On March 5th 1976 I was at Calafate in southern Argentina.
The day before I was up at 5am to catch the bus from Rio Gallegos and slept most of the way until Esperanza and the breakfast stop. There was not much to see but endless sheep-grazing. For a long way we gradually rose through a wide valley. In the middle a man in poor clothes carrying a bag got off the bus; there was nothing in any direction I could see, sheep, rabbits, geese, some courser-type birds - I could not imagine where he was going. Then we went into a snowstorm and a snow-covered road and great excitement from some tourists who had not seen snow before.
At Calafate the next day I took a taxi out to the Perito Moreno Glacier, famous as a glacier which was still expanding. We drove fast through bleak, dusty Patagonia with no trees until we reached the park boundary. By the side of Lago Argentino it became pretty, trees green and spread out, some streams crossed by wooden slot planks. There was a huge piece of blue ice floating on the water. At the glacier I went down to the water edge, listening to the creaks and rumbles. One great convulsion led to the calving of a number of icebergs like the one I had seen earlier. I walked over the edge of the peninsula to the other side and sat a while just admiring and even touched the huge creaking mass of ice. On the way back in the taxi we passed Punta Bandera and I saw a whole flock of black-necked swans on a pool and one solitary flamingo.
The following day I walked down to the bay in search of flamingoes and watched a handful for a while. Then I walked to the far end of the bay in the brisk wind and saw a larger flock of a hundred or more flamingoes and a distant flock of swans. There were thousands of ducks, plovers and hawks, and a sheep stuck in the mud.
I left by the plane from the gravel airstrip. We flew past Lake Viedma and then banked sharply round the sheer face of a huge mountain, which I took to be Mount Fitzroy, the most famous of these Patagonian mountains.
|Perito Morena Glacier, 2007: Picture by Matt Riggott, CC|
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