A post of Glacial Proportions

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Hello from Los Glaciares National Park, home to the Perito Moreno Glacier. This national park, located on the border of Chile, is home to several famous glaciers, including the afformentioned Perito Moreno. 

Crossing the steppe to El Calafate.  

Crossing the steppe to El Calafate.  

I arrived back into Argentina yesterday afternoon from Chile to the city of El Calafate, located on the high arid steppe of Patagonia. This means that typically it never really rains in El Calafate (the average precipitation here is akin to San Diego); however it sure did yesterday afternoon and night.

Downtown El Calafate, the town a glacier built. it's actually named for a type of blueberry. 

Downtown El Calafate, the town a glacier built. it's actually named for a type of blueberry. 

The town somewhat of a boom town in that the infrastructure here has really only come into existence in the past 10 years. While this means that everything is more expensive than it needs to be, it also means that getting to see the glaciers was extremely easy today. It helps that Argentina's current president comes from here and has significant ties to the tourism industry here.  

We began the day early, heading out approximately 25 kilometers from the town, and passed through more arid steppe until we reached the Magelenic Forest as we approached the Andes. The land became greener, and after a short while the Perito Moreno Glacier came into view. 

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After entering the park (which costs more than a movie in Manhattan, but whatever) we immediate bordered a boat, crossing Lago Argentina to reach the south face of the glacier where I was confronted with a sheer wall of blue and white ice, over 60 meters high, nearly 14 kilometers long, and at its widest point 5 kilometers wide! All the while, thunder like sounds echoed through the lake as pieces big and small of ice broke off the main glacier, falling spectacularly into the wintergreen blue colored lake below. 

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While I thought the boat ride would be the highlight of the day, the real treat came when I was able to hike alongside the glacier! When the glacier formed, it covered an entire corner and branch of the lake.  As it melted, a narrow channel formed between the glacier on one side and a hill opposite it. The national park contains a series of walkways (catwalk like pathways of stairs and ramps) that allow you to get as close to the glacier as possible. This allowed for more amazing photo opportunities as well as for viewing and hearing more thunderous ice shearing off the glacier's face. 

Overall this was an amazing experience and a great reason to take the northern detour to El Calafate on my way to Ushuaia. While I could do without the extreme tourism (everything is so much more expensive here than on the rest of my trip has been and they are probably more try to take your photo for money people here than on Main Street, USA), the glacier is something not to be missed! Expect a bigger album of photos from the glacier when I arrive home after my trip. Next stop, the End of the Earth!! 

Crossing the Andes with Matthew

I crossed the Andes! And it was less difficult than in  The Mission. Look it up, great film. Also today was one of those days I wish I was a geoscientist, although readers out there who are, you're in for a treat! My journey was on the Cruce Andino, a route that combines bus and boat travel across the Andes to Chile from Argentina. 

On board boat number one heading west towards The Andes and Chile.  

On board boat number one heading west towards The Andes and Chile.  

We started out day very early in Bariloche. After a short bus ride to Puerto Pañuelo, we boarded a fast catamaran to cross Lake Nahuel Huapi. During the crossing the Andes grew closer and closer as we went further west. The water became greener, changing from the dark blue color at the shores of Bariloche. 

The change in color of the water was quite dramatic, happening almost instantly.  

The change in color of the water was quite dramatic, happening almost instantly.  

After reaching Puerto Blest, we boarded a bus for a short portage (I'm literally using that word right here) to the banks of the Lago Frías (which if you remember from yesterday has a milky wintergreen appearance because of the sediment in the glacial runoff from the black glacier). On arrival we boarded a boat to cross the lake and arrived at us the Argentine Border. At this point we were 700 meters above sea level (and at this point the sea in question was still the Atlantic). 

Boat number two across Lago Frías.  

Boat number two across Lago Frías.  

Getting closer to Chile.  

Getting closer to Chile.  

After a somewhat confusing process to get out of Argentina (seriously I want to work on the translations they say on this tour into English for them sometimes), we boarded what amounted to a off road bus and climed into the Andes and towards the Chilean border. After what looked like a segment of driving from a Top Gear Christmas Special, we reached the high point of our journey and the Chilean border— 1,000 meters above sea level—and crossed the Continental Divide. 

While the Argentine border control is in the lake shore, the actual Argentina-Chile border is marked by this simple wooden frame. The Chilean border control is actually nowhere near this but a half hour down the mountains in Puella.  

