I know there is a God. I know that because this world is too beautiful to be chance. Patagonia was by my favorite port yet. The scenery, the group–all of it was perfect! We ported in Buenos Aires, but only had the morning to walk around. I was happy, though, because I am over the city landscape. We ate some Argentine meat (yum!) and dulce de leche con brownie helado (ice cream–double yum!) and hopped onto a 2 1/2 hour plane ride. I was actually excited to fly again; it was a change from sailing. :]
When we got there, it was dusk already, but our guide, Virginia, was there with a sign welcoming us! It immediately reminded me of what I assume Alaska looks like. The airport was 4 terminals and scenery to die for! I want to say it was decorated like a log cabin, but I can’t remember… Anyway, we checked into our cute hotel and went out for long awaited dinner. They eat no earlier than 10pm, so we were right in time! We got pizza (I was craving it hardcore) and an alcoholic hot chocolate… mmmm. We were followed by cute dogs all the way back to the hotel.
The next morning, I was surprised by Argentine breakfast: mini squares of sweets! Mind you, I promised myself if I watch what I eat on the ship, I can eat whatever I want to in port, in modified portions. But this was like waking up and being in a dream!!! After dessert for breakfast, I layered my clothing (5 thick) and went to the lobby to begin our adventure. At first, I was proud that I was the warmest dressed, but after 20 minutes in my clothes, I began taking them off, one layer at a time.
With a beautiful, scenic drive, we made it to Perito Moreno, a smaller version of Patagonia’s glaciers in El Calafate. It is one of the few glaciers that are actually growing in size! Boo yahh Global Warming! You may not take over our world yet!! After walking stunning catwalks along the mountain next to the glacier and having some great heart to heart chats with my friends, pausing every few minutes to breathe in the fresh air and take in the view of where we were, we hopped on a boat to see the south side of the glacier. It was cold and windy, but worth it! We were within 100 feet of the glacier. UNREAL!!!
The next day, we traveled to El Chalten, where we visited another glacier, El Viedma. Not only did we get to see another magnificent glacier we, wait for it, HIKED ON IT!!! It was soooo much fun! We put these things called “kramp-ons” on our feet and walked around like we were adventurers of Antarctica (except with less clothing.) We went over crevasses which were hundreds of feet deep and through caves full of brilliant blue from the fresh water melting. Oh, and did I mention we drank glacier water? Yep! Some people were disappointed we didn’t get to ice climb (exactly like the real rock climbing, but on ice) since it stated that earlier in the itinerary, but honestly, it made my heart beat faster and my hands become sweaty just thinking about the idea…
After a long day on the ice, we went to the cute town of El Chalten and I think I may have fell in love. It was such a cute small town; quaint in every way possible. I ordered a hot chocolate from our hotel’s lobby and drank it, soaking in the warmth of the drink and the view of the famous Fitz Roy mountain out the window. We went out for dinner in a loft at this authentic restaurant and tasted empanadas for the first time. We all fell in love. My friend and I made plans to go on an empanada crawl the next night for dinner. I will share that story later!
The next day was our most difficult day. We had 7 hours of straight hiking we were going to do. We were driven in vans to a starting point, 13 miles away from El Chalten, and informed on what the day was going to entail. We were hiking for 2 hours on rather easy terrain, and the next hour was going to be straight uphill to the top of a mountain to see a MAGNIFICENT view of the Tres Lagos and the Fitz Roy mountain (the mountain that is the trademark symbol for anything you might have made my the company Patagonia.) To prepare myself, I thought the worst. I was planning on being exhausted and needing someone to motivate me with their words to reach the top. My heart was beginning to beat faster with the adrenaline running through my veins.
The first 2 hours of hiking weren’t bad, but every uphill climb, I’d think, “man, this is going to be ten times worse when we do the hard hike.” Well, my thinking paid off. I thought the “hard” hike wasn’t so bad after all! Yes, I sweat, and yes, I was relieved when we reached the top, but I was willing to do it again! Needless to say, the view was more than worth it.
After the hard hike, we climbed down (which may have been harder than the climb up, actually) and headed back to El Chalten. It was wonderful: forest, wildlife, valleys, and mountains all around us for the whole hike, and our trail was rather flat. There was a chance to swim in the glacier water, which I would have LOVED to do, however I was held back for reasons I cannot explain to the whole audience, but I did stick my toes in. Some who went whole-body submersion in the water talked about how they couldn’t breathe for a few seconds after coming back up from underwater–it was that cold. When we finally reached the town, it was 6 o’clock and we were all STARVED! My friend and I did do the empanada crawl, after getting yummy ice cream again (hey, it was on the way back to all the restaurants.) So when we ordered our first 3 empanadas at the first restaurant, we decided our crawl was done. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. Instead, we went back to the hotel where some of our group were playing cards. We played a game called “mow” which is REALLY fun!! And I’ll teach whoever wants to learn when I return. It’s frustrating, but fun. Our Dean of Students, Dean Eddie, even played with us. He was our trip liaison and a huge part of why we had so much fun. He’s a great guy, and I really enjoyed getting to know him on a personal level. Tonight, for our logistical pre-port, he had a picture of us all and called us his “kids.” I almost began crying. That’s one really cool thing about SAS programs and SAS in general: you get to interact with your professors and administration outside of school. You really get to know them and get a feel for why this is such a unique program. The people who are offered positions to be faculty on each voyage are truly special people and deserve every chance to brag about it!
Leaving Patagonia, we were all wishing that our flight was going to be delayed for just one hour. We were going to be cutting it close with our arrival back to the ship, with “ship time” already being gone, and an hour delay would have meant we’d stay in Buenos Aires or go to Rio de Janeiro early–together in our groupie. Unfortunately, it was on time, and we made it back for a nice hot shower to watch us leave Argentina. A few things why I loved this port so much: 1.) the nature and scenery was STUNNING 2.) we got to hike a TON and I LOVE being active. I don’t feel so bad for eating so much delicious foods and 3.) last but not least, the people we had on our program. They were all gun-ho about anything; everything from hiking an hour longer or having our flight delayed just to spend more time together, There was a student who ended up missing his early flight and not being able to get on a plane and make the ship. The way we all handled it: giving him an Ipad to stay in contact, giving him clothing to stay warm, and making sure he had a plan was unbelievable. It goes to show how this program knits a community of complete strangers unlike anything else in a single semester.
5 Senses of Argentina:
Sight – Mountains
Smell Fresh Air
Taste – Hot Chocolate
Touch – Glass-like Ice of the Glaciers
Sound – Wind whipping through other people’s hair and passing by my lack thereof!
A few things also that have happened on the ship the short time between Buenos Aires and Rio: 1.) I bruised my toe playing 3 on 3 basketball which was REALLY FUN and I was happy to see I still have my competitive edge in my bones. :] 2.) My friends and I finished our parody of the final scene in “Pitch Perfect” for the film festival. It’s so good, I want to cry. 3.) They FINALLY announced that WE ARE GOING TO THE BAHAMAS!!! At logistical pre-port, they finally spilled the news and we all screamed, clapped, and smiled the rest of the night. 4.) ISE President, Les McCabe spoke and inspired me to call myself a leader. He had sooo much good to say, and I could have listened to him speak for hours without growing weary.
I think that’s enough writing for now. Until next time,