Patagonia: El Fin del Mundo

In between the end of my first intensive class and the beginning of my second, my classmates and I were given a week off. Some friends and I took this opportunity to travel south of Buenos Aires to a part of South America called Patagonia, which includes the southern parts of Argentina and Chile. Our first destination was called El Calafate. It is a beautiful city in a valley with a lake that’s blue like I’ve never seen before. On the other side of the lake, there is an enormous glacier that spans almost 100 square miles. Needless to say, I have never seen so much ice in my life. The view was amazing, though we didn’t get to see many angles or walk on the glacier because the tours that would allow us to do so were very expensive. We stayed at a great hostel called I Keu Ken, which was very comfortable and where all the workers and guests were super friendly.

We took a bus from El Calafate to a smaller town called El Chaltén. This was definitely my favorite stop of the trip. All of the hikes there are free and the views were the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The day we arrived, we took a hike to a mountain called Fitz Roy. The trail was about 4 hours each way. The whole time we could see mountains with rivers in between. The water was even drinkable in all the lakes and streams! When we finally got to the “9th kilometer” out of “10,” we had arrived at the mountain. Half of my group wanted to turn back for fear of not getting back before the sunset, but my one friend and I were determined to go all the way. We had no idea what we were getting into, but we all started climbing, and I mean climbing. This was not like the rest of the trail we had just casually walked through. It took us another hour at a steady pace to finally reach the top. All along the way, there were people on their way down telling us how much farther they thought we had to go. None of them added up to the others, so it just confused us or gave us false hope. We were so exhausted, but when we finally reached the top, we saw a view that put all the others to shame. On the other side of the mountain we had just climbed, there was a taller mountain covered in snow and ice. In between them, there was a lagoon with teal water. This is what the locals call “la leche del glacier” or “the milk of the glacier.” Apparently, the ice has minerals in it that change the color of the water when the ice melts. Though I was extremely tired and had mildly injured my foot, it was absolutely worth being able to see that with my own eyes. Something I’ve learned from seeing real mountains for the first time is that there is no photo that exists that can do any justice to a view like that because it’s more than a view. It’s a feeling. When you look at something in real life, you can feel how big or how far or how high it really is in a way that is impossible to see in a photo.

Our last stop was in Ushuaia, a city at the very southern tip of Argentina. There we went on another hike in another national park that was also beautiful, but not quite as magnificent as that of El Chaltén. By that time, I was ready to go back to Buenos Aires and start classes again because one of the people in my group was starting to get on my nerves. Overall, it was an amazing trip and I am so glad I went. Being from Chicago, I haven’t gotten to see nature like that very often.

This is the view we had at the beginning of the Fitz Roy hike:

 


Michael Panelas is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Spanish and Jazz music. Michael will spend the spring semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the ISA Spanish Intensive Program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.