Shamefully, I am writing this nearly three months after returning home from South America. Once I fell behind with blogging my trip, I never got caught up. And then, after I got home and organized all my photos, I needed a little break. I went to Mexico for a week and even got those blog posts completed. But it’s been hard to get myself back into blogging mode so I could complete writing my stories from the last few destinations in South America.

So here, at last, are my adventures from Yacutinga Lodge.

Continue reading “It’s a Jungle Out There”

Glacier

As Fede said when we departed this morning for the drive to Los Glaciares National Park, this is “the icing on the cake — literally.” I suppose it is literally “ice,” but there’s no literal “cake.” Still, Fede’s first language is Spanish. And lots of native English speakers get “literally” wrong.

Anyway, we were on our way this morning to see the Perito Moreno glacier. This glacier is interesting for a few reasons:

  1. It is easily accessible, just an hour’s drive from Calafate. You can drive right up to it. Many tour companies offer bus trips from Calafate.
  2. In an era when glacial ice is melting worldwide, this glacier is still advancing.
  3. It undergoes a regular rupture cycle every few years.
This satellite image from Google Maps shows the Perito Moreno glacier touching the Península de Magallanes, which it is currently doing. When the glacier advances to touch the peninsula, water in Brazo Rico begins to rise, as it can no longer flow into Lago Argentino. The rising water starts to erode the glacier, eventually forming an opening with a bridge or arch at the top. Finally the bridge collapses and there is a channel once again from Brazo Rico into Lago Argentino. And the cycle begins again. The most recent rupture occurred on March 10, 2016. Here’s a video of that event.

We didn’t see anything quite so dramatic. And overall, the glacier is impressive because it is so large, but it is not the most beautiful glacier I’ve seen. (That would have been the far smaller Sawyer Glacier, which I saw this past September in Alaska.)

Still, Perito Moreno did not fail to impress, just because it is so massive.

First view of the glacier across Brazo Rico
First view of the glacier across Brazo Rico
Panoramic view of the glacier
Panoramic view of the glacier
The part of the glacier that faces into Lago Argentino
The part of the glacier that faces into Lago Argentino

After walking the various paths and snapping innumerable pictures, we took a boat ride on the Brazo Rico side for an up-close view.

Glacier as seen from the boat
View from the boat

Birds

When we first arrived in Calafate, Fede told us that there is a bird sanctuary on the shores of Lago Argentino. So when we got back into town after our visit to Los Glaciares, I asked if I could be dropped off there. Surprisingly, no one else in the group wanted to do that. (I don’t know what they all did; some of them I think got dropped off in town; others just went back to the hotel.)

Entrance to the bird sanctuary
Entrance to the bird sanctuary

This was actually my favorite part of the visit to Calafate. It’s not that I saw a ton of exotic birds. I didn’t see any flamingos, which I was hoping for. In fact, most of the birds I saw were birds I’d already seen elsewhere during the trip. But watching them in their native habitats was so interesting. I didn’t really mind that it was so windy I couldn’t hold my camera still enough to take good photos most of the time. And I didn’t mind getting caught in a rain squall that felt like needles blowing in the wind. I managed to arrive at a duck blind when I was only mostly wet, not entirely wet. When I opened the door, the space was full of German tourists, who greeted me and told me I couldn’t stay if I didn’t bring coffee. Then they made room for me so I could observe the nearby pond, where I saw some Andean ducks.

Andean duck
Andean duck
Upland geese
Upland geese (female on the left, male on the right)
Coscoroba swan
Coscoroba swan
Gulls
Gulls

After the rain stopped I was able to dry off by the time I completed my walk through the bird sanctuary. Then I headed back to the hotel, too tired to think about food or anything but a relaxing evening. I never made it out to dinner. But I felt fully nourished the the things I saw today!

Monday, November 20, 6:18 pm

You have been on the go all day. Finally, you have a few hours in the evening to just relax. So you’re sitting in the bar of the lodge, staring at the spectacular view. You have hundreds of pictures yet to download from your camera from the last two days and you can’t wait to see them but you just want to sit here and do nothing. You have seen all kinds of flora and fauna for the first time.

Scenery that knocked your socks off. Weather that included brutal winds, sleet, snow, rain, clouds, and sun. You have hiked to places you never imagined you’d ever go.

Today I know exactly how you feel. Continue reading “That feeling”

Saturday, November 18

We flew SKY from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas, a flight of a little over two hours. SKY is the budget airline of South America, and it felt like it. So it was good to get off the plane. We met Kris, our local guide, and got on our bus. On the way into the city we made a stop at the Nau Victoria Museum.

Punta Arenas lies at 53 south latitude, equivalent to the Aleutian Islands (at 53 north). Over the course of the afternoon and evening we have spent here, we’ve had sleet, snow, rain, sun, and lots of wind. Continue reading “A One-Night Stand with Ferdinand Magellan”

Saturday, November 18

This morning we have a 10:30 flight from Puerto Montt to our southernmost destination, Punta Arenas (literally “Sandy Point”), on the Strait of Magellan. To get to the airport we have to ride the bus a half hour to get to the ferry, then the half-hour ferry ride back to the mainland, and another hour after that. So we had 6:00 breakfast, 6:30 “bags out,” and 7:00 departure. So I got up at 5:00, did all my morning stuff, had breakfast, and now it’s 6:30, so I thought I’d get a head start on recapping the last day and a half. (I’ll continue on the plane.) Continue reading “Los pingüinos”

Thursday, November 16

Today was not about seeing beautiful scenery or learning about history or politics or economics or geology.

Today was about people.

Specifically, today was about the people of Pargua, a community of about 800 on the north shore of the Chacao Channel separating Chiloé Island from the Chilean mainland. We spent a good part of the day in Pargua. Continue reading “A Day in the Life”

Tuesday, November 14

As the crow flies it’s only about 80 miles from Bariloche, Argentina, to Puerto Varas, Chile, but to drive around all the lakes took the better part of the day. And that was to our benefit, because we got some beautiful scenery all the way. It was remarkable how quickly the terrain transitioned from the high desert (aka steppe) to forest to mountains.

We exited Argentina after a few hours’ drive; then we drove for an hour more and crossed the actual border into Chile, but we didn’t arrive at Chilean customs and immigration until about an hour after that. Then after another hours we stopped for lunch at a dairy farm with a little restaurant, and adjacent to the restaurant was an antique car museum, consisting mostly of Studebakers. Not the museum we expected to find on a dairy farm in the Andes. Continue reading “Back into Chile”