I laughed. I cried. I jumped around a lot. I smiled until my face hurt. In the face of the majestic Perito Moreno Glacier, I felt like a five-year-old little girl. And I revelled in it.
The glacier is in the aptly named Los Glaciares National Park, about 1.5 hours from El Calafate. As we got ready for our journey, our local guide for the day (Mercedes – like the car) told us that in Patagonia, a good day is a day with no wind. Today… no wind!! But, there were some clouds and that would make for better pictures than a sunny sky. Again, how lucky and blessed I am on this trip!
As you round the bend to get your first glimpse of the glacier, it is breathtaking. Our bus driver played “Here comes the sun” by the beatles and it was a joyful moment!
The glacier is one of the only ones in the world that is not receeding – it is in equilibrium and always moving. It is six km wide (north and south face), 60 m high and 35 km in length. So unbelievably impressive. That little dot in the centre of the photo below… that’s a boat!
We made our way down to the lake, and noticed that the original landing area was under water. The lake is currently rising about 5 cm a day because the glacier has moved to attach to a mountain, making a natural dam. Eventually, water flow underneath will make a little cave and erode the glacier, breaking off and allowing water to flow between the channel again.
In the meantime, it is now a north face and a south face (with the blockage almost like a little triangle). The boat ride to the north face really allows you to see how big the glacier is up close, including the blue tint to the glacier. You can also hear cracking and splashing from the pieces of the glacier that are falling off. It’s called calving, and everyone wants to see that. Sadly, we didn’t really see any calving on this boat ride.
The really special part of the day came when we drove to the look out to the south face of the glacier. I don’t think I truly comprehended its size or understood the north face was less than half the full size until I saw this side. Stunning!!
We ate lunch looking out over the south face of the glacier, and something blessed happened. We had been hearing and seeing calving on this side of the glacier, and were already wowed by the huge cracks of sound that reverberate and echo all through the valley. You can almost feel them. I took a moment to enjoy the sight with some wine!
As we were looking out at a splash of a calve, when our guide started pointing and shouting… we were watching a base calve – large pieces of ice coming up from under the glacier!! Mercedes told us in her 12 years as a guide, she has seen this only about 10 times. As I watched this sight, I am not ashamed to say I cried a little bit (with my travel mate Sue). It is just so phenomenal… words and images cannot describe it.
As I watched the iceberg take form and slowly float away from the glacier, I felt so so tiny. As I looked out across the ice field and the valley, I remembered a valley we passed on the journey to El Calafate. A huge valley that was once a glacier like this one, thousands and thousands of years ago. This glacier will eventually become just a valley as time passes – we are so small in comparison to our planet and our galaxy. Today is a day I will never ever forget.