Torres Del Paine National Park

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March 31st 2016
Published: November 19th 2016
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This morning we were picked up for a day trip into the Torres del Paine National Park with guide Eduardo and driver Gregorio. Gregorio proved to be an excellent wildlife spotter and he stopped the minibus on the side of the road on numerous occasions so that we could see eagles, condors, juvenile condors, caracas, a skunk, rheas and guanacos ... all of those before we got into the national park!

We stopped at a view point at the end of Lago Sarmiento from which there is a fabulous view of the three granite torres (towers) for which the national park is named. Well, sometimes there is a fabulous view of the towers. Unfortunately this morning they were shrouded in cloud. Although it was very cold this morning it was mainly sunny with only patches of cloud ... and that pesky fog bank over the Paine Mountain Range!

After we left the bitumen road we saw a small car on the side of the road - on it's roof. Eduardo said it happens reasonably often with inexperienced drivers who just don't know how to drive on gravel roads. He assured us that we were safe with Gregorio who has been driving visitors into the national park for many years. Good to know.

We stopped for another photo op at the first viewpoint inside the national park. Hmmn, this was our last chance to see the torres from this side, but those rock towers were still fogged in. At our next stop we saw some flamingoes way, way down beside the lakeshore and ... we heard the singing budgie. There we were in the wilds of Patagonia and we can hear - La la la, La la la la la la, La la la, La la la la la la, I just can't get you outta my head - emanating from the surveyor's ute. How incongruous to be hearing 'our' Kylie in this setting? And that's definitely a song I'm not going to be able to get out of my head anytime soon!

We stopped for another photo opposite the Blue Massif and then stopped for a short hike in to see the Salto Grande Rio Paine a waterfall created by the outfall from Lago Nordenskjol cascading via a narrow chasm into the Lago PehoƩ. Thank goodness we had so many warm and waterproof clothes with us. It made the wind and sleet slightly easier to cope with! It was certainly a relief to get back to the mini bus to thaw out as we continued on to the venue for our lunch break.

When Bernie booked this trip he booked the option that included lunch thinking we would probably get sandwiches and a piece of fruit in a brown paper bag. But no, there was a restaurant in the park and it turned out that it was a three course, sit down lunch - for three members of our group!! It seemed that not everyone had paid the same amount for their tour and the rest of them did not join us in the restaurant for lunch. We started with soup, then had ginormous steaks and finished with jelly. We have been eating so much red meat!

We were sitting by the window eating our lunch when Bernie looked out over my right shoulder and cries 'Armadillo'! That wasn't even on our list of animals we expected to see. Bernie grabbed his camera and raced out to try for a photograph. It looked a bit like a very big bandicoot with body armour. They're speedy little critters though and by the time Bernie got out there it was disappearing under one of the buildings.

We thought that was going to be it for our armadillo sighting but, when we went outside after lunch, there were people at a picnic table ... and there was the armadillo fossicking around quite unconcerned about how many people were watching it. One of the picnickers knocked a piece of food to the ground and was promptly reprimanded by Eduardo. The transgressor claimed it was an accident, but I'm not so sure. It doesn't matter how many signs there are about not feeding wildlife there are always people who do. We were happy just to be able to take photos, lots of photos! of the armadillo.

After lunch we called in at the National Parks centre where Eduardo showed us a 3D model of the park. He pointed out where we had been this morning and showed us where we would be heading next. Inside the national park we had found ourselves inside the fog bank that we observed earlier today hanging over the torres. It had turned into rather a grey day which kind of suited the next few points on our itinerary - Grey River, Grey Lake and Grey Glacier!!

We made an extended stop at Grey Lake where we were given the opportunity to hike to the viewing point where we would be able to see the face of Grey Glacier. The hike was pretty heavy going at the start as we had to cross a beach of pebbles that shifted under our feet. We took note of the time that we had been allocated and set off briskly hoping that we would reach the view point in half the time we had been given. We left the rest of the people in our group way behind as they dawdled on the beach.

Such a delightful hike - it started off drizzly, but deteriorated into sleet which was pelting pretty much straight into our faces as we determinedly continued on our way to the viewpoint. Phew, we made it with a few minutes to spare before we needed to start our return trip to be back by the time Eduardo had requested. And we could, sort of, just see the face of Grey Glacier through the fog and sleet.

After a few grey and gloomy photos of the glacier we started the return journey. At least the sleet was at our backs now! We passed the other members of our group who were still outward bound. We tried to point out to them that they were still some way from the viewing point and we were due back at the minibus by 3.45pm. Undeterred they continued on their way and we started to make bets about whether they would be back on time.

We were back at the carpark with a few minutes to spare so we headed off to use the facilities. By the time we were done, and much to our surprise, the rest of our group was back. They can't have gone all the way to the end? Or they jogged back? They were (much) younger than us so perhaps they paced themselves for a more energetic walk back?

As we headed out of the park and towards our next stop we drove out of the gloomy weather that had been hanging over the torres and adjacent mountains and back into some lovely late afternoon sunshine. We arrived at the Milodon Cave for our last stop of the day. The cave is named after the milodon fossil that was found there. The Milodon was one of the mega fauna - a giant ground sloth, but as big as polar bear - that inhabited the area during the Pleistocene era. The cave has also been used as a human dwelling place over thousands of years and has proved to be a very rich archeological site.

After a very long day in the Torres del Paine National Park we were dropped back at the Hotel Glaciares. We went for a walk back to the supermarket to buy some more water and some snacks for our bus trip tomorrow down to Punta Arenas. Seeing as we had a substantial lunch we decided that we would venture as far as the closest pizza restaurant for dinner. Trip Advisor had it placed at No. 12 on its ranking of Puerto Natales restaurants. I guess it was OK? Writing this months after the meal I am finding that it is completely unmemorable!

Steps 19,081 (15.29km)

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