Argentina week 3: Patagonia: the land of ice and fire

Winter is here!

I took the redeye flight down to Ushuaia, the southernmost city of the world! (there are several smaller towns farther south but with only a few thousand people). It is incredibly beautiful here, with impressive views in nearly every direction of pristine bays and snow capped mountains.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

The city is located in Tierra del Fuego, spanish for the land of fire. The name is a bit misleading, as it snowed on us a few times and you could hardly turn around without seeing a snowy mountain. The city had a bit of a ski resort town feel to it.

The first day we made it up to a glacial lake. Very scenic hike through several different climates. After crossing the river and walking through the forest we passed the tree line

As we neared the lake it started to snow. To any Israeli snow is always a welcome sight. The lake was quite stunning and we of course had to take a mate break under the glacier.

It’s cold!

After drinking mate under the glacier, we returned down the mountain. Unfortunately, the snow intensified and turned into rain as we descended. Not only did this drench us from head to toe, it also turned certain parts of the trail into near impassable sections of mud. If we had not taken walking sticks along the way, it is possible that we would still be there, haunting the frozen swamps of Tierra del Fuego. Fortunately, when we exited the park, a very nice lady took us in her car a few kilometers to the bus station.

The next day we left to go camping in the national park. We followed the coastal trail to the campsite. The scenery was breathtaking. We thought we saw penguins on an island, however we asked the park ranger and she told us that they were camarones.

Wanna-be penguins

While on a mate break, a hawk landed quite close to us. It allowed me to come within 10 meters without flying away.

The next day we trekked up a steep mountain, unfortunately we didn't have enough time to reach the top. The Vistas past the tree line were quite impressive.

Upon returning, we figured out why the hawks were so comfortable with humans. We arrived to a heavily traveled section of the park with several benches. Someone had just finished his sandwich and left. Two hawks flew in shortly after and began eating the bread crumbs he left behind. Suddenly, the hawks resembled a city pigeon more than a majestic bird of prey!

The next day I had a flight to El Calafate. I think this is the most isolated place I have been to so far in my trip. Before landing, there was not a single building or road in sight. As opposed to the forested seaside mountains of Tierra del Fuego, the climate here is high plains and rolling hills.

Unfortunately, I had not done too much research and did not realize that most of the activities offered here were quite expensive and far away. It cost about $60 usd for a bus and entrance to the main attraction, Perrito Moreno glacier. Exactly as I arrived a marathon was starting. I unknowingly photographed my roommate in the hostel!

Future Olympian Gaston Viñas, seen with the bright blue shoes in the middle of the leading pack.

Perrito Moreno is a very beautiful and active glacier. It can be heard calving every few minutes, and you will see it calve if you watch long enough. Interestingly enough, the largest calve I saw was from underwater.

We really should be taking better care of this planet…

I figured out the best thing I could do the next day was to rent a bike. Finally, a serious ride! The country road was very scenic, when there was no car approaching, there was complete serenity. As I returned, I was able to see some flamingos in the wildlife reserve adjacent to the town.

Falcons will let you get close, flamingos, not so much.

I have decided to add two new things to the blog. Hopefully I will be able to add them to each blog.

Spanish word of the week. A new word I have learned, preferably with some sort of significance on the week. 
This week's word: mascot (pet). Not only does this word suddenly bring clarity to sports team mascots, but I had a very loyal stray golden lab following me all morning before departing to the glacier. If only the driver allowed Growler on the bus!

Travel tip of the week. Preferably something that I learned this week, but as I am already in week 7 of my travels I may cheat a bit later on. 
This week's tip from the wonderful hostel staff: it is much cheaper and more convenient to load a few dollars on Skype for situations where you need to make international calls.

I'm off now to Chile to hike the W in Torres del Paines National Park. This will be the most intense trek of my trip so far. Crossing my fingers for good weather! Happy passover! 
חג פסח כשר ושמח!

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