Our original plan was to cross the borders between Chile and Argentina several times while heading south, but that wasn’t possible because of Covid. So, we had some places, near the Andes at the Argentinean side, we still wanted to visit. Our first stop was National Park Los Glaciares. From the town El Calafate you can go to the stunning Moreno Glacier in the south of this NP. This glacier is one of the 48 glaciers fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in the Andes. The glacier is 5km wide, 30km long and it’s about 60 meter high. Really impressive to see as you can maybe imagine 😊. From different platforms we could see the glacier from different angles. Only seeing it was already incredible, but hearing the sound when a piece of ice fell down in the lake was even more incredible. It really sounded like thunder!
Another highlight in NP Los Glaciares is the mountain Fitz Roy near El Chaltén. We decided to start our hike to the viewpoint to see Fitz Roy early in the morning. That was a really good decision, because on our way back we passed a constant stream of people walking up, almost like they were dancing the polonaise. As we already said in previous blogs, we really like it to be the only ones in nature 😊. We also did some spotlighting to find the Huemul (a deer species), but we weren’t lucky enough this time.
Another bird target that was really high on our wish list was the Hooded Grebe. We were going to search for the Hooded Grebe around my birthday. So, I joked and said to Rob “the only thing I want for my birthday is to see a Hooded Grebe”. If you know Rob a little bit, and otherwise believe me, he will put a lot of effort to make my wish come true. But unfortunately, my ageing was too fast for him. Because on my birthday we didn’t manage to find the Hooded Grebe. Instead, Rob surprised me with a perfect present: a really comfortable hotel with a big bath and a nice breakfast. He bought a lot of stuff I love; chocolate, Amarula, chips etc. (Yes, a lot of food😊). Things that are not very common to find in little stores in little towns, but he managed. Besides, I got a lot of texts from the Netherlands with sweet birthday wishes. A birthday to never forget!
The next days, we decided to try another place for the Hooded Grebe in National Park Patagonia, La Ascensión. The Grebes live high on the plateau ‘La Meseta de Buenos Aires’, and to reach it, we hiked a 16 km long one-way trail. We are not really hikers, but for this species we both thought it was definitely worth it to try. After 12km there was a refugio where we stayed the night. It wasn’t more than a wooden shelter with a wood stove, some old chairs and a pit toilet outside. Rob made a fire and we boiled water for some soup. We brought our own air mattress, sleeping bag, pillow etc to keep us warm at night. But the night was really freezing cold. We missed Forrest already. The next morning, we left most of our stuff in the refugio while walking the last 4km and climbing 400m up to the border of the Meseta. On top there were several lakes, but we were very lucky to find the Hooded Grebes in the first lake. The Grebes were calling a lot, sometimes performing their dancing display rituals, handing over pieces of vegetation etc! An amazing sight to see this species! Although, it was not on my birthday it still felt like a birthday present to find and see this awesome species.
Another birthday present was a Penguin tour from Rob’s grandparents. In Puerto Deseado we went with a tour company on a boat to an island where Magellanic and Southern Rockhopper Penguins live. And as you know from my previous blog: I really love Penguins and think they are amazing! But these Rockhopper Penguins were beyond amazing. They were hopping around on the rocks and were really curious. When you were sitting down, they would come closer and look at you with their funny eyebrows. On the beach there were also South American Sea Lions and even huge Elephants Seals. And on our way back with the boat we also saw Commerson’s Dolphins and Peale’s Dolphins playing next to the boat. A perfect present!