Torres Del Paine National Park : ("Tower of Peaks")
Jan 26 2007; Day 3 at El Calafate
Torres del Paine National Park is a Chilean National Park comprising mountains, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls and rivers. The Cordillera del Paine is the centerpiece of the park. The park is located 300 KM from El Calafate, 112 north of Puerto Natales and 312 km north of Punta Arenas. Los Glaciers National Park ( our 3rd day in El Calafate) is located to the north in Argentine territory.
The Park is marked by the sharp vertical rise of the granite rock form from 70 M to 3000+ meters. The black granite peaks soaring in to the clouds are indeed very picturesque. The pictures do not show the sharp rise in the height. The park and the picture with the three horns ( peaks) is well promoted by the Chilean tourism in posters, book covers, bill board on Chilean airports. The park is also very popular for the challenge-driven hikers. You may take several 4 to 7 days hiking trips to camp in the park by tour operators like "Mountain and Myth", adventure travel etc. Withstanding the savage wind is a challenge
We departed early morning from El Calafate at 6:00AM to the Chilean border reached at 10:30am in the morning and from where, after customs, we headed 90 km straight to Torres del Paine. They were two stops for the boarder crossing each country in both directions. The custom/immigration bureaucracy was fairly slow and in total they must have taken at least another 1.5 hours. The 300 KM journey took six hours. Part of the road is unpaved. Most of the road goes through arid desert for miles and miles with dry burned short grass. There is no town or even other signs of many human living around.
Taking the internal route, we first passed by Lake Sarmiento and Amarga Lagoon (see the map at the park's web site in English). After a few kilometers from there we got our first lookout point for a panoramic view of the Paine Horns. We continued to Lake Pehoe and Paine River and took the lunch . We took a short trek to Salto Grande to enjoy the magnificent sights. It was a relative nice and sunny day. However the Wind was blowing at a very high speed. Often it was difficult to balance the body. The place is notorious to have winds as high as 230 KM . The park is huge ( see the map) and we could not cover the grey glacier (we did see a super set of glaciers next day in Argentina)
We saw herds and herds of Guanocos, one of the four mammals native to South America, The animal looks like the cross between camel and deer. We saw pink Flamingos, Nandu ( Ostridge like South American bird). We came back to El Calafate little after the 10:00PM. In future, I would rather come to the park from Chilean side ( from Punta Natales or Punta Arenas from where it 3-4 hour drive) instead from El Calafate (Argentina) and not deal with crossing the boarder twice. Of course we did not have that option.