What are the odds?

An Asian woman entered the trail to Laguna Torre before us (Paolo, Domenico and I) and always maintained about 15 meters of distance from us.

Stephanie - in front of us


Her steps were slow and steady.

For about an hour, we couldn’t pass her.

At the first lookout point, we all met. The Asian woman’s name was Stephanie.

Since she was alone, we invited her to join us for the trek.

On the way, we shared stories, supported each other and walked the rest of the trail together.

Stephanie and I chatting away during the trek


Paolo: “In Italy, when you put two women together, we have a market.”

Paolo constantly complained about how Stephanie and I destroyed the silence in the nature.

Anyway, Stephanie and I hung out in El Chalten and even shared our Fanta moment after the strenuous Laguna Torre trek (for hours, we fantasized about how much happiness would a bottle of cold Fanta bring to us).

El Chalten Fanta moment



Later we found out we were on the same bus to El Calafate.

There were three buses going to El Calafate every day.

We took out our tickets to compare the date/time.

Not only were we on the same bus …

Paolo: “Same day?”

Me: “Obviously! How can we be on the same bus if on different day?”

… our pre-assigned seats were next to each other!!!

We bought our tickets in El Calafate before we even met.

Bus tickets to El Chalten - sitting next to each other!


What are the odds? :)

Stephanie even had the same Lowepro Passport Sling that I have. Amazing!

Perito Moreno Glacier Trekking, Argentina

The sight of 3 miles wide, with an average height of 240 feet blue tinted glacier is something that I’ll never forget. Perito Moreno Glacier is located in the Los Glaciares National Park, south west of Argentina.

Perito Moreno glacier front wall (Los Glacier National Park)

I booked a mini-trekking tour with Hielo Aventura and enjoyed it thoroughly. I highly recommend this tour.

You can book the tour in El Calafate either with local tourist agencies or with Hielo Aventura directly. I would suggest booking two days in advance because the tour might sell out. Check weather forecast first before you book the tour.

The tour includes ride to Los Glacier Park to enjoy the breathtaking view of Perito Moreno glacier front wall, then a boat ride to see glacier’s south face. Lastly, you’ll be taken to do a two-hour trekking on ice.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that is growing. With this constant shifting of ice, the glacier guides have to scout out a new route every morning for the day’s tours.

Before mini-trekking


Crampons in the wind


The trek was fun and not very physical demanding. It could be more challenging if the weather is windy and cold. But I was blessed with clear blue sky and very little wind.

I wore a medium-weight long sleeve tee, windbreaker jacket & waterproof pants, silk thermal pants, sunglasses (absolute must), hiking boots, hat and gloves (they provide gloves) and I felt warm at one point. Remember though, it was an unusual sunny day in January.

The main purpose of wearing gloves is not for keeping hands warm but to protect them from getting cut by sharp ice.

The water from the stream on the glacier is drinkable. I tried and the water tasted clean and super fresh. You can fill up a bottle and take with you.

We finished the tour with a bang – drinking Irish Whiskey mixed with glacier ice! :) Now, that’s a drink that you don’t get in any bars.

With cravasses and streams on the glacier, we were told not to take pictures while walking. But I couldn’t help “risking” my life… :P

Removing my right glove, turning on camera, taking 3 seconds footage, then storing the camera away in my pocket, and putting the glove back on, … repeat …

Here’s the video I made. Enjoy.

Note: If you sign up for mini-trekking, DO NOT sign up for a separate boat ride to see two or three glaciers. You’ll see enough glacier during mini-trekking.

The boat trip was seven hours of boring moments. Yes, I took tons of pictures, chatted with people, meditated, napped on open deck, had sandwiches, read the (only) book I brought with me, … still had six more hours to kill. VIP area (+125 more pesos) was just another smaller confined area with unlimited drinks. No, thank you!

If you are going with a group of friends or family, it might be more fun, but I was alone.

There’s only one company in town that offers the boat rides. Think twice before you sign up if you are traveling solo!

Some photos:


More about glaciers:
1. Why are there glaciers?
Glaciers form where more snow falls than melts over a period of years, compacts into ice, and becomes thick enough to begin to move. That is, a snow patch becomes a glacier when the deepest layers begin to deform due to the weight of the overlying snow and ice.

2. Why are glaciers blue?
Because the red (long wavelengths) part of white light is absorbed by ice and the blue (short wavelengths) light is transmitted and scattered. The longer the path light travels in ice, the more blue it appears.

2.1 So… why is snow white?

Light does not penetrate into snow very far before being scattered back to the viewer. However, the next time you are in an igloo, notice that it is blue inside. You can also poke a stick into some snow, shade the area around the hole, and look deep into the snowpack. The light that has traveled some distance through the snow will be enhanced in blue.

