Friday, April 7, 2006

El Calafate - Argentina

After out hiking trip in Torres del Paine (see blog) we headed to El Calafate which is a little town in southern Argentina on the shore of Lago Argentino and serves as a tourist center for 'Parque Nacional los Glaciares'. We rented a car to visit the park, more specifically the Glacier Perito Moreno, one of the few advancing glaciers in the world thanks to 'global warming'. We walked down the touristy path to a point that said no trespassing but of course climbed the fence and continued down to the shore. The glacier is over 3 miles (5 km) wide and over 200 feet (60 m) high. The amazing part is how alive it seems to be (and is). It's constantly moving with huge pieces exploding and calving off into the river as the sun warms the advancing edge. It sounds like gun shots as huge block crash inside the ice canyons. When the sun hits, it begins to glow this amazing aqua blue. At one point we were standing on the shore and looked up to see this huge chunk the size of large building break off right in front of us. We were in such awe that we couldn't move at first but soon realized that the water was receding from the edge gearing up for a mini-tsunami so we all headed toward higher ground. Fortunately, my buddy Andrew was filming a documentary at the time and got most of it on film.

Soon after this trip we went mountain biking in Bariloche and I ended up breaking my collarbone (see Bad Travel Experiences blog) and had to fly home to heal before heading off to Europe for the Running of the Bull in Pamplona (see blog).

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Torres del Paine - Chile

At this point I was traveling with four Canadian guys that I met in Ushuaia, Argentina (see blog) and we decided the next stop was Torres del Paine, Chile. Nothing prepares you for the spectacular beauty of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. It's known for its challenging treks and 15 peaks over 2000 meters (6,500 ft). The park has four main glaciers that feed vividly colored turquoise lakes filled with wind sculpted icebergs and set in granite canyons. At the center of the park there's a set of pink granite towers. We packed tents, food, and cooking stuff, etc over 110km (70 miles) for 5 days through all kinds of weather including a few snow storms.

This was one of many places on the trip where I found myself standing somewhere so big that it surrounded me and I try to gather it all in through pics to show friends and family. Every direction you see views of dramatic peaks, ice fields, and lakes that change with every step.

The last night of the trip we camped in a refugio at the bottom of Glacier Grey, the largest glacier in the park, and hung out in the lodge with other campers. We got to know this young couple (Leo and Esther) from the Netherlands who had met a few years ago while traveling. This was their last trip before going home to get married. We went to bed around 2am. Around 4am we woke up to a loud crack followed by a girl screaming. A huge branch, that could've been a tree by itself, had fallen on top of the Leo and Esther's tent right next to ours. We lifted the branch and my buddy Andrew crawled inside to help. Somehow the branch had missed Esther but hit Leo in the head, knocking him unconscious. So Andrew gave him mouth to mouth, we pulled him carefully from the tent, transported him on a door to the nearby lodge, and called for assistance. The last we heard he was in a deep coma but stable. The reason for this story is not sensationalism but because it was near the end of my trip in South America and I walked away with a sense of closure. Nature is truly amazing and bigger than all of us. We're not in control of whether we live or die. I try to live each day like it's my last and if I wake up tomorrow morning it's a gift.

After TDP we headed off to El Calafate to see one of the only few advancing glaciers in the world (see blog).