Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sea Lions, Glaciers, Flamengos Oh My!

We´re still writing from El Calafate, but while I had the time I thought I´d record some thoughts and events...
We´ve been seeing all kinds of wildlife that I´ve never seen before. You´ve already heard about the penguins, but we haven´t had time to talk about the sea lions yet!!!!! Our last day in Puerto Madryn we rode 16 ish km to Punta Lomo where the main attraction is a sea lion colony. Unlike Punta Tombo, you can not walk among the sea lions. Its just as well though because you probably wouldn´t make it out alive. Those guys are huge!!!!
The bike ride itself was eventful. The views were amazing, the personal challenge of not giving up and walking my bike when the gravel and sand got deep was rewarding and the best part was when we came upon some wild horses hanging out in the middle of the road. They were so tame and just wanted food. They nibbled everything from my hand to my back pack to my bike. They got nothing edible from us but they let me pat their faces. They were so beautiful and magestic.
The entrance fee to Punta Lomo was a whopping 32 pesos, and after walking up a steep hill we came to the main attraction. An outcrop overlooks the shore and caves where the sea lions hang out, rest and play. This was the best time of year to come because the pups had been born a month before and they were the cutest!! They would bother the adults and get chased around, flop off rocks, or flop onto their mom´s backs for a free ride. Basically they did a lot of flopping. When they swam in they water they were beautiful and swam with such ease as compared to the rediculous flipper walk they do on land. There were lots of females and only two or three males. The males are MASSIVVVEE and it looked like they had mains like male lions. They were really sleepy (you would be too if you had just impregnated anywhere from two to twelve sea lions a few month ago) and just lay around like they were dead most of the time and then would randomly lift their heads, roar and then go back to sleep. The sea lions made crazy sounds that were like silly roars and they were accompanied by the cawing of the birds they share the shore with. It was really cool.
As Josh already said, the journy to El Calafate was helish but worth it. Our host, Agustine, is most gracios and wins mvp of the trip so far. He showed us a secret bridge into the reserve that you normally have to pay ten pesos to get into. Josh and I walked to the shore (by more horses) and hopped a fense to get a closer look at the flamengos that come from Chile every year. They are so pink!! And when they fly they are so beautiful. It seems their pinkest part is on their wings and hidden with they are sitting in the water. The wings are pink and black and they are amazingly graceful when they fly and amazingly silly when the walk around the water.
Today was one of the best days we´ve had so far. After waking up at 6:30 to catch the bus to Perito Moreno (there are some really amazing facts if you click that link) and after paying an even more whopping 75 pesos each!! to get into the park (extortionists!) we arrived at Perito Moreno, one of the worlds only glaciers that is still growing and advancing.
Our first view was from the top of the park and as we made our way down along the new man made metal and wood walkways we got to see it from every angle. When we arrived we were bundled to the max and as they sun came out we shead layers and it turned out to be a beautiful day (amazing because it rained all day in El Calafate).
I´ve been trying to think about how to describe the thing, but I think the pictures Josh took will have to do the talking. The most amazing thing was how blue the ice was, and how massive it was. It went on and on and on into the distance and up and up and up. One of the most entertaining aspects was when great chunks fell many stories and hit the water with a crash and a splash. Some big chunks had broken off and floated away and they were so blue I couldn´t believe it! It was magnificent. It was also amazing how much noise the glacier makes even when chunks aren´t falling off. Its like a living, breathing creature that does things very slowly or all at once and very loudly. It cracks and sighs and thunders.
Being around this amazing glacier in the midst of beautiful snow capped mountains gave me this amazing excited feeling that at once humbled yet enthralled me. It was truly an awesome sight to behold.
As far as the town of El Calafate goes it had exceeded my expectations. It´s geared completly toward tourism, but its beautiful and the people are extremely kind. Tonight we dine on lamb and then its into the wilderness of El Chalten and camping food for a while. Till the next time we have internet, cheers!

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