After the End // Argentina & Chile

So what did we do when we reached the southern end of the Pan-American Highway after 849 days, 30,699 miles, 23 border crossings, 14 countries, 4 motors and 1 new child?  Pop a bottle of champagne, then turn around.  

We also talked to Marco Werman on The World, which brought us full circle as we used to listen to this radio show while on our commutes in Los Angeles.  

Gathering our bearings at this southernmost mark, we assessed the many miles driven, countless adventures had, wonderful people met, fresh flavors tasted, unfamiliar aromas smelled, new things learned, and then deemed it all so spectacular, we would suffer the few maladies it took to reach this point and slowly work our way north to the place in which we had departed (and perhaps beyond).

(P.S. This whole sequence was from mid-February to mid-March, which is late summer here in the Southern Hemisphere- so gauge your travel plans accordingly.)
Parked on the streets of Ushuaia, we heard a knock on the side of our van and opened the door to meet 80 year old Duncan from Riverside, California who was curious about our Cali plates.  Quickly befriending him, we enjoyed his quick wit and tales of adventure, he had more than a few!   As a public defender in San Francisco in the 1970’s, he was in the Tenderloin district (which if you are not familiar was and remains one of the worst areas in all of SF) when he was held up at knife point.  Duncan carefully explained to the man pointing a weapon at his throat that he was one of the guys on his side, and that he would most likely see him in court one day and he would be sure to poorly defend him.  The would-be thief slowly backed off, apologizing as he did, then turned to sprint away.

One afternoon we swooped up our friend & headed to Martial Glacier just above town.  Layered up for the frost, we traversed the trail upwards, breathing in the cold air coming down the valley.  We stopped at a cafe mid-mountain, warming our hands near the wood-burning stove and sipping warm mulled wine, watching with a wary eye as a storm headed in.  Emily & the girls headed down, while Adam and Duncan hiked further up.  10 minutes later, the storm changed course and disappeared all together, so goes the wild weather down at the ‘uttermost part of the earth.’
The next day we again picked up our hitchhiker for an overnight adventure out to Estancia Harberton, the oldest farm in Argentine Tierra del Fuego.   Following the Beagle Channel eastward, we happened upon this small fishing village where their main catch is Centolla, King Crab, which the few home restaurants offered either whole or prepared in empanadas (but nobody was hungry).  We asked if they could take us for a cruise along the channel or over to Puerto Williams, Chile but they said the international border is strictly enforced & refused to risk taking us gringos for a joy ride.
Ushuaianorth7There is little else that compares to the feeling of falling in love.  It is an elated, enthusiastic emotion which consumes your every thought, forcing all other non-critial matters to fall to the wayside with no concern.  To watch a lover sleeping, eating, or doing any mundane task will fill one with an unreasonable sense of pleasure and joy.  To have a child, is to fall in love; to watch that child develop, is to watch your love grow as they do.  Sierra Luna, our chubby cherub, you make us swoon. 
And 4 years into our love affair with Miss CocoNova, we continue to be amazed at her insights, inquiries and intellect. 
A great joy of being on the road is how open we are to meeting new people.  Forced to step out of habit, each new person we meet has a story to tell and having no concept of who they are, they are allowed to tell it to us as they please.  For his 80th birthday, Duncan has come to the ends of the earth to find a decently priced trip to Antarctica (which he did).  His wife, whom he said prefers fancy hotels to tents, stayed in California and sent him off to fulfill this great dream.  A bit of an ultra-light gear enthusiast, Duncan was excited to test out his new tent at our riverside camp.  
Estancia Harberton’s founder, Thomas Bridges, was an orphan found on a bridge somewhere in England (hence his last name!) and later adopted by a missionary family.  At 13, Thomas and his adoptive family moved to the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands, where an agricultural mission station was being established.  There he learned Yahgan, the language of the Yámana canoe people from Tierra del Fuego, who were taken there for training (what kind of ‘training’ I don’t know.  No doubt it was exploitive in some manner.).  By his first trip to TdF in 1863, he was able to speak with the Fuegians and explain what the Mission wanted to do.  He founded the Anglican Mission at Ushuaia in 1870, establishing there permanently with his wife & young daughter.