3. Is glacier ice colder than regular ice?
No – indeed, all of the physical, thermal and electrical properties of “regular icebox ice” and glacier ice are identical: density, viscosity, heat of fusion, latent heat, heat capacity, dielectric constant, thermal conductivity, absorption, emissivity, etc. The few small differences in characteristics are solely due to grain size differences (see 3.1). NOTE: High pressure forms of ice with different properties have been produced in laboratory experiments, but none occur naturally on earth, not even at the base of the Antarctic or Greenland ice sheets.

3.1. But doesn’t glacier ice last longer in drinks!!!???
Yes – a little, but only because the ice crystals are larger. Crystals melt from the outside and large crystals expose less surface area per unit volume of ice; therefore, ice with larger crystals melts more slowly.

(Source:http://ak.water.usgs.gov/glaciology/FAQ.htm)

Godfather of All Falls – Devil’s Throat

Steve had a magic bag.

“Do you want an apple?” Steve pulled out two apples from his bag.

“No, thanks. That’s sweet of you.” I knew he needed a snack, but that was nice of him to even ask.

Lunch time. There weren’t many choices in the park.

“Do you want to share some sandwiches?” Steve pulled out a few sandwiches from his magic bag. “I made them last night.”

“Wow. They look delicious!” Even though I felt shy to take anything that Steve offered because he had been carrying them (hardwork), but I thought perhaps I should help him to lighten his bag. He insisted that he “made” too many sandwiches anyway. :) I gladly accepted one sandwich and savored each bite. I was hungry!

Good thing that we ate our lunch while queuing up at the train station to Devil’s Throat. Most people were having lunch somewhere so the line was short.

I was craving for a glass of frappe, but the price was 28 pesos. I refused to pay so much for a glass of mostly ice water!

The train ride went through jungle to reach the Upper Circuit and it felt like a Disney Land ride. It was hot and I was a little tired from the morning walk, so I almost felt asleep during the ride.

Train ride to Devil's Throat trail. Boring ...

The walk to Devil’s Throat was nothing to write home about.

The whole day, I had been noticing Argentineans liked to carry a big bottle of thermal and a mate cup with them. For me, that was the ultimate test on their love for mate. Come on, hiking up and down the hills, and they chose to carry the heavy thermal bottle in their hands? Some even were sipping the mate while hiking.

And the Argentineans brought the whole family along with them on the waterfall outing. The kids were tough. They hiked with the family, no drama.

As I was walking the boring walk (1km long trail) towards the Devil’s Throat, I wasn’t expecting much. Having seeing waterfalls from all the viewpoints, I thought I have seen them all.

The water was calm even just 50 meters before the Devil’s Throat.

Then, suddenly I saw a “hole” swallowing in the water. It’s better to show you a video in this case.


Impressive, no?

I woke up from the boredom, and raced towards the Devil’s Throat (the Godfather of all falls – highest and deepest). Again, a video is worth a thousand words. See for yourself.

That was definitely something worth seeing; one of the natural wonders.

How can something be so serene and yet so powerful at the same time?

Did you see the rainbow?

Definitely leave Devil’s Throat to the last. For me, that was the highlight of the whole trip. :)

Cataratas! Cataratas!

The cost of the boat ride to the waterfalls was 125 pesos. I bought my ticket at the hostel and received 10 pesos discount. I know 10 pesos (USD2.5) is not much, but I love discounts.

At the bottom of the Lower Circuit, Steve and I descended many steps to board our boat together with 18 other passengers. It was a large, orange rubber speedboat with powerful engine. There wasn’t any line at the “dock”. :) YEPPI!

We all were given a waterproof sack to protect our belongings. I removed my hiking boots and put on my sandals.

First, the speedboat took us around the waterfalls to warm us up. I felt like I was on a roller-coaster. I put my hands up, let the boat swing me left to right and right to left. There was no shortage of screaming, of course.

At one point, a 3-year old girl sitting in front of me shouted out exhilaratingly,”Cataratas! Cataratas!” (waterfalls).

Then, all the passengers felt the enthusiasm from that little girl and all started chanting, “CATARATAS! CATARATAS!”. I love the spirit of South Americans. They are fun, and always ready to have a good time. The chanting was powerful that I’ll remember it forever.

I thought of taking my camera out from the sack and recording the fun time, but was afraid that I might miss the moment. So, I decided to let it be. No photos, no videos; just immersed myself in the moment, completely.

The guide on the boat started putting on waterproof pants, and then a waterproof jacket. From the look of the gear, I was sure that we were going to get wet, really wet.

