“It never rains in Puerto Madryn”, that’s what they told me. The winds may be blaring, but the sky will rarely open up to deliver its drops of water. “In Buenos Aires they can get as much rain in one day as we get in a whole year”, they said. And then the sky opened, and water filled the streets and I was twenty minutes away from my hostel. Figured I might as well do a little bit of filming on the way.
We extended our thumbs towards the bus coming our way, almost jokingly. Of course the bus wouldn’t stop for us – even though we were two young girls all alone in the middle of nowhere. Buses don’t pick up hitchhikers.
“It’s stopping, it’s stopping” Antonella said ecstatically as the bus slowed down while passing us. It couldn’t be, could it? We had managed to catch a ride for free with a minibus with paying passengers earlier in the day, but twice in a day, could we really be that lucky? The bus came to a halt some ten meters in front of us and the question was answered. We looked at the bus, then at each other – both our faces split into big grins – before we picked up our small backpacks and ran laughingly towards it.
We were going hiking, that was the plan. The National park near the town of Chaitén was supposed to be gorgeous. The hikes beautiful. There was only one problem; we couldn’t do any day hikes there as there was only one bus a day to the park. We could go there, but we wouldn’t be able to return to the town on the same day. For multiday hikes we would need a tent, some sleeping bags wouldn’t be too bad either – but none of us had anything. Well, except for a tiny little gas stove, but gas stoves don’t really work well as shelters.
We could always – as the extremely helpful and cheerful guy (the cheerful part is also irony, just so you know) in the tourist information told us – just go and then go straight back again (wow, such a great idea, now why didn’t we think of that?), but that didn’t sound too tempting. So we decided to spend the day in town (not that we really had a choice, we barely got a ticket out of town for the next day).
“Are you guys going diving as well?” I asked the couple in the Scuba Duba diving shop in Puerto Madryn as we were given our wetsuits. I had seen them filling out the same form as me when they got in and figured they wouldn’t need to do that if they were just going snorkeling.
“Yes”, she answered and started to speak to me in Norwegian. The Norwegian startled me and I took a proper look at the couple in front of me. I knew these guys – I had met them in Puerto Natales after I finished the Torres del Paine trek – and I couldn’t for my bare life understand why I hadn’t recognized them straight away. Maybe it was because I was so thrilled to go diving again after almost a year – and not just any dive, but a dive with wild sea lions – that I didn’t really register anything around me. Or maybe it was because the dive shop was dimly lit, or because I wasn’t really suspecting to meet anyone I knew from down south in Patagonia in Puerto Madryn. But here they were, and we were going diving together. Life is full of surprises and coincidences.
I had two goals, and two goals only for Puerto Madryn. First; get rid of my cold, second; go diving (I didn’t want a repeat of the blocked ears I got last year when I scuba-dived with a slight cold in Thailand). Puerto Madryn turned out to be the perfect spot for just that – chilling out doing nothing that is (except for eating ice cream, laying on the beach or in the hostel’s hammock reading a book). The weather wasn’t too bad either.
We had been waiting for almost an hour when the golden morning rays first hit the mountains, making them literally glow. The Fitz Roy ranged looked almost surreal, rising above the little town of El Chaltén in its red and pinkish coats. It was beautiful and well worth the getting up early, walking for about an hour in the dark, and hiding behind a big rock to get away from the biting winds while waiting. I had hoped for the same color show at the towers in Torres del Paine, but there it never came, making this sunrise all the much better.
The first thing that hits you when you catch a glimpse of the Perito Moreno glacier is its size. Even though you can’t fathom how big it really is, as you have nothing to properly compare it with, you see that it’s huge, it’s gigantic. It’s stretching on endlessly into the horizon where it meets some peaked mountains. Then it is the sounds. The loud rumbling and cracking sound every time some pieces of ice breaks off and scrambles into the lake. The feeling of anticipation as you try to locate the place of the calving, maybe you’ll get to see a big one this time, and then the slight disappointment when you see some small pieces slide down the ice and then into the water; from the sounds you would have imagined it to be a lot bigger.
Then you start noticing the details. The textures. The play of colors, shades, cracks. The white and blue. The contrasts, and you realize that this glazier is great on every level. From the tiniest details, to the grandest scales.
I wait until there is no one else on the viewing deck – one placed at a dead end, and not one of the main ones, I think, hopefully not too many people will venture out here – before I start to put on my clown make-up. Two eastern European guys take forever, waiting for the “right ligt” for the look-at-me-in-front-of-this-huge-great-glacier shot at “my” spot. Whenever the clouds seems to part and there’s some more light hitting the glacier the model hands the DSLR-camera to his friend and strikes a pose.
They never seem to get the shot he wants. The glacier is bright when it’s overcast and even brighter when the sun shines down on it, the white surface reflecting all the light, the viewing deck on the other hand is in the shadow. I assume that’s the problem. I’m itching to tell them not to take pictures when the sun is glaring in the background, or maybe try with the on-camera flash, but I don’t want to be the annoying, soon to be clown-painted, besserwizzer. For all I know he wants to be a phantom blot in the picture and is trying to figure out how to do just that perfectly.