In 1884, he received the first Argentine expedition to Tierra del Fuego, which set up the subprefecture at Ushuaia as Chile & Argentina were still setting the boundaries of their nations and only residents could prove the country was established there.  Two years later, after thirty years with the missions, Bridges received Argentine citizenship and a donation of land from the Argentine National Congress in acknowledgement for his work with the natives and with shipwrecked sailors of the Cape Horn area.  The estancia, located 40 nautical miles east of Ushuaia, was the first productive enterprise in Tierra del Fuego; earlier enterprises, such as sealing, whaling and gold digging, were all exploitive.

Their family home is the first “pre-fab” house in the Americas… it was built partially in England by Thomas’ brother-in-law, then sent by sea to its current location on the estancia.Ushuaianorth20Ushuaianorth19Ushuaianorth21Declared an Argentine National Historical Monument in 1999, the estancia maintains its original simple buildings of wood covered with corrugated iron, its gardens, stone piers, and terraces.  Originally operating with sheep (for wool) & cattle (for meat), Harberton also had the first almacén, store, and imported supplies for all of southern TdF, as well as selling vegetables, meat and supplies to the gold miners of the era.

These L-shaped pieces of wood in the boat are known as ‘elbows’ from ‘flag trees,’ which are trees that have growth only on one side due to the high winds in the area.  Not all flag trees have elbows, but some that are knocked over by the wind continue to grow, forming these uniquely strong joints which were highly prized for building the ribs on boats.Ushuaianorth23Harberton now belongs to the grandchildren of Thomas Bridges’ sons Will and Lucas.  Its manager, Thomas D. Goodall, is a fourth generation great-grandson of the founder, and lives at the estancia in the original 1887 house with his family, members of the fifth and sixth generations.  As an estancia, the sheep were gradually discontinued after 1995 as uneconomical; the estancia now has only cattle, but mainly survives as a tourist destination.Ushuaianorth24At Museo Acatushún, on the grounds of Estancia Harberton, we made a special delivery of dulce de leche and butter to a friend of a friend, then caught a tour of the small museum, whose collection contains the skeletons of over 2700 marine mammals and 2300 birds.  Founded by Natalie Goodall, the wife of Harberton’s manager, it is the result of over 34 years of scientific research on marine mammals (mainly dolphins) and birds of the southern tip of South America.
Ushuaianorth12We visited the less touristed “bone house” where carcasses from all over Tierra del Fuego Island are reported to the museum and gathered, then cleaned by university-level biology or vet student interns and preserved.
Ushuaianorth14 Ushuaianorth16It was a full sensory experience, to see a boiling cauldron with bobbing whale carcass floating amongst the bones.  You can hardly imagine the smell.Ushuaianorth13Half-rotten carcasses awaiting their turn in the try-pots. 
We returned to Ushuaia to send our octogenarian friend off on the trip of a lifetime.  Imagining the experiences he would have on the white continent, we held thumbs (a South African saying similar to crossing ones fingers) that we may one day make that journey ourselves.

The good folks at GoWesty have had our backs since day 1.  For this we are so very grateful.  They make & sell great travel accessories, not only for you Westy lovers, but for outfitting all sorts of rigs too. Ushuaianorth2We have learned not to be surprised by all the fun coincidences that cross our path.  At our fancy campground (ahem, a parking lot off the main drag in town) we met Rodrigo & Daniela who are from Florianopolis, Brazil of all places- the island where Sierra was born!  We chatted in Spanish (our most common language), and of course did a lot of van-talk.  We were less than a few miles away from each other for a few months, but never crossed paths as we were in full nesting mode & they were deep in work & save mode preparing for their departure.
