Published: November 29th 2007November 28th 2007
A big ugly monster...
...pictured with a Milodon
Actually, it's not that cold down here in Patagonia. When the sun shines, which it does quite alot because it's summertime, it is very pleasant. But when the wind blows, it really blows.
After leaving Ensenada and the beautiful Lake District we spent a couple of days on Chiloe Island, a short ferry ride from Chile's mainland. It's a very nice place, nice and quiet, and because we were driving we were pleased to see that it only has one road, making it pretty difficult to get lost.
Alot of the scenery is like Ireland, rolling hills and wooded countryside. Also like Ireland the west coast takes the brunt of ocean storms, but the east side (where we were) was lovely and sunny.
We dropped off our hire car in Puerto Montt (we would love to write something interesting about Puerto Montt but unfortunately the place gave us very little material to go on) then flew down to Punta Arenas, the most southerly point of our trip. It's latitude is 53.10 degrees south, almost exactly the same amount of southness as Loughborough has northness (52.7 degrees). (Jez is getting all misty-eyed thinking
about the Carillion now.) Punta Arenas is a pretty town, but holy moly is there a breeze blowing! Most of the trees down there are either leaning at an angle where they have been blown over all their life, or only have branches coming out of one side of their trunks. The trees that manage to grow stiff and strong are rewarded by being trimmed into huge domes. We thought we'd take a pic and put it on the blog as we know some of you horticulturists reading this are partial to a nicely trimmed bush (Smithers, Nigel, Mick P, and of course Robbo).
On Monday we were booked on a one-day excursion to the Torres del Paine national park. The main attraction in the park is three enormous granite towers (see last photo) called the "Torres del Paine". Some fools spend four or five days walking around the park through wind, rain, snow, and blazing sunshine, but we thought a day on a bus to see all the sights was more sensible. The day trip is advertised as "All Day Paine" (at first we thought it involved listening to Uncle Geoff play the trumpet for 24
Trimmed bushes in Punta Arenas
You can make up your own jokes.
So when our taxi (?!) arrived on Monday morning with no other gringos in sight we wondered what the deal was. Turned out we were the only two people on the trip so instead of the usual 15-seater minibus we had our own private transport for the day! At first we thought this was pretty cool, but as we stopped at each site, ranger station, campsite, etc and got funny looks from the hardened backpackers it became a bit embarrassing!
You can see the pics at Milodon Cave. This is a huge cave that was carved into the side of a hill by a glacier and a lake. The remains of a creature named Milodon were found here. He lived about 8000 years ago, and as you can see from the picture he was quite a large chap.
Next... some fantastic sites in the Torres Del Paine national park (waterfalls, mountains, towers, lakes, wildlife, etc etc) before a boat trip on Lake Grey to go to see Grey Glacier. Unfortunately the weather was pretty rubbish - misty and raining for most of the trip - but we had good views of the glacier
and of some big icebergs that we passed by. We tried not to discuss the "Little Red Ship(wreck)" that had sunk after hitting an iceberg in the Antarctic three days before.
And so to our night at Las Torres campsite.
"Venture Scout" Phipps failed to remember how to put up a tent (uttering excuses like "well, I've not seen a tent like this before"!) so we had to ask for help from a passing New Zealander. She was very helpful and told us where to stick the poles. (Bridget was also telling Jez where to stick the poles by this point but that's another story). Ah, what a wonderful tranquil life this camping lark is!
We climbed into our two-man tent (if the two men are a couple of oompah-lumpahs then yes, it was a two man tent) and put the bags outside, thus enabling us to lie down.
At 6am on Tuesday we woke up, yawned, stretched, unzipped our tent door, and welcomed God's new day. Or something like that. There was hardly anyone else up and about and the early-morning views around us were stunning. Why were we up so early? We
Rear of a rhea
They're quick you know!
thought we would need a head start, being novice trekkers, but actually we made pretty good time on the day's walk which took us up to a great viewpoint for the Torres del Paine. Four hours there and four hours back, including some pretty arduous uphill and downhill, through lovely forests, over rivers and streams, and clambering over boulders (or "rock-climbing" as Bridget called it). The mountain water was clear, cold, and good enough to drink. Well, Bridget drank it but Jez wasn't so keen and only managed a couple of sips, concerned about his tummy. Ah!!!
This was our last full day in Chile, and it was certainly a great day, with fab views all along the walk. Quick note to Bernie and Dan if you are reading... Total "Respec" for doing "the W" with camping gear. We found it really knackering just doing the one day with day bags.
So now into Argentina - our final country - for Patagonia Part 2.
Keep 'em peeled!
Love from Jez and Bridge
PS Missing you all.
PPS Stuart, we have found another word perfect for the Terry Cristian treatment. The
Iceberg on Lake Grey
No prizes for guessing how the lake got it's name.
Spanish word for supermarket - Supermercado!
PPPS We have found out that the Spanish word for "engagement" is "el compromiso". Fancy that.
There are more photos below