May 25, Canal Icy & Ventisquero Pio XI (Patagonian Ice Cap)

What a day! We had an amazing time, and Liam even went to the extent of saying it was the highlight of his life. But let me re-trace our day and start from the beginning…
We got out of bed kind of late, and hung out with Bob for a while before we started getting the boat ready for our big day. Oh yes! Another important thing about today is Bob’s arrival. We have been re-united yet again. He arrived at 2am last night and tied next to our boat. His voice on the radio woke me up and I heard Ian get up and help him tie his ropes. All was done very quietly, and there was no bumping. Bob came to have his coffee with us in the morning and we had him warmly welcomed. Soon after that we decided to leave and eat breakfast on the way.
Before I continue with today I find it necessary to mention the beauty of last night. Again it was a clear, calm, moony night. I didn’t realize our caleta was right in front of a gorgeous mountain, boasting its snowy peaks right in front of us. Just before bed I went out to see what it was like and was amazed by how light it was. The moonlight reflected in the snow of the opposite mountain shone bright even thought the moon was hidden behind passing clouds. This morning I realized there were even more beautiful mountains surrounding us. What a wonderful start to a beautiful day. I always get so excited when it comes to peaks covered in snow. I particularly like the fresh, powdery snow as it gives them such a mystical feel. I don’t know what it is but I love it, taking close ups of each and everyone that comes my way. Back to the subject though…
While the guys were getting the ropes and pulling the anchor up I busied myself with making breakfast. It must have been really good because Mario said it was the best breakfast I have ever made. Since many of our tomatoes were going bad I thought we’d have a nice tomato/egg dish with some oregano and cheese on top. It was a good breakfast I agree, together with that home-made bread of Ian’s and some green olives on the side. An excellent start to a great day!
We parted with Bob but only for a couple of days until we got to Puerto Eden where we would hang out again for a few days. Liam’s boat doesn’t leave until June 1, so there will be plenty of time for poker and excellent dinner parties. I have even decided on our grand dinner. We will start with some hors-d’oeuvres, maybe some hams, and cheeses with crackers, olives and bread, maybe some dips. Then we would have fine steaks with mashed potatoes as the main course accompanied by some Chilean wine and we would finish with some brownies with strawberries and homemade whipped cream on the side. My mouth is watering from just thinking about it! But that is not until a couple of days from now. Let me get back to today…
Bob went one way and we went another, taking both arms of the canal separated by an island. Although it was a glorious sunny morning, there wasn’t much wind, and the little there was was against us. At some point I asked Ian whether we could sail but he said if we wanted to get there today we better not. He was right. It would have taken a lot of tacking at the least and we had places to go before dark.
We motored the 30 miles up to the end of Canal Icy where our prize awaited. Speaking of Canal Icy, you probably guessed why it is called Canal Icy – that’s right, big chunks of glacial ice flow along its whole length. I thought the name was cute.
We sailed up the canal, enjoying the sun, the views that were rather impressive with two rows of mountains on both sides – grey, rocky ones, covered in trees lined the first row, which gave way to edgy, snow covered peaks in the background. Slowly the water color changed. It became lighter as we progressed, starting with the black water we are used to, going through turquoise green and eventually becoming grey near the glacier.
The glacier! We made a 60 mile detour so we could see what we later found out was the biggest glacier in Latin America. Ventisquero Pio XI (named after a nature loving pope) boasts 50m walls and is 3500m wide. It could be seen as a big, white blob in the distance from as far as 15miles away. It boomed in front of us, looking like we could almost touch it when we were still 3.5miles away. It is described as the most exciting experience after Antarctica. And it sure got us going with its huge floating chunks of ice – some of them as big as the boat. Fortunately (or not) there wasn’t too much ice floating around which made our approach much easier. If there had been a lot of it littering the water we would have progressed a lot slower, and we would have needed to keep a better watch.
A couple of hours before we reached the glacier I decided to have a one hour nap because I was feeling sleepy and didn’t think I would last for the whole thing and even if I did I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I asked Liam to wake me up in an hour and he came back in what felt like only five minutes. ‘Time to get up!’ he nudged me after an hour. I woke up, but didn’t feel like getting up. ‘There are dolphins out there!’ Liam said hoping to convince me to get out. Five minutes later he came back and he urged me to go out. I got up, attempted a step forwards and I fell to the floor. My left leg had fallen asleep and it wouldn’t support me. I sat back on the couch, we laughed about it and in a couple of minutes I was out on deck.
‘Holy moly!’ I exclaimed upon seeing the glacier. It was a lot closer than I thought it would be. Then I stood in front of the boat for a bit, but when the wind blowing in my face got too cold I went back to the cockpit and settled myself more comfortably. That is when the dolphins came. I only saw a couple of them gliding along the boat, performing jumps and generally just having fun but the boys saw about fifteen of them while I was asleep. They even saw baby dolphins swimming beside their parent, jumping together. It is like teaching a baby to walk. Liam says they would sometimes swim on their back and you could see their tummies and Ian adds that they were really cute shape. Great bacon too! I am just kidding. Ian loves that joke. Mario told me some of them would actually turn their heads towards the boat as they were swimming curious to find out who we were. Lovely! If the Patagonian Ice Cap and the biggest glacier in Latin America weren’t enough we also got dolphins swimming around. What can I say…except that I can’t imagine a more perfect scene.
We slowly made our way to the wall of the glacier and watched it from a distance for a while before Ian got us even closer. It was the bluest spot on the whole glacier. While there we thought it would be cool to climb the mast. The views from there would be amazing. Mario went up first but only decided to go half way up saying that it was better for picture taking. Then it was Liam (his first attempt) and he went a bit higher up. Then it was my turn. I went as high as Liam had gone and settled myself comfortably taking photos of the surroundings but mainly of what was happening below. The glacial wall loomed before me in all its grandeur and blueness. It felt so close. From the top I could see the guys approaching a big chunk of floating ice and getting ready to jump on it. Liam went first, and had his photos taken. Then it was Mario. I shouted ‘Wait for me! I wanna do that too!’ But by the time I was back we had drifted away. Such a shame! It would have been so cool. Nevertheless I took some great photos of the guys as well as the boat. Comforting.
By that time the sun had gone down throwing lovely golden shadows over the water and leaving the glacier in the shadow thus making the blue colors all more visible. The water was completely still allowing for great reflection photos. We had the blue glacier on one side and the sun reflections in the water. All that surrounded by mountains equally beautifully lit by the setting sun. Beyond that was the horizon and the beginning of the moon.
It was time to leave and make our way to a nearby anchorage. On the way there we enjoyed the shadows the sun threw over the glacier, the mountains, the woods and Mario took amazing photos of the sunset. Some of the most beautiful I have ever seen.
Ian described it as a fantasy passage with its calm waters, misty mountains and clear reflections of the vegetation and the moon. One of the most beautiful we have visited so far. I particularly enjoyed the moon hanging on the horizon since the late afternoon. A pale white, misty circle in the beginning growing thicker and brighter as the darkness progressed. It is now a looming light bulb hanging high up in the clear night sky. All is calm.
It is now 9.50pm and we relaxing after dinner. Ian has just gone to bed but not before he urged me to mention the beautiful night that we are enjoying. There is a full moon and not a single cloud in the sky. Liam says there are also stars but the moon is so bright you can’t really see them. Ian also finds it essential to mention the lack of wind. It is the first night since the beginning of our trip when we are actually enjoying a clear sky. Winter in Patagonia for you.
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