Ushuaianorth3Parked nearby was this hand-crafted Unimog.  The Austrian owner custom made the back of this beast using a lightweight wood and travels South America in it for 3 months out of the year (leaving it parked in Uruguay the other 9 months) avoiding the Austrian winter & making the most of South American summer.  He has two VW Syncro’s back in Europe that he showed us pictures of.Ushuaianorth26With family arriving to meet us soon, we set off from the southernmost city in the world and set camp at this dreamy little roadside camp.  I say dreamy not only because of the great lighting and riverfront location, but because it really is a dream come true to be a present participant in this ever-changing adventure: to have so much pure time with our children, to shape them with our knowledge, to learn from theirs; to wake up next to their sweet smiles and be the last ones to kiss them goodnight; to hold our children’s hands on busy streets, and encourage them to run and play when the golden light dips low.

A dream is not just a want, it is something worked towards, focused on and fed the nourishment to grow and thrive.  Dreams are made reality by doing, not wishing. What are your dreams? Have you outlined how you can make them come true? Have you worked towards that goal today?  They will remain a want unless you set them into motion. Ushuaianorth28Ushuaianorth32 Ushuaianorth31When in 1520 Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to (be recorded) in the area, he called this land Tierra del Fuego, “Land of Fire” because the smoke of the Yaghan people’s fires were visible from sea.   This hardy tribe lived nearly naked in the extreme weather, covering themselves occasionally in guanaco skins, thinking it easier to keep warm by a fire when naked, than to dry out wet garments.  They were hunter-gatherers: the men hunted sea lions and the women dove for shellfish in the treacherous ocean.  A fire was always going, and even when traveling by canoe, they would transport fire with them.

Enjoying a fire while on Tierra del Fuego seemed perfectly apropos.
Adam spotted some lines rolling off the tip of a peninsula along a wild & desolate stretch of highway on the Atlantic coast, then found a dirt road that led us to the very end.  Desperate for some waves to ride, we stared & stared at these little peelers wishing they were a little bigger than they were.  To paddle out in Southern Patagonia, the waves have at least be ankle high. 
Cutting our course inland, we slowly traveled the gravel trail across the windswept island passing only fence and an occasional group of guanaco or sheep.
Ushuaianorth36The cauquen real (ashy-headed goose) are easily identified in flight by the regal green bar across their backs. Ushuaianorth40Setting camp in these rural areas is as simple as pulling off the road.Ushuaianorth38 Ushuaianorth39Adam has long dreamed of fishing the rich waters of Tierra del Fuego, famed as a fisherman’s paradise.  In Rio Grande, an enormous trout statue at a main intersection promises glory, but the miles and miles of fences along the areas river access promise nothing, unless you are willing to shell out big bucks to the estancias selling fishing trips to the well-heeled fisher folks of the world.  Whelp- that’s not us, we are just glorified homeless.  So Adam set out to do a little on-the-ground research to see if there was a good spot in the area.  After hopping to several fishing stores, Adam made friends with a generous guide who made a few recommendations, including that of heading into Chile through the remote border of Paso Bella Vista to fish on the Rio Grande in Chile- where the rivers were not blocked by barbed wire.
Ushuaianorth42Not far from the Chilean customs office, Emily suddenly took in a great deep breath & with eyes popping shouted “WHOAH!” while pointing to the sky where we counted 1… then 3… then 7… no 13 (!) gigantic dinosaurs flying on the strong gusts of Fuegian wind.  Whoooosh, whoosh, their wings pulled up and down on the currents in great lumbering beats; with a 10 foot wingspan, to see these beasts in flights closely is an unforgettable sight.  We pulled over to gaze in wonderment at the scarcity of condors.  In our travels around South America, we have seen many Andean Condors having deduced they appear at only the most remote and scenic canyons in groups of 2-3.  It was an exhilarating sight to see a bakers dozen of these largest birds in the western hemisphere just 20 meters away.  We soon discovered the focus of their flock as freshly shorn sheep wandered the native grasslands.    
Southern Crested Caracara, carancho, (left) and chimango caracara (at right) are both bold, opportunistic raptors that were more than happy to help clean the remains left by the condors.
