Monday, June 21, 2010

Honeymoon: Patagonia!

Glaciar Francés

Travel, hiking and generally being outdoors are among are favorite activities. When we met, I was about to depart for fieldwork in the Himalayas, and I think Eric was intrigued by the adventure of it all.

Fast forward two years: sitting in an airport in Argentina on our way home from a friend's wedding, we decided to make lists of the places we'd like to visit. We each wrote down ten places we'd like to go, in rough order of importance. Comparing our individual lists, we found that Patagonia and Italy were near the top of both.

Lago Nordenskjöld

In the eight months that we've been married, I'm pleased to say that we've managed to visit our top two spots! We are fortunate that the academic schedule allows for long breaks between semesters, that we have two incomes, and that Eric was invited, fortuitously, to give some lectures in Italy.

Both of these trips came about somewhat serendipitously. I have to believe that part of the reason the trips came together this way is that we had clearly articulated our desire to visit these places, to each other and to the universe. Thus, we were ready to jump on opportunities when they presented themselves.

Cuernos del Paine

When a mutual friend starting recruiting people for a trip for a backpacking trip in Patagonia's Torres del Paine National Park, over the winter holidays, we jumped on board. I'd wanted to go to Patagonia ever since reading Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia, and learning about giant sloth and the wild lands of the estancias.

Joining the group trip meant sharing our honeymoon with four other women!* To preserve some couple time, we ended up visiting an estancia and touring glaciers first, and then meeting the rest of the group half-way through their hike.
Estancia Balmaceda -

where Turismo 21 de Mayo took us horseback riding

A boat trip across a windy lake took us to the base of Glaciar Serrano...
... which is sadly receding because of climate change. The glacier used to flow right into the lake, but now has receded hundreds of meters up the cliff, leaving an exposed scar of raw, bare rock. Locals say that the glacier is receding 10-20 meters a year.

The effects of climate change are being felt the most at the high altitudes and latitudes. Though Chilean Patagonia is at sea level, it is quite close to Antarctica and the South Pole. At these extreme reaches of the Earth, climate is changing much faster than at the moderate latitudes. Average daily temperatures have increased more than 1.8 degrees Celsius (over 3 degrees Fahrenheit!) over the past century.

The boat dropped us off at a small dock, where a Zodiac took us into Parque Nacional Bernardo O'Higgins, reachable only by boat.

Because of the cold and windy weather, and the near freezing water, we suited up like giant orange penguins for our ride in the open Zodiac. Even with all of our clothing (windpants over fleece pants and long underwear, fleece tops and down jackets), it was still cold in the Zodiac.

We walked to a lake at the foot of Glaciar Balmaceda,

and hopped into another boat to get a closer view of the serrated edge of the glacier.

After spending the night in a remote lodge, we rode the Zodiac up Rio Serrano into Torres del Paine National Park, where our friends were partway through their hike.

*One of them, who'd been on
another couple's honeymoon, declared it The Best Honeymoon Ever. Two honeymoon, and neither was her own!


Julia (Color Me Green) said...

so cool! thanks for sharing. i have to admit that the idea of zodiacs scare me, because of reading a madeleine l'engle book a long time about a girl who has a scary time in antarctica.

Ms. Bunny said...

Wow, what a trip and an experience. Amazing.

elizabeth said...

@ Julia: I loved Madeleine L'Engle as a kid - fortunately the Zodiac episode didn't stick in my mind.