This is the last post from my absolutely astounding trip. The last 5 days are included in this one post so I hope I remembered most of it. I also added information and many, many photos (taken by me, the professional photographer on the ship, and my friends) to the previous posts.. For those of you who have been receiving my posts when I was on the trip, you can now go beck to the beginning and see it all. You will have to scroll down to January 13th to see everything and (until I figure out how to fix it) will have to see it in reverse chronological order. I even added a few videos so it will be best to view with good wifi. Feel free to just look at photos and videos. This blog contains a lot explanations of where we went and what we saw.
We were picked up from our hotel in El Calafaté at about 8:00. Our driver through the Argentina portion of our trip treated double lines as a suggestion. Jean and I were in the front seats and held our breath as we crossed the double line very close to other vehicles. In addition, some of the roads were … well just look at this very short clip to view the roads.
When we reached the border crossing between Argentina and Chile we had to wait in line. We had to stand in line for over 90 before we got our passports stamped to leave the country.
We were very glad to not be in the line of people trying to enter Argentina that day.
This sign was posted that was in Spanish and English. It said, “We have no water and cleaning services so no bathrooms. Sorry for the inconvenience.” But they did sell cigarettes.
Entering Chile was much so much more efficient. It was hard to believe. After getting our passports stamped we were transferred to another driver in a much more comfortable van who drove us the rest of the way.
As we arrived at Hotel las Torres Patagonia, we were greeted by a group of habaneros waving flags and riding around our van. What a treat.
After checking into our rooms, we had lunch and went to a meeting about the possible adventures to take for the next two days. Then Pat and I took a walk around the grounds. We saw a fox walking behind the trees. Later, at dinner, we saw the fox again. This time Aldo, our waiter, took a couple of us outside to get a closer view. He called the fox to him and that was when we realized that he was actually giving the fox treats – not a good idea for the fox who has to spend the winter here without the treats.
Aldo asked if anybody was celebrating a birthday. We told him that it had been Joni’s so he took a napkin and made her a flower. Aldo was so delightful and the dinner was delicious. I don’t usually take photos of food, but the presentation was worth the photos.
While we were eating breakfast we saw the hotel horses going across the field. This photo only shows some of them.
Some of our group did ½ day trips today. John, Andy, Joni, Pat, Valerie, Sylvia and Rita decided to take the “Full Paine” Adventure.
Jane and I decided to do the 18 km hike (Las Torres Sendero del Ascencio. We wanted to walk instead of being in a van and then on a boat for 3 hours. We walked for a while and then crossed some bridges. They only allowed one person at a time on this one.
There were only 5 of us in our group and we actually had 2 guides (Javier and Inger). We saw other groups with more than 10 people and one guide. The first part of the hike had undulating hills but was mostly up hill.
The views were beautiful.
This flower is called “Fire Bush” and is the flower of Patagonia.
Hiking uphill got me very warm and I had so I had to take off my jacket and the bottom portion of my pants. There was not time to remove them so I rolled them into my socks.
There were great views of the valleys.
They used horses to bring up the supplies to the Refugio, which was 5 km into the hike.
This is a wooden sign showing the trail. Notice the altitude at the end.
When we arrived at the Refugio, there were many people around the area. They camp out here in tents. We took a short break, ate a snack and used the baños, which had a long waiting line to use and was not too clean. Jane noticed the sign that offered the horse rides. Andy and Rita will do this hike tomorrow but they will ride the horses for the first 5 km. They were not available for people today.
We then started through the lenga forest, which was undulating for a while. We were told that the water above the Refugio could be drunk right out of the stream so Jane and I both filled our water bottles. I can’t remember drinking straight out of a stream in the last 40 years.
Some of the bridges had more spaces between the slats. We had to be careful on this one.
Eventually I reached the part of the hike that was really uphill. Younger people would stop and ask me how old I was and tell me that I was amazing. I met one man who was turning 70 and as determined as I was to get to the top. He said he had to make it this year. Javier would wait for me along the way and kept asking me if I was going to be okay. He was worried that I would get too tired and not be able to get back down. I knew that if I got to the top, going down would be much easier. I discovered that I could climb up the rocks with much less pressure on my lung capacity than when I walk uphill. It was almost all leg power and go very slowly.
Here are some photos of the rocky trail.
I was pretty tired, but I kept on going.
When I reached the top, Jane was still there. Javier filled my water bottle with the glacier water from the pond. It was so delicious. Somebody came up to Jane and I and wanted to take our picture – must be the grey hair.
The rock face across from the pond looked like it was streaked with white lines. Then I discovered that all of the lines were actually lines of water running down the rocks.
Then some people took photos of me with my camera.
I loved being up there, looking at the towers and the green water.
I could have stayed up there for hours and hours and hours. But Javier told me that I had to start back down so I would get back before dark.
Going down is much easier for me. Some other people are just coming up. Inger walked down the rocky parts with me.
