4 ultimate icy adventures

    4 ultimate icy adventures
    By admin


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    Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

    4 ultimate icy adventures

    4 ultimate icy adventures
    By admin


    Hiking the Torres del Paine in Patagonia

    The W trek is so called because the path you tread is in the shape of the 23rd letter of the alphabet. That may feel a tad fruitless but the snaking trail takes you ever closer to the torres you came for – towers that loom over the lakes, the glaciers, the entire park, in fact. On the first day of the trek save your camera battery for Lago Grey – basically, grey lake. Translucent blue icebergs sit throughout the lake, beacons amid the pallid water and slate mountains. The icebergs are a chip off the block, the iceblock that is Glacier Grey. This frozen hulk is so jagged from a lifetime of pressure that it looks like the crests of waves or for the sweet tooths, stacks of meringues. The light catches the ice on different angles so its appearance is never the same twice. Further on, Lago Nordenskjold is a milky emerald that reflects more light than the often overcast skies are willing to part with. 

    This journey will take a minimum of four days to complete but you can do it without the burden of camping supplies if you stay at the carefully staged refugios, mountain cabins to you and I. The weather is renowned for its vitriol and the wind feels like it would blow you away if it weren’t for the weight of your backpack. The higher you get the more likely it is that it will snow. Then again, while the park may be bathed in golden sunlight, the weather is entirely unpredictable. Rivers, streams, waterfalls and lakes abound and they are all pure enough to drink from. You may even be joined by guanacos, wild llamas that trot about the mountains.

    Trekking glaciers in New Zealand

    A glacier is one of nature’s fossils, a testament to millennia of alpine snowfall compressed into a frozen blue valley complete with caves, crevasses and cracks. New Zealand claims two great glaciers that are kind to travellers thanks to their location in a temperate climate. Where the ice ends, rainforest grows in one of nature’s great contradictions. The mechanics of it are this: the ice forms at high altitude and is pushed into lower altitudes where you wouldn’t expect to find it. This stunning contrast occurs only in New Zealand and Argentina.

    Massive tongues of ice furrow into steep river valleys. You can hike, climb or helicopter your way onto the glacier. The Fox glacier is 13km in length and 300 metres deep when it reaches the river valley. It is always evolving and shifting due to melting ice at the base of the glacier, which presses the chunk forward. The Fox glacier therefore moves ten times faster than other valley glaciers and is matched in speed only by the Franz Josef glacier.  

    Kayaking with orcas in Canada

    You will feel tiny as triangle fins and shiny blubber backs curve above the water’s surface, making the sea kayak sway from side to side – just enough to thrill, not quite enough to topple. Johnstone Strait, off Northern Vancouver Island in Canada’s British Colombia, is home to the world’s largest pod of orcas, with around 200 travelling the passage. This number consists of around 16 pods and sightings of mothers and calves are frequent. The dorsal fin looks like a big black corn chip and when they swim underneath your kayak their white patches reflect the light. The orcas here eat salmon and the best time to see the whales dovetails with peak salmon season in July when the fish are swishing their way back to streams to spawn.

    Johnstone Strait has an aura of mystique thanks to frequent fog as well as the snow that lies in rivulets on the mountainsides. The water is calm and still, making the burst of a blowhole all the more dramatic. Often kayak expeditions offer hydrophones, an underwater microphone, so you can hear the startling sonar vocals below the water – the full gambit ranges from clicks to squeaks. What’s surprising is the speed at which they move given their size.

    Occasionally pods will swim close to beaches and can be sighted from land but to really experience the majesty you need to grab a paddle as watching from a large engine-driven boat doesn’t offer the immediacy or the vulnerability of sea kayaking.

    Tracking polar bears in Norway

    Polar bears are only found in the Arctic Circle and the region of Svalbard is exactly in line, situated between Norway and the North Pole. Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago which translates as cold coasts and is locally known as the realm of the polar bear. The largest island in the archipelago, Spitsbergen, is home to 3000 polar bears, however they have a habit of playing hide and seek so you must be patient. You may catch one leaping between ice floes and don’t be shocked to find their white fur stained red after a meal of seal. 

    The landscape is mostly featureless, an expanse of white, so when the polar bears do appear it mostly comes as a surprise. Look out for yellow patches in the distance – that’s a clue signalling their approach. Polar bears are the largest and strongest carnivore on land so their fearsome nature cannot be underestimated. They are clever and inquisitive, however humans are food to them so whichever tour you are on you are bound to be protected by distance or metal. If you hop on a cruise it will most likely take in Moffen Island which has glaciers, fjords and arctic huts.

    Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

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