Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Torres Del Paine National Park , Chile

Torres Del Paine National Park : ("Tower of Peaks")

Jan 26 2007; Day 3 at El Calafate

See the slideshow

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.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Perito Moreno Glacier:, El Calafate, Argentina

Jan 25 2009
Perito Moreno Glacier: On our Day 1 of real excusions, today Our first adventure was to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier and then ice trek on it! This is considered to be the most spectacular and unforgettable excursion in all Patagonia. Our experience was exceeded all our imaginiations and hype we had by reading e half a done travel books and watching the DVDs !

We have been to several glaciers in Alaska and in Candian rockies. However, when I got to Perito Moreno Glacier, it was a new world of glaciers for me.This glacier is a monster, with 60 metre high walls, stretching 30km back into the mountains, but most importantly, it moves quite a distance each day . It moves 2 meter in center and 10 cm in sides causing tensions , cracks and Craveasses.This means that the glacier is constantly moaning, creaking, groaning and squeaking, while every 10 minutes or so a big chunk of ice crashes into the water below. This is captivating entertainment, and you don´t want to let the glacier out of sight in case you hear a big crash and miss the splash! ! The day, and whole experience was absolutely amazing. If you ever get the chance, don´t miss it.

It´s incredibly active, We witnessed building-sized chunks of ice calve off the glacier´s 150 ft face into the water of Lago Argentino below. It periodically advances, touching the mainland, separating the lake into two. This causes one side of the lake to fill with water, until the pressure is sufficient to break the ´dam´caused by the glacier, creating an explosion of ice and water as the ice dam fails. Truly amazing!

Equally exciting was the expeirence of the Ice Tekking. We hiked through a lush, green forest for about 20 minutes, till we got to the base of the glacier, where we were fitted with crampons - spikey shoes that fit to the bottom of our hiking boots. We were briefed on how to hike in our crampons, then we set off, single file, up a narrow trail of ice. It was absolutely surreal.

The ice is actually layers upon layers of compressed snow, which absorbs all colors, except for blue, which it reflects. This is what makes the glacier these shades of blue. We had never seen anything like it. It was absolutely beautiful. bluetiful.
We hiked for a while, stopping along the way to appreciate our surroundings. It was almost overwhelming being surrounded by these glacier peaks, valleys and streams. There was a slight, cool breeze and the sun was shining intermittently. What an amazing experience. We were in total awe.