A Glacier and a Rest

Call me a pansy but after weeks of hitchhiking, camping and many damp days in lush green Chile I was hankering for some cosy R&R by the time I reached El Calafate.

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My little pop-up dwelling on the banks of Lago Rivadavia

Emotional Digestion

The introvert in me yearned for a warm quiet room with blankets, hot tea and a window from which to gaze. To daydream, …reflect, …read. A term I’ve coined is emotional digestion.

For me, travelling longer term is only possible when I heed the call of this restorative time. Dashing from one place to another –sin una pausa- is my idea of hell.

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Glacier Perito Moreno, looking like a dead ringer for a wedge of polystyrene

A Glacier puts TIME into perspective

However, I met lovely people as soon as I arrived. The next day the sun shone brightly and an invitation was there to join Lalo, Fernando and Stingy Nomads Alya and Campbell and see the anticipated Perito Moreno glacier.

Together we made a pilgrimage to this icy landscape in the mountains 80 kms north of El Calafate.

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Here’s a sense of where El Calafate is in relation to the rest of the country

Who was Perito Moreno anyway?

Francisco ‘Perito’ Moreno was an Argentine explorer and scientist of the Patagonian landscape. Perito means ‘specialist’ or ‘expert’. This beast of a glacier, named in his honour is one of only three glaciers in Patagonia that is not retreating.

Perito Moreno

Francisco ‘Perito’ Moreno (1852-1919)

Forever in flux this startling entity creaks, gushes and sheds ice but grows slowly too. Wooden terraces on one side allow you to see the glacier from above or lower down near laguna level where it attaches to the earth on the shore.

I found a quiet place to sit and begin my comprehension of this Thing yearning for the company of a geologist to make it all: Make Sense!

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Vital Statistics

The glacier measures 3 miles (5 km) wide and 19 miles (30km) in length. It covers 97 mi² (250 km²).

The ice measures 60 m high on average although at it’s greatest it reaches 700 m. Apparently only 10% is visible with the remaining 90% bobbing away under all of that turquoise water.

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“Glacier Perito Moreno is one of 48 glaciers that comprise the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. With an area of 6,800 mi² (16,800 km²) it is the second largest contiguous ice field in the world, stretching across the southern Andes, measuring almost 220 miles (355 km) long and 30 miles (48 km) wide. Along with the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, these present day ice fields are remnants of the last Ice Age (18,000-17,500 years ago), when all of southern Chile and Argentina was covered in a thick sheet of ice (an area estimated to be about 480,000 km² or just under 300,000 mi²)” (Source here)

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A quick sketch in my notebook trying to make sense of time and how a glacier slowly comes into existence

My Understanding

Over thousands of years the glacier has grown through accumulation, rather like an icicle. Falling rain and snow in the valley between two mountain peaks land, freeze and compress in conditions that are continuously cold. As a result, according to the Guarda Parque, all of this compacted ice slowly grows into being the awesome ever-changing glacial mass that it is today.

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A Glacial Guru

The invitation to sit and muse over these huge stretches of time came at a perfect moment. There before me was a gargantuan metaphor offering a lesson of life in the slow lane. It’s not the first time I’ve looked to the landscape around me for life coaching. My guru.

A memory was also sparked back to the wise words of young Sam, a tall tanned Californian and hitchhiking buddy on the roadside of Villa Castillo, Chile.

“The rush…?

…we’re only rushing against ourselves”

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Orientation in Villa Castillo, Chile

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Camionettas and combis turned Cocina cafe for hungry hitchhikers in Villa Castillo, Chile

Such simple words and I decided he was right. I understood for a short while that this sense of speed was illusory and addictive. The choice is always there to step-off that imaginary hamster wheel and reset your metronome to your own pace.

Well, that was what I planned to do anyway.

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