29 November – 7 December 2011
As if the wind were not force enough, the Patagonian sun beats down on the Argentine steppe, sucking whatever moisture might be found and leaving dry, dusty, brown earth to fend for itself. The seeming oasis of Lago Argentino with its backdrop of snowcapped Andean peaks appears an illusion created by an artist’s brush, set in stark contrast to the forefront of its surroundings. In the surreal, invisible margin between dust and blue water, pink Chilean flamingos strut through wetlands, keeping company with coots and kestrels, falcons and eagles. With water there is life; with little water, life congregates and learns to get along…or so I like to believe.
Further into the distance is like a walk back in time. The masses of ice in Glacier National Park still carve mountains and determine where water is allowed to flow. The earth is raw here, primitive and alive. You can feel it pulse if you are quiet enough. Watching chunks of ice fall off glacier Perito Moreno and crash into Lago Argentino I am pulled back to present, to the reality of a warming, changing planet. I imagine the changes as the lake grows and the ice recedes, as the past is stripped away.
(Click on the photo below to see more of the bird sanctuary and the glacier)
|El Calafate, Argentina|
El Calafate is South Americas’ version of the Wild West. It wears its main street like a disguise, with trendy, expensive shops and upscale restaurants and bars. The newness of this town being a tourist mecca and likewise the evidence of what is perhaps its true essence lies mere blocks away, where paved roads give way to dust and rocks, gauchos ride horses and some yards house free roaming sheep, chickens and even a cow or two. Like most small towns, the pace of life slows down here. I kept time with this pace quite easily, as I was nursing my still quite painful knee. I did virtually nothing in El Calafate but small amounts of wandering about town. I was hoping that after a week or so, my knee would be as good as new and I would continue on the El Chaltan for some more world class trekking. I spent a week in a local campground. It was mostly a very nice location, there was a small river running through it which is sadly incredibly polluted, but the sound of water while I lay in my tent was fantastic. I made friends with Christian, a local artisan who carves wood, and we spent some time together in his stand at the Feria Artesnal (Artists’ market) drinking mate and taking turns speaking in the others language. He offered to trade me lessons in wood carving for lessons in English, which I would have accepted had I decided to stay in El Calafate. However, after a week my knee was actually in more pain than it was at the beginning of the injury, and the dust and heat and flies of the desert were getting to me. With El Chaltan not looking like a possibility for the immediate future, I decided to return to Puerto Natales and stop there for a while. There is something about that town that was calling to me, and ocean beats desert most days in my book. So I said goodbye to Christian with a promise that I would try to get back to Calafate again, and boarded the last bus I hoped to take for at least a few months…once more, heading south.