Ushuaianorth45Since we had driven across hill and dale to get the the uncaged section of Rio Grande, Adam left early one morning with a single focus in mind- catch a fish.
And catch a fish he did!  A beautiful brown trout, the most elusive of the three varieties present in the area. 
Emily has been vegetarian since 1994.  Adam, after Colette’s numerous inquiries, quit his already occasional consumption of meat.  But for Adam, catching a fish you have hiked 3 hours to find, thanking it for its life and eating all of it with the utmost pleasure and thankfulness is different from participating in the industrialized meat machine.  
Bahía Inútil, Useless Bay, on the Straight of Magellan is called such because in 1827 Captain Phillip Parker King said  it afforded “neither anchorage nor shelter, nor any other advantage for the navigator” … but it did afford some sweet views for us overlanders.
Another reason we had taken this off-the-beaten-path (besides it being just that) was because of this King Penguin Sanctuary.  Second in size only to the Emperor Penguins (found exclusively in Antarctica) these Pingüino Rey are sub-antarctic creatures- meaning their habitat makes a circle around the Antarctic including the Falkland and South Georgia Islands-  all of which are a major boat ride away.  We arrived on a Monday (which they were supposed to be closed on, doh!) but they graciously opened for us.  From a distance of a couple hundred meters, we heard the raucous squalls of the colony.  As a kid, Emily adored penguins; scampering in like kids in a candy shop we slowed down to approach the new colony from a short stones throw. 
Eight years ago, a small group of 18 or so King Penguins came ashore on this swath of “Useless Bay.”  Word spread and visitors came to gawk at the noisy nesters that reach up to 40 inches tall.  As humans often do, the visitors came too close & the parent penguins would retreat from their eggs, which then got cold.  After 4 years and little growth of the colony, the landowners created an official park to protect the penguins.  At our visit, there was a scientist recording data in conjunction with the Global Penguin Society and estimated the colony was now at 120 or so.  We saw about half that number, she noted penguins spend most of their time feeding at sea on fish, squid and krill.  These amazing divers hunt from 350 feet all the way down to 1,000 feet!  
Serially monogamous, penguin parents share the work of raising their young.  I spy with my little eye a baby penguin.  Do you?  
Ushuaianorth58Like a Wyeth painting come to life, the open landscapes of this remote land leave so much room for the mind to wander.  It is unlike any other feeling.  No billboards or traffic, no need to check your phone constantly.  It is more about the subtle pulses than any grand gesture- the slight change in cloud pattern, the variations of color within the sky, time for the mind to be clear, to hear your own breath, to feel your pulse running your body.  It is like living in meditation, the extended period of calm.  
The crackles from a radio pulling a song from too far away intermingled with the jovial conversation of two repairmen patching a dry-docked boat; a duo in worn spandex chatted amiably while power walking their evening route; a modern but not new car flipped a u-turn then drove past our port-side post.  
Ushuaianorth63 Ushuaianorth65The Chilean ferry system is impressive and runs with an efficiency unlike most other things in South America.  When the boat is said to arrive, it does.  The actual cruise takes about 2 hours, but from waiting, loading, takeoff, sail, arrival and unloading we were in Punta Arenas at 2pm.  The cost of gas to drive from Porvenir to Punta Arenas was about the same cost as taking the boat, so why not? 
Ushuaianorth68 Ushuaianorth67 Ushuaianorth70One thing we have learned on the road is to be prepared for anything.  Murphy & his laws still work in these southern reaches of the planet and we were so excited to meet our soon arriving family here, that we were a day early just to avoid any possible hiccups.  
Owning a Westy, you are a member of a small club, the few owners we have met in South America are all very enthusiastic.  Toto got his Westy from a junkyard in Punta Arenas after it sat abandoned for many years which he has lovingly restored.
Occasionally we get a hotel to enjoy hot showers & connect to steady wifi, where we can upload a new blog post.
