Scotch on 2,000-year-old rocks

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Andean Adventure

Scotch on 2,000-year-old rocks
March 17, 1997

Laguna San Rafael seems like a place where God would play games. Improbably located at the terminus of the miles-long Fjord of Elephants, it is like a chest of jewels hidden in a dragon´s lair, a flash of white-blue like diamonds amid the mountains.

For two days our ferry wound its twisted way through the canals of Chile´s coast, finally entering a fjord that seemed certain to dead-end. But as we moved further into this slot of mountains, the water became filled with dozens of iridescent blue ice splinters, miniature icebergs hinting of something greater ahead.

The Laguna houses one of Chile´s most renowned treasures: the San Rafael Glacier. A river of ice flowing off the North Patagonia Ice Cap 3 kilometers wide and over 50 meters high. It is the world´s closest tidewater glacier to the equator. Short of flying over, a boat is the only way to experience this marvel of nature.

So here we are. The San Rafael Glacier shines brilliantly in the morning light. Our little boat moves closer still through the sea of icebergs. In the distance, the upper deck of the main ship is a mob of photo-snapping fans.

"Chile! Viva Chile!" a woman shouts. We raise our glasses in salute as the glacier calves an enormous slab of ice in response. Our boat rocks in the waves, but no one minds. The whiskey is taking effect. Fifty people smothered in orange life vests packed into a tiny life boat amid mountains of icebergs sipping Johnny Walker whiskey from plastic cups. God must be enjoying this.

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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