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Published: February 8th 2018
Motorcycles move to the head of the line. No-one said it, but we were all thinking it (Ron, Marty and I) as we entered Glaciers National Park (Argentina) and rolled past large designated look out points full of buses and minivans over the 20 km between the entrance and the final position closest to the glacier. Forget the gradual buildup. Hit the point that you most want to see first. Then go slowly back. It worked like a charm. Crowds were thin when we reached the small parking area by the cafeteria and the metal walkways leading down to the glacier. Elated, we parked and advanced on the prize.
What I had not realized is that visiting a glacier with men whose life's work is bound up in the dynamics of ice, water and rock, is a high level experience. Marty is a long time geologist, with further specialization in glaciers. Ron is a very experienced hydrology engineer. There is nothing about ice and rock these guys don't know. Canada has a lot of it. Under their tutelage, I came to understand the glacier as alive, never still, never the same, always moving. When you take the time to listen
and look, quietly, you begin to feel some of the awesome power and presence that reaches back thousands of years. Preserved in ice. Always changing in color and texture as the sun and clouds race over it. Quiet until there is a loud crack, and a splash, and a rumble as the ice moves over the rock, breaks off, and falls into the lake. Cathedral like spires and openings form on the front end of the glacier -- our view -- dark blue in the interior, bright white on the edge. The front end of the glacier advancing into the lake looks small, until you are told it is the height of a 21 story building.
The Argentine park service has built a network of metal walkways that allow one to view a wide section of the glacial front, at various altitudes. The glacier splits into two as it grinds into the spit of land one is standing on. So one sees three different sections: two faces into the lake, and a face coming onto the land. It took us a couple of hours to absorb it fully.
That afternoon back in El Calafate we split up for
dinner. I motored down to a small place on the lake, facing the wind and mountains to the west. Once I went inside I discovered that the owner was Uruguayan, serving a typical Uruguayan sandwich called a chivito. Eat one, and you don't eat again for a long time. He was a very nice guy, and an avid football (soccer) fan. His team, Rampla Juniors, was playing in Lima in a few days for the Copa CONMEBOL Sudamericana. We drank coffee and watched the other Cerro team play Liverpool on the Direct TV as I received a lesson in Uruguayan teams, and their origins and links to the barrios that they play in.
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