Before the President of Chile closed the country’s borders to lessen the spread of the coronavirus, we traveled across Patagonia, to the Argentine side. Although Argentina is best known for its barbequed steaks and tango dancing, we came instead for its gargantuan glaciers and towering mountains.
The bus trip through Patagonia is a very long and tedious ride. Hour after hour, we passed vast treeless grasslands supporting large herds of sheep, smaller groups of llama-like camelids called guanacos, and fast-running flightless birds known as Darwin’s rheas.
As one might expect in scrubby Patagonia, the border crossing consisted of a couple modest buildings on a dusty dirt road in the middle of nowhere. After waiting in line for an hour to get our passports stamped, we finally arrived at our destination of Los Glaciares National Park.
Los Glaciares is Argentina’s largest national park. Within the park, the monotonous Argentine grasslands give way to knife-edged mountain peaks, large turquoise-colored lakes, and the great glaciers of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.
After Antarctica and Greenland, the Southern Patagonia Ice Field is the third largest reserve of fresh water on the planet. From its source in the high Andes Mountains, this immense sheet of solid ice spawns dozens of broad valley glaciers advancing at a rate of more than 30 feet (9 m) per day.
Nowhere on the Southern Patagonia Ice Field is glacial movement easier to observe than at the Perito Moreno Glacier. Here, from a network of observation decks, we watched the blue-gray glacial ice crack and crumble before our very eyes. Each time a large chunk of ice calved from the glacier’s face, it plunged into azure Lake Argentino with a thunderous splash.
After our moving experience at Perito Moreno Glacier, we continued on to the other end of Los Glaciares National Park and the small mountain village of El Chaltén. Named Argentina’s Trekking Capital, El Chaltén exists solely to serve hikers and mountaineers from around the world.
Various trails originating in El Chaltén lead through alpine forests to crystalline lakes and soaring solid rock spires adorned with overhanging mountain glaciers. The crown jewel of El Chaltén’s scenic treasures and the highest peak in Los Glaciares National Park is the monumental massif of Mount Fitz Roy.
Straddling the border of Chile and Argentina, Mount Fitz Roy is an arrangement of serrated granite pinnacles carved by glacial ice. Because of its inspiring and iconic form, the Patagonia Clothing brand selected the Fitz Roy massif for its familiar company logo. On our visit, we had the rare opportunity to admire this majestic monolith bathed in brilliant sunshine.
In time, the coronavirus will be contained, international borders will re-open, and blue skies will assuredly return. In the meantime, we are grateful for the chance to cross the vast grasslands of Patagonia, and visit that gigantic grinding glacier and mighty mountain massif on the Argentine side.
There it goes!
Featured Image: Fun with Flags! From left to right: Province of Santa Cruz Flag, National Flag of Argentina, Flag of El Chaltén. Mount Fitz Roy in the background.
Blogger’s Note: Today, we completed our 14-day coronavirus quarantine without any symptoms. In the two weeks since we returned from South America, we have only left the house for a couple grocery runs and our long daily walks. We hope everyone is maintaining their good health and high spirits. Take good care!