I walked on a glacier the other day.
La Glaciar Perito Mereno is about 80 kilometers from the town of El Calafate. It is one of the only stable glaciers left in the world (thanks to our good friends global warming and George Bush). I took a bus from the city to a set of viewing platforms, then a boat to the glacier itself, and then walked on it for about 2 hours. It was pretty cool, and not nearly as cold as I'd feared. I think the tour was a bit pricey at $83 given the actual cost to the company (after all, they didn't make the glacier, they just bring you to it), but that's what you get with a monopoly--there's only one company that does the ice-walking. And, the experience was well worth it given that I probably won´t be hanging out near a huge glacier again anytime soon.
Here are some pics from the balcony:
From the approach on the boat:
And, from walking:
Water is constantly melting at the top from the sun and burrowing holes into the glacier. When it melts all the way down, it lubercates the bottom--this is what enables the glacier to move along the sea bed.
They served us a glass of whisky with glacier ice at the very end. The woman with me in the picture will be starring as the president´s daughter (and sorority sister) in an upcoming ABC Family dramody (that was a new word for me) called Greek.
Oh, and here´s a shot of the crampons we put on to walk on the ice. Surprisingly, the surface of the glacier was more like packed snow than sheer ice. You can walk on many parts with a decent pair of hiking boots.
The hostel where I stayed in El Calafate, called America del Sur, was fantastic. Very well run and the staff were extremely helpful--not to mention muy bonitas. Here are pics of las mujeres muy lindas de America del Sur (apologies to the guys who worked there who were also very cool but didn´t spark my interest quite as much):
Meleena (left) and Juliana are in the first pic. I think Maria (second pic) liked my Guatemalan bag more than me.
El Chalten is a small and young (started in the 1980s) town which is a four hour busride from El Calafate. It bills itself as the ´trekking capital of Argentina´and features a number of day hikes (as well as some fairly out-of-control development these days). I had booked two nights at a local hostel and planned to do a long hike my first full day and a shorter one my second day before catching a 6pm bus back to El Calafate.
Well, that didn´t exactly work out...because one of my roommates was a Scotsman. We got to talking and I offered to share my food for dinner (I had gone shopping in El Calafate on the advice of fellow travelers who told me everything in El Chalten is twice as expensive and half the quality). He readily agreed and offered to buy drinks in return. Well, buy drinks he did. He would not stop coming back with beers--and then whisky. We met a woman from the Netherlands traveling with a guy from Israel and passed the evening pleasantly. By 1 am I was thoroughly drunk.
I stared my hike at 2pm the next day. (Willie the Scot btw was up at 6:30 am for a 13 hr hike; he informed me that our evening was like a Tuesday night out in Scotland...)
This ended up working out perfectly for two reasons: a) hiking two full days would have been too much for a neophyte like me; and b) the weather was much better (sun and clear skies as opposed to a constant slight drizzle) the second day when I went to see Mt. Fitzroy. Here are some pics of the beautiful views:
Also, I ended up making a new friend, Jose a sculptor from San Sebastian, Spain. We pretty much had the exact same schedule in El Chalten and kept seeing each other on the trail. Finally, on our way back to town on the second day our paths and paces coincided and we got to talking. He is a great guy and patiently corrected my Spanish (and listened to my rambling stories told largely for the purpose of practicing) the whole way back. We grabbed a beer and some tortas together while waiting for the bus back to El Calafate. Here´s Jose (and you can check out his furniture and sculptures at www.arriagaarte.com):