In the backdrop of the Patagonian sky, white clouds hang over the vista of scattered icebergs, radiating a brilliant blue as if off the canvas of a watercolor painting. The Upsala Glacier is a true force of nature, one that possesses both great size and beauty in equal measure. Its almost mythic grandeur makes the Southern tip of Argentina an allegorical setting for an experiential journey; one that takes place on a vessel of discovery not unlike the Beagle on which Darwin embarked on his own exploration of a new world, only this one comes in the form of a kayak and an oar.
The Upsala Kayak Experience, or UKE, presents wanderlusts with an opportunity to witness one of the great lesser-known marvels of our natural world. You are led between icebergs several stories tall, before emerging into the vastness of the Lago Argentino and are treated to a panorama of the spectacular skyline. While not strenuous, the UKE offers enough physicality to embody a spirit of adventure, as if you were an explorer pioneering new ground. Organization-wise, you are in good hands. The equipment, which includes kayaks and dry suits, is state-of-the-art, and your guides have many years of experience under their belt. They ensure that you are well prepared before setting off, and keep a watchful eye on you throughout the day. The emphasis, though, is very much on your own unique experience. Embarking on this voyage with you is a small group of likeminded travelers, all gravitating to the Upsala in search of something new. For those who are willing to make the long trip to the Earth’s southernmost tip, UKE delivers emphatically.
However, with global warming taking its toll, the Upsala Glacier holds a beauty that is fading with every retreating inch. Ironically, this “once-in-a-lifetime” experience may be exactly that; there may not be too many more years before the Upsala Glacier returns to the very ocean it has resided in for centuries and takes its place in folklore. Yet, as things stand, the travelers of today can be the ones who speak about the legend of the Upsala Glacier when its time eventually comes. It is a symbol of nature’s elegance and power, and a profoundly humbling encounter.
As Chatwin wrote in 1985’s Nowhere Is a Place, “The word ‘Patagonia’ lodged itself in the Western imagination as a metaphor for The Ultimate, the point beyond which one could not go.” Literally, as well as figuratively, his words hold truth over 30 years on: the Upsala Glacier sits at the edge of the world, and remains one of the ultimate travel experiences.