I love the almost-naughty thrill of seeing something the hordes of tourists don’t see. It’s the reason I’m a ‘take the scary-as-hell craggy cliff face’ instead of the ‘obey the clearly marked stairs’ kinda woman. It’s that discovery high that had me pack a backpack for a solo round the world trip. And it’s that thrill that has me now, sitting in pitch black darkness and bitter cold with a truly gigantic, heaving, electric blue natural wonder in front of me, spanning as far as the eyes can see. I’m so into this thrill I could explode.
Let me back-track a bit.
Argentina is the first country in my itinerary. After three days in Buenos Aires, a boozy stint through Mendoza wine country, and some ‘I can’t believe it’s not Scandinavia’ fun in Bariloche, I jet south to El Calafate, a stone’s throw from the South Pole. El Calafate is a place of alpine worn flatness, vivid purple wildflowers, bleached grasses, motley crews of street dogs, mouth watering asado (BBQ) in restaurants and surprise! Flamingoes in the lake!
El Calafate’s crowning jewel is the Perito Moreno Glacier. It’s a spectacular site, 60km wide, 1km tall, and constantly advancing onto the land. With all that weight and force behind it, chunks of ice as big as 10 story buildings, crack with almighty ‘booms‘ from the glacier every few minutes.
I jumped on the tour bus during the day to visit it with the masses. While it’s truly magnificent and crumbles like it’s alive, I couldn’t help notice a couple of problems.
Clearly marked stairs.
A photography platform.
This feeling stays with me until late that night, when I’m in a bottle shop spying a bottle of strawberry schnapps (because why not?) and meet a taxi driver. He’s on night shift in this sleepy town. I can’t imagine he’s too busy…
In my best ‘kangaroo’ Spanish I ask “So, can people see the glacier at night?”
“Si, por supuesto” (Yes, of course)
“Do many people actually go there at night?”
“Well then, let’s go!”
And we’re off in the car. Thrill meter rising.
We drive through the alpine wilderness and arrive at Perito Moreno. The light from the full moon cuts right through the ice, sending all 60kms of it into a surreal neon glow. We clamber over rocks as far as we can go, away from the carpark and into untouched terrain. We sit down, noses and cheeks being bitten by the frost. We warm our throats sipping schnapps and take in the grandeur of the icy ancient beast in silence as the glacier cracks like thunder. We cheer to ending up here.