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Monday, November 19, 2012

Corinne visits Patagonia

Leaving the Rocky mountains in November is a great time to find some sun and tango in Buenos Aires. Although Natascha and I know South America's wine regions really well we had not yet visited Patagonia. So to give my poor tango feet a break I decided to take an excursion to El Calafate, Argentina, a 3 hour flight south of La Capital in the heart of Patagonia.  Lunar like landscape on landing gave me second thoughts about my decision, but soon this quaint town on the edge of Lago Argentino with its Banff like shops and restaurants put my mind at ease. Most tourists were there to hike as was apparent in their boots and walking sticks. Yes, I did leave my tango shoes in BsAs and had my hiking boots along! 

My first excursion, the one most people take, was to Perito Moreno about a one hour drive from El Calafate. Daniel, the guide informed us that this glacier was in equilibrium - it advanced an incredible two meters a day and big chunks of the oldest ice at the front of the glacier (300 years) cracked and spat its way into the lake below.  How lucky we were with perfect sunshiny weather and no wind to be able to see and hear this glacial activity. The Argentines have created some extensive and safe walkways so that one is able to see all sides of this immense block of ice. Some more adventureous guests chose to hike on the glacier itself and were delighted at the opportunity to crampon their way down crevaces in the sky blue ice.  Looked scarey to me!
I opted for the boat excursion to the front of the 80 meter wall of ice to get a close up view of the age old ice!

A further ride away (4 hours) was Torres del Paine Park in Chile - yes that meant passports, papers, customs, throwing away any fruit for fear of being fined in Chile and time! But well worth the visit!  The park is the number one UNESCO park in the world!!!! Torres del Paine means Towers of a blue/black rock and they are young - only a meer 13 million years young compared to the 65 million year old Andes. Stunning is the only way to describe them!  The bright sunshine (hot in fact) and the robin egg blue water that formed the glacier lakes made it picture perfect. Unfortunately my camera battery was exhausted so no perfect pictures for me!  I have arranged to have them sent to me by a guest from Spain.  His camera equipment made me think that he just might have that perfect shot. After visiting waterfalls and lakes and learning about the delicate balance of this ecosystem, the big army style 4x4 that transported us to Chile left around 4pm for the 4 hour journey back to Argentina WITHOUT me.  I was so happy to have booked into an ecocamp at the base of the Torres for the night.  I hadn't really put much thought into the type of accommodation I would be staying in. A few of the other guests who were overnighters in the park (yes, another form to fill out) were staying in a fancy hotel so when Corinne, the director of the ecocamp showed me to my little hobbit house structure, it sunk in that this was truely an ecocamp, just as the name suggests - all electricity generated from water turbines or solar power - heat by wood stove and recycled wood and everything made from environmentally friendly materials.  Somehow I fell into this delightful accommodation without planning it.  Besides the low environmental impact, other delightful aspects of this camp were the windows to the sky,  the family style dining and welcome pisco sour that got everyone visiting in all varieties of languages.  One big happy family, informative guides who were busy planning the next days excursions with you. Corinne was sweet in giving me an upgrade to a superior dome which had its own bathroom, clearly she could see that I was not prepared for this delightful surprise.  Gracias Corinne!

Well I am back in Buenos Aries now, ready to squeeze my feet into those highheels again only to be whisked away on the dance floor by Juan Carlos!