Lenga Forests and Lonely Roads: Chilean Patagonia

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April 5th 2007
Published: August 8th 2007
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By way of San Francisco, my flight left Los Angeles for Santiago at 1pm. The flight was pleasant, I had 2 empty seats next to me, a clear window seat and the hottest flight attendant at my service. And these were Chilenas, serving free alcohol courtesy of one of the best airlines, LAN Chile. After a brief stop in Peru, the before sunrise arrival to Santiago passed well. The flight to Punta Arenas was much anticipated, I reserved an east facing seat, ensuring an unbstructed view of the Magnificent Chilean Andesandes I had researched the past 2 years.

Punta Arenas reminded me of some sort of polar outpost. Flying over the landscape before the landing, scattered glacial ponds dotted the green hills. Patches of forest, many quite thick, grow scattered over the ridges and rivers. It was overcast with 30 mile visibility. I got the rental car, bought some food and gassed up, then headed towards Puero Natales.

The drive was something special. It seemed so desolate, but also part of something bigger. It was normal, much like a trip to Alaska feels like being in any other US State although very far away. Soon, any analogy failed to explain the sights. Distant fjords and glaciers, pink flamingos in large shallow lakes, roadside memorials and high winds. the temperature wasn't high, but the winds were fast. Soon more forest appeared before reaching the vast expanse before Puerto Natales.

Animals were frequent, from Guanicos and Nandus to Horse and Cows. Nobody was on the roads, and the road only got more lonely past Puerto Natales. The weather turned wet too, which was an amazing transition but terrible ending. Terrible not because of cold and rain- terrible because the famous views of the Torres del Paine were hidden!

The weather and long drive found me well, so I stayed in Puerto Natales at Casa Cecilia. It was a great place to stay, who would have guessed I would spend 3 more nights here!

Turistel Map:

Ecosistemas: Patagonia Campaign:

Defensores del Bosque Chileno:

Ancient Forest International:

Additional photos below
Photos: 33, Displayed: 23


Lenga Forest, MossLenga Forest, Moss
Lenga Forest, Moss

"The lenga often grows in heavy snowpack areas above the true forest in mid latitudes. It ranges from the high Andes near Chillan to sea level near Punta Arenas-1800 km south. The lenga's fast-growing, cherry-colored wood is naturally resistant to decay, is a high enough quality for exterior and interior use, and is targeted as a major new source for wood chips -these are all serious threats to its survival, especially in southern Chile, where its growth is slower and the rate of exploitation most out of control. On the best sites, lenga trees grow 120 feet in height and 3 feet in diameter" -from: http://www.ancientforests.org/forest_types.html

4th May 2007

just beautiful!!! very impressed, and jealous of all the open space!! go to japan and take some pictures for me please.
13th October 2007

Just stumbled across your blog, great pictures!!
19th October 2007

Thanks Sophie!
I love all your South America blogs, you take some great pictures yourself!!
25th January 2009

Thank you
Kudos for your great article, as I enjoyed it immensely. How were the roads? And did you naviate okay with or without Spanish? And what about chains for the car, and cold weather gear for you? Healthy food available? Thanks, Gerry

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