After a restful 10 hour flight from Dallas, we spot the Andes in route to Santiago
We spent a day touring around Santiago.
The biggest corn I've ever seen
of course I couldn't resist photographing the chocolate
English translations on the menu were quite interesting - I stayed away from the 'Beaked Meat'...
View of the city from Cerro San Cristoball
The next morning we flew to Punta Arenas. Airport security signs in Santiago
and a bin for you to donate your knives, razors, and other sharp metal objects!
Punta Arenas means "sandy point" after its sandy soil and rocky beaches. A swim however is not recommended with an average water temperature of 5 degrees C.
It is a windy city especially in the summer with winds up to 120 km/h
Cartoon shaped trees lined the street of Cristobol Colon in Punta Arenas
Flowers were in full bloom
Punta Arenas has a human population of 120,000 and a stray dog population as high as 15,000. This one took a liking to Keith and followed us around for 2 days
View of our hostel from inside a restaurant across the street
The next morning we boarded a zodiac en route to Isla Madgalena
Every year in mid-September, 120,000 penguins pop out of the cold water from the Straight of Magellan onto this Island
Only males arrive at the beginning, but it doesn't take long for the females to join the males and start finding their sole mates for the sole purpose of reproduction.
They then stay all summer until their chicks (right) are big enough to join their parents at the end of March on their long jouney north.
This penguin seemed awfully focused on dragging this sea weed onto the island
Clare and Keith with the penguins
I wanted to pet the penguin, but didn't
After about an hour, we loaded the zodiac boat across the Straight of Magellan to Isla Marta
The island is home to about 1,000 sea lions,
who consider Isla Magdalena...
their special penguin restaurant.
Although they claim to be an adventurous but safe alternative to the ferry, winds picked up on the way back to the mainland and we had a ride of our lives!
Later that day, we boarded a bus to Puerto Notales
Puerto Notales is a city in Chilean Patagonia, located 247 KM northwest of Punta Arenas and is the primary transit point fro travelers to Torres del Paine.
Next day, we took a 3 hour bus ride to the start of our Torres Del Paine Backpack.
skies and views on the way to Torres Del Paine were spectacular
This amazing rainbow appeared and stretched along the entire western sky!
Fortunately my camera takes pretty good pictures through the bus window
Can you believe this?
The craggy mountains of Torres del Paine present an astonishing sight even when viewed from far off on the park's southeastern approach road
We arrived at 11 am and began our 20 Km trek to Campamento Seron
Until the declaration of the national park in 1959, a large portion of the Torres del Paine area was grazed by cattle and sheep.
The uniqueness of the area was fully recognized in 1978, when Torres del Paine was declared an international biosphere reserve by Unesco
Most of the day we passed through the Pre-Andean Xerophytic Scrub
A community located on slopes and in barren rocky areas, highly exposed to the wind.
Michele happy to discover all the backpacking to work training in December paid off!
A fire a few years back had killed many of the trees
We couldn't resist a little rest amongst the daisies
My Montrail boots which earned their price on this trip!
Ulla and Clare posing by our tents at Campamento Seron
Day 2 began with a scenic hike towards Rio Paine
As we gained elevation, we entered the Pre-Andean Mesophytic Scrub Habitat, with annual precipitations higher than 700 mm per year!
Skies cleared and views of Lago Paine and the impressive arc of jagged peaks along the Chile-Argentina frontier was spectacular
Michele discovered the panaramic feature on her camera!
We followed the path west-southwest through stands of nirres and open grassland dotted with wild daiseys.
we continued a traversing descent high above Lago Paine, rising and dipping as we headed towards the glacier-crowned summit of Cerro Paine Chico
Magnificent views of Cerro Trono Blanco in the Cordillera Paine
View of Lago Dickson and the Refugio Dickson, a welcomed site after hiking 40 Km during our first 2 days
The wind was blowing so hard outside I though the hut would crumble
Clare enjoying a good book
Since we only had to hike 9 Km on day 3, we waited until 2pm to begin our hike toward Campamento Los Perros.
Lago Dickson was expansive
I told Keith not to eat the red berries
Day three took us through the Nothofagus Forest
the path undulates through stands of coigue de Magallanes
The trail followed the steep embankments of Rio de los Perros (River of the dogs),named after a herder's dogs which supposedley drowned in the fast-flowing waters.
Glaciar los Perros!
We headed up through regenerating glacial debris, then climbed the end-moraine that dams Laguna de los Perros
a small glacier calves directly into the lake, and blocks of ice float in its frigid waters
the route follows the top of the moraine wall before leading off right across river flats to arrive at...
Campamento Los Perros!
This Andescape-operated camping ground issituated in the forest near the confluence of the valley's two uppermost stream branches.
Nothing tasted better than the soup that night!
Rocks proved to be a useful wind shield
It was New Year's Eve and we weren't inspired to stay up for midnight so we celebrated the German New Year at 8pm.
