From Buenos Aires to El Calafate / The Scottish Nomad

Perito MorenoIt had finally stopped raining but that didn’t stop the relentless icy wind that whipped around my face turning my nose a sexy rudolf red. My stomach churned again. Why, oh why, did everything in my life have to involve a boat in some way? Boats and I have a tumultuous relationship – literally. As we travelled on the plane from Buenos Aires to El Calafate in Patagonia I knew I was going to be in for a rocky ride.

Ever since I was a child I have suffered from motion sickness. That terrible queasy sensation when you don’t know if you are going to throw up or fall over and my biggest nemesis has always been the sea. My worst adventure on the high seas to date was in Sydney last year when I wanted to go whale watching. After begging my friends for weeks to come with me and after them finally agreeing I got to spend $80 for the privilege of throwing up for four straight hours…should It be physically possible? No. Is it? Yes. Luckily for me my friends  had already made a bet as to how long I would go without throwing up on the boat. Steve…with an optimistic guess of less than five minutes had an easy victory.

Well, needless to say I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be once again standing in front of a boat, not too dissimilar I might add, to the dreaded whale watching “sea cat.” Danilo, my mum and stepfather were all very encouraging and had been trying to bolster my confidence since we had arrived in Patagonia the day before. As we had wandered around the “Ice Museum” in El Calafate they pointed out how flat the water looked next to the icebergs…. how happy the children were smiling as they sailed about sickness free. I was not convinced. And, today we were heading out for an eight hour boat ride around the glaciers in El Calafate.

As we stepped onboard I already felt the familiar pang of the sickness of fear. The ship slowly filled up and everyone was instructed to take their sets until the boat left the harbour. The Argentinians were already pulling out their mate cups and starting to talk loudly. In a noise level competition the Russians were a close second while the Japanese brought up the rear checking their piles of camera equipment before set off. I realised that If I was going to get sick then I would have a big audience.   It seemed like an eternity until the boat pulled away from the dock and after a few minutes of sailing and no discernible rocking motion I felt a little more secure. As soon as the boat starting moving people rushed outside to get a glimpse of the desolate and bleak Argentinian pampas surrounding the lake.

Throughout the first part of the journey the boat was shrouded in fog and it was only once this had cleared that we managed to get a true sense of our captain’s navigation skills. All around the boat were giant floating Icebergs, some of which were the size of small houses. It was incredible the skill with which he manoeuvred the boat through the Icy minefield. By this point I was feeling secure enough to adventure outside and we had some fun rein acting the titanic and taking photos with some huge blocks of ice which had been fished out of the water. The staff were also cutting up bits of the icebergs so that you could have a whisky on “iceberg rocks.” Maybe sailing could be fun afar all.

As we approached the first glacier I was completely blown away by its magnitude. It isn’t something that can be captured in the pictures and actually seeing these glaciers made the issue of global warming really real to me (I know sounds like a cliché) It is incredibly hard to imagine that in a few short years these icebergs might be gone. We were there in the effect time of year to see the calvings which is when huge chunks of the glacier fall off into the water below creating a tremendous noise which is louder than thunder. The pieces which fall off can be gigantic, there are calvings recorded in some places which can be as big as 46 miles. Well It boggles the mind! We saw four glaciers all of which were special for different reasons whether it be their head, their size or their unusual shape. The crew provided fascinating information about each glacier as we floated in front of it for a period to take photos and just take in the incredible sights.

The last glacier that we visited was the most famous in the park, Perito Moreno. This glacier is perhaps the most famous because it is the most easily accessible by land and often people who visit the national park often don’t even take a boat to visit the other glaciers which are more difficult to reach. Everyone seemed particularly excited about this final glacier and Danilo and my mum led me out to the back of the boat to see the glacier close up. In front of the glacier Danilo started rummaging around in his pocket…

“You know” He said, “I have something to ask you.” He looked very nervous and suddenly I caught on to what was happening . Although I suspected that It couldn’t be true because he didn’t have any chance beforehand to get a ring. What he said after that I have to admit is a bit of a blur but I suppose all that matters is that in the end he asked me to marry him and I said yes.

We kissed and at that very moment we were interrupted by a small Japanese man who had a camera, which had a lens about the same size as the Eiffel Tower, pointed directly at us. He smiled enthusiastically and said something that was completely confusing coming from the mouth of a tiny old Japanese man “Boca con boca!” We looked at him and then we looked at each other. He waved his hands and smiled again encouragingly. He repeated. “Boca con boca!” (Which means mouth with mouth) We decided to give him what he wanted and performed a rather chaste kiss for the camera. It is a little bit surreal to think that somewhere in Japan we feature in an old mans family vacation photo album. Luckily we also had our own photographer, Drew, who managed to catch the whole thing on camera and if you forget that we were soaked through, windswept and wearing outdoor gear there couldn’t really be a more romantic place for a proposal.

How many people can say that they were proposed to on a boat in front of a glacier? Well, when we finally reached the port and we headed off to Calafate to an amazing roast lamb dinner I couldn’t have been more elated. In one day I had managed to conquer two fears: my fear of boats and my fear of marriage….Now there was just a question of planning a wedding…

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