I woke up early with the sun just rising over the expansive lake. Flamingos were busy picking their breakfast out along the shore. I could hardly believe there were flamingos here in penguin country, but I didn't have time to admire the leggy pink birds. I was heading to Las Glaciares National Park today to see the famous glacier Perito Moreno.
I was in El Calafate, after all, Argentina's Glacier Capital. How could I miss the opportunity to visit the glacier that graces every top ten list of things to see in Argentina?
The tour van headed out to the park at 9:00 am. Passing the expansive lake Argentino, the biggest in Argentina, I marveled at the shockingly white chunks of ice festooning the mirrored surface. The bus wound its way through heavily-wooded forests to the park entrance where I paid the 20 peso entry fee and moved onward toward the main attraction, Perito Moreno.
When I arrived, I walked down the well-manicured steps to the first lookout point. As the expansive ice field came into view, my eyes grew wide. Even with all the hype, this immense monument of ice is nothing short of awe-inspiring. I stood stock-still, mesmerized by the glacier.
The structure was radiance itself. Sunlight illuminating the ice lent an eerie blue glow and the edges reflected beams of light with dazzling brightness. Against the deep blue of the lake and the dark green forest, the bright mass of ice was postcard perfect. But no matter how beautiful a picture is taken, it could never do Perito Moreno justice. Seeing it in person, the ice seemed alive. Every few minutes an enormous chunk of ice would calve off and crash into the lake below, putting on a spectacular performance.
Before I knew it, it was time to go back to El Calafate.
But my day was not done. My friend Analia had invited me to her house in the country to have some matÃ©, a traditional Argentine green tea-type drink, talk, and see the ranch adjacent to her house. I jumped at the offer to see a traditional Argentine ranch, with gauchos, cowboys, and all.
From the moment the beat-up truck pulled into her little farm I knew that this would be an adventure. She hadn't been kidding when she said she lived in the country. The flat pampas, or grasslands, stretched out as far as the eye could see. We sat on her front porch in the chilly Patagonian air sipping our matÃ©, and munching on medialunas and other pastries.
Halfway through a sentence Analia stopped. I heard a distant rumble like far off thunder. It drew closer and closer and finally a real gaucho came cantering up on his little dun criollo (a breed of horse native to Argentina) driving the estancia's herd. We watched the man on his sturdy little Argentine horse until the herd disappeared into the dusk.
With night falling, Analia turned my attention to the heavens. The sky was awash with every hue of orange and pink, as if the most skilled artist had painted it. As we sat in silence watching the sun sink beneath the horizon in its spectacular exit, I marveled at all the beauty of Argentina's glacier capital.
Featured photo by Martin St-Amant
Photos by Sally Kay
Right after graduating from the University of Kansas’s school of Journalism Sally Kay hit the road and hasn’t looked back.Â She has explored Europe, Africa, South America and North America and has lived in Slovakia, Hungary and Argentina. She is currently traveling in South America. Her adventures are chronicled in her blog www.adventuressetravels.wordpress.com and her work has been featured on the travel websites Tango Diva and Tripeezy.
Argentina, glaciers, gauchos, matÃ© and more — I long to be there after reading this post. Love the photos, too.