Friday, March 27, 2009

Torres Del Paine, Chile

From Ushuaia we jumped on the bus for a 16 hour bus and ferry ride off the island of Tierra del Fuego and into Chile for a few days to do some hiking in South America´s most popular National Park: Torres del Paine. The park is approximately 1810 sq kms in size.

Have we mentioned that the weather in Patagonia is erratic? It is mostly the knock-you-off-your-feet winds that are the dangerous part. Not only did they knock us off our feet, they also changed bright sunny and even a little bit warm mornings into blustery, rainy, cold afternoons. In the picture below, we started the day with no jackets and our pants rolled up. Here, Rebecca is standing in the blowing wind, soaked from the hiking the last 2 hours of the day in a down pour! The flag on the left is the Chilean flag and on the right is the flag for that region of Chile.

To access the park we travelled by bus from the town of Puerto Natales for 2 hours on gravel roads. On the way we saw these guanacos grazing in the plains as the base of the rolling hills. Guanacos are part of the llama family and are pretty tame in the park. They just stand by chomping on the grass as the busses rolled by.

When we arrived at the park gates we could see the mountains in the distance. The mountains in the Torres del Paine National Park are not part of the Andes range. They were formed when lava broke through the surface of the earth and cooled off.

Many people who visit Torres Del Paine choose to hike either a 5 or 7 day loop in the park, famously referred to as the ¨W¨ or Paine circuit. We aren´t exactly set up to camp, so instead of hiking the circuit we choose to stay in a lodge located in the heart of the park. On our first day we did not arrive at the lodge until the afternoon and so only went for a short hike (3 hours) to stretch our legs. The is located on Lagoa Pehoe wich is a beautiful turquoise color. In the mountains on the right hand side of the picture, you might be able to make out the distinct bands of light and black colored granite which were characteristic of this small range of mountains.

On our first full day in the park, we decided up on a day-hike that would take us along Lago Grey to the base of Glacier Grey. The trail started at the lodge and made its way or a small pass in the foothills until we arrived at the shores of Lago Grey. Up arriving at the shores of Lago Grey, we could not see the Glacier right away, and had to hike along the shore for several hours before we would catch our first glimpse. Lago Grey(grey lake) is aptly named as the waters were a murky grey color, likely the result of sedimentation from the glacier. Before we had a clear view of the Glacier, several icebergs came into view which had broken off the glacier and were floating down the lake. The icebergs were a distinct blue color.

This picture shows our first real view of Glacier Grey and shows how immense it is.

Several hours later, we arrived at this lookout point which was perched above the toe of the glacier. The toe or end of the glacier is divided or slit into two by an island of land that you can see over our right sholders.

The sun came out for a brief moment to warm our chilled bones and cast a shadow over the edge of the glacier. To give you an idea of size...the glacier is approximately 30 metres higher than the water at this location.

The bright blue colors in the glacier came out when the suns rays shawn through it.

After an amazing day of hiking, we retreated back to the lodge for a couple cold ones and a much need semi-hot-sometimes shower. We hiked around of 30 kms that day.

On our second full-day in the park, we headed out on another day-hike which would take us along glacier fed river, Rio Frances, and up into a valley where we would be surrounded by mountains. This picture shows a downstream view from one of the precarious suspension bridges that we made our way across.

The trail ends at a lookout point where we were surrounded by mountains around us. It was as if we were in a bowl, surrounded by mountains. We rewarded when we got to the lookout by sunshine and clear skiies. Everyone we talked to at the lodge said the the summits were hidden on the previous day by a thick cloud cover.

After enjoying a summit view and having a snack, we made our way back down the valley to the lodge. On that same day, before getting back to the lodge and after enjoying a sunny morning, we would get pelted by snow and rain for several hours.

The following picture is taken of the most famous peaks in the range, a series of 3 granite towersa (cerre torres) that are arranged along a line north to south, which we referred to as the three sisters. The granite peaks are popular destinations for elite rock climbers and mountaineers.
If you have a high-speed connection, we have attached a short video for you too check out. This clip gives a 360 degree view of the French Valley(Day 2) once we reached the lookout.

It was really hard picking which pictures to show you from our time at Torres Del Paine...we have more than 100 hundred images and look forward to sharing more with you when we get home. By the end of our stay in Torres, our bodies were tired and sore - we did a rough calculation and figure that we averaged about 25 kms a day hiking.

Argentina Fun Fact #3:

Argentine people love there mate. As soon as we crossed into Argentina at Iguazu falls, we noticed that everyone around us was sipping, through metal straws, a strange drink that had green leaves floating on the top. Mate is an infusion prepared by steeping dried, chopped and ground leaves of the South American Planta - yerba mate. Hot water is poured into a unique gourd shaped vessel (available at most gift shops here) directly with the leaves and sipped through a unique metal straw that has a small filter on the end of it. The drink is a stimulant and is high in caffeine. We have both tasted it now, and the closest thing we can compare it too is green tea. More than just a drink, drinking and sharing mate has a long list of rules and traditions associated with it. According to tradition, mate is not shared with just anyone, because in sharing mate, you share your soul.

Epinada Count:
Chris - 31
Rebecca - 30

1 comment:

  1. wowzers... beautiful pictures!! i love the video too. i can't wait to ask questions about them when you come home and see more.
    i think your epinada count is making grama feel better bc at least she knows you're eating something.
    did you guys sheare your mate?