The Beginning: El Calafate

We made it to South America!

Packing for a 4 month trip is bit of an endeavor. As our living room slowly piled up with more and more things we quickly realized this was going to be quite an expedition. 5 ropes, a triple rack, and 25lbs of energy bars later, we had consolidated everything into four 50lbs bags, two carry-ons, and one personal item. Nice. Andy’s dad was kind enough to drive us up to Vancouver where we caught a flight to Toronto. The Canadian airline was being rather Canadian and we sat on the tarmac for 2 hrs waiting for a connecting flight that was late so they wouldn’t miss their flight to South America. Unfortunately, that meant that we missed our connection with a smaller flight in Patagonia. Bummer.

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Yes, we brought all that stuff. Well, not the bikes or the couch. We did find space for the Andy!

Saddled with over 200lbs of baggage we staggered our way into Santiago and spent the night in Santiago. We visited Casa de Boulder, the bouldering gym in Santiago and had a really good time. Dinner was, of course, wine and empanadas on a rooftop bar.

The next morning we finally made it to Punta Arenas where we met up for Ford, his brother Casey,  and his trusty 4runner Cielita Linda!  Cielita Linda and Ford have driven from Atlanta, GA all the way to Ushuaia over the past 2 years.  While Ford may be finishing up an incredible journey Cielita Linda will drive on and hopefully have many more adventures with us!  When we arrive in Ushuaia we’ll pick up Cielito, and drive back up North. Woohoo!

Andy and I bid farewell to Ford & Casey who were off on a camping trip and bussed our way to Puerto Natales. We kicked it there for a couple of nights (mostly bc all of the buses were completely sold out to Calafate – who knew??) before finally catching a bus to El Calafate on Tuesday. We settled in to our hotel and had a night to revisit some old favorites in Calafate and frequent some new ones (por ejemplo: La Zorra is a new microbrewery in town).

The next day we were up early for a two day excursion to the beautiful Estancia Cristina. Estancia Cristina is a homestead located 60km from El Calafate.  It’s accessible only by boat. We drove 45 minutes out of Calafate to arrive at the port where we boarded the catamaran bound for Cristina. The sailing took 3 hours, cruising through the fjords and stopping inside the Upsala arm to gaze upon the Upsala glacier – one of the biggest and most active in the region- and sail close to icebergs the size of a large house.

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This is the best couple photo we have. 

We arrived at Cristina in the late morning and were immediately whisked off to the octagon for a tasty lunch. A VERY tasty lunch. We also met Clementine and Herbert, two lovely Dutch travelers who were also spending the night at the estancia.

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This is Estancia Cristina. This is not our photo. 

After lunch we met up with our guide, Mauricio, who was awesome. We trekked to Los Perros waterfall with Clementine, Herbert, and Mauricio and then convinced Mauricio to do some adventure walking with us. We tromped around for 3 hrs, exploring boulders, wandering up different hilltops, finding dead cow carcasses, and bushwhacking through some thorns. It was great!  Dinner was as awesome as lunch and we had a fun evening around the fire with Clementine, Herbert, and a family of 3 from CT.

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Tromping around the property with all the pretty horses. 

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Andy and Mauricio checking out their kingdom 

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Exploring!

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Andy found a rock. Mauricio was nervous. 

The next day we took a 4×4 up to the Upsala Viewpoint. This is Cristina’s bread and butter and it’s awesome. You get a birds eye view of the expansive Upsala glacier and can see it extending into the horizon, seemingly into infinity.

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The Upsala Glacier viewpoint. Not our picture. 

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Our picture 

Our guide today was Charly, a friend of Maurico’s from Rosario. He was also great. From the viewpoint, you descend into the fossil canyon and take a 14km trail back to the estancia. This trail was, without a doubt, one of the coolest hikes Andy and I have ever done. Moonlike rockscapes start off the hike followed by a narrow gorge filled with rainbow hued rocks that are littered with fossils. It was awesome. We found so many cool fossils. 

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Fossil Canyon 

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Andy connecting the sedimentary dots

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Fossils!

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Squid party 

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Out of the canyon and into the valley of the Estancia 

We arrived back at the estancia in time to check out the museum and have a final espresso before boarding the catamaran to head back to El Calafate. It was a great two days and maybe someday Andy and I will head back to be the 4th party in history to climb Cerro Norte. 😊

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Cerro Norte! You don’t even want to know how many pictures we have of this mountain 

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Can’t separate an Argentine boat captain and their favorite drink of mate.

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A ranger for the National Park with the National Park. Yay!

We had planned to make a run to Chalten to climb a smaller spire over the weekend. Winds and temps weren’t perfect but it was definitely a window and you rarely get ideal conditions  in Patagonia anyway.  Unfortunately, Andy has been suffering from a badly torn calf (thanks a lot bouldering!) and could barely limp around Calafate let alone climb anything in Chalten.  In its stead we went on the Perito Moreno kayaking excursion which was awesome!! We lucked out big time with weather – low winds and sunny skies  –  and it was such a unique experience. Perito Moreno is not the biggest glacier in the area but it is accessible and quite active. The face of the glacier rises up to 70m up from the surface of the lake and it is one of a very few glaciers that are considered stable(not receding). The kayaking trip starts at the beach and you paddle towards the face of the glacier. You can paddle to within 600m (mas o menos) of the face. Patagonia does a great job of reminding you how very small you are in the world.

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Super small kayakers 

Our guides, Martin, Jorgey, and Carlos, were awesome. They were all great paddlers and we had a great time out on the water. We were outfitted in full dry suits and skirts (kokatat at that!) and were in doubles. Andy and I had never paddled in a double before and I’m pleased to say that our relationship survived the 2 hr trip! Just barely.

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Kayaking towards the glacier. We tried to touch it but our guides said no 

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Kayak party at the iceberg. BYOK(ayak)

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Still smiling and in sync!

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After the kayak you can wander around the walkways that look over to the Perito Moreno. Large chunks of ice are constantly calving off so basically it’s just hundreds of people on catwalks hoping and praying for destruction.  Andy and I put all our eggs in one basket – a tower of ice that was leaning way out and was sure to go soon! – but alas we were wrong and stared for over an hour at a very attached pillar of ice praying for destruction.

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One half of the Perito Moreno Glacier 

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Selfie game is not strong but getting stronger 

We went back to La Zorra for beers and ended up kicking it with some nice folks from Bend, OR. It’s pretty easy to meet people this time of year in Calafate and it’s always fun to hear what people have been up to and what’s up next.

For us, it’s Ushuaia. We arrive in Ushuaia on Monday and are staying for about a week. Stay tuned to hear what the end of the world is all about 😊

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