A Travellerspoint blog

Argentina

Where in the World Are We?

semi-overcast 20 °C

It seems as if the whole world has been turned on its head. Where on earth could we be when the grass is green and the gardens are blooming with roses, hydrangeas and hollyhocks?
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Could we be in England? Maybe. There is certainly a very English teashop selling English pudding – known here as Budin...
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But then there are the lavenders, the roses and the excellent restaurants offering such French delicacies as jugged hare and lamb's sweetbreads – maybe we are in Picardy or Provence...
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But there again there are the many log cabins and A-frame houses just like those of rural Canada...
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And then there's the weather. The warm sunny days stretch late into the evening and we imagine ourselves strolling alongside an alpine lake in Northern Italy as we stop for an ice-cream at a gelataria. Could this be Lake Lugano or Lake Como in July?...
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And the wood-fired pizzas are as good as any we've ever enjoyed in Tuscany...
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The small city of El Calafate may be in southern Patagonia but almost nothing here is particularly unusual to us - in fact it is all very familiar. The 'world' has come to this remote valley at the bottom of the Andes in recent times to witness one of nature's wonders and has brought with it all the trappings of international tourism: German bakeries, French restaurants, Italian pizzarias, and shop after shop filled with tourist trinkets and expensive jewelry on a main street that could be almost anywhere.

Patagonia has been a total surprise to us - maybe we are light-headed from walking around upside down – but anyone expecting wild, rustic and bracing could be disappointed. There's nothing here to frighten the horses: and there are horses. (and sheep and cattle), but no sign of llamas, guanacas or any other wildlife. But then there is the glacier...
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This is Perito Moreno – this is what El Calafate is all about...
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The glacier of Perito Moreno straddles the border between Chile and Argentina and is nearly twenty miles long. The face of the glacier is 250 feet high and is a Youtube star because of the spectacular way that huge chunks regularly break off and crash into the lake...
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The Perito Moreno has to be seen to be believed. Photos simply cannot convey the enormity of this glacier or the power of nature that drives this gigantic river of ice. Unlike most of the world's glaciers, Perito Moreno is not significantly receding at present, but who knows what will happen in the future. This is one for the bucket list.
Now our week in Patagonia is at an end and we are heading back to summer and sophistication in Buenos Aires.

Posted by Hawkson 04:28 Archived in Argentina Comments (4)

The Lighthouse at the End of the World...

sunny 20 °C

As the Andean mountains sink slowly into the Southern Ocean at the toe of Argentina our trip to the end of the world has come to an end. For the next 5 weeks our journey will be all uphill as we wend our way home through Argentina, Uraguay, Brazil and Cuba. But we didn't come all this way just to get our photo taken in the most southerly city in the world...
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We came to see the penguins of Antarctica...
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This gentu penguin was looking a little lost and perplexed when we spotted him on an island beach in the Beagle Channel which separates Chile and Argentina. But more of the penguins later. First a quick look at the city of Ushuaia – a city that today is booming beause of the number of ships ferrying passengers across the 1,000 kilometres stretch of ocean to the nearest point of Antarctica. We chose not to take a cruise but found ourselves surrounded by coach loads of cruise passengers at every turn when we visited the Tierra del Fuego National park.
Fortunately we managed to get some quiet time and some great views of the lakes and snow covered peaks...
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Our next stop took us by small boat to visit the sea-lions and the cormorant colonies on various islands...
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You might be forgiven for thinking these cormorants are penguins – but this lot can fly - as can the numerous seabirds that we saw on our trip including thousands of gulls, geese and ibis...
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And then we came to the lighthouse at the end of the world...
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But back to our lone penguin. Maybe he was perplexed by the sun and the 20 degree weather because, like us, he was expecting it to be chilly and rainy. The Patagonian archipelago of Tierra del Fuego is the closest land to Antarctica and it has a reputation for some of the foulest weather in the world. The sea temperature never rises above 8 degrees and the westerly winds of the Southern Ocean circumnavigate the globe uninterrupted for 12,000 miles. The constant wind whips up waves more than 120 feet high and rounding Cape Horn is one of the most dangerous undertakings for ships of any size. Thousands of vessels have foundered off the coast here over the centuries. But not today. With a warm breeze and blue skies we got to enjoy the sight of thousands of penguins at close quarters. These are Magellanic penguins...
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Some were incredibly curious and totally unafraid...
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However, this handsome big guy was the star of the show and he knew it...
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This king penguin had strayed from his colony on South Georgia Island and was taking a breather along with his smaller cousins on Martillo Island...

So, that was our day with the penguins. We have now flown north to El Calafate. No penguins here just lots of ice.

Posted by Hawkson 12:14 Archived in Argentina Comments (4)

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