11/2004 - Argentina 4th part, Lake Argentino and Tierra del Fuego

20-day trip to Argentina visiting Buenos Aires, the Parana Delta , Island of Martin Garcia , Delta del Tigre , Salta, Cafayate, San Salvador de Jujuy, Quebrada de Cafayate, Quebrada de Humahuaca, Purmamarca , Tilcara, Maimara , Iguazu Falls, Trelew , Puerto Madryn, Peninsula Valdes , Puerto Piramide , Caleta Valdes, Punta Delgado , Punta Tombo , Patagonia, Lake Argentino, El Calafate, Puerto Bandera, Glacier Spegazzini , Onelli , Bolados , Agassiz, Upsala and Perito Moreno Glacier, Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia , Baja Lapataia , Beagle Channel

El Calafate , a small town on the shores of Lake Argentino, greeted us in a hot sunny day which allowed us to visit the Nimez lagoon to take photos of the several characteristic birds, over all the Flamengo Austral

El Calafate is named after the plant that grows wild throughout Patagonia (it was used to caulk ships) and the town has particular and very colourful buildings . At the “Estancia El Galpon”, first we saw the sheep shearing , then they offered us a well-cooked one…

We followed a path that winds through the forest of trees similar to beeches and we were amazed to see, in this seemingly inhospitable place, a wide variety of flowers : Notro, Calafate, Violeta, Palomita, Chaura, Siempre Vivas.. .

With our guide Mercedes ( e- mail: mercedesgenoud@cotecal.com.ar ), always polite and helpful , we began, by catamaran, the visit of the glaciers that terminate their slow advance into the waters of Lake Argentino. They are all part of the “Los Glaciares” National Park, declared a World Heritage Site. We crossed Channel Spegazzini at the end of which we faced the homonymous the glacier which is between 80 and 135 meters high. Simply awesome ! We went ashore and walked a path that led us on the banks of a lake overlooked by the three glaciers Onelli, Agassiz and Bolados. It was an incredible sight to see the lake full of icebergs of all sizes and in various colours, from white to dark blue . They looked like pieces of pure ice crystals, completely transparent. We went on sailing to reach the north shore of the lake and we stopped at more than a kilometre from the front of the Upsala Glacier due to the large number of icebergs . This glacier has got a depth of 60 km., a front of 9 km and it is 60 meters high. It’s amazing to think that it withdraws 200 metres a year, that is 5 km in 20 years! This gallery ends with a series of photos depicting the icebergs that were sailing on Lake Argentino.

We spent the following day visiting the most spectacular glacier: Perito Moreno . It ‘s an “alive” glacier which “moves ” and “speaks” . We made our visit carefully following the path of walkways placed at a safe distance to avoid, considering the continuous collapse of walls of ice, getting hit by pieces of ice ” fired ” as projectiles that, in 20 years, caused 32 deaths .
The glacier is “alive ” because it is active; it “moves “, in fact it advances two meters a day and “speaks” with its constant crunches, ice falls and fractures . The front of the glacier has already reached the facing peninsula of Magellan closing the “Canal de Los Tempanos” so that the Brazo Rico a section of Lake Argentino has become an independent sheet of water. This sheet of water , where the icebergs melt , levels up and presses with increasing pressure up to ” break through” the closure . Initially it forms a tunnel, then there is the complete separation of the glacier Perito Moreno from the peninsula of Magellan. This phenomenon , quite violent , lasts about two days and it happens every 4/5 years .
We left this enchanting corner of Argentina with the only regret that we could not enjoy the sight of the glaciers with sunlit days .

We arrived in Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego ( so called because of the fires that the natives lit on their boats ). It is the most southerly inhabited city in the southern hemisphere and we arrived in a day of warm sunshine.
Our hotel overlooked the city and the Beagle Channel . We spent the afternoon visiting the town with its wooden houses positioned on two logs, in order to be moved. It was interesting the monument dedicated to the war of Malvinas ( Falklands ) near which there is the Beban house , now a museum , brought there by boat from Sweden. Inside the Historic Prison, star-shaped and closed in 1947, there is the Maritime Museum .

The next day we crossed he inner zone of the National Park of Tierra del Fuego with the ” El Tren del Fin del Mundo ” (the end of the world train), now for tourists , that was used by the convicts of the prison to go to clear the forest . We thus had the opportunity to visit one of the inner parts of the park, otherwise unattainable. After the train excursion we continued inside the park until we reached the southernmost point of Argentina : Lapataia Bay where the national road n. 3 ends. This road starts from the center of Buenos Aires which is at a distance of 3063 km in the north. You can see beautiful panoramic views: mountains with snowy peaks , dams made by beavers , bogs and in the distance you can see the Cordillera Darwin.

We had a ride of a couple of hours on e a catamaran on the Beagle Channel to admire the variety of fauna unknown to us : imperial cormorants , cormorants ” Cuello Negro” (black neck cormorants) ,” Escua comun”, jote cabeza colorata (corourful head Jote), gaviota gris , in addition to the usual seals and sea lions.