Traffic in the Magallanes region of Chile was a massive flock that must have been 2,000 animals deep.  I know there are more sheep in New Zealand than people, but think that must be true in this region of Chile as well!
Always time to throw in a quick line!
Entering Torres del Paine National Park from the southern entrance revealed a visual opus in blue.  We were just getting our eyes prepared for the unrivaled drama we were to discover in this dramatic and prismatic slice of earth.
At the ends of the earth, our parents came to meet us at this astounding place, to hold their grandbabies, to celebrate the majesty of life.   The months of plotting and planning (on their end, not ours) had come & Emily’s parents Warren & Suzie, Adam’s mama Ellen arrived to join the girls & us.  It is the feeling of coming home, even when you are worlds away from it.  We strapped on our smiles and prepared to have a hell of a great time together, just as we always do.
Ushuaianorth82Yep, this is where we had dinner our first night at Torres del Paine.  Right there in the van, Emily cooked lentil soup for 7 & we sat between two cars as the last rays of light illuminated the craggy peaks of the towers.  No 5 star restaurant could compare to the feeling of cold cheeks and warmed hearts set beneath this dazzling spread.  Heaven on earth indeed.
Adam & I have been together since 2000 and our families that started as two have become one.  Nothing quite like fun with family. Ushuaianorth88Hotel Las Torres technically is not ‘in’ the national park, and remains family owned.  Emily’s parents stayed here for a night, and we assured Ellen (way before her arrival) there was room for her in the van.  In our time on the road, we had slept with the pop top down only a handful of times and only once due to weather conditions.   Well, the one thing we had not taken into consideration was the wind, el viento, of Patagonia.  That night, Ellen & Coco were bundled snugly downstairs, Adam, Emily & Sierra upstairs- all was looking good until the wind suddenly turned on as if from a switch.  Not a breeze, or an occasional gust, but a van shaking torrent of air that made the trees whistle and our eyebrows raise.  We turned on our headlamps & looked at each other.  Is the tent going to rip off? Will the van flip over? Will the pop top work as a sail and the van will be blown away?   We waited a minute more hoping the wind would simmer down, but the van continued to be assaulted by violent wind that seemed hurricane grade.

So, we made the call to close the top and salvage our home.  Down we climbed, and sardined in the bottom bed alternating feet to head.  My parents had offered floorspace in their hotel if we had any issues in the night (did they know what was coming?) but we were too stubborn to head across the lot to their room.  At first it was hilarious in a good way, the wind knocking at the van, rocking us not-so-gently to sleep.  Once settled, Ellen realized she had to go to the bathroom and tucked in the far back corner, that meant kneeing & clambering her way out over our heads into the wind blowing a gale.  Open sliding door, close it quick, open it back up, close it again, resituate ourselves, fall asleep.  Then she had to pee again.  Big sigh, repeat above steps.  Back to sleep.  Then again.  Then… you will not believe it, a fourth time to pee outside in a howling gale.  I listened carefully to see if she was actually peeing, and yes, pee- on the fourth time!  We swore she would be cut off from any liquids after 8pm from every night onwards.  When the morning finally came, we rolled back the lid to our sardine can and laughed our way to meet for breakfast.
Early March is shoulder season in TdP and we found ourselves solitary at most places within the park to enjoy the raw power of this UNESCO Wolrd Biosphere Reserve.  Double thumbs up indeed!
Guanacos are the most visible of the parks 25 mammal species.  These are the largest of the 4 cameilad members living in South America- the wild vicuña the smallest, and the domesticated llama and alpaca in the middle.  Unlike the llama, their color varies very little.  They gather in groups of females, their young and a dominant male.  Young males also form groups that may reach up to 50.  Guanacos flee and let out a loud, high pitched bleating sound and may spit when they feel threatened.  They usually could care less about humans and have learned we are of little threat to them.  Ushuaianorth91Ushuaianorth92How many, many miles this place is from that other world.  In photos it seems this place is otherworldly, but when you feel it here, it seems quite the opposite- that this is the most real, and that the cement world we have constructed is the foreign place.  Your eye can drift across the landscape with the grace of a ballerina flying high as she floats into a grand jete.  It is no work at all, no strain, only the strain to try and capture that feeling in your heart, to slow time down and fully be present in this raw place. 
