The blue lakes and rivers break up the landscape dominated by brown
The magnificent Perito Moreno glacier is one of very few glaciers in the world that are still advancing
The view outside of the aircraft window on the flight from Buenos Aires down to El Calafate was dominated by a rather barren landscape, mostly brown and dry, punctuated by the occasional lake, gleaming like a blue gem on a brown tablecloth. Largely an arid semi-desert steppe, most of Argentinian Patagonia is sparsely populated, with settlements in and around the lakes and rivers for obvious reasons. After six weeks in Buenos Aires, it was time to leave the civilisation behind and head south to the land of myth and legend, of giants and impassable mountains, Patagonia held more than just a little fascination for me.
The southern town of El Calafate is the gateway to the fabled Perito Moreno glacier, one of the very few glaciers in the world that are still advancing and a true wonder of nature. Perhaps the most spectacular natural phenomenon I have ever seen, the flowing wall of ice down from the mountains and the haunting blue hue of the glacier seemed almost like an impossibility, a party trick of nature. Even more spectacular are the thunderous cracks that regularly interrupt the icy silence, of enormous chunks and walls of ice calving from the glacier, and splashing into the waters of Lago Argentino.
Trekking on the glacial ice with crampons strapped to our boots was a somewhat surreal experience. Crunching along on the ice and trying to keep our balance, the surface of the ice was interlaced with streams of running water as the ice melted, and drained into various sinkholes, all forbidding and magnificently alluring at the same time, a womb of blue, decending into the unseen depths below. Our guides were vigilant in keeping us, awestruck and gawking, from falling in.
The vast river of ice of the Perito Moreno glacier slowly slides down from its birthplace in the mountains
Calved from the glacier, huge ghostly blue icebergs float in Lago Argentino
Crampons strapped to our hiking boots provided us with a semblance of grip on the icy surface
The blue of the ice is a result of oxygen trapped in the millennia of compressed snowfall from which the glacier is formed
The small rivers of melting ice on the surface of the glacier carves out lines along their path and eventually disappear into massive blue wombs deep in the heart of the glacier
A case of whiskey (served with glacial ice) is a welcome finale to our hike, its not often that the ice is older than the whiskey