The flight down to El Calafate with Aerolineas Argentina was by far the most insane and fun flight I’ve been on. Without exaggerating, at least half the plane was eclipse hunters. And by comparison, I am such a beginner. Lucille next to me was up to five, and the chap next to her was ten for ten. And then the guys in front were up on their seats chatting over the top, and we started hearing about 12, 25 – and THIRTY eclipses! It was like a school reunion, all reminiscing about where they were for the eclipse of ’99, or ’91, and they literally knew that for one where they sailed via Pitcairn Islands, that the others must have been on boat x – as there were exactly three boats. I heard stories of chartered flights over the Antarctic, the Australian polar plane being rerouted to Indonesia, cruise ship mutinies over direction, Chinese steeplechase running over trenches and barbed wire to keep ahead of the clouds. And all of them, while talking, you can see this excitement, the anticipation – that for just a 150 seconds or so – weather willing, come the next day we’d be seeing one of the greatest natural shows on earth.
The airport is just outside of town, and an easy taxi ride into the center, and to my hostel, America Del Sur (El Calafate) – they have one in Buenos Aires as well, but it was strangely expensive. This one is just right. It was dark out already – we’d seen a great sunset on the plane, and I managed to chat a bit to my taxi driver about where we were from and about all the eclipse chasers arriving in town. Getting to know the relevant phrases in Spanish now.
Got to the hostel, and very impressed. Warm, comfortable rooms, and a nice communal area, and best of all they were just kicking off an all-you-can-eat BBQ. I’ve been waiting a long time to try Argentinian steak, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Spent the rest of the evening catching up with Blair and Amal who had both arrived earlier, and with Skip, a chaser from Brighton, England. Like Lucille from the plane, he is on five.
Awoke in the morning before anyone else in the room, and as it turns out, just before sunrise. Came down to the common area and stopped in my tracks – the view outside is beyond spectacular. It has a rugged wilderness, with the town nested in between some lowish hills, with snow all around, a lake at the end of the town, and the towering Andes behind it. Crystal clear skies, and the sun just rising was casting a brilliant light onto the snow, catching the tips of the mountains. I sense there will be several photos taken here.
A light breakfast, and I’ve been writing this update. Shortly back to the airport to pick up the rental car and hopefully meet up with Daniel, who should be in the air about now. Skies are still clear, and we have just seven hours to go – starting to really get excited that we may see it. It’s going to be very close – the sun is about 0.5 degrees wide, and will be about 0.8 degrees above the mountains, meaning that any clouds on the mountains will seriously hurt our chances. We’ll see…
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