Ushuaianorth107Raw is the word that often comes to mind when reaching for words to adequately describe Southern Chilean Patagonia.  All of the definitions of the word seem applicable in this place.  Raw [raw] adjective: not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture. unnaturally or painfully exposed. painfully open. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste.  inexperienced, or untrained. brutally or grossly frank. brutally harsh or unfair. disagreeably damp and chilly. not diluted. unprocessed or unevaluated.
The lighting here is so powerful.  In just a few minutes, everything can change, so we know to just hold on for a minute if it’s not just right.  
The sculpturing of the massifs are a work of millennia of glacial force.
You think of a National Park, and perhaps Yosemite or Yellowstone come to mind.  Then you think of all the people, the fences, the rules, the hustle, the commerce. Yes, get in the backcountry and that all quickly fades.  But here, even in the front of house, there is so very little of that, perhaps because we were there on shoulder season.  The closest gas station, grocery store or town is Puerto Natales, is an hour and a half away.  There are a few small kioskos selling overpriced sundries, but mostly chips and candy bars, nothing of substance.  While in the area, we had to very carefully plan our courses to ensure we would have enough gas to get back.  We came with full jerry cans and a well planned stockpile of groceries.  These are not the parts to just ‘wing it’ with supplies, unless you like $4 candy bars for dinner.  
Adam spent driving days with his mama, while Emily drove with her folks.  The little babes bounced between cars and grandparents, delighted to have so many adoring fans at their disposal.
Ushuaianorth106The wind, the wind, always talk of the wind… whipping a newborn cloud off of Lago Nordenskjöld.  It is a force to behold, to experience this living power is unlike anything we could have imagined.
In the parking lot for  Salto Grande, Oma (Suzie) tried to open the car door and could not.  “If the wind is so strong I cannot even open the door, I’m taking that as I sign I shouldn’t go.”  We other stubborn mules ventured down the trail until Coco decided she had enough, so Granpere Warren took her back.  Have you ever felt like a leaf that with a gust of wind would be carried into the heavens, never to return?  Well, we thought our first night of heavy winds had shown us a thing or two, but oh no we still had much to learn.  Meme Ellen, Adam, and Sierra strapped with the Ergo onto Emily all ventured out to see the waterfalls, but the most powerful experience was that of the force of air.   Here, Ellen is holding on so she wasn’t knocked over (seriously) trying to get the shot.  
Ushuaianorth110Looking over the serpentine Rio Serrano at the southern park entrance, the most heavily populated area near TDP is still pretty tranquilo
Warren & Suzie had a few nights booked at Pampa Lodge, Quincho & Caballos– which proved to be a very special location.  It was newly opened, boasting a low impact boardwalk out to the minimal hotel held above the fragile environment.   Sweeping views of the Paine Massif, Rio Serrano river & Magellanic sub polar forests surround the dreamy 10 room hotel.   
Ushuaianorth121Ushuaianorth122We tried about 5 times to go horseback riding, but heavy rain & strong wind got in the way.  No worries about adventuring too much, with 3 visitors and the 4 of us, the odds for getting quality time was great.  
Ushuaianorth115We seriously saw vibrant full or double rainbows every day.  They never get old.
If ever you are going to be a morning person, this is the place.   There are just a few minutes at sunrise where the sky turns these intense colors.  As the great South American continent holding so much diversity and the tail of the longest mountain chain in the world comes to a crumbling finish here, it is no wonder that Torres del Paine was recently named the 8th natural wonder of the world! Ushuaianorth118Ushuaianorth119Ushuaianorth120Growing up just two blocks from the American River in Sacramento, my father would often head down & throw his line out for a bit after work.  He slowly got out of the habit, but continued to occasionally fish on trips- but to see him get excited for & prepare to fly-fish in Patagonia was a fun progression to watch.  One can always pick up a new interest.
