We built the suspense gradually when it comes to icebergs – first, we looked at them from behind the windows in the car, then we approached them directly, but not close enough to touch them, then we sailed right into their claws. Now, time has come for the ice trek so we can experience what real ice feels like with our feet (or rather crampons).
Wake up at 6 am. The alarm starts ringing out of the blue. I try to contain it quickly so that Kuba and Amelia are not woken up. A moment of unease, I listen if I made it and – phew – they’re still asleep. I can’t remember the last time I had to wake up so early. I put it in snooze mode for the next 15 minutes. They pass like 1 minute. I wake up, I need to wake up since I’m going for an ice trek to Perito Moreno iceberg at 7 am. Before that, I still need to feed Amelia and prepare her (and everything for her) for the whole day. The day before yesterday I left her with Kuba for 12 hours for the first time so I’m guessing this time she’ll be fine too. The preparations go quickly enough and I even manage to find some time to have tea before I leave. At 6.55 I hear a voice coming from behind the wall which means that somebody out there is hungry. Great timing. After 15 minutes I’m ready to go. A moment later, somebody knocks on the door. I open it and see the bus driver who will take me to the iceberg. Why me instead of Kuba? Unfortunately his leg contusion showed up again after his last trek and we had no choice. Fortunately :)
I get on the bus and see 3 more people. I give them a loud ‘Hola!’ but they respond feebly. Well, it’s still quite early. We circle around Calafate for a while so we can get the whole group. Overall there’s 17 of us including Italians, Americans, Canadians, Brazilians, Argentines and Australians. An interesting mix. All couples, only I’m alone. Well, Amelia is a tough little girl, but she’s still too small for an iceberg. I even asked about it, but there’s no way you’re taking a 9 month old child with you. Someone needs to stay with her at home.
I was wondering if I should take part in this trek in the first place. I mean, my physical condition is alright, maybe even better than the average, but I don’t practice any performance sports. When we arranged our trek, the guy said that a moderate trek is good for everybody, but this one requires some serious stamina. I also had to fill a form and confirm that I’m not suffering from any illnesses, don’t have any problems with my heart, blood circulation and joints. Well, maybe I’ll make it after all.
It’s still early, just a few minutes past 8 am. We stop for the first time, right next to Perito Moreno iceberg, about 80 km from Calafate. It took us a little bit more than an hour to get here. We have a few moments to see the iceberg from a few dozen metres distance. What’s funny is the fact that this iceberg is located pretty much by the road. Many companies offer boat trips towards it at the price of a few hundred zlotys. No use paying it when you can drive here with a car or a bus and walk towards it in like 5 minutes. (Do it, it’s worth it). You can walk onto the iceberg which is absolutely stunning. Once again, I feel like I have never seen a thing like it. What’s more, I have never heard anything like it. It’s the first iceberg we’ve seen which is alive and moves in front of our eyes. Unfortunately it cracks and loses parts of its body all the time. Patagonian icebergs are the fastest melting ones which makes you want to see them even more, imbibing the view so it stays in your head as long as possible. You can check out our photo galleryhere if you want to see more of it.
After a few minutes of admiration we continue on our road. Time to start the ice trek. We arrive at the boat which will take us to the iceberg. There’s much more people here than on our bus. After a few minutes we’re already at the shore and the guides divide us into English and Spanish speaking groups. I like challenges but I don’t go for the Spanish group this time. In a critical situation, I want to be sure to be understood and to understand others too. :)
Getting closer to the iceberg and ice trek…
Let’s start. First, we walk through the woods for an hour in order to get to the actual iceberg. We walk an easy track right next to Perito Moreno admiring its amazing shape and the thickness of the ice layer. We arrive at the checkpoint, put the crampons on our shoes and the harnesses on or hips. Then we split into smaller groups. Mine consists of 10 people and two trip supervisors who show a great sense of humour from the very beginning. After one girl asks them if it’s possible to die during an iceberg trek, they respond that yes, but it does not happen too often. After such preview, I already know that it’s going to be cool and funny. There’s 4 hours of ‘walking’ ahead of us, so we better do it in a company of people with a good sense of humour. But let’s put the funny side aside for a moment and stick to the iceberg trekking rules. You always have to walk behind the person in front of you (unless they say something different), always stick with the group and never take over the person in front of you.
The weather is good. Almost too good. A few days ago the temperature was just 5 degrees while today it’s 15 and the sun is shining strongly. Our group supervisors check the thickness of the ice layer from time to time before they set their feet on it. In many places, we can see water flashing beneath the ice layer beneath our feet. But then we get deeper into the iceberg where the ice layer is thicker. We stop by all the time to see some caves or have a longer look at gouges. The views are spectacular, same goes for the impressions. I’ll say it once again – most of the things about the icebergs is hard to explain in words. Huge icebergs, blue water. So blue that I guess I never seen such a shade of this colour anywhere in nature. It’s beautiful.
After more or less two hours it’s time for lunch. Where do you eat lunch on an iceberg? You sit down on a mat or backpack laid on the ice and take out your sandwiches or whatever else you have. We sat down by the ice lake you could see in the pictures below. Everything tastes better with such views around. We finally have some time to speak with other participants. All are around 30 years old. the girl from France is the funniest one. She makes her living singing and has been doing it in South America for the last 3 months. She’s already been to Brazil, Peru and Colombia. When I tell her I’m from Poland I suddenly hear a beautiful ‘cześć’ coming from a guy – a citizen of Luxembourg who learned it from Poles he met in El Chalten. At one point, the supervisors asks us if we want to try the water from the iceberg since it’s the healthiest water he ever had. I fill my bottle and indeed – it’s very cold and refreshing. No specific flavour, but it’s very good and quenches the thirst really well.
The way back
We start on our way back. Walking on the iceberg is pretty easy and you don’t need to be extraordinarily fit. So I wonder why did they scare me so much at the time I was making my decision whether to take the ice trek. Maybe they did it out of caution? As for caution, you have to pay attention all the time, and wear gloves at all occasions. I made a mistake unfortunately. I forgot to put them on, lost my balance and fell down on both of my hands. The supervisor approaches me immediately and asks how are my hands feeling. I look at them and it they seem alright. No scratches. He’s shocked since the iceberg is a dangerous enemy and even a touch may result in bleeding scratches. Usually when we approach an obstacle, and always when there’s a chasm or a wide crevice we need to walk around, the supervisors come and help, give us a hand and tell us what to do and how to move. Just listen to them and you will have lots of fun and feel safe.
It’s getting closer to 5 pm and it’s time to go back to Calafate. All is happening exactly the same as when we came here – first the boat, then the bus. I look at my trip companions – everybody’s sleeping – no more emotions, time to relax. I get home before 7 pm. Amelia looks more longing than the last time. One day I’ll tell her about it.
On days like these I’m positive that nature wins with everything that man has ever built. No human could have made such a thing. If you ever find yourselves around here, be sure to get there. Ice trek is absolutely fantastic!