Not yet because today was the Big Finale. When Nicole assured us that the Big Finale was coming, I think all of us thought, “What else could there possibly be?” I mean, we’ve explored the archaeological sites at Easter Island. We’ve eaten lamb barbecue at a horse ranch in Argentina. We’ve hiked Torres del Paine in the wind and the rain. What else can you bring us?
So we got up early that morning, the hotel very cozy as it was a former estancia, and got on the bus just as the sun was rising.
Breakfast included vistas of the sheep grazing out behind the hotel, and a horse, with a lead attached, just wandering by, doing his horse thing. It made me wonder if the Universe was telling me I should go hang out with the horse and redeem my experience from the riding outside of Bariloche. But I didn’t. The sun was rising, and we had things to do. It finally felt like Autumn was on its way. The air was crisp, but not cold.
We stopped to take a look at the sunrise over Lago Argentino (the lake so named, they told us, to remind the gauchos of El Calafate that they lived in Argentina, and don’t forget it).
Then we continued on to Los Glaciares Nacional Parque. Many winding roads, and we stopped a few times to get a look at the star of the park: Perito Moreno Glacier.
A little geography for you now: Perito Glacier is about 48 miles from El Calafate. The glacier itself is 19 miles long.
I’m going to repeat that: the glacier itself is 19 miles long.
It is fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which attaches behind it. The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is a third of the world’s fresh water, all froze up, and fun fact! The border is still disputed between Argentina and Chile.
Perito Moreno Glacier is 97 square miles of ice. That’s a big ice cube.
The park is very well organized, with walkways all around the opposite land mass, so you can get some spectacular views. We happened to be on a viewing platform when we heard and then saw a calving. For those of you who are not glacier savvy, a calving is when a chunk of the ice falls away from the main glacier.
The chunk we saw didn’t seem very big, but we were assured that it was about the size of a five-story building.
After hiking all around, we got on a boat, and cruised out up close. There was an upper deck to view everything from, and sure enough, when the boat turned around, all that were left were the Minnesotans, one New Englander, and this former Alaskan. Cold? What cold? Who cares about cold at a time like this?
After we were back ashore, we went to another overlook, and took a group picture. It was a good backdrop for this portion of the trip. Sure enough, there was a fox who was hanging out in the parking lot of the overlook. He didn’t seem too happy to see us, but he certainly wasn’t leaving. There was construction happening not too far away, and our local guide surmised that the workers were probably feeding him scraps from their lunches.
We headed back to El Calafate and to the hotel. We had plenty of time to explore again, so Mary Joy and I set out on the town. We wandered through the artisan shops on the side of the street I hadn’t been in, and then down the lanes of the side I already had explored.
We ended up getting a drink at a Biblio-Bar, which had literary quotes (all in Spanish, which was too bad for me) on almost every surface imaginable. For instance, guitar hung on the wall for decoration? Quote there too.
I had a local beer, and Mary Joy had a Malbec, and we chatted. I told her the plot of another one of my novels. We deconstructed some of our trip experiences. We talked about women’s rights and the Supreme Court (you think me and Mary Joy can hang out and NOT talk about those things? Impossible.).
We then headed to dinner at a highly recommended restaurant, La Tablita, which, if you look on TripAdvisor, someone said it has the best steak in the world. We met up with Linda and Leonard, Julia and Paul, and Patty and Arthur for our reservation.
Once again, ordering was a comedy of errors. The waiter probably spoke more English than I spoke Spanish, but darn it, if I didn’t stubbornly wade through my terrible, broken Spanish, as it seemed he took it as a sign of respect. To be fair, once again, even if we ALL spoke the same language perfectly, this would have been a very confusing order. Much of the confusion stems from ordering water.
As those of you who do quite a bit of international traveling may know, the rest of the world offers bottled water, and that bottled water can be fizzy, or it can be flat. So when travelers forget that “con” means with, and “sin” means without, and then say the opposite in English for clarification, things get hairy.
But we got our orders in, and as per usual, there was wayyyyyyy too much food. Mary Joy and I split an avocado salad, which felt like the best thing in the world after 19 days of meat, meat, and more meat. I then had homemade pesto gnocchi, which I do not regret at all. There was so much food on that table that everyone shared. Patty shared her platter of barbecued meats, as did Linda. Patty, Mary Joy, and I shared a bottle of Malbec. Hooray for traveling when the exchange rate is in our favor!
Yet another night where we all were clinking our wine glasses, despite the many ordeals of ordering. And once again, there we were, stuffed, toes tingling, walking back to the hotel on a pretty night, full of Southern stars. It was our last night in the Patagonian frontier.