Day 4 started along a very wet trail with beautiful streams with bank side flowers. The Waterfall Plant has deep-red flowers that are shaped like clarinets.
Once we hit tree line, the vegetation changed to sparse alpine grasses.
The route ascended more steeply, climbing over barren rock slopes.
To the north, a small crevassed glacier, which is the source of the valley's uppermost stream, descends from Cerro Amistad
Looking back, we could see the back down the valley towards Lago Paine.
2,500 feet elevation gain and 6 Km later, we reached Paso John Garner, the highest and windiest point on the Circuit.
This is called the Andean desert
The wind was wiping but I had to photograph the beautiful plants that live in this harsh environment
Shortly after crossing the pass, we had our first views of Glacier Grey
and the Patagonian Ice Field
Its enormous fractured mass of ice choked the valley ahead,
hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
The trail was quite eroded in placed but we were certainly thankful for all the trail infrastructure
A recent storm caused quite a bit of tree damage
Forests of lenga cover the moister interior areas of the park. These trunks often take on a bow-like form, perhaps caused by the downward force of the heavy winter snows
Throughout the trek we came across this strange fungus
Known as Pan de Indio or Darwin's Fungus, it is a parasitic plant that causes the tree to form knots which are used by the local artisans to make souvenirs.
The fungus was an important part of the Yaghan diet, a native people of the Island of Tierra del Fuego.
Today pan de indio is still used in salads and to make jams
As we approached Campamento Paso, we enjoyed the wonderful views of Glacier Grey
Campamento Pasa had a few bugs and Clare got to use her bug net
Sunset over Glacier Grey
Day 5 continued through the forest. We found this lone teddy bear guarding the trail
Along much of this section fires have killed most of the young trees
which had been slowly regenerating after the original forest was burnt out decades ago.
Lunch time - cheese and bread again!
cool bug hanging out by the trail
Checking the map to determine our location
At various times metal railings, fixed ropes and wooden ladders have been erected to help trekkers cross the heavily eroded ravines.
The route took an undulated course past Glacier Grey,
whose mighty snout forms the northern end of Lago Grey.
The unstable, 200m-thick wall of ice continually sends large blocks -
some as big as a house - plunging into the freezing waters.
Driven by the strong winds, these icebergs sail across the lake before stranding around the shoreline.
Soon after, we arrived at Refugio Grey
Michele holds a tiny piece of the glacier
Keith and Clare enjoying pre-dinner drinks
After dinner, Ulla and Keith went outside to admire the views
Later, when Clare and I caught up with them, we heard the news that Keith proposed to Ulla - and she said yes!
Day 6 involved a steady upward traverse via narrow glacial terraces.
Laguna Los Patos
Ulla refueling with water from the stream. Best water in the world.
The park has a microclimate favorable for plants. Numerous species of flowers are endemic.
The Porcelain Orchid is the largest of the species in the region.
Its name is derived from the green-veined flowers that look like cracked porcelain
Calceolaria Uniflora var. Darwinii, Scrophulariaceae Ojos de gato, Figwort Family
The names "Pocketbook Flower" & "Purse Flowers" are pretty much self-explanatory, as also the alternative name "Slipper Flower." Inside each puffy pocketbook is a dusting of red freckles not generally visible from the outside.
Adesmia lotoides, Leguminosae
Gavilea lutea, Orchidaceae
From Chile comes this astonishing, slender, upright tree to 20’ tall & hardy down to 10 degrees. In late Spring to early Summer it becomes a solid mass of beautiful, fiery red, tubular flowers held in loose clusters. The deep green, lance shaped foliage is evergreen. A bountiful nectar producer so hummingbirds are constant visitors.
A well known fruit in Patagonia is the Calafate, an evergreen bush typical of the Andean shrubland.
Calafate, a type of barberry, is famous for the legend - Anyone who eats the Calafate berry will return to these lands
Its delicious deep blue berries are collected to make jam, liquor and ice cream. they are enjoyed by many birds, rodents and the Patagonian fox.
Later that day, we arrived at Paine Grande
Clare and I were very happy to be staying inside the refugio as it poured that afternoon
cushy dining quarters
energetic Chilean boys enjoyed smiling for the camera
They even have beer on tap!
Clare, Keith, and Ulla enjoying dinner
which consisted of more food than I could eat!
View of Lago Pehoe from the lodge
Day 7: at the beginning it looked like the weather would clear
Last views of Lago Pehoe - refugio on the right
Although most of the bridges were in good condition,..
There were a few tricky spots
Fortunately this stream crossing came equipped with a bridge.
Then the rains came...
After climbing steadily above Lago Nordenskjold, the track leveled out and passed alongside a compact cliff line.
The side trip into the valley between the Cuernos del Paine and Cerro Paine Grande would have been spectacular on a sunny day, but today it was socked in with clouds.
To the east was sunny so we kept hiking...
