Today was spent getting to know the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina's Glacier National Park (accessed via El Calafate in the southern part of Argentina). It was really quite an experience! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the only glacier in the world that you can climb on and view from almost 360º. It's not the biggest in the world, but it's massive and gorgeous, and there's nothing like getting up close to it from all sides. We started by taking a boat across the lake so that we could go glacier-climbing on the left edge of the glacier in this photo. We weren't very lucky with the weather, since it was mostly overcast and we were rained on for about the first hour. Nevertheless, it was thrilling.
This is the view of the glacier as we were passing by in the boat. It must be several hundred feet high and is more than a mile wide. Note the deep blue colors in the fissures. The glacier advances about a foot a day or more, so it is continually calving into the water. They say it takes the ice about 500 years to wind its way down the mountain (the glacier's origins are 25 miles or from this point). Note the color of the water (a muddy white, typical of glacier lakes), which is part of Lago Argentino, Argentina's largest lake. It it only about 800-900 feet above sea level.
Walking up the glacier was a kick. We made it almost to the top of the glacier and spent a few hours wandering around and peering into chasms and fissures.
At the end of the tour, our guides served us some Argentine scotch using ice and water taken directly from the glacier. 8-year old scotch on 500-yr old ice!
Later we went back to the other side of the lake and walked along some incredible walkways that the government recently finished. They stretch for well over a mile and allow you to get some magnificent views of the glacier from head-on and from all sorts of angles. The dark spot on the glacier in this photo is at the point where, when the glacier advances enough, it reaches the other side of the lake and forms a dam. That can raise the level of one part of the lake by as much as 60 feet, but then the water pressure starts undermining the dam and the whole thing collapses in a gigantic rush of water and tons of falling ice. That happens at random (multi-year) intervals and to see it is supposedly breathtaking. There is a video of the dam rupturing here (not sure it's the best, but it can get you started if you're interested). If you are ever going to go to great lengths to see a glacier, this is the one. Argentina has two attractions that we've seen that rate as world-class natural wonders in my book: Iguazu Falls (in the north, on the border of Argentina and Brazil), and Perito Moreno glacier. Both should rank high on your bucket list, and both are very well run and organized for the international tourist. I only wish the Argentine government could do everything this well.
Time to get dressed for dinner, which is going to be barbecued Patagonian lamb!