Last year in November, 2015 I along with some of my friends, took an amazing trip to Patagonia in Chile. In this blog I am going to share about our experience and provide details about all the fantastic places we visited in different parts of Patagonia.
Patagonia is situated at the southernmost tip of Chile and Argentina. It is wild and massive. It covers a huge 1,043,076 km², with less than two million inhabitants. This provides you with an idea about the sheer emptiness of this part of the world. There are two very popular national parks in Patagonia- Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego and are very popular destinations for serious nature enthusiasts.
I always had this ardent desire to visit here but the sheer remoteness of Patagonia and the cost associated with it never allowed me to explore this beautiful land. Luckily, I had an opportunity to participate in a charity hike to Machu Picchu and I decided to visit Patagonia albeit for 5 days, right after the trip to Peru. I have divided this blog into three different parts. The first part covers Torres del Paine, the second part details the glaciers and the third part is our visit to Tierra del Fuego where we saw the magnificant King Penguins.
Day 1, November 13, 2015 –
In this trip, few of my grad school wanderlust friends also joined me and we all met at Lima, Peru and boarded an early morning flight (6:30 am) to Chile. The journey was quite long and we finally reached Punta Arenas, Chile around 7 pm with a couple of hours layover in Santiago. Punta Arenas. From the airport we took a taxi to Puerto Natales. The journey lasted about three hours and we finally arrived at Puerto Natales around 11:00 pm. We stayed at a wonderful Bed and Breakfast hotel “ We are Patagonia Eco-House”
Day 2, November 14, 2015- Torres del Paine National Park
We had to wake up early morning as this was the day to visit Torres del Paine National Park. The breakfast served at the hotel was quite good with a wide variety of choices which included muffins, breads, different kind of fruits, cheese and off course tea and coffee. At 7:00 am our guide Mauricio arrived at the hotel and we all headed out for an exciting day of adventure in the land of wilderness.
The park is located 112 km (70 mi) north of Puerto Natales and borders Bernardo O’Higgins National Park to the west and the Los Glaciares National Park to the north in Argentina. Unfortunately it was an overcast gloomy day with a high chance of showers.
Our primary goal was to hike to the base of the base of the famous distinctive three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range or Paine Massif. On our way to the park, our guide, Mauricio warned us that due to the weather, we won’t be able to do the hike. He instead suggested an alternate plan of visiting different parts of the park with limited hiking in some parts of the park.
When we reached Cerro Castillo – a tiny town located very close to the park, we stopped at local coffee shop for a quick cup of coffee, snacks and a bio break. We bought some local souvenirs and some alpaca scarves from this shop. We then headed out for Torres del Paine national park.
The roads in the park in not paved and this adds to the authenticity of this park. In fact it is quite bumpy and full of gravels. The journey though is fantastic. There are snow capped mountains everywhere and every now and then there one can encounter different kinds of wildlife ranging from wild Guanacos,red fox, ostrich and if you are lucky you can see pumas too. Another remarkable feature of Patagonia is weather. The weather in this part of the world is very unpredictable. But what really stands out is the forceful winds, especially during the summer time. This park is notorious for its strong winds and sometimes the wind speed reaches as much as 100mph. Mauricio took us around the park and we did some short hikes and got to see the breathtakingly beautiful landscape and some beautiful flora and fauna.
We hiked atdifferent parts of tha park and then Mauricio took us to Salto Grande- a breathtakingly beautiful turquoise color waterfall. The source of this waterfall is Lake Lago Nordenskjöld. The glowing turquoise blue color of the water is due to the presence of glacial rock flour which flows into Lake Lago lake, and these rock particles suspension reflects blue color which truly is spectacular. Although the height of the waterfall is not much, the force of the water thundering down the chute is unbelievable. One can walk right on to the edge of the waterfall and there is a vantage point where you can safely park your tripod for long exposure shots.
After viewing Salto Grande we headed towards Mirador Condores. We parked our car at the base of a hill and hiked at the top. On the way up there are many places to take unbelievale pictures of variety of subjects including the flora, fauna and the landscape.
It is a short and easy hike but the view of the Lake Lago with the snow sapped mountans at the backgrop left us speechless. This was definitely the highlight of the trip. In fact, it was a surreal experience.
As mentioned earlier. Torres del Paine is extremely windy. We experienced the notorious strong wing in Patagonia during our hike to Mirador Condores. While descending down the mountain cliff, Mauricio prompted us to stop completely. The wind in that area was so strong that it was virtually impossible for us to stand. We all crouched down waiting for the wind to slow down and once Mauricio signaled us to move, we literally jhurried down the cliff quickly to save ourselves from the strong wind.
Mauricio took us to glacial lake where we got to see massive icebergs which were floating in the lake but when we reached there the wind and rain was so severe that we decided to cut short our stay in the park and decided to head back to the hotel.
Overall, our visit to Torres del Paine was nothing short of a surreal experience. I personally have travelled many places around the globe and typically I never revist a place. But this park is special. I can connect to this park both emotionally and spiritually. If you ever get a chance to visit this pristine divine park please go there. It will be life changing experience.