The Almost Kayak Trip

I woke up to the sound of Lynn shouting to herself in the dark bedroom.  It seems her phone had died in the middle of the night and our alarm had not gone off.  It was now 6:57 and we were supposed to be ready by 7 am for our tour pickup.  At least we still had three minutes.  We threw on some clothes, glad we had packed our bags the night before, grabbed our yogurt out of the fridge and borrowed two spoons from the hostel to eat it on the bus.  A minute or two after we sat down in the lobby to wait, our ride showed up and we ducked out through the start of a rain  shower and into our mini-bus.

We picked up five more people for our kayak tour of Glacier National Park: a New Zealand couple, and three early 20s girls from England who seemed to be enjoying their hostel about as much as we are ours.  We ate our yogurt and admired the views out the rain washed windows as we drove along Lake Argentina for 45 minutes to our boat.

We climbed aboard a re-purposed ferry and went up to the passenger room/pilot house that was much larger than it needed to be, with maybe 40 seats for the 7 of us plus another 6 crew.  We started making our way out to towards the glaciers that spill into the lake and one of the guides gave us an overview of the area and then we had 2.5 hours to hang out, nap, and take pictures until we got to the kayak sight.  There was some tea in the back and Lynn and I grabbed some mate flavored at the suggestion of one of the crew who had said it tastes like green tea.  It certainly did not, and was truly awful, tasting quite smokey, and we politely sipped it while getting to know the better half of the New Zealand couple (and I really do mean better half, she was not only more friendly, but she was a doctor, and smelled like she had showered more recently than a week ago which is more than could be said for him).  We spent the rest of the time getting more and more excited as we started to pass increasingly large icebergs floating in the lake, all glowing an incandescent blue from within.  The ships in the distance around them really helped us appreciate how absolutely massive they were.

Icebergs!
Icebergs!
Massive icebergs!
Massive icebergs!
With a ship for scale.
With a ship for scale.

After an hour and a half the guides came through and started handing out gear and then showed us how to assemble all of the different layers we would be wearing to fight the cold.  First a thermal onesie, then a drysuit, then boots, then a spray skirt, then lifejacket.  The whole thing was quite constricting and not as warm as we would have liked but we were content knowing we would survive if we fell in the frigid lake.  We headed downstairs to get a kayak primer but after only 5 minutes a huge wind kicked up and covered the deck in a continuous spray of wind swept glacial melt.  It seemed this was not as good a spot for kayaking as our captain initially thought.

Lynn curtsying in her spray skirt.
Lynn curtsying in her spray skirt.
The wind has definitely picked up.
The wind has definitely picked up.

As the ship rolled over increasingly large swells, our group headed back up stairs into the cabin and the boat turned around to find another spot.  We passed more blue, glowing glaciers but what had captured our interest now were the walls of lake spray that would lead the wind gusts making the boat shudder.  After a few minutes we all started to disrobe, mostly to get the dry suit collar off of our necks.  Eventually though, our guides also took theirs off, which we didn’t take as a good sign.  A few minutes later they called it.  The water and wind were far too rough for kayaking today and we would be heading back to port with a 50% refund waiting for us.  It wasn’t all bad though as we did get a great cruise of the icebergs, though we were sad we never made it to the glacier itself.

One of our guides, looking sad that he couldn't get the kayaks out.
One of our guides, looking sad that he couldn’t get the kayaks out.
As a consolation prize for not getting to kayak, Doug got to pilot the boat for a little bit. (Not pictured, Lynn did too).
As a consolation prize for not getting to kayak, Doug got to pilot the boat for a little bit. (Not pictured, Lynn did too).
The benefit of all that lake spray was a very nice rainbow.
The benefit of all that lake spray was a very nice rainbow.

On the way back we were treated to a lunch that had been pretty extravagantly hyped by TripAdvisor reviews.  It turned out to be a ham and cheese sandwich growing soggy with tomatoes on it, a cold square of potato tortilla, and a cafeteria brownie.  Lynn and I were left to wonder what sad, horrible lunches these review writers are normally subjected to while we stomached our lunches.

We returned to town by 3.00 and headed back to our hostel for showers which had been missed earlier in the day.  After which, we looped back into town to find me a haircut.  The only haircuttery that showed up on Google in El Calafate had a single woman working, just beginning the process of dying a chatty customer’s hair. A tentative conversation in Spanish established that I was looking for a hair cut and we sat down to wait.  After the chatty lady’s hair had been painted with chemicals she moved out of the chair to marinate and I moved in.  A torrent of Spanish flowed out of the barbers mouth to which I responded corta uno centimetro.  She pointed at the back and asked machina? I replied by making scissors with my hands. She nodded in agreement and then another flood of Spanish followed.  This time I had absolutely no clue, and she simplified it to vamos and we both walked into the back to wash my just showered hair.  The rest of the haircut went just fine with no more words passing between us, though a centimeter in Argentina must not be at all the same as what I know it as…it looked like more than an inch was being cut off.

After the hair cut we headed across town for some very terrible craft beers and potatoes soaked in a spicy sauce before hitting up the grocery store for dinner supplies and heading home.  The kitchen was crowded upon our return and we killed some time waiting for it to die down before making what we are affectionately calling guacamole pasta – garlic, avocado, tomato, lemon, and chicken with pasta.  After dinner we quickly fell asleep, before any empanada making parties could once again start up.

Guacamole pasta.
Guacamole pasta.

Daily Walking Mileage : 4.4 miles

Daily Kayak Miles : 0 🙁

Fun Facts:

  • Upsala Glacier, the one we barely saw from a distance and that was dropping all of these icebergs in the lake, is the second largest in Patagonia.
  • Ricky Martin is apparently in town tonight and the whole place (our hostel included) is swarmed with people very excited to live la vida loca.
  • A tortilla like we had for lunch is actually a Spanish dish more like a frittata and is not to confused with Mexican tortillas.

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