The southern part of the circuit was much busier than our first 4 days. Many hikers and even horses passed by.
beyond landscapes, the region's cowboys (called baqueanos in Chile) lend a certain air of romanticism.
Another group enjoying the view
The sun appears again!
We forged ahead and opted to hike 25 Km on Day 7 to reach the end of the circuit
The trail passed through a small valley, around a moraine,...
and across a grassy plain.
We crossed the Rio Ascensio suspension bridge towards...
Hosteria Las Torres! Since it was still raining, we opted to cook dinner inside
And then set up our tents for our final night
Day 8: our final backpacking breakfast.
We spent about an hour walking around the hillside near the campsite
The daisies were spectacular
A rare species of daisy was found...
Later, we dawned our backpacks for the final 5 Km hike back to the start where we would catch the bus
Old fences are still visible in places, and a local estancia (large cattle or sheep property) still runs some cattle in a small part of the park.
At the eastern end of the Macizo Paine are three magnificent frost-polished 'towers' of granite, the Torres del Paine. Although they were hidden by clouds throughout much of our trip, the richness and splendor of the park will never be forgotten
“Watching guanacos and condors, the
reflections of snow-capped mountains in
a lake, dramatic fjords, the penguins —
all of Patagonia is our ‘favorite part’ of
- Gordon & Sarah Gould of Woodlands, California
The bird life in the park is abundant and diverse. Long-tailed Meadowlark
Andean Condors are frequently sighted gliding effortlessly around the peaks. Identifiable in flight by their enormous size and distinctive splayed wing tips, these superb vultures nest in inaccessible cliffs on the eastern side of the park.
the narrowest car accessible bridge I have ever seen.
Back at the start, we rest while waiting for the bus
My Lady Jane Crocs were a welcomed site at the end of each day
A lone Guanaco seemed awfully friendly by the trail head
After a 3 hour bus ride, an unforgettable shower, and well needed laundry mat visit,
we celebrated with beverages and..
the best tasting pizza I have ever tasted.
After a restful night sleep, we gathered all of our belongings and left Puerto Notales
Our final bus ride back to Punta Arenas.
With 5 days remaining, we rented a car and began a 10 hour drive toward Ushuaia, Argentina
Although the land was uninhabited for much of the drive, the Sky was amazing
Numerus rheas (ostrich) grazed the fields
Every few minutes the sky would create a new portrait
It was as if a different sky scene was created beyond every curve
Abandoned Estancia between Punta Arenas and the Chilean Border
Admiring a lighthouse while waiting for a ferry to cross the Straight of Magellan
Eating a late lunch at the San Sebastian Boarder Crossing
Ushuaia wins the title "Southernmost City in the World" as it's located along the Beagle Channel at the southern end of the island of Tierra Del Fuego,
The name Ushuaia in the Yaman Indian language means "bay penetrating westward".
Poppies were in bloom!
And lupines were everywhere!
We stayed 3 nights in this really cute cabin on the outskirts of town
We were finally able to make real coffee!
The next day we visited Tierra del Fuego National Park.
It was created in 1960 and is located in the international border with Chile
It protects 63,000 hectares of the southermost tip of the Andes Range
We hiked a portion of the costera trail which follows the shoreline and travels through evergreen beech and winter's bark forests
Lunch is always a welcomed strop - mostly comprised of crackers and cheese
The cold temperate climate is wet and there is no dry season.
The average annal rainfall amounts to 700 mm
We were fortunate to have a perfectly sunny day
Through geomorphological processes, the Andes Range developed into a group of montains
that enclose deep forested valleys, crossed by rivers and lakes
Keith and Clare walking along Acigami Lake
Later we drove to the very southwesterly end of Route 3 to Bahia Lapataia
Back in Ushuaia, we were fortunate to catch a beautiful sunset (at 10:00 p.m.)
The next day we visited Martial Glacier
Located 7 km northwest from Ushuaia, a chairlift took us to to the starting point of our hike
It was a fairly short hike but quite steep towards the end
This cute, stray dog latched onto us
And posed perfectly for the camera
Another rare species of daisy...
Back in the city, Clare and I toured the local cemetery before dinner
Ushuaia is a cool place to sit and drink good beer in good pubs with good people
Our friend Reji suggested we eat at Maria Lola
The food was amazing!
The following day, we began our 10 hour drive back to Punta Arenas
The next day, we flew back to Santiago
The aerial view of the glaciers, volcanoes, and mountains were amazing!
From the air..
It was clear why few places in the world...
have captivated the imagination of explorers and travelers like Patagonia
"What seduces so many people to Patagonia is the idea of the 'remote' -
Indeed, the very notion of traveling to the End of the World.
After all, on a globe, everywhere is both the center and the end of the earth at the same time.
And people do live here - very few people, but those who do are hardy survivors."
That evening, we flew back to Dallas in time to catch the sun rising in Texas
Due to a series of airplane maintenance issues, our flight was delayed long enough to barely catch the sunset over Boston Harbor Islands. But at least we didn't need to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River...