While the Argentine border control is in the lake shore, the actual Argentina-Chile border is marked by this simple wooden frame. The Chilean border control is actually nowhere near this but a half hour down the mountains in Puella.  

I'm in Chile! 

I'm in Chile! 

Our driver then continued our journey into Chile and through the Andes, negotiating crazy turns and sharp corners. Pretty much crazy driving. We then reached our next stop Puella, which is where we cleared Chilean customs, and had lunch. It was the definition of a tourist trap as you can only get there and leave on a tour. 

Our off road bus across the Andes. The guy driving this was a pro.

Our off road bus across the Andes. The guy driving this was a pro.

After lunch, we headed by boat across lake name, known for its emerald color. As we crossed the lake, two volcanoes came into view, one of which, Volcano Osorno, is active! It apparently erupted as recently as in the past few years.

On board boat number three, and deep into Chile. This was the first volcano we saw, and it had eroded into this jagged peak like appearance.  

On board boat number three, and deep into Chile. This was the first volcano we saw, and it had eroded into this jagged peak like appearance.  

Volcano Osorno. Just amazing.  

Volcano Osorno. Just amazing.  

After we landed in Petrohué, I was treated to an amazing volcanic landscape! This town, located literally on the base of Osorno, is covered still in volcanic dust, which brings me to the last sight we saw, a lava waterfall! This waterfall was formed after an ancient eruption of lava reached a river that flows to the Pacific Ocean (yup, I've crossed a continent). This has lead to some interesting lava tubes and other awesome volcanic formations. We didn't have that much time there, but what I saw was amazing!

All that volcanic dust in Petrohué!

All that volcanic dust in Petrohué!

Volcano eruption created waterfall.  

Volcano eruption created waterfall.  

To end the trip, we drove along Another lake, the largest in Chile entirely and one of the largest in South America, to Puerto Varas, where I am today before my flight to Punta Arenas, and the bottom of the earth!  
It was a full day of travel and we didn't get to Puerto Varas until after 8:00 pm.  

It was a full day of travel and we didn't get to Puerto Varas until after 8:00 pm.  

Overall the Cruce Andino was an excellent experience and something that if you're ever down here you must do. Also interestingly enough Puerto Varas is directly due south of Long Island where I grew up. So if you're ever asked what is south of suburban New York, a correct answer would be an active volcano and the Pacific Ocean! Amazing. 

Mount Tronador and the Black Glacier

 Matt Note: I composed most of this while on a tour today of Mount Tronador and the black glacier outside Bariloche. I'll be posting a gallery of more photos when I'm back at home in the U.S, but here's some highlights and description of the trip. 

Even with a selfie stick and a remote shutter, this self portrait thing is a mess. Hopefully I'll get the hand of it by Ushuaia.  

Even with a selfie stick and a remote shutter, this self portrait thing is a mess. Hopefully I'll get the hand of it by Ushuaia.  

Hello from the base of Mount Tronador and the black glacier. This mountain, a long dormant volcano, is named for the sound that cleaving ice makes when breaking off the main glacier is today's destination. The name "black glacier" comes from when the ice begins to fall down the mountain and mixes with volcanic rock. 

One of several glacial lakes in this area. I'll be crossing several by boat tomorrow! 

One of several glacial lakes in this area. I'll be crossing several by boat tomorrow! 

After leaving Bariloche (albeit a little late) we headed up and out of the city into a national park. We left the highway and traveled on gravel and dirt roads and over wooden bridges on our way towards the mountain. Along the way we stopped at crystal clear mountain lakes and rivers carrying glacial melt into them. All and all lots of amazing photos were taken. 

Yeah, I can't believe I was here too.  

Yeah, I can't believe I was here too.  

When we reached the base of the mountain we stopped at a camp run by Eastern Eurpoean immigrants for lunch. I had the best strudel I've had outside of Germany for dessert! A reminder, I'm in Argentina. I also went on a half mile hike along the river to view a waterfall made of glacial melt from high above on Mount Tronador. All of this was before 2:00 pm! 

Hiking up to see glacial waterfalls.  

Hiking up to see glacial waterfalls.  

We then left the base camp and headed further around the park to the glacier. When we arrived,   I was greeted with an amazing view. Perfect white ice and snow towards the top of the mountain valley contrasting with the ice and volcanic dirt of the glacier lower in the valley. At the base was a wintergreen colored lagoon full of pieces of glacier that had fallen off. All the while I heard the thunder-like sounds of glacier breaking and tumbling town the valley. There were three avalanches during my visit.  Pretty awesome stuff. 

