Unexpected beauty

Today we're anchoring in Caleta Lucrecia, believe it or not, right next to Puerto Micaela! I can't believe I have my own bay here! You get to Puerto Micaela from Canal Grappler, whose entrance was protected by a quite nice size iceberg! The center of Puerto Micaela lies at 49degrees 30,5minutes S and 74degrees 16minutes W. Jens and I went up the hill behind Alita and took pictures of the bays with a glacier on Isla Wellington in the background. I could not have wished for a more beautiful place for my bay, with icebergs floating by and a view to the glacier. THe funny thing is, that not far from here (40nm), we'll pass Marcus' island on our way north. Not kidding, it's called "Ite Marcus".

Probably in the meantime you're getting tired of my excitement of glacier world. However we cannot stop enjoying every single second of driving in this beautiful landscape, to the feet of these majestic, old natural wonders. It is so hard to express in words the feelings we all have here, so close to what you usually only see in documentations on TV. Today we saw icebergs of the dimensions which you would only expect on an expedition to Antarctica, but which I did not expect here amoung all those islands in the pacific ocean off the coast of the Chilenan coast of Patagonia. I love the contrast here, of almost deserted little mountains on one side and glaciers on the other side or behind them.

We're very lucky these days. Ever since we left our anchorage (which we entered the night before escorted by a large school of dolphins) early yesterday morning the weather, unlike the 3 weeks before, has been extremely beautiful, which results in alcohol drinkers noses ;-) Yesterday a sunny day with about 40% clouds, today a completely sunny day, from midday on without clouds passing through these beautiful channels. Many fjords branch off from the main channel and mostly allow us a sneak view to the glaciers - or better to say the never ending ice field - behind them. Every minute the view changes, different peaks show off behind the hills here as if to say "hey, I am here as well, look at me!". It is soo exciting to basically drive past the backside of the huge "Campo del hielo", a part of which are the glaciers Perito Moreno, Upsala and Viedma. Puerto Micaela is at the height of Glaciar Viedma, the largest one in the Campo del hielo, only about 35nm (60km) west of it.

About an hour after we started this morning Jens called out, what we did not believe to hear this trip: "Iceberg ahead". Marcus ordered a good watch out since we did not want to end like the Titanic. This for sure were the biggest floating ice blogs we have seen so far - but not really big anough to be real icebergs (about 10m x4m). About 10 miles ahead from the moment we first spotted the ice in the horizon was Fjordo Penguin, which is used by all the ice from ice field on the west side of Perito Moreno to fight its way through to the channel just to be free and melt away in peace after it had been encapsuled in its block for probably hundreds or thousands of years. I have never seen so much flaoting ice. You'll see it in the pictures soon. We drove a bit closer to it and as we did so, the temperature dropped immediately from nice and almost warm (yesterday I wore a T-Shirt, today just a thin shirt)to entering a freezer. Tomorrow we're heading to the absolute highlight. Glacier (Ventisquero) Pio XI at the end of Seno Eyre. The book says the ice front is 50 m (150ft) high (Perito Moreno is 60m) and we have to fight our way through to there through a about 15 miles long field of floating ice. At least we don't have to break it. A cruiseship, the Adona, went there yesterday and returned today. She came from behind yesterday but entered a fjord behind us. This afternoon she came from the front and we could see in the AIS that she had been to see the glacier. This is the only way to get there: like them or like us. Thank god she was there today, so we can enjoy the peace for ourselves tomorrow. Tonight, like all these days, I'll fall asleep with the beautiful pictures from today in my mind. Sweet dreams.
Written on Feb 22nd by Micaela

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On our way again

With a delay of 2,5 days, due to wind and waves, we left Puerto Natales on the 19th at midnight and are now heading towards Puerto Montt. We plan a stop at a supposedly beautiful and gigantic glacier which we can reach with our boat and then at a 5-Star hotel with a thermal pool. We hope to soon get some wind in favour of us, so that we can sail. So far it's always against us... ;.) Our new crew member Jens, fotographer, is great, we're having a good time.

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The beautiful south

When we talk about going to the south, we usually think of going to a warm place. Well, as I learned, the south can be a rather cool place with lots of wind, but tremendous beauty.

Being here in the south, close to the mountains and snow, the well known saying “Life is not about the breath you take but the moments that take your breath away” comes to my mind. During our whole sailing trip of course I had many of those wonderful moments with all the beautiful nature and animals and I wrote about them. But, I have to admit, what takes my breath away the most is the majesty of those mountain, millions of years old, especially when you’re sailing right among them and then get a chance to hike on them. It is my biggest birthday gift that I have been able to get some real breathtaking views in the last 4 days when I was out discovering a bit of Patagonia.

