Americas

Patagonia: Going to the End of the World and Back

While I can’t say that I have been to Ushuaia, the southern-most town in South America that is famous for its last point lighthouse and serves a jumping off point for excursions to Antarctica, I have been pretty close. Two weeks ago, I went with a friend to El Calafate and El Chalten, two towns in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz.

In addition to the fall colors, the restaurants, boutiques, tourism companies and Chocolate stores gave Calafate a small town appeal. Since Patagonia is known for its chocolate, we quickly identified the best chocolateria in town: Ovejitos de la Patagonia.  They had delicious chocolate truffles including one called the Calafate, because the town’s name comes from a local berry similar to a blueberry.

While the town of El Calafate surrounded by hills and a lake, it was about an hour ride from the town to its main attraction: the glacier Perito Moreno.  Named after the Argentine explorer, Francisco Moreno, the glacier is larger in square meters than the city of Buenos Aires. And let me tell you after two and a half months of running around Buenos Aires, it is a huge city.

My first glimpse of the glacier was from a viewpoint on the road leading up to the South face. By the time we got out of the bus, it was surreal to finally be there after so much planning. We did a full-day tour known as “Mini-Trekking” where we went on boat ride in front of the glacier, and then got to hike on the glacier itself.

Before our hike, the mountain guides strapped contraptions with metal teeth to prevent slippage on our shoes and off we went. Walking along one small corner of the glacier, I began to appreciate the enormity of Perito Moreno. On our trek, the guides told us about the glacier, I realized that my Geology 102 science requirement was actually coming in handy—I even remembered a couple of the terms from our unit on glaciology.

One of the most striking vistas on our hike was the dichotomy of the massive ice compared to the rolling hills surrounding it—that were filled trees fall colors. After our trek, we took a second boat ride back to go see the “Walkways.” The walkways provide views and paths on a nearby hill with panoramic views of the glacier on both the North and South Faces. Some how even after looking at the glacier all day, at the end of our day, it was even more incredible than when we first got there.

So I may not have been to the end of the world and back, but I have been to El Calafate, and boy would I like to go back!


mkaplan
Melanie is a notorious swimmer and beach bum from Southern California who began a life of travel at the age of 12 after visiting Australia and New Zealand through an ambassador program. Since then, she has been to eleven more countries throughout Europe and the Americas. Each experience has taught her something new, but her next adventure will be the most exciting yet: spending the second semester of her junior year of college in Argentina where she can practice her Spanish and immerse myself in another culture, and, better yet, avoid the dreaded question, “What do you plan to do after you graduate?” Hopefully, she’ll figure that one out on the plane!

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