We've just come to the end of a vacation within our trip, spending Christmas with my mom, stepdad and brother in southern Argentina. The sad spot of the proceedings was the absence of my stepsister & her husband who should have been with us but were trapped by North American winter weather and couldn't make the trip. We really missed them and hope they (finally) had a peaceful Christmas. Tom also missed his suitcase which spent most of its Christmas vacation at the Toronto airport.
The 5 of us rendezvoused at El Galpón del Glaciar, "the sheepshearing shed of the glacier," a guest estancia outside El Calafate. The buildings are simple and white with red roofs and situated in a green and gray glacial valley carved out along the shores of Lago Argentino. In the blue green waters of the huge lake you can make out icebergs calved from glaciers that abut the water higher up the valley.
We visited one of those glaciers, the Perito Moreno, with a wonderful guide named Marcos. A boat took us (and many others) across the lake to the glacier and the whole family strapped on crampons to walk on a tiny corner of the immense ice field. The surface rises up into peaks called saranaks and is peppered with crevasses and other perforations that are a bright popsicle blue. Tom, Mike and I finished at a little bar set up by the glacier guides to drink Famous Grouse scotch poured over glacial ice. Most exciting was watching enormous sides of ice fall from the edge of the glacier and crash into the lake. Even apparently small pieces make big noise.
We had a full 2 days with everyone together at El Galpón. Mom and Bill were so kind to arrange all this and we can't thank them enough! It is a beautiful tranquil place, with a huge and constantly changing blue and cloudy sky. A bird sanctuary is on part of the land between the hotel and the lake, with many black faced ibis, cara cara, black necked swans, ducks. Cows, horses and sheep range over the fields though it's no longer a working sheep estancia. We did watch demonstrations of a border collie herding sheep and then of a sheep shearing. An unsheared sheep is an amazingly woolly animal. A cooked lamb is a delicious animal, of which we had much for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners.
On Boxing Day we said goodbye to Mom & Bill who flew to Tierra del Fuego. Mike, Tom & I boarded a minibus with another tour group and headed out in a boat across Lago Argentino to see the Upsala Glacier and to visit the Estancia Cristina, the oldest estancia in the region. We couldn't approach the glacier because the water around it is so full of icebergs. Visibility in the misty rain was poor but it was great cruising among the icebergs. The rain kept up for some of our hike around the estancia and then gave way to a beautiful clear day. We spotted two red foxes out looking for eggs that a foolhardy species of bird (possibly the lapwing?) lays in nests on the ground.
Saturday we said goodbye to Tom who was off to spend an 8 hour layover in Buenos Aires, travel on to DC via Toronto and arrive via train in Norfolk, VA on Sunday night. Fortunately, he was reunited with his missing suitcase at the BsAs airport, just in time to take it home.
Mike and I are now in Puerto Natales and will set out on a long trek in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine tomorrow. Thanks to my brother we have a little bottle of champagne to pop on our second anniversary.
Happy 2009 to everyone & much love from Chile!
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