Patagonia state of mind – Part 4. Torres Del Paine
After an almost half a year break, here is the continuation of my story about my big trip to Patagonia I took last year.
The next day, after settling in Puerto Natales, we took a journey to Torres Del Paine national park which is very different from what we are used to call a park. It is a 242 thousand hectares area on the Seno de Ultima Esperanza, enclosed by the Paine massif which is an eastern spur of the Andes mountains. The park was declared a World biosphere reserve by UNESCO. It also takes approximately 7 days to see everything. We had only 7 hours.. ^-^
To get there, we boarded a bus early in the morning that took us through the never-ending landscape of rural Patagonia – mountain massif on the horizon, big heavy clouds torn by strong winds, low vegetation steppes with occasional sheep and horses for two straight hours.
Our first stop was Cueva de Milodon – a massive prehistoric cave where the remains of an extinct giant ground sloth were discovered in the 1890’s.
We followed a 15-minute trail to the entrance of the cave – that’s how far in we could go without special equipment. A path looped through the interior of the huge cavern that allowed us to see stalactites and other minerals that have been there since prehistoric times.
Then, we drove further into the park entering from the Laguna Amarga gates. It is a good place to start trekking because that’s where wild Guanacos can be observed at a close distance. They look very friendly which is very deceiving because they don’t let you get closer than they feel comfortable with and they don’t accept any kind of food.
That’s beautiful Pehoe lake with dazzling turquoise glacial water.
And lago Toro with cloudy, milk like water.
Both phenomenon happens due to rock flour suspended in their waters. Rock flour consists of fine-grained particles of mountain rock, generated by mechanical grinding of bedrock with glacial erosion. I’m not sure if it’s correct explanation but I was told that the unbelievably blue water is the result of this glacial dust reflecting the sun.
The weather was beautiful – sunny and warm but because of super strong high-altitude wind I had to wear a fleece and two jackets – down and windbreaker. The French valley where we stayed for quite a while observing the mountain massif was particularly windy. At some point, I had to look for something to hold on to. The funny thing about Patagonian weather is that it changes almost every minute due to Patagonia’s closeness to the Southern ice field and Pacific ocean. It can be sunny and windless one second and the next it can rain on you and sweep you off your feet. That’s actually what happened to me on my journey to Fitz Roy but that’s another story. ^-^
Our ultimate destination was of course Los Cuernos. Tectonic movements that took place some 12 million years ago sculpted these mountains, giving them the shape of horns.
The trees in Patagonia all look like they’ve been created by Tim Burton. Strong winds bend them into these tragic looking shapes.
We walked through Magellanic subpolar forest to arrive at the spectacular waterfall – Salto Grande linking the two glacial lakes Lago Nordenskjold which lies in front of the Cuernos (the horns) and Lago Pehoe.
After the waterfall, we had lunch at Pehoe barbeque – a little wooden cottage that served delicious meat and cold Astral cerveza. Astral is the best beer I’ve ever had because it is mild and has the taste of berries. If only I could buy it here in Tokyo…
After lunch, we hiked about 2km crossing the river Pehoe to the Lago Grey and it’s icebergs. At the top end of the lake was the huge Grey Glacier marking the end of the southern Patagonian icefield.
It was the first time for me to see iceberg with my own eyes. I tried to catch some small pieces of ice floating in the water – they were crystal clear.
The huge area in front of the Grey lake was once filled with water but because of the glacier movements, it left the valley and moved elsewhere.
Our last stop before heading back to Puerto Natales was Laguna Verge with beautiful blue water. By that time, me and my husband were pretty tired from all the walking against strong wind and my hair was in one big dread. ^-^ Only half of the other tourists went out of the bus to see the lake. I guess Torres del Paine is a hard nut to crack for inexperienced tourists like us. I wish to return there one day and do the full W circuit 7 day hike because all the trekking that I did since that day proved I can totally do it. ^-^
Oh and here is a short video I took in the park, showing just how strong the wind was.
Next post is going to be about Argentinian part of Patagonia and our stay at El Calafate. ^-^