Thursday, January 19, 2012

So much to say...

Whoa!  It´s been a few days and the time has flown.  We´ve been on the road for nearly two weeks now and have been busy.  We finally had a down day though and will chime in to give a brief synopsis of the past several days of adventures.

After Ushuaia, we made a grueling 12 hour bus ride to the small port town of Rio Gallegos.  This ride was worthy of an adventure sticker on its own.  We left the island, Tierra del Fuego and came to the border of Chile.  This crossing took an hour plus before we were cleared to move on.  The next leg of the journey was on a dirt road.  In a big bus, dirt roads slow things down.  A lot.  After a couple of hours, we had a highlight: crossing the Strait of Magellan on a ferry boat!  We then crossed back into Argentina land, taking another hour, then we were home free to Rio Gallegos, which we couldn´t wait to leave as soon as we had arrived.

Fast forward a bus ride and day later, we got to El Calafate, which is a southern town hidden in the foothills of the Andes.  This is where we made on of the most incredible journeys of our trip.  We woke up early, caught a bus and headed west towards the mountains.  Here, we found ourselves in from of the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of two advancing glaciers in the world.  We first took a boardwalk stroll to gaze and listen to the powerful piece of ice from the front of the glacier.  It was incredible.  Listening to it groan as it moved sounded like dynamite or thunder.  We watched it calve several times, with a piece of ice breaking right in front of us, bigger than the size of a bus.  Amazing.  Next, we boarded a boat that took us to the south side of the glacier where we split into groups and trekked an hour west along the glacier in the woods towards a refuge.  There we got outfitted with crampons and harnesses (this saves us in case we fell into a fissure) so we could venture onto the ice.  For the next four hours, we wandered around the glacier, enjoying the blues of the ice, the magnitude of it´s size, the refreshing glacial water to drink, the dips and valleys, rivers on the ice, an ice cave, and the deep sink holes.  It was unlike anything we´ve done.  After, we hopped back on the boat, we were greeted with whiskey chilled by glacial ice.  Perfect.  Truly an experience we will never forget.

And to think that couldn´t be matched, it was.  We next headed north to another small town tucked away in the Andes called El Chalten.  Here we did some trekking around Patagonia, first visiting Cerro Torre, then the famed Mt. Fitz Roy.  The first day we hiked for 9 hours with a clear sky, hot sun, and a cool breeze.  A true blessing because usually the wind is so strong it can prevent you from finishing a hike on steeper slopes.  We made our way, going through woods, over streams (drinking the pure water, too, what a concept), and finally, making ascents to eat lunch near Cerro Torre and its glacier.  It is a tall spire of rock, that surveys its valley with an ever watching eye.  We had lunch in it´s shadow before heading home.  It felt like something out of Lord of the Rings, so it was best to leave before the orcs got hungry.  The next day we headed to Fitz Roy.  Everything was nice and easy until we came to the campsites at which point we made the ascent.  Essentially going straight up the side of the mountain, we climbed for nearly an hour.  But hard work was to be rewarded.  Mt. Fitz Roy is gracious with it´s hospitality as we came upon it´s glacier, awestruck by the vibrant blue of it´s lake, and how Fitz Roy is as majestic as it is imposing.  Our jaws were permanently ajar.  That night we headed to a microbrewery, had lamb and trout ravioli, washing it down with unfiltered, beer brewed with glacier water.

After enduring another 12 hour bus ride, we arrived in the small town of Perito Moreno two days ago. Yesterday we went to a UNESCO World Heritage site called Cuevas de las Manos, which is a series of hand prints and cave paintings from over 8,000 years ago.  It was really spectacular to see these wonderfully preserved remnants of life.  The location (under cover from sun and rain) has prevented deterioration.  The second half of our "tour" was super lame.  We walked along the canyon (the paintings now above us) along the Rio Pinturas.  Hardly a river, more like algae filled creek, we walked along sand, sidestepping cow pies and even a few dead carcasses.  Our guide did nothing but break some sticks and give us some Calafate berries.  We would have preferred spending more time looking at the paintings and less time walking in sand.

Tomorrow we head north again to a small town called El Bolson (not on our map, change of plans), just south of Bariloche.  We´ll hike and hang out, peruse craft markets, and drink local beer.  Eventually we will put up pictures, so stay tuned!

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