Thursday, April 15, 2010

Torres del Paine, Chile

So while I was in Punta Arenas, I wanted to go check out the penguin colonies I read about. Like most things around Punta Arenas, you pretty much need a tour if you don’t have a car. So I went to the agency, which I loathe doing, but anyways, they told me most of the penguins had left the area by the end of March. The alternative tours were to go to an old fort on the coast 30 mi away or take a full day tour of Torres del Paine national park. Originally I never planned to go the park cause I figured I can’t see everything (and every gringo I met went there), but it just worked out. In the end, although pricey, it was worth it as usual.

Anyways, they picked me up at 6am, and we drove 3 hours first to the town of Puerto Natales, set on a beautiful lake in the mountains. The town isn't much, though. Then, after another hour of driving, we arrived at the park, with a whopping entrance fee of $30 for non Chileans. It was dirt roads for the next 10 hours or so.

The view from the waterfront in Puerto Natales:

First we went to this huge cave that had been created by the recession of a glacier and subsequent crashing of waves when the lake formed, thousands of years ago. There was lots of fossilized evidence of this giant prehistoric creature there. Humans probably didn’t inhabit it that much because they liked smaller caves.

The cave:

We proceeded for a few hours, stopping here and there, and went to a beach, where we broke and were able to walk independently finally. First we walked along the beach, bordering a lake with a glacier in the distance (and the torres del paine mountains in the foreground) and large ice cubes floating around. Then, through a small hilly island peninsula that gave us some more cool views. It was pretty cold and windy, but nothing like a Chicago winter. I guess Patagonia can’t compete with that.

Spend the rest of the day driving amongst the dirt roads, stopping, seeing incredible views of mountains and lakes, catching some wild llamas here and there, large wild birds occasionally, waterfalls, and in general pretty impressive scenery. Got back at midnight, crashed promptly, and woke up the next morning to the guy in the room next door dying (the outcome to that was not discovered before I left Punta Arenas).

The beach:

Some nice ice cubes:

The towers in torres del paine:

Plenty of these guys grazing in the mountains:

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