I already wrote about all the beauties of Patagonia til Ushuaia. My favourite til then being my hike up the glacier in the Tierra del Fuego National Park - next to seeing all those dolphins, pinguins and sea lions. It showed me how much I love and missed the mountains and the work out connected with the visit of them.

Then came the views of the majestic glaciers ending in the water. Most impressive the blue reflection of the very compact ice. The less oxygen is left in the ice the more blue it gets. Simply a must see. We were very priviliged to be able to "park" and stay overnight in front of two of these. Unforgettable, very private views. 

 More pix of that trip: http://sailing.smichah.de/#43.0

All these glacier views were rounded up by the visit of Perito Moreno. Simply the dimension of this glacier is impressive. And then learning that there are about 1500km2 of ice in this area called the Ice fields of Patagonia (campo del hielo). Only Antarctica and all the ice around greenland and northpole present a bigger size of ice fields. Since Perito Moreno provides the easiest access to a huge ice field it's probably the world's most famous one. It lies in one campo with the glacier Upsala and Viadema. Close to that Argentina shows off with Fitz Roy, another glacier with lots of climbing and hiking facilities close to the town of El Chatén. 

Also Patagonia, but in Chile lies the Torres del Paine National Park which includes the southern part of the Campo del Hielo. This park is mostly famous for its three mountain peaks called Torres and it offers lots of hiking paths and multi-dorm cabins and campgrounds on the way. Most people here do the 4-5 day hike called the "W". Simple because the trails that take you to the best views of the torres and the glacier Grey are located as a W. So you go each path twice- in and out. From one "Refugio" (or campground) to the other. Mostly 9-12hrs a day of walking. The part I did - to the lookout "El mirador de los torres" - being the toughest one and probably the most beautiful part. Unfortunately I mostly walked in rain and then snow (which made me happy happy) so I did not see the torres up there across the turquoise lake. Would I have walked slower or waited for about 2 hrs I would have seen it. A
nyway I really enjoyed the hike and the snow made up for it. Plus I saw the torres from down at the lodge, the rest is up to my imagination – so why hike up there ;-)? It was worth feeling and tasting the snow.
Besides that W there is a round trail which in average takes 10 days and is way less crowded. Talking about crowded. Marcus has warned me that it is crowded here. Well, no wonder with only the 4 main trails and a good marketing. BUT: if I go to the famous mountains at home I meet at least as many people, just by far not so many with tents and big backpacks, since you can do million of different day tours while staying in one hotel or simply sleep in the dorms in the mountain cabins. In addition you have the choice of thousands of other not so crowded paths. Just the campo del hielo and the steppe is missing, although there are many glaciers in the alps and dolomites as well. But it is definitely beautiful here. Very unique is the change of landscape - Steppe, green hills, grey stone fields, rocky fields and glaciers. The pictures from here definitely show more diversity than the views at home. 

The nice part of hiking and being in beautiful landscape is that it brings together people from around the world, everybody is the same. What I love: everybody is happy, no matter what the weather is like. Rain, snow, sun, warm, cold. We're all here to achieve something and the weather won't keep us. It's just a matter of the right clothes. Seeing so many backpacking hikers in one place makes me understand the immense market of mountain gear sales. That's why there are millions of outdoor stores in Ushuaia, Puerto Natales and probably Punta Arenas, the starting points for most of the tours. I am a bit surprised that the vast majority of the people here are americans, followed by chilenans and argentinans. And most of the americans I saw were at least in the 50s, most people in general at least 40, only about 15% under 30. But I have not been to the campgrounds, maybe the picture there is different. In the refugio yesterday we had 80% over 55, all english speaking. Today we have a group of 6 young american kids. I only saw (heard) a couple of germans,French, Russians, two from probably sweden or so. Why is that so? I would guess because we've got enough beautiful hiking possibilities is front of the door. Patagonia just seems to be more of a tourist place for Amercians (and Australians) than for Europeans. But I don't know. Most tour Patagonia for about 1 month. What do you see besides the mountains? Plants (mostly the green bushes called Calafate, like the town in Argentina) and animals: guanacos, rabbits, fox, nandos (like a small strauss), cows, horses, even saw a mouse, and of course birds like even condors.

I really enjoyed my hiking, horseback riding and sightseeing here (and I have to come back with more time) and it's the only way I survive the thought that my beloved dance teacher from the EDGE performing arts center in LA, Malaya, is teaching in my home town Munich in the PA Studios right now on my birthday while I am not there ;-). At least I got my work out as well. :-)

Our new crew member, Jens, arrives today, a new adventure begins. We had a great time with the last crew, it was great to have more people at the same time, especially with that cool diversity we had, but we also look forward to the new crew…

Since the internet connection here is very slow, I just upload some pictures, otherwise it takes too much time. I hope to have better connection in Puerto Montt in 2 weeks.