South America 2009 – Argentina (2)

Monday, 19th January – Sunday, 25th January

From Iguazu we moved on to El Calafate in the far south of Argentina, in Patagonia. This required two flights with a change in Buenos Aires.

Calafate is on the shore of Lago Argentina and we were there to visit the Los Glaciares National Park and, in particular, the Perito Morino Glacier. We had a group tour to the Glacier (about 80km from Calafate) where we saw the two lake faces of the glacier from the road, the shore (via a series of wooden walkways), and from a boat. On the way from Calafate we saw Condors, much to the surprise of our guide!

The colour of the ice amazed us, and we kept scanning the face of the glacier to catch it ‘calving’ as chunks of ice broke off into the lake. The heavily crevassed glacier cuts across a branch of the lake hitting the opposite shore. Every few months (it used to be every 20 years or so) the lake breaks through and then the face of the glacier moves forward to hit the shore again. The two faces of the glacier have a 3km front and are 20 storeys high.

On the third day we had a full day group boat cruise on Lago Argentina to see the Upsalla, Onelli and Spegazzini Glaciers. We saw the faces of the glaciers and giant blue icebergs at close quarters in a brilliant light.

The next day we were off to the airport again for our transfer to Bariloche in the Argentinean Lake District (1000km further north, but still Patagonia). As the plane climbed we had wonderful views of the mountains and glaciers in brilliant sunshine.

In Bariloche we had very nice hotel, a short way out of town, with views of Lake Nahuel Huapi. A guide (Cindy) from the local Council looked after us for three days. On the first day we had a private tour of the area. At Cerro Campanero Michael went up in the chairlift with Cindy while Sandra wimped out. At the top there were magnificent panoramic views. We continued on to further view points. In the afternoon we went into the town on our own and sampled some chocolate for which the town is famous, then went back to the hotel for a swim in the pool.

The next day we had a full day group tour of Lake Nahuel Huapi accompanied by Cindy. Unfortunately it rained, but not all the time. We stopped at an island with a forest of Arrayanes trees. Amazing trees with cinnamon coloured bark. We travelled on to Isla Victoria for further walks.

The next day dawned sunny and bright for our lake crossing of the Andes to Chile. To reach the Chilean border we took a ferry, then a walk to the next lake, another boat, the Argentinean customs post, and then a coach over a high pass to Puella.

Trad. – Calchakis (from ‘The Soothing Sound of Pan Pipes’)