February 14, 2004

Argentina flagUp early again this morning, at 6:30 am, but only to photograph sunrise on Monte FitzRoy. Yes, it was clear again, so we gathered up the cameras and headed down to the edge of the river. After a few minutes we noticed that we could get a better view by climbing a small embankment a bit farther upstream. Another early-rising photographer there told us that yesterday’s sunrise had been cloudy, so we were doubly lucky: we had clear sunrises yesterday and today.

The sun rose about 6:50 am, turning the granite mountains pink, the colour becoming more intense as time passed. After a while we decided it wasn’t going to change any more, so we headed back to bed. The morning air was quite chilly so it was nice to crawl back into the sleeping bags.

Upon rising at a more civilized hour (nearly 10 am), we had our usual breakfast and set out on a short hike to visit Glaciar Piedras Blancas. This had been recommended to us by the American woman we had been talking to while watching the sunrise. We followed the Río Blanco downstream for nearly an hour, watching it get wider. Then we turned uphill and started through a field of granite boulders (the “white stones” after which the glacier was named). Some of the boulders was car-sized or house-sized, and our boulder-hopping skills were a bit rusty, which made the stream crossing a bit difficult. However after a few minutes we were beside the lake at the foot of the glacier, with the usual complement of icebergs floating in it.

The views were really nice, but we soon decided to head back upriver to the campground for lunch. The return trip didn’t take long and soon we were having our usual lunch of crackers and jam.

After lunch we packed up camp and headed back to El Chaltén. The weather for the hike back was very hot, as it had been for the last several days, and so we were quite tired when we finally got back. We set up camp in a somewhat protected location at Campamento Madsen, the free campground at the north end of town, and set off down the main street (named San Martin following Argentinian custom) looking for ice cream. We didn’t find any, so we continued all the way down to the park information centre, to see if they had a bird list for the park. They didn’t have one either, so finally we settled for going to a little supermarket and buying some tomatoes and some dessert to go with our dinner.

Just as we were finishing dinner, Rosemary said, “Up there in that tree, is that a lump on the branch or is it an owl?” Paul got out the binoculars and yes, it was an Austral Pygmy-Owl. It sat there for quite some time, just looking around, and didn’t seem to mind when we walked up and tried to photograph it.

After that, we had to get rid of our remaining white gas, because tomorrow we fly off to Bariloche and it can’t go on the airplane. Down at the far end of the campground Paul found a Welshman who was cycling from Buenos Aires to Lima via all parts of South America, and he was pleased to take it off our hands. We also encountered a young couple from Jasper who were travelling around South America for several months, and talked to them for a while.

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