The Black Glacier and its melt lagoon.  

The Black Glacier and its melt lagoon.  

Overall I'd recommend this tour; while we spent a lot of time on a bus to get places, there really is no other way to explore this vast and beautiful Patagonian National Park.  And as an aside, I was impressed with my comprehension of Spanish descriptions of nature as for the most part the tour was en Español! Now we're headed back into Bariloche, where I plan on pretending I'm in Germany or Switzerland and have an Alpine Evening...in South America. Chile tomorrow. 

Remind me what continent I'm on again? 

Remind me what continent I'm on again? 

Flying from Buenos Aires to Bariloche

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So greetings from Bariloche, the heart of the Argentine lakes district at the foot of the Andes. Also the beginning of my adventures in Patagonia. While I wait for my tour (which is late) to arrive at my hotel, I figured I'd give an update of my trip here yesterday evening.  

Flying out of Buenos Aires other airport Aeroparque was a delight. However because of labor action (not sure if there or here in Bariloche) my flight was delayed for two hours. It did afford me to have what arguably was the best airport meal I have ever had: barbecued beef/pork kabobs. Fantastic.  

After that lengthy delay I went through the semi-nonexistent airport security and into the very tiny terminal. For an airport so tiny they had flights going to every corner of this vast country and even to Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay! 

Aeroparque, the smaller yer busier airport much more centrally located in Buenos Aires. Remind you of anywhere?

Aeroparque, the smaller yer busier airport much more centrally located in Buenos Aires. Remind you of anywhere?

When we finally bordered we actually bordered the plane via airstairs. Some might find boarding a full sized plane that way to be a burden, I kinda like it as it feels like old time glamorous flight. 

Boarding my flight bound for Bariloche.  

Boarding my flight bound for Bariloche.  

Once in the air, I was treated to this lovely view of Buenos Aires at night:

Buenos Aires at night from above.  

Buenos Aires at night from above.  

It was pretty spectacular. Although very quickly the lights disappeared as we flew over the very dark and empty countryside.  Being so use to flights up and down the east coast of the U.S., sheer darkness was jarring. Although I did get to see the Southern Cross and the stars of the Southern Hemisphere!

Two hours and change later we landed at the Barioloche airport, which is tiny. Actually using the word tiny is generous, but getting a cab to town and my lovely hotel from it was easy.

So now I'm in Bariloche. Hopefully the tour will arrive soon, if not I have backup plans for the day (always need backup plans on a trip like this) . Check back later for an update on either my trip into the mountains near Bariloche or a trip around town/other sightseeing adventures.  

But we're all Americans...

One of the most famous cafes in Recoleta; its car and airplane themed. I'm going back here today. or at the very least when I am back in Buenos Aires 

One of the most famous cafes in Recoleta; its car and airplane themed. I'm going back here today. or at the very least when I am back in Buenos Aires 

Greetings from day two of my trip across Argentina! Before I head out and explore the city, I wanted to write about the excellent food/dinner guided tour (that turned out to be private tour) through the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

My tour guide from Urban Adventures not only was very knowledgable about the food and culture of this upscale neighborhood of the city, but was also a great dinner conversation partner. During the tour I sampled several delicious dishes including Argentinian steak, empenadas, and two different desserts. All were delightful. 

Also we had several interesting conversations about life in Buenos Aires, especially since the debt default, and I learned a lot about the city that wandering alone would have not afforded me. I also got some tips on places to buy some presents, so who knows, you may be getting something when I come back to Buenos Aires at the end of my trip.  

And finally, we discussed something that had never occurred to me before. Why do we call ourselves (for my U.S. based readers) Americans? I mean Canada and even Argentina are in America (of course Argentina is in South America if you use the seven continent model (I do) of the world). We decided that Englsh is the reason for it. There's really no other way to say that I'm a citizen of the U.S./my nationality without saying I'm American. These are the conversations you only get when interacting with people from outside your country. 

All and all, it's been a good trip, and it's only beginning! Check back later for an update on my travels from Buenos Aires to the heart of Argentinan lakes country, San Carlos de Bariloche!

I enjoy eating...and traveling to do it.

