Well, this estancia is breathtaking...and the air, fresh and invigorating. The girls (most from Buenos Aires), who spend 7 months a year running the place for the owners, are so polite and helpful! Two young ladies named Carolina, and one, Cecilia, arranged all our transport, made sure our dietary needs were met, and kept us well informed as to the day's happenings.
Remember when I said that it couldn't get any better? Well, it did! Last night, we were informed by a couple staying at the estancia about the stunning sunsets that occur in this area. So, cameras in hand, about 10pm, we began to study the sky. Sure enough, an awesome display began. First colors, then artistic patterns appeared above us. I couldn't take enough photos...I hope you can appreciate them!
The second exciting event was being told that our package included a tour, sheep shearing demonstration, and Argeninian barbecue and tango dance that evening...would we wish to participate? It was a unanimous, 'Si!'
We prepared ourselves for the glacier excursion, since the bus would arrive around 9:15am. An enormous tour bus (which we have not ridden on this entire trip) arrived to take us to the Perito Moreno State Park. The drive was scenic, but long, and included a banos stop and payment of the $20 park fee (the kids were free). We then rode to the place where a small craft would take us to the other side of the lake, where the glacier trek awaited us. Before we arrived, as we were curving around the mountains, we could only see a small part of the mountain full of snow, where we would find the ice formation. At one point, a beautiful Argentine song was heard over the loud speaker. The woman sang with pathosfilled with pathos, and tho' I didn't understand the words, it was powerful. Just then, the glacier came into view. It was so magnificent and stunning, that my eyes filled with tears. I could barely contain myself!
We boarded the vessel, and snapped photos all the way across. When we arrived, we were told where to put our backpacks and lunches, and reminded to wear gloves, in case we fell on the ice. Our guide pointed out various things of interest on the map of the glacier, then we sat while the staff attached our crampons, metal attachments with teeth, similar to a bear trap, which would give us stability and adherence on the ice. Keep your feet apart (otherwise we might stab ourselves in the foot), stomp as you walk, and keep your shoulders over your hips. This last instruction proved to be difficult, since one has the tendency to lean forward going up the glacier, and back, going down. I felt like an angry, bowlegged gaucho or cowboy as I walked!
We saw folks many hundreds of feet above us on the trail, but when I asked our guide if we would trek that high, his answer was non-committal. I wasn't sure if he needed to know the conditions of the trail first, or if he thought I would be frightened of the altitude. Amazingly, I was not intimidated. Normally, I am afraid of heights, but my spirit was calm.
Occasionally, on the way up, the guide would 'blaze the trail' by widening the path with his mountain climbing pick axe. The other guide would help those who were more timid (which included me at first), or those (like me) who would lag behind taking photos. I think he was so fed up with having to remind me to keep close to the group so he could help if needed, that he put me at the front of the line! We stopped every so often to snap a photo, or to wait for others to catch up.
Occasionally, we heard a gunshot-like sound coming from the glaciers, which warned us of an impending calving (breaking off) of a portion of the glacier wall closest to the water. It was my dream to catch it on video, but, it was not to be.
As we trekked, digging in with our feet, grabbing hold of the icy surface for stability, and keeping our backs straight, I thought of a spiritual analogy. If we dig into God's Word, and grab hold of the truths we find there, we can lean back on His promises, and find stability in our lives. We can't go through life on our own...we need His help!
At the end of our journey, we were offered Whiskey on ice, or pure glacier spring water, with Alfajores. It was a no-brainer for us, but it was curious how others chose something manmade and potentially dangerous in exchange for the refreshing and healthful gift of pure water.
We soon had lunch, and took the ride back to the bus, which took us to the lookout point to view north end of the glaciers...wow! Spectacular! Still no sign of calving glaciers, but I was more than content with the outstanding experience we had throughout the day. This has been the nicest string of clear days for a long time, we were told, and it almost always rains at the glaciers, so, we were truly blessed!
Tired, but content, we were taken back to the estancia two hours later than expected. I was disappointed that we had missed the tea, tour of the estancia, and the sheep herding demonstration, but we were able to hook up with the group and witness the sheep shearing, now done on the estancia with electric shearers.
If an estancia is to make money raising sheep for wool, they need over 10,000 sheep, and more than 2.5 acres per sheep for the business (and sheep) to survive. They need to be sheared, no matter what, twice a year. Once in spring, so they don't get too heavy and fall, and in the winter, especially around the eyes, so they can find their food in the harsh weather. The gauchos, whom the owners of the estancia hire to do the work, come from the NE of Argentina, near Iguassu Falls, and migrate south, arriving in Patagonia in December, which is the latest a sheep's wool needs to be cut.
The group watched in amazement, as the gaucho sheared the sheep with the electric clippers in about three minutes. That alone is worthy of comment, but, what was more notable was the fact that the wool was shorn and removed all in one piece!
It was time for our scrumptious barbecue, which included all the lamb and salad you could eat, along with roasted potatoes, squash, and onions. They served empanadas filled with beef and green pepper. Olivia and I split one, and discovered it was worth every bite!
Flan or egg custard with burnt sugar sauce was served for dessert, and then the cultural dancing began, which included, of course, a tame version of the Tango. We left very satisfied, and headed off to catch up on emails and journaling before the power (and thus, WiFi) went out in the lobby.
One last night in the solitude of the estancia. We were the only lodgers left in a 20 room hostel...the environment, air and fresh water has revived our souls!