out of Calafate is to take a day trip to the Perito Moreno glacier. It is one of the biggest glaciers in the world that you can access by road and therefore it is one giant tourist attraction.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Sarah, Bern, Jesse, and Dave

Perito Moreno

The drive to the glacier is just over an hour. Ted and I had a slightly different schedule from our newly-formed group, thanks to another travel-industry hook-up (thanks Simon!). We stayed at a ridiculously fancy lodge with direct views to the glacier – the only accommodation within Parque Nacional de los Glaciers! We quickly dropped off our backpacks and met up with the others in time for a boat ride that goes right up to the face of the glacier. Stunning and awe-inspiring views. We lucked out with a beautiful day and were able to see many different shades of blue and green within the ice. We spent the rest of the day walking the boardwalks, taking pictures and hoping to see big chunks of ice calve into the water.

The boat gives some perspective

Quintessential glacier photo

Goes on forever

As Bern, Dave and Jesse headed back to Calafate, Ted and I wandered back to our luxurious hotel where we continued to enjoy the view and the delicious dinner that was included with our stay. Woohoo!

View from our room

Pretty Much the Most Beautiful National Park in the World

We’re talking about Torres del Paine National Park, just outside of Puerto Natales, Chile. Ted and I don’t have the gear for backpacking or even camping with us on our trip, but as we were staying and visiting friends before going to the park, Drew and Francisco hooked us up with everything we needed (thanks fellas!).

Beyond its stunning and rugged beauty, the most common thing we heard about the park was its unpredictable and rather horrendous weather. It is a very windy place always, but combine that with blowing rain and snow and throw in some super muddy trails and you are in for a long day of hiking.

Our friend Francisco is a guide in the park so he outlined what he called the best way to do it. Most people do the ‘W’ route, which is a reference to the shape of your walking path that allows you to see the park’s highlights. The path Francisco recommended was an abbreviated ‘W’ which allowed us to see nearly the same highlights without have to carry our packs long distances. Also, with the unpredictable weather, his plan allowed us to stay multiple nights in one place which would avoid setting up or putting down a tent in the rain. I liked the sound of his plan.

View from (near) our first campsite

So after all the negative weather build-up, on the morning we arrived at the park the weather was gorgeous. Blue skies, very little wind and no sign of it changing. We quickly selected our camping site and headed up to see the Park’s nomiker – the Towers of Paine. Though we were sweating when we arrived at the top, the cold biting wind quickly cooled us down. It was a beautiful view and we were thankful to have seen them at all because the clouds often hide the view.

The hike up to the Torres

The Torres del Paine

Amazing towers

The second day involved taking a ferry boat over to another camping area. We once again had an amazing weather day and we couldn’t believe our luck. The view from the ferry of Torres del Paine’s mountains and glaciers against the surreal blue color of the glacial lake was absolutely phenomenal.

View from the boat

The second day was a relaxed one and we did some exploring around the area and took bunches of pictures because the weather and views were just too good.

The VIEWS!!!

Glacial Lakes

Wicked peaks

The third was a 30 km (~18 mile) hike up into the French Valley and back. The weather this day was not the best but we got a bit of sunshine along with clouds, rain, wind as well. You spend half of the day hiking next to an enormous glacier that would thunder and calve every few minutes. The view from the top was a little cloudy but nonetheless a wide open bowl with 365 degree views. Needless to say we were EXHAUSTED at the end of this day because neither one of us hiked so much in a day in a very long time, if ever!

Big glaciers in the French Valley

Looking back down the French Valley

But no rest for the weary! The last day also involved another 30 km hike to a glacier. I just couldn’t do it. I could have hiked for 4-6 hours but I did not have another 8+ hour day in me so Ted set out alone. I had a relaxing morning reading and napping and cleaning up camp while Ted was on his feet for another long day. I was very impressed.

Glacier shots

Glacier Shots

When we got back to Puerto Natales that night we were pooped! A couple beers at Drew’s brewery with some friends we met from the Navimag ferry and then we were really ready for bed.

The park is incredible and worth every day you can spend in it. We were spoiled by two days of phenomenal weather but even those who get rained on love it and that includes us too!

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