Saturday, January 26, 2013

It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between. –Diane Ackerman

I woke up this morning believing I was in my bed in Santa Cruz, and that there was an earthquake happening.  It was barely light, but I soon recognized the drone of the ferry motor and knew sort of where I was.  We probably missed much during the night, but I was eager to see what awaited us.  Unfortunately, the weather was typically overcast and occasionally rainy.  We saw land continuously and traversed flat water which was broken now and then by Southern fur seals and many birds.  

Later in the day we passed along the Cordillera de Darwin, the land of glaciers and waterfalls.

After supper we made a stop on the Chile side of Tierra del Fuego at Estancia Vendegaia so that the local men could unload alfalfa.  We wandered off the ferry in the meantime.

Before we passed Ushuaia, Argentina, the wind picked up and made the Beagle Channel waters quite active.

                                          January 24, 2013

Your travel life has the essence of a dream. It is something outside the normal, yet you are in it. It is peopled with characters you have never seen before and in all probability will never see again. It brings occasional homesickness, and loneliness, and pangs of longing…. But you are like the Vikings or the master mariners of the Elizabethan age, who have gone into a world of adventure, and home is not home until you return. –Agatha Christie

This morning in Puntas Arenas was a busy one arranging a ferry, two flights, one car rental, and one hotel reservation.  Originally we had been told there were no ferry places nor one of the flights available.  The key is that most reservations have to be paid for the day before.  If they are not, those spaces become available, and we were the lucky recipients.  Oh joy!  We took off for one more walk.  Look...Punta Arenas has stair walks just like San Francisco:

And the view from the top is this large city of Punta Arenas:

Today we met a fellow traveler, Ann, from the U.K.  She was one of our companions on the Austral Broom Ferry from Puntas Arenas to Puerto Williams, the most southern town in the world.

By 5 pm we were on the ferry.  It left heading west on the Strait of Magellan at 6 pm.  At 7 pm dinner was available.  It was a bit rustic and limited, but filling...2 meat empanadas, a vegetable soup with bread, a carton of yogurt, and a cup of peach juice.  We were glad we brought our own beer and wine along with some chocolate.

January 23, 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

He that is a traveler must have the back of an ass to bear all a tongue like the tail of a dog to flatter all, the mouth of a hog to eat what is set before him, the ear of a merchant to hear all and say nothing…. -Thomas Nashe

It was a long day back to Punta Arenas via Puerto Natales.  On the way we passed the cave where the remains of a prehistoric herbivore was found.

The animal was later named a milodon and has become a symbol for Puerto Natales.  At first we thought this was a polar bear, then we realized it was the milodon without showing its big tail.

 In Puerto Natales we visited several tourist agencies trying to figure out whether to take a boat to see cormorants, sea lions, and two glaciers.  Instead we ate a great lunch of grilled, fresh local fish and stir fried vegetables.  Perhaps this gentleman had caught our fish earlier.

                                                                      January 22, 2013

I think that maybe we do not climb a mountain because it is there. We climb it because we are here. –Jon Carroll

Our second day into Torres del Paine continued the above normal temperature of 24 degrees C rather than the normal 15 degrees C.  Bad for glaciers.  It was clear with no wind.

The parting look at Hosteria Lago Tyndell, our hotel, on the Rio Serrano outside the park.

Today was the day to see waterfalls.

Salto Chico (Little Waterfall)

Salto Grande

We followed the 4 kilometer path to Mirador Cuernos.  See how clear it is?  This was our last cloudless photo.  On the way we heard at least three big explosions.  What was that?

At the overlook were people from Brazil, Argentina, France, England, and the USA.  We sat there watching and listening for explosive glacial movement.  Usually there was only a ghostly image of drifting ice crystals where a portion had broken and fallen, but we heard a roar like a locomotive.   As we sat there for about fifteen minutes, the wind started up.

Now there were white caps on Lago Nordernskjold.

A last look:

January 21, 2013

No matter where you go- there you are. –Earl MacRauch

As we drove towards Torres del Paine National Park, on the 240 kilometer paved road from Punta Arenas, we saw our first rhea or nandu and our first guanaco.   After seeing 20 of each, we stopped counting.

On the dusty, gravelly, bumpy, narrow 90 kilometer road from Puerto Natales, we finally glimpsed the blue massif with about 40 kilometers left to drive.  It appeared so surreal in the distance.

On our first trip into the park, we drove to Lago Grey to see the icebergs.  It took about an hour to reach the closest view from the sand spit.  Crossing over the raging glacial Rio Pingo:

Jim holds a piece of glacier ice that had drifted up onto the beach.  How long has it been frozen?  It was so clear.

This was as close as we could get:

The Grey Glacier

Six at a time on the bridge, please.

Around 9:30 pm:

January 20, 2013