He warned us to put our cameras away now.

Drum roll…

The speedboat charged full speed toward the waterfalls. All passengers were so high, had our hands up, as if we were worshiping the cataratas.

Suddenly, a thick curtain of water hit my face; a wave of showers came down on me. I couldn’t open my eyes. I tried using my hands to block the water to no avail.

A few seconds later, we all burst into laughter.

That was the closet we could get near the waterfalls. We had a taste of its power.

“One more time! One more time!” We all shouted (in Spanish, of course.)

The speedboat took a turn and charged toward the waterfalls for a second run.

A huge splash of water slapped us once again. We were wet. Head to toes kind of wet. The most exciting kind of shower I’ve ever had.

HAHAHAHAHAHA.

The speedboat did make a third run into a different waterfall.

Big smiles on all the faces. This experience reminded me of my childhood, playing in the water. :)

I felt free. It was okay to let loose, and be silly.

Drenching wet after the boat ride. Big smiles. (Photo credit: Steve)

For this boat ride, I would suggest board short for guys and swim suit for the ladies. Or you can purchase a poncho. I personally enjoyed the refreshing shower from the waterfall. :)

After the boat ride, we took a ferry (included in the entrance fee) to San Martin Island. It’s a tiny island next to the waterfalls.

San Martin Island


Some locals people had brought lunch to have a picnic there.

I’m not really a beach person, so Steve and I opted to hike up the island.

Hmm… there were fleets of stone stairs. Very steep and endless.

After God knows how many steps, I started mumbling, “What’s up there? It better be worth it.”

I felt like I was climbing up a mountain to reach a temple. Will I be enlightened after this climb? I thought to myself.

My legs felt like giving up and I looked at Steve, he had a walk in the park kind of expression on his face. Of course, he was a marathon runner!

If not because of Steve, I would have said, “FXXX this. I’m going down.”

But lucky me picked a good traveling partner.

The view was out of this world

On top of San Martin Island, there were viewpoints that offered spectacular views of the waterfalls.

The panorama of falls extends for nearly a 140 degree viewing angle! I didn’t bring my SLR wide angle camera. The heavy mist was almost like rain. I managed to take a short video. Enjoy.

The hike was well worth it. :)

Next: Highlight Of The Day: Devil’s Throat

Mighty Iguazu Falls

Thought 1: A friend at the hostel told me she spent 1000 pesos for a tour package to Iguazu National Park (excluding the entrance fee). No, you DO NOT need to buy a tour package. IGNP is manageable on your own. My total expense to IGNP was 235 pesos (bus, boat ride and entrance fee).

Thought 2: There is only a hotel built in the park, which is the Sheraton. It could cost up to USD400-500 per night. Personally I think a hotel in a national park is a gigantic eyesore.

===============

After breakfast at the hostel, Steve and I walked to the bus terminal. It was about 5 minutes walk. Steve had to catch a flight the same day to Buenos Aires, so he had to carry all his belongings with him to IGNP.

Got the bus tickets for 20 pesos roundtrip to IGNP. There’s bus service running every 20 minutes or so from Puerto Iguazu downtown to IGNP main gate.

Iguazu means “Big Waters”. To the world’s largest waterfalls, here we went!

At the park, the entrance ticket costed 100 pesos. 40 pesos for Argentineans. Some kids tried to jump the queqe to get the ticket, and Steve “politely” rejected them. :)

It wouldn’t be wise for Steve to carry a huge backpack with him in the park, so he left it at the locker before going in.

The weather was cloudy and cool. Lucky us. :) There was a chance of rain, but that was out of our control. Let’s not worry about that. :)

We stopped by a giant map and made a plan. Since Steve had to leave for airport around 430pm, we had to use our time efficiently.

Iguazu National Park Map

To avoid the crowd, we opted to hike to the Lower Circuit first. We wanted to save Devil’s Throat for the last.

The guide at the Visitor Center told us it would take us 3 hours to do the hike.

Coatis. Roaming around in the park.

Although there were lots of steps and stairs, I found the hike relatively easy. We stopped by each viewpoint to appreciate the falls. I would advise wearing hiking boots or at least a good pair of strapped sandals.

When I first heard the roaring of the waterfalls, I couldn’t help but shouted out, “Oh My God.”, and poor Steve get an ear-full of O.M.G. throughout this trip.

At one of the viewpoints.

There were many viewpoints and walkways which allow close view of the waterfalls.

Here’s a video taken from one of the viewpoints:

Close to the waterfalls, I felt like it was drizzling, but it wasn’t. It was the mist from the waterfalls.

Here’s a video of goofy me introducing the waterfalls.

Next post: Boat ride to the CATARATAS!