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Published: October 26th 2014
I'd read other traveller's accounts of Torres del Paine, and so expected a lot of this remote Pategonian national park with its towering granite massif, exotic wildlife, fields of ice and snow, glaciers calving into crystal turquoise lakes, fast flowing rivers, powerful storms and biting winds, and a hardy horse culture at the far end of the Americas.
Pristine Torres del Paine is all these things and some more..... ahh, how the temptation is to launch into superlatives....
Like all vast wilderness areas it makes you feel small yet somehow connected, daunted yet somehow reassured. Like the Kimberley in Western Australia or the Great Barrier Reef, it feels like I was emersed in something magnificient.
We spent 5 days in the park, staying at the Rio Serrano Hotel, directly to the south of the massif, and within striking distance of the major treats - Glacier Grey, the Torres, lakes, rivers, horse riding, views of Los Cuernos (the horns), and with a majestic view of the massif in the morning and evening light.
We were lucky, with excellent shoulder season weather and few of the summer crowds. But this is Patagonia, and it wouldn't be right not to
have some rough stuff, so on the last evening and night it blew. And it can blow, 50 knots without anyone being at all surprised.
The highlights were many. The Torres were other worldly and a bit surreal, almost too much for the eyes to take in..... an encounter with a flock of maybe 12 juvenile condors feeding on a guanaco carcass was quite fascinating and aweful.... getting up close and personal with glacier Grey was awe inspring..... meeting a red fox in an early morning on the pampa was intriguing and exciting. But for impact, the first evening, seeing the massif in the evening light, dead calm, mirrored in Lake Pueho so you get two massifs; that was wonderful.
On the way out of the park we encountered a vastness in time as well as space. Pategonia is a glacial environment which has,
since the last ice age, been receeding, leaving the lakes rivers and mountains as we find them now. And in this environment, paleontologists have found remains of the mega fauna which populated the region 13 to 18 thousand years ago, creatures such as
a giant herbiverous sloth called "miladon" which weighed
over a ton, a pygmy horse, the legendary sabre tooth tiger and a mysterious people who shared this wild place with all these strange and dangeous creatures.
Being in Patagonia feels like an encounter with the millennia.....
So, from here we go back to the Straits of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego and hopfully, weather permitting, a meeting with the Magallanes penguins......
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