Friday, April 4, 2008

We woke up early, at 6am, because our trek was set to depart at 7 and we needed to eat first. It was still mostly dark, but we started to see that this was nothing at all like Atacama - not that we expected that - either in terms of scenery or the layout of the lodge. It was also not the same regarding the tourists; at breakfast we did not see anyone under the age of 50, whereas most of the people at Atacama were much younger. Also, the vast majority were Americans, whereas at Atacama the people were from all over.

By the time we boarded the boat at 7 the sun was starting to come up, and we could see the Cuernos del Paine, or "the Horns," and they appeared as advertised. On the boat across Lake Pehoe the sun had risen enough to illuminate them, and that was truly spectacular. The boat was bouncing up and down since the wind was blowing about 40mph right at us. After crossing the lake, we started hiking generally to the northwest. Now the wind was blowing directly into our faces, and we were getting pelted with rain as well. This lasted for about 20-30 minutes before the rain subsided - the wind stayed, however.

We walked through a valley and through some groves of beech trees until we came out at Gray Lake, which contains all of the runoff from Gray Glacier (as well as other streams, waterfalls, etc.). From this point we walked more or less along the banks, stopping at a number of lookouts.

There was a huge mountain range to our right the whole time, not to mention a sizeable range across the lake. Gonsaulo told us about several of the indicators of a glacier, including the color of the water, scratch marks on the rocks, odd rock formations (the moraine where a glacier pushes boulders as it moves along), and so on.

We started to see some icebergs as we got a little closer. In addition to the beech trees, there were also some Hollyhocks, as well as a Chilean protea called Embothrium. When we finally caught a glimpse of the glacier itself, it was breathtaking. It was 25 meters tall, and varying shades of white, blue, and green. It was in sections, split by a hillside it had no doubt covered some years ago (which we confirmed after the fact when we saw some older photos in travel books). A little before lunch, we went to a beach where we could view the glacier, the icebergs, and the lake.

We went down to about as close as you can get for lunch. Thankfully (for whomever is reading this), the wind is not apparent in these photos:

 

After lunch we backtracked a bit before being picked up by a different boat. This boat took us right up to part of the glacier, where you could get a better idea of the size, not to mention the shape and structure. We took a ton of photos, many of which are nearly identical, but here's what we thought were the best:

We then headed back to shore, where a van picked us up and drove us back to the lodge. Back at the lodge we played scrabble and stared out our window at the Horns. The view from outside was just as good, including the lake. Justin checked his email on a whim to see if the jury had come back in the trial that had finished, and by sheer luck he received the info not a minute earlier. We ate dinner right as the restaurant opened at 8, and then went to sleep early in the hopes of catching up for what we had missed the night before.