Tuesday, June 16, 2015

To Torres del Paine

From Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine  January 18, 2015

We took an indirect route from Puerto Natales, Chile, to Torres del Paine National Park.  First, we did a catamaran cruise down the Fjord to National Park Bernardo O'Higgins.  This is a standard tourist day trip/excursion from Puerto Natales.   From there, we went up the Rio Serrano in zodiacs to get to Torres del Paine.  A great alternative to a two-way bus ride to the park.

The fjord was full of lovely waterfalls.  This is one of many we saw.  The fjord is called el Seno de Ultima Esperanza (the sound of Last Hope, maybe because it's a dead end and doesn't lead to the southern passage?) but was incredibly lovely.  It was the home of another canoe-living group of folks, the Kawasekar, which had a similar lifestyle to the canoerers in Tierra del Fuego, living naked just with sea lion fat, living in the boats with only temporary settlements on land, very strong upper bodies from rowing. 

View of the Andes from the fjord.

View of Torres del Paine massif from the fjord.  We learned to tell which were the horns and which were the towers and now I'm writing this up I can't remember!  But we got to see their irregular peaks from many angles over the next few days.

The Balmaceda glacier in the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, at the end of the fjord.  It's not connected to the ice sheet, and is retreating.   Our visit to Patagonia was peppered with evidence of global warming and glacial melt.  At the base is a newly formed glacial lake, and on the walk there, we kept seeing poles that marked dates when the glacier had reached up to 500 M or more out from its current limit.  The newly formed lake of glacial melt is peppered with icebergs.  It's shrinking rapidly.  There were several Andean condors (ie buzzards, with a wingspan of over 2 meters) riding the thermals over the glacier, and one is in the upper L side of the photo, very small. 

After the walk to the glaciar, we borded a zodiac for the ride up the Serrano river to the campsite.  It was a nice day, but we suited up because of the wind.  Silas was very happy at the start of the ride, and soon fell asleep.  The rest of us checked out the scenery and a solitary sea lion that had braved coming up river to hunt for salmon.

This is looking back over the Serrano towards Bernardo O'Higgens park.  It was just lovely.  The river is pretty grey, full of glacial milk, and as we got closer to the park and the glaciers, you could see changes in color as a glacial or rain-fed tributary fed in.

After the ride, we had parilla (grill) before going on to our campsite.  The other guests had grilled meat with salad and bread, which we came to learn is the standard BBQ, sometimes with sausages, often with lamb.  We had omelets.  We often got disbelief or chagrin from folks when we said we were vegetarian, along the lines of, but in Argentina (and Chile) they grill so much meat, too bad you'll miss it and anyway what can you eat?  But the truth is, we rarely had problems.   Self catering helped, and I got very good at quickly perusing posted menus to see which restaurants would be better for us, but we had more issues overall with picky kids than finding vegetarian food.  Other new food words learned early in the trip:  palta (regional for avocado) and manjar (the Chilean version of dulce de leche).

Next up:  Torres del Paine.

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