Awe fatigue?

Picture this:  we are in the common area in a hostel in El Calafate in Argentina and someone asks about what Bariloche is like given that we had just come from there and that was his next stop.  He wants to know to plan how long to stay in the area.  So we explain the wonders of what could be considered the Argentine Lake District – glorious blue lakes surrounded by the snow peaked tops of some of South America’s highest mountains, beautiful roads for cycling, the opportunities for hiking around the mountains or even up the mountains into the snow line.

“Oh” he said, “is that all?  Have you been to Torres del Paine in Chile?  I will only plan to stay a day or two as Bariloche doesn’t sound as good”

And in a very Carrie Bradshaw way it made me wonder… “At what point in our travels does awe fatigue set in?”

A small example.  

I write this on a boat with about 100 people on an excursion.  The excursion is to see glaciers and on the lake there is floating ice that has broken off the glaciers ahead of us – icebergs if you will.

The first few appeared to be about the size of jetskis (as only 10% shows above the water) and the decks were all full of people taking photos – and then icebergs as big as motorboats appeared.  Awesome.  People braving the freezing chill on deck to take more pics.  Wait a minute – the next are actually bigger than the catamaran beside them… Awesome!  More pics.  

We passed them, and for a time the icebergs, though many, were back to motorboat sized and what happened?  People were no longer awed by what they saw and returned to the warm… until icebergs the size of battleships appeared and everyone thought “wow!” and were tempted to click click click again.  Now, I think it would take an iceberg the size of an aircraft carrier to prise people off their seats camera in hand…

Icebergs the size of a carrier

But back to lakes…  am I any different to the young lad in the hostel?

Before our trip I enjoyed going to a lake or reservoir surrounded by hills, maybe a few trees for shade, a few rowing boats and maybe a boat under sail, having a picnic lunch and returning home.  Awesome.  

innocent days

Then we saw some lakes in the mountains in Mexico … much more impressive than lakes in the hills.  Awesome!

However, Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is huge and it is not in the mountains.  Atitlan is surrounded by volcanoes!  In a very real way, it brought a tear or two to my eye.  The lake was constantly changing as the sunlight or moonlight changed the surrounding volcanoes and the lake changed correspondingly – or maybe the surrounds changed because of the reflected light from the lake – it was not possible to tell. Every 5 minutes it was a different scene.  Truly awesome!


And so it came to pass that we came across some lakes in Colombia.  These lakes are in the high Andes, just like in the mountains of Mexico.  Did I really think “hmmm, impressive, but Atitlan was better”?  Well it WAS awesome, but…  hey I don´t even have a photo to share

Moving on and we are in Peru and we go to Lake Titicaca. This is the highest navigable lake in the world.  The border between Peru and Bolivia runs through it.  In the background are snow covered Bolivian mountains.  It is a lake sacred to several indigenous groups as the birthplace of the world.  It contains many islands – and not all of them stay in the same place from day to day!  AWESOME!!!


Fast forward past many other glorious lakes to Bariloche.  The scenery is, in anyone’s books, impressive.  The lakes in Bariloche have the snow capped mountains, the islands, there are a number of lakes some large some small and all with their own characters.  On day 1 we caught a chair-lift to the top of one of the surrounding mountains for virtually a 360 degree look and it was…  it was… it was… 


In my head it was awesome, but in my heart it was only cold in the wind, there were mountains and lakes and they looked nice but… well, we have seen lakes already, and it’s COLD!  Wait a minute… Eh?  What happened there?

Returning to El Calafate where we started this blog post.  

Although Calafate is on the shore of the biggest lake in Argentina – appropriately named Lake Argentina and it has it all – mountains, snow, edges like a fjord, the strangest colours (aquamarine in some lights, grey in others and even occasionally deep blue) few travellers come to El Calafate for the lake – well, not the ones who have been around a bit.  We all come for the glaciers – and they are AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!


So what is it going to take to make a lake awesome now?

 Perhaps in time and with rest the fatigue will pass and I will once again find that sense of awe with less.  I sincerely hope so as lakes are just one example of the truly truly truly awesome things we have seen on this trip. 

I hope so for myself as I don’t want to believe I am spoiled for the rest of my life and that the simpler scenes at home will never again make me cry. And maybe, more than for myself, I hope so for that 20something lad in the hostel who has a lot of years to fill with the hunt to be impressed by what he sees.

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