Photo by theblackfatcat/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by theblackfatcat/iStock / Getty Images

So while I've focused most of my attention and energy in planning this trip on my planning for adventures in Patagonia, I'm also going to Buenos Aires at the beginning and end of my trip.  In total, I'll be in the Argentine capital for three days, and while that doesn't seem like a lot of time, I am planning some interesting activities for my brief time there (also it will be the August-like warm there, so that will be exciting!)

In talking to everyone who I know who has gone to Buenos Aires, the one thing they tell me to do while there is to eat, and more specifically to eat steak.  While I've had several recommendations for meals, it's always a little weird to eat a fancy meal alone.  Additionally, in my short time in the city, I'd like to experience as much of the city as I can, and that includes more than the "traditional" tourist areas/restaurants. 

After much research, I think I've cracked the code on how to do this: Food Tourism! For the uninitiated, food tourism is exactly what it sounds like, guided tours through a city highlighting local specialties. And in Buenos Ares, there are some great food tours that are also neighborhood based. According to the travel end all and be all website Trip Advisor, Buenos Aires Food Tours seems to  fit the bill in what I'm looking for: interesting local food-based tours through both known and off the beaten path neighborhoods and restaurants. Also they schedule their food tours in the mid-afternoon, which is perfect for my schedule both at the beginning and end of my trip! 

So look forward to some awesome pictures/accounts of my adventures in Buenos Aires food! Coming this time next week!

 

This time next week I'll be in Argentina...

This is an actual true fact!  Hopefully I'll be exploring Buenos Ares after a very long flight this time next week. I'm pretty much ready to go! I have a few little things to take care of (such as my itinerary/planned tours and excursions once I get to Ushuaia). Additionally, I can finally see what the weather is going to be like, which will greatly aid in packing.  February in Southern Patagonia isn't too different than February in D.C. (well normal D.C., and not subzero D.C we've had this year), but Buenos Ares will be more like early August and Northern Patagonia will be just delightful.

One thing that has made this trip much easier to plan thus far was turning some of the logistics over to a local travel agent down in Patagonia.  By using a local travel agent however I was able to arrange a variety of busses and airport shuttles to get from my flight to Punta Arenas to the airport in El Calafate, Argentina.  After doing plenty of research, I decided to work with South Road, a company that was highly recommended by travelers online who wanted to pre-book busses between a variety of towns (many of which I'm visiting) in Patagonia.  

Dealing with them was was incredibly easy and there were no language barriers (many of which I know I would have dealt with if I waited to buy bus tickets until I arrived in Patagonian Chile).  I communicated with one of their travel specialists via email who helped arrange logistics for me and was able to pay ahead of time in USD via PayPal.  South Road even refunded me back some money immediately they realized that the bus company they were using to get me from Puerto Natales to El Calafate did not charge a specific tax! Overall, the costs of things were not much more than if did everything myself. 

While the verdict is still out of course if these bookings worked as well as the planning did, but as of now I am very satisfied with their services.  It was much easier than trying to figure out how to purchase tickets at the last minute!  The company also arranges/organizes tours in Ushuaia, and based on my experiences thus far with them I may use them for future adventures in the Southernmost City in the World!

Change of Plans, but probably for the best.

Perito Moreno Glacier.    By Wikisanchez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Perito Moreno Glacier. By Wikisanchez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

So the best laid plans always get always are subject to change. Today while doing some serious Argentina planning I decided that not only did I absolutely want to see the Torres de Paine National Park in Chile, but I also wanted to see  the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina. Both are reasonable close to Punta Arenas, Chile, where I had planned to visit to see penguins and other natural wonders on my way to Ushuaia.

I also was finding it logistically crazy to get from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia.  There is one bus a day, and the trip takes nearly twelve hours, or really a whole day of my action-packed Patagonian Adventure.  Additionally, if I wanted to go to Torres de Paine, I would have to either cut a day out of Ushuaia, or hope that all the buses would be on time through Patagonia.  Additionally, while I had planned out my trip to Iguazu Falls for the three days after I returned from Patagonia, I also was a bit concerned that I would have to pack clothing for a completely different climate than the rest of my trip. Plus, because of tight connections in Buenos Ares, I would have little slack between the flight back from the Falls, and the flight back to the U.S.

So considering this, I made a decision. I could go along with my original plan and miss out on two sites I absolutely wanted to see, try and do it all and risk doing nothing, or focus my energy on getting to Ushuaia as fast as I could.  I decided that I would go with option one, and go to Torres de Paine and Los Glaciares National Park. Plus, the cost of airfare from El Calafate to Ushuaia was less than either a night of hotel at the Falls or the roundtrip airfare. I would also solve the "How to get from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia" problem. 

