O, wonder! (Patagonia)

I did the Big Ice trek of El Glaciar Perito Moreno on a gray, rainy day, and can unquestionably say that the approximately five hours I spent pretty much drenched (my supposedly waterproof jacket was apparently not so rain-repellant) were also the most breathtakingly beautiful hours of my life.  This may sound like an overdramatic exaggeration, but I’m actually finding it difficult to put into words just how incredible Patagonia is.  And obviously, the fact that less than ideal weather did not at all dampen the experience—just the clothes—is a testament to the beauty of Perito Moreno.  Actually, our guides mentioned that the grayer skies helped the incredible range of icy blues appear even more vibrant looking.

The sun did break through the clouds at the end of the hike (obviously because I coaxed it out by singing every sun-related song I could think of), but by then I was so blown away by the glacier that it didn’t make much of a difference.  Seeing Perito Moreno is one thing, but actually trekking it provides a unique look at its absurdly enormous size, insane colors, intricate crevices, and the hilly, frozen solid ice formations that we climbed up and down.

One thought that I’ve taken away from all my travels this month, which was clearly apparent in Patagonia, is that hiking happens to be a very internally reflexive activity.  Even when you’re with other people, there are always moments where the group is silent, appreciating its surroundings.  Walking one behind the other, our crampons crunching in the ice, while circled by seemingly endless frosty plains, became, at certain moments, quite overwhelming because of how small I felt next to the vision of what was all around me.

I do feel like I’m learning a lot about myself in Argentina, especially regarding how much I love la naturaleza.  I’m only starting to realize that travelling is such an incredible way to meet so many fascinating people, who are also, for one reason or another, drawn to these remarkable places.  It sounds corny, but I truly felt connected with everyone whom I climbed the glacier with, both the people I knew beforehand (hi Julie, Hayley, and Micaela) and the ones I met that day.  We were all there for the same reason, driven by a desire to see and explore this largely untouched territory.  This passion for nature creates an unspoken bond and truly distinctive unity that is capable of bringing total strangers together.

Perito Moreno is, if such a concept exists, life-changing beauty.  I don’t mean to be so poetic, but seeing the expanse of the glacier for the first time is unlike anything else, anywhere else in the world.  And since it’s hard to put into words, why not turn to the Bard to do it for me?  In a sign that I am obviously turning into my father sooner than I would have liked, the legitimate first thought that came to mind when I initially saw the glacier was none other than a Shakespeare quote.  “O, wonder!” Miranda says in The Tempest, reacting to her primary encounter with men. “How many goodly creatures are there here!  How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in’t!”

That sense of astonishment at being exposed to something entirely new and astounding is perhaps the best way to describe Patagonia, a place that honestly feels as close to Narnia as I’ll ever get.  I’ve only dedicated this post to the glacier trek, but combined with the hiking I did in El Chaltén, surrounded by the most stunning fall foliage I have perhaps ever seen (and I’ve seen my fair share of beautiful autumn leaves between Armonk and Ithaca), wonder is perhaps the best word to describe this indescribable place.

About Olivia

Hola! My name is Olivia and I’ll be spending the spring semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’m an English major, Spanish minor (but potentially major, depending on how the semester abroad goes) in the College of Arts and Sciences. Outside of academics, I’m a member of the club tennis team, the co-chair of Colleges Against Cancer, and a sports writer for the Daily Sun. I’m a really active person who loves the outdoors, which is why South America is the perfect place for me; Patagonia and Machu Picchu are just two of the many places I hope to explore. I’ll be living in a homestay, and even though it won’t always be easy, eight years of studying Spanish will definitely help me get by. And although I have a terrible sense of direction, I’m genuinely looking forward to all the places I’ll discover while lost in Buenos Aires. Of course, I’m also ready for the steak, wine, partidos de fútbol, and potential tennis sports star sightings (Juan Martín del Potro, here I come). I can’t wait to share my experiences with all of you!
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