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Published: January 9th 2007
the condor has landed!
and looks like a turkey
Today is Christmas Eve and we will be leaving Puerto Natales tomorrow to visit Punta Arenas for a few days. While we have been in Puerto Natales we rented a car to visit Torres del Paine National Park (TdP). The park is about 1.5 hours away on a mostly gravel road with road construction in progress.
On the way to TdP the first day, two exciting things happened. First we stopped at the Cueva del Milodon. This is a cave at which was found the fossilized remains of a giant sloth (scientific name: milodon) in the 1890s or so. The remains even included hair. (This is significant to us because we saw some of the remains in the Natural History Museum in Santiago and because the hair was the inspiration for the book we are currently reading called “In Patagonia”). The cave was nice and contains a fake milodon, which is pretty tacky but does give you a good idea of its size.
The second exciting thing on the way to TdP: condor sighting!! On the way into the park there were lots of sheep grazing. Apparently one had died. There were at least 15 birds - raptors of
The bright colors are us with the Milodon
various types, but also condors. We saw 4 or 5 condors and one even landed to check out the dead animal. The sheep looked so nervous at having this giant bird near them.
While visiting the park we saw even more condors, guanaco (although now we are confused by the difference between guanaco and vicuna, both wild forms of llama), foxes, and nandus (an emu-like bird). We hiked to some waterfalls that were nice, but after going to Iguazu, they were no big deal. We saw some of the mountain peaks that make Torres (Towers) del Paine famous. We saw the cuernos, the torres, many lakes and some small glaciers. On one of our hikes, we saw a guanaco skeleton, possibly killed by a mountain lion. (This is the closest we got to a puma).
We also visited Grey Lake and Grey Glacier, although it was a very windy day. The little hike to view the lake and glacier started with a suspension bridge. It was so windy, Steve and Theresa worried that Oliver was going to be blown off the bridge into the freezing cold waters of the stream below. But we all survived it!! The lake
has a beach that takes you to a little peninsula from which you can hike out and see the view. The beach was so windy that walking was very difficult. But we loved the wind, it make our little hike more of an adventure. But we were afraid we’d get blown off the peninsula so we abandoned our hike and headed to the nearby hotel for hot chocolate.
Driving back to Puerto Natales, we slid on a turn in the gravel road and dented the bumper of the rental car a bit. The car was a wreck when we got it and the rental company guy had told us it was going up on the auction block the weekend after we had it. But we were nervous about the whether the rental company would notice the dent and we´ve spent the entire Christmas Eve stressing over it all and trying to repair the dent as best we could, before we return it to Punta Arenas on Christmas Day. We’ll see what they say about the car tomorrow.
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