Just for some context: Torres de Paine is reachable by a (relatively) short bus ride from Punta Arenas to the town of Puerto Natales.  From there it is an easy bus ride across the Argentinian border to El Calafate, which is the gateway city to Los Glaciares National Park. From there, it is actually (albeit further away that Punta Arenas) easier to get to Ushuaia via a short plane ride.  With these logistics in mind, here is my updated travel plan:

Some front of the envelope travel calculations right here. So many moving awesome parts on this trip.  PS: If your my parents, there's even more complex machinations at the end of that envelope involving layovers and being a good son.

Some front of the envelope travel calculations right here. So many moving awesome parts on this trip.  PS: If your my parents, there's even more complex machinations at the end of that envelope involving layovers and being a good son.

I'll still arrive in Punta Arenas, and stay overnight. Next day, I'll wake up and see Penguins! as well as some of the historical sights in town.  That evening (thanks to summer, I'll board a bus to Puerto Natales, located approximately three hours north for two nights. From this town I will go on a bus tour of Torres de Paine National Park (hopefully with some time for hiking).  The next day, I'll board another bus and cross back into Argentina to stay in El Calafate for two nights. From this town, located on the shore of Lago Argentino (the largest freshwater lake in Argentina) I'll go to Los Glaciares National Park.  Many photos will be taken. I'll then fly the next day to Ushuaia, where I'll then explore Tierra del Fuego until I fly back to Buenos Ares, do some final shopping (wine will be procured) and then later that evening fly back to the U.S.  

Does it sound crazy. Of course. Amazing, you bet! 

So they say it is a trip of a Lifetime...

My route by plane, boat, and bus around Patagonia.

My route by plane, boat, and bus around Patagonia.

The main motivation for creating this website was not only to share some of the many photos I've taken while traveling so far, but to chronicle what will probably be the largest scale. epic trip I've ever taken....I'm going to Patagonian Chile and Argentina

On this trip I'm going some amazing sights, epic mountains, crystal clear lakes, and Penguins! Also its summer! Although at the bottom of the earth, that doesn't mean it will be warm!

My trip begins in Buenos Ares, where I'll spend a few days exploring as much as this South American capital can offer.  I assume I'll be eating some awesome steak as well.

I then fly nearly 900 miles southwest to San Carlos de Bariloche, a city located in the foothills of the Andes that looks more like a town out of Germany or Switzerland than South America.  While there, I'll be going on at least one or two hikes, eating some local foods, and taking lots and lots of photos. 

Then things get interesting. I'll be traveling over the Andes by bus, boat, bus, boat, bus, and boat and into Chile. This day long journey takes me through two national Andean parks, the Pérez Rosales in Chile and the Nahuel Huapi in Argentina as I “sail” through the Andes through lakes and rivers, to Puerto Varas. This Chilean town also appears to be more at home in Germany and I'll spend a day there exploring the city's unique architecture and beautiful surrounds before boarding a flight from neighboring Puerto Montt to Puenta Arenas,  the southernmost city on the South American continent!

Punta Arenas, Patagonia's largest city, is located on the Strait of Magellan, will be my base of operations to see Penguins (and baby Penguins) at the Monumento Natural Los Pingüinos and Pingüinera Seno Otway, as well as many other natural wonders and historic sights related to  Magellan's journey around the world.

After at least three-four days in Punta Arenas, I'll be heading back to Argentina (by bus and ferry) to the southern-most city in the world Ushuaia.  This city, located on Tierra del Fuego will be my base to explore the Beagle Channel, and ride on l Tren Del Fin Del Mundo, a narrow gauge steam train that takes visitors to the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. I'll also no doubt see some more amazing wildlife and take lots and lots of photos. I may even take a short trip across the Beagle Channel back into Chile and see 

So you would think after going to the end of the world, I would be done with my trip...but no! After flying back up to Buenos Ares, I'm going to keep going north and into the Jungle, for a two day visit to Iguazu Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  I originally wasn't planning on going here, but every person I talked to about Argentina told me I would regret not going. So now I am!

While this sounds like a totally planned trip, there's plenty of things to still figure out. For example, how will I cross the Andes? Where will I stay? How will I get from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia? What should I pack for a trip to the very deep south? These topics and many more will be explored over the next few weeks, so climb on explorers!