I have passed most of the rocks and am on the trail again.
Inger and Javier were waiting for me when I got back to the Refugio. Javier bought me a coke and insisted that I sit down and eat some snacks. I sure wished that the horses were available to take me the last 5 km. That is not far to walk, but it was already late and I knew it would be up and almost the whole way. Inger stayed with me all the way back.
I loved the design of the rocks in the roots of the tree.
The streams look different on the way back.
The pack horses passed us and I sure wish I had been able to ride on one.
It was uplifting to see the rainbow. I still had a long way to go.
The views of the water and hills were beautiful
We were down to the mostly flat part. We could still see the rainbow and Inga kept encouraging me all the way, but we were not back yet.
By the time I arrived back at our wonderful hotel at 8:45 pm I was really exhausted. As I was getting ready to change my clothes so I could get to the dining room before diner ended, Ann came into the room and offered to go get me something for dinner. She brought me a wonderful chicken salad. How wonderful to be saved by my traveling partner. While waiting for her I washed my clothes and took a bath, I was almost too tired to eat so I just picked off the chicken from the delicious chicken salad and fell asleep. The round trip was only 18 km (about 11 miles) but it took me 11 hours all together. What a day. I really loved it.
I was suppose to to do another hike today to Mirador Grey with Jane. The trip involved taking a vehicle to a catamaran for a short 30 minute crossing of Pehoe Lake. Then we would have walked the trailhead for the Grey Glacier View Point. It would have been a 22 km (13.67miles). I knew I could do 13.67 miles but I didn’t think I could do it in time to get back to the catamaran for the trip back. So I changed my plans and went on a morning trip to Laguna Azul (Blue Lake) with Ann, Joni and a couple other people. It actually involved driving in a jeep to see the sights. I was sure that Jane was going to do the hike, but when I saw her at breakfast, she said she was also too tired to do 22 km.
The jeep stopped many times for us to take photos of wildlife and nature today.
First we saw a Black Crested Eagle
The morning rainbow was beautiful.
These are just like the Guanacos we saw near el Calafaté.
- They are native to the arid, mountainous regions of South America.
- Guanacos are related to camels, as are vicuña, llamas, and alpacas.
- It has a typical lifespan of 20 – 25 years
- Estimates from 2011 place their numbers at 400,000 to 600,000 in South America.
- They live in groups of up to ten females, their young, and a dominant male adult.
- Unattached bachelor males form herds of their own—these can include as many as 50 or more animals.
- When a female guanaco gives birth, her newborn, known as a chulengo, is able to walk immediately.
- Chulengos can walk immediately and keep up with the herd right away.
- When they feel threatened, guanacos alert the herd to flee with a high-pitched, bleating call.
- The male usually runs behind the herd to defend them.
- They can run at 56 km (35 mi) per hour, often over steep and rocky terrain.
- They are also excellent swimmers.
- They are one of the largest wild mammal species found in South America.
- Natural predators include cougars, jaguars, and foxes.
- Chulengos can keep up with the herd right away.
There were Guanacos with young ones.
We saw a flock of flamingos across a pond.
We got much closer to the Choique (Rhea) that we also saw near Calafaté.
- They are the Patagonian symbol.
- Source of inspiration for stories and legends, the rhea is so present in folklore as in all the paths in Patagonia.
- It is a large , herbivorous, flightless bird.
- They use their soft wings as stabilizers, and are fast runners.
- It is one of the two “American ostriches”, but unlike its African relative has three toes instead of two.
We actually saw the Guanaco and a Choique together in the field.
We came across a pond filled with Geese.
This Upland Goose was walking around the field near the geese..
This Crested Caracara was hanging out around the gift shop. I thought it was a hawk, but Susan helped me with a possible identification.
As we were driving, we saw red fox running the woods. I know it is hard to see.
We arrived at Laguna Azul. Joni and I had took photos of each other.
I took a video of Laguna Azul.
After a wonderful lunch with Ann and Pat, I went on an afternoon hike to Bosque de Lenga (Lenga forest) with a couple from Brazil. It was a long, dusty uphill walk.
Our guide pointed out a very spikey plant that was called a Mother-in-Law.
This is aa close-up of the spikes.
There were many Lenga Trees.
On the way back we saw a large chicken called a Southern Caracara.
This was the best tasting lamb I ever ate.
We had a worderful treat when Aldo, our waiter, sang for us. Here is a shot clip of him singing.
February 4th and 5th.
We woke up at 6:00 and after breakfast we were driven back to El Calafaté today. They didn’t take much tome to stamp our passports as we left Chile. But this time our wait at the border of Argentina took over 2 1/2 hours. I really can’t understand why.
The entire trip from waking up; driving from Torres del Paine to El Calafaté; flying to Buenos Aires; flying to Miami; flying to Los Angeles;…
…flying to Portland; and the drive to my house was 43 hours. Yikes.
This was an ultra extraordinary trip. I hope you enjoyed reading my blog.