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Would you like ice with that?
By Mikey
Sunday, 23rd May 2004 21:09

One of the reasons we're doing this trip is to avoid having to get up at silly times in the morning for a few months. So getting up at 6am this morning wasn't exactly pleasant. (Cue some violins.) At 7am we were dressed and ready to go. Our group was a lot smaller today. Just Claire, myself and Jonathan (a nice French chap) were going all the way to the glacier. Two English girls were hitching a lift to Calafate.

The first hour was the same route we had taken the day before. Unbeknowst to us at the time, we had passed withing a few hundred metres of Argentina. Now though, we stopped at a building we had passed the day before and it turned out to be a Chilean border post. A few minutes later, we had our passports stamped and we were on our way to the Argentinian side of the border. A few more minutes and some more stamps appeared in our rapidly filling passports. Welcome to Argentina.

Fortunately for our bottoms and our sanity, a lot of the roads we travelled in Argentina were paved. (In Torres del Paine they were unpaved.) About two hours later, we descended into some cloud and eventually stumbled upon Calafate. Despite the cloud, the differences between Chile and Argentina were apparent. Like there was a significant change in standard of living when we travelled from Peru to Chile, there was a change travelling from Chile to Argentina. Buildings are more permanent and solid looking, streets are cleaner. Basically, the average Argentinian looked better off. That could be because Argentina is a cheaper country. Our driver certainly made full use of the cheaper petrol prices.

The two English girls left us at this point and after we had changed a little money, we carried on towards the glacier. The last leg of the journey was mostly paved and took just over an hour. We arrived at about 1.30pm (Chile time).

Unfortunately the air was still thick with cloud and so we couldn't see much more than a hundred metres into the distance. The glacier turned out to be a little further away than that. At some point in the past, tourists used to be able to get closer to the glacier than they can now but 32 of them got squished by exploding ice apparently so now they keep tourists at a distance.

So, we waited. And we waited. And we waited some more. Jonathan suggested wearing sunglasses as the polarising filters would cut out the glare from the cloud and allow you to see further. Clever. It worked. Well, it worked a bit. I could now see a vague outline of the glacier. After a few minutes though, it seemed to get clearer still and as the sun was starting to go down, the cloud was lifting. Within ten minutes the air was clear and we were rewarded for our patience and the long journey with a spectacular view of one of the few growing glaciers in the world (most are shrinking). Wow.

Many photos later, it was time to head back. The drive back was quiet and uneventful. We stopped briefly in Calafate for a snack and at the border posts again before getting back to Puerto Natales at 10pm. We spent an hour eating chicken casserole, talking with Jonathan and watching a Spanish royal wedding before heading to bed. A good day all round.

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