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Published: August 8th 2007
With 3 days left in the park, I had some hard choices to make. Not hard choices like looking for a new job, breaking up with my girlfriend or buying a new car- after all I was on vacation! My choices were more along the lines of where I should hike to next, Lago Grey or Lago Nordenskjöld? I chose the latter. Salto Grande was impressive, but the short hike to the overlook puts one closer to the Cuernos del Paine and the giant massif of Cumbre Principal than anywhere else in the park. Like most National Parks less than 10% of people hike further than the major attraction, in this case Salto Grande. What awaited 30 minutes walk away from the Salto was just what I wanted, more solitude.
I soon discovered I wasn't alone. A curious group of intrepid travellers were behind me, consisting of two Japanese and three other Argentinians. They all had professional cameras and seemed to be on some sort of guided photography tour? The only one without a camera was the pretty girl with bright blonde braids. All of them together on a distant hill made for a great cover shot to this post.
All along the trail was fresh bones. I actually didn't notice at first, and then as soon as I stumbled on my first pile of bones I noticed they were nearly everywhere. What kind of bones? Baby Guanaco bones left by a Puma who ate them for dinner, thats what. I found an entire pelvic girdle, and by its large size I could see the puma who ate this poor young lad must have been pretty large herself. I wasn't too frightened, because the same species of Puma(Felis concolor) is native to all of the America's and back home we call it a Mountain Lion. We are practically bretheren! I'm certain the beast checked me out, but found me too large, too stinky and too much trouble for a quick meal. One pile of bones still had some muscle and tendons on the bones and seemed very fresh. So fresh I took a good look around to see if the animal was nearby, but I could see nothing. Later I discovered fresh Puma scat... My curiosity said "touch it to see if it's warm!". I didn't touch it, but it was definitely some moist shit! Yes, a cat was
very close by.
Apart from the constant reminders of the fact that I was not alone, I enjoyed the amazing views of the mountains and glaciers. I saw a small avalanche. After 2 hours of patient waiting, the clouds on Cumbre Principal cleared for a great shot of the snow encrusted peak. The fog rolled in, and quickly the overcast sky took over. It was startlingly calm, in fact it was so windy so much of the time Im suprised I didn't notice the lack of wind sooner. Then it started to drizzle and I figured I should be heading back, I had limited daylight and I still wanted to see the Cascada Paine.
By the time I got back to the car it was pouring rain. Not a little, but a lot! I took my time, taking pictures of Guanacos eating grass and drinking mothers milk, oblivious to the storm. That must be one hell of a coat of fur to protect against the wind, cold and rain! The Cascada Paine was quite pretty, even though I couldn't see further than 1km in the rain and clouds. I struggled to capture the water falling over the layers
of sedimentary rocks, bringing my down jacket to cover my camera and tripod. 60 seconds later I was dripping wet and freezing cold and still setting up the shot. Eventually I got the right exposure, took two pictures to make a panorama and ran back to the car. I would have regretted not taking that picture!
I spent the last hour of daylight driving back to Camp Pehoe, stopping frequently to watch the Guanacos. They are really strange beasts and kind of made me nervous. Their big eyes, their beautiful fur, their constant chewing of grass in a circular motion with their jaws, their indifference to people, their large size, their large travelling groups, their small children... a constant reminder of how far way I was from anything familiar.
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