At the incredible Torres del Paine, although they pronounce it 'pie-neh', so the pun doesn't really work
07.11.2015 - 09.11.2015 13 °C
It was a long and painful trip from Ushuaia. Going out of the city was beautiful, but punctuated with a few stops for engine repairs.
Then Argentinian emigration, then Chilean immigration and customs, then dirt roads for hours, then a ferry crossing across the Magellanic Strait, then a long drive through the vast, bare countryside.
Sniffer dog at the Chilean border
Crossing the Strait of Magellan
We arrived in Punta Arenas after 12 hours, only to find the bus company didn't have our names on the passenger list for the second leg. Luckily, the person we made the booking with was working, and she managed to sneak us on to the (supposedly full) bus anyway. We turned up in the chilly Chilean town of Puerto Natales just after midnight.
We took it easy the next day, organising some activities and exploring the town. It was a Sunday, so pretty much nothing was open, but we walked along the dock and saw the bustling main square.
It wasn't really bustling
The street signs are in Comic Sans...
Exploring Puerto Natales
Today was the National Park of Torres del Paine, rated by Lonely Planet as the best on the continent. There are plenty of multi-day hikes (it's calling you Simon) but unfortunately we only had one full day, so we made the most of it by joining a tour. Most of the bus was a large Polish group, and there were a couple of Hong Kongers and a Dutch guy, who we kept company.
We saw some guanacos (llama-like creatures) on the way. They're surprisingly nimble and graceful.
Our first waterfall had a great view of the torres (towers). Paine, by the way, is the indigenous word for blue, because on a good day the towers look sparkling blue. Today was nice, but not that nice.
Interesting lenticular cloud formations. Google tells me that these appeared over Cape Town, South Africa today as well, which is roughly on the same latitude. Coincidence? Probably.
Then we went into the national park, seeing some ridiculous scenery.
Nördenskjold Lake (named after a Swedish geologist)
Salto Grande waterfall
We had lunch by this beautiful lake
Our last stop in the park was Lake Grey, which is fed by the melting of Glacier Grey. Massive icebergs float down to the shore when conditions are right. It swept us off our feet, partly with its beauty, but also in a more real sense, because the glacial winds were incredibly strong.
On the way out of the park, our Polish friends started singing traditional songs, and we tried to sing along.
Caroline's hair shows the wind direction
We also dropped in to the Mylodon Cave, which was home to mylodons (giant ground sloths) until they became extinct about 10,000 years ago. In the late 19th Century a mylodon skin was found here, and it's still an active archeological site.
Look out! (Although they're herbivores, so unlikely to harm me. Also it's made of plastic.)
Back to Argentina tomorrow.