But not as we know it.....
Still on a high from the stunning ‘W’ we returned to Puerto Natales for well earned pizzas, beers and an early night! We were exhausted but ever the gluttons for punishment we’d booked ourselves an 8am bus for the following day! The destination? El Calafate.
El Calafate is known for one thing and one thing only – it’s the gateway to the Perito Moreno Glacier. It’s unlikely that the name will mean anything to many but you’re likely to know of this glacier without realising. It’s infamousy coming from videos where huge chunks of ice ‘calve’ from the face of the glacier and crash down into the waters below with a loud crack and a huge splash. Know the ones? If not it’s worth a Youtube! The ‘calving’ takes place because Perito Moreno is one of only two glaciers in South America that are actually advancing. The glacier has reached a natural end at a lake and therefore rather than growing in length as the glacier creaks and groans in advancement, the ice at the front of the glacier is pushed from behind until the strain becomes too much and chunks break off and crash down into the waters below. That’s the geography lesson done, in more simplistic terms..... it’s awesome! The glacier itself is huge and simply breathtaking. Nature can be incredible and this is definitely one such example. We could have happily sat and watched the glacier for hours, listening to the cracking and groaning and taking great delight every time a chunk would fall. Had we done so though we’d have missed out on a great boat trip along the North face of the glacier which gets you up close and personal and gives you a great perspective on just how vast this glacier is as it towers above you! All in all a fantastic day which was happily topped off with watching the Superbowl in a small bar back in town. I love the time difference here – first time ever I’ve not fallen asleep by half time!
With little else to entertain us it was time to head for our next destination; Ushuaia. A town more commonly known as the End of the World as it’s considered to be the most Southerly town in the World. Definitely some poetic license here as you can actually go further South but as it’s a pretty big town it gets the credit! Interesting fact time – Ushuaia is only as far South as Belfast is North! So after a little panic where our bus tickets had been sold on and we faced the prospect of another night in a dead end town, we jumped on our hastily arranged bigger bus (good work bus company!) and set off on a 19 hour trip during which we’d cross borders twice – fun, fun! The journey didn’t prove to be too bad however and gave us our first views of the landscape you can expect at ‘the end of the World’ – mountains and glaciers apparently rather than the fire and brimstone I was expecting. Think I may not fully understand this whole end of the world thing....
We stayed in a great hostel in Ushuaia called Freestyle which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone heading that way. ‘Rasta Max’ does a great job looking after everyone and the free beer on the first night definitely went down a treat. Ushuaia itself is a nice enough town, or rather a nice enough street, but its true qualities lie in being a gateway to other adventures. We had hoped do some husky sledding but unfortunately this is only in winter. It seemed to me that down here it’s always winter as the shortest of strolls required coats, hats and gloves but apparently not! Unfazed though we filled our 3 days with a boat trip into the Beagle Channel where we were spoiled with copious amounts of seals and cormorants (not penguins!), a beautiful walk in a nearby National Park (which Emma loved considering the pains from the W had still not subsided!), and best of all a trip to see penguins!
The weather on penguin day was foul and it barely stopped raining but even that could not dampen the enjoyment. After a couple of hours journey time (car and boat) we arrived on a small Island that thousands of penguins have come to use as home during two separate periods a year. The first to build nests and have their young, the second to have some dry land whilst they change their plumage. Even as we approached by boat we could see that the Island was covered in small black and white bodies with the odd flash of an orange bill thrown in. There were literally thousands of them! We couldn’t wait to get off the boat and get amongst them (respectfully of course). Once on foot the sight was even more incredible, we were literally surrounded and immediately started popping off photo after photo. Having taken this in we moved further in land to where the penguins nest. A little known fact is that penguins mate for life and therefore live in nests with their family - Mum, Dad and little ones. I couldn’t confirm if they had Sky TV inside the nests as we weren’t allowed to get too close but I suspect it’s the case. More incredible though is that to find their way back to their nests the penguins rely on the calls of their family. It all makes for a very loud, very cute and very amazing spectacle. To us all the calls sound exactly the same but any one family is able to distinguish their own amongst the thousands and find their way back. No doubt this comes in very handy when Mr Penguin has had one too many down the pub!
All in all Ushuaia was lovely but after 3 days we were ready to leave. Patagonia has been beautiful and incredible but we’re excited by the prospect of some warmer weather and civilisation in Buenos Aires!
I should at this point reference the amazing run I’ve been on lately. On our way to Ushuaia I managed to lose the keys to the padlocks on our bags. Disaster was fortunately avoided by finding a random spare key we didn’t even know we had! So down to one key I then very cleverly placed said key inside a locker and used the very padlock it opens to lock it in along with all of our bags! Disaster fortunately avoided this time with some brute force – if you’re reading this freestyle hostel, there’s a broken locker in room 4! Still feeling a little stupid but somewhat relieved I then headed out to get some cash. This time disaster was not avoided as I brilliantly left my card in the machine and walked off without it! By the time I realised some 4 hours later it was nowhere to be seen! Yep, I’m on a role! No doubt this will prove to be a pain in the ass further down the track but for now it’s a handy excuse to get Emma to pay! I’m putting it down to my brain having switched off through lack of use, let’s hope it doesn’t require a key to turn it back on as no doubt I’ll lose that along the way too!
Love to all
Lee and Emma