Since our departure in 2012, Ellen wanted to come fly fishing in Patagonia.  On her inaugural visit out of the USA, she came & did just that!  What an epic location to join us at too.Ushuaianorth126Ushuaianorth129Ushuaianorth130Ushuaianorth128We are truly blessed to have such loving and caring parents who support us on our crazy adventures (hey, who you think we learn this from?!).  We know it is harder on you for us to be gone, than it is for us to be on the road, you have told us so.  Thank you for giving us your blessings to continue to reach for the stars, for traveling for days to reach us and hug your grand babies, for teaching us all you have, for being yourselves as complicated as you each are in your own ways, thank you.
Adam got fed up of fishing from the shoreline, ditched his pants & trunked it.  He returned with a stack of dimes and purple feet.  They saw river running salmon jumping  & were so excited to catch one, just one!  It would be so easy.  Turns out,  when the salmon are jumping it is because they have already spawned and it is too late in the season to catch them… wish he would’a know that before he froze his nards off. 
Ushuaianorth136This  M.A.N. expedition truck with rear hydraulic living area belonged to a nice Swiss couple. When it’s time to drive, the back top drops down and covers the windows, plus a couple motorcycles on the back.  Major!
We changed our reservations for the boat ride on Lago Grey due to weather and were very pleased to have a clear(ish) morning without too much wind.   
Loaded onto the dinghy, we ferried out to the larger boat for a three hour tour (which hopefully would end better than Gilligan’s Island.)  
Ushuaianorth142An arm of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Glacier Grey meets Lago Grey and loses ice from its terminus as it enters the water, a process known as calving, which produces large free-floating chunks of ice.Ushuaianorth147And then, we were there.  Looking at the glaciers, these mighty chunks of ancient ice, from so short a distance it was an exhilarating experience.  
Ushuaianorth140The glacial chunks seemed to be glowing like blue raspberry slurpees.  Ushuaianorth145Standing witness to the extreme weather of the land in summer, made us imagine what a powerful place it must be in the other 3 seasons of the year!
The west side of Cerro Paine Grande.
Mother & son.
Ushuaianorth151After rounding a newly revealed island (it was covered by the glacier 20 years ago), the whole arm of the glacier came sweeping down into the lake, which is a surreal sight.  Emily had never been a supreme fan of the super cold and not sold on the idea of visiting Antarctica (she’s convinced in a past life she froze to death) but seeing these monumental glaciers on such a far smaller scale, was wildly inspiring!  
This detail of Glacier Grey reminded Adam of “The Great Wave off Kangawa” by the great Japanese wood block artist Hokusai.Ushuaianorth156Ushuaianorth157Ushuaianorth161Ushuaianorth163A glacier forms when snow accumulates over time, turns to ice, and begins to flow outwards and downwards under the pressure of its own weight.   Glaciers generally accumulate more snow in the winter than they lose in the summer from melting or evaporation.  If the accumulated snow survives one melt season, it forms a denser, more compressed layer.  Over time, compression continues and the ice crystals grow, the air spaces in the layers decrease, becoming small and isolated.  Under the pressure of its own weight and the forces of gravity, a glacier will begin to move outwards and downwards.  Valley glaciers flow down valleys, and continental ice sheets flow outward in all directions.  As long as snow accumulation equals or is greater than melt, a glacier will remain in balance or even grow.  Once winter snowfall decreases, or summer melt increases, the glacier will begin to retreat, which is the case here for Glacier Grey. 
The coloring is due to the ice’s absorption of red wavelengths of light and scattering of blue wavelengths of light as it is transmitted through the ice.  
These two won the award for most colorful couple!Ushuaianorth168Here we are, the crazy 7, the last folks to get off the boat.
Ushuaianorth172And then, in the blink of an eye, our time together was up.  It was not a daydream, it was a dream come true.  Until next time, loved ones.