Thursday, 29 November 2007

Chile Trip Nov07: Part 4 - Torres Del Paine

Ok, so I lied. This is not going to be my last post on my Chilean hols, since between work, fighting my way through the tourists to do my Christmas shopping of a lunchtime - the Rockefeller tree lighting was yesterday, so they're out in force now snapping pics of the tree - and catching up with friends before I head to England to see the family in just over 2weeks I'm not finding the time to write it all up. Sorry about that. Hopefully you will indulge me a teensy bit longer.

So, this post is all about Torres Del Paine, a Chilean national park located 112 km north (about 69miles) of Puerto Natales and 312 km (193miles) north of Punta Arenas and described by Frommers as follows:

"This is Chile's prized jewel, a national park so magnificent that few in the world can claim a rank in its class....the park is not something you visit; it is something you experience."

I haven’t travelled as extensively as some, Melissa for example, but from what I've seen of this Torres Del Paine those crazy kids at Frommers weren’t exaggerating. Simply put, it is breathtakingly beautiful. Melissa went so far as to say she thought the Chilean scenery was way more impressive than any she'd seen on her travels to New Zealand - I can't say as I haven't been there, although I have seen Lord Of The Rings which is almost the same. Joking of course. As for Torres Del Paine, I’ve yet to see a photo that does it justice, mine certainly don’t, but I shall still inflict them on you. What can I say; I’m a point and click kind of girl, which is blindingly obvious to anyone who knows even a smidgen about photography, such as Tel Aviv who, when flicking through my photos of Chile, declared “I see you used the same setting for all of your photos.”

Hark at David Bailey there.

However it’s not *strictly* true that I used the SAME exact setting!! I think that someone will find that if he looks closely at the aforementioned photos he will find that those taken in and around Santiago appropriately used the ‘Palm Tree’ setting. Whereas when I arrived in Patagonia I immediately made the necessary climatic and scenic adjustment to ‘Mountain’ setting, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it Lord Lichfield. Don’t be trying to confuse me with your aperture chit-chat, implying I know nothing about photography. Pah!!


Where was I? Oh yes, Torres Del Paine, well actually before I launch into photos of the park, I’ll just give a brief shout out to Puerto Natales, the small town which is the gateway to Torres Del Paine, and where we stayed at the extremely clean, but paper thin walled Hotel Eberhard along with a large unruly posse of elderly French tourists. Now I’ll hold up my hands here and confess to usually being a bit of a Francophile, but these particular French sexagenarians would have tried the patience of Mother Teresa. They were so damn rude and the brief time we actually spent in their proximity was a little on the trying side…primarily me trying to talk Melissa out of shoving them into the Ultima Esperanza Sound just steps away from the hotel. I did this largely with the cunning use of cabernet sauvignon which fortunately calmed her jangled nerves :-)

Here’s the view of the sound from the hotel...

Lovely isn’t it!! I think this being on our doorstep also had something of a calming effect on Melissa.

Our tour picked us up around 8am on the morning of Thursday 15th November - early mornings were definitely the theme of this trip, it seemed like we always had to be somewhere by 8am; it was great to sleep in over the Thanksgiving weekend - for a full day tour of the national park. It was a small group tour by minivan with just seven of us including our bi-lingual guide, Rafael, the driver, Juan, a Chilean couple who were so sweetly smitten with each other we think they must have been on their honeymoon, and a single Chilean guy who the honeymooners took under their wing. We were a cosy bunch!!

It took about an hour to drive up to Torres Del Paine, but along the way you’re treated to even more stunning scenery and it’s easy to understand how the region inspired the poet,
Gabriela Mistral.

Last stop before the park was the ‘service town’ – that’s how our guide referred to it – Villa Cerro Castillo.

I really liked the setting with Mount Castillo overlooking the small town. We stopped here for 20minutes or so, our last opportunity for a few hours to buy water and nip to the loo, before driving up to the entrance to the park and paying our entry fee, 15,000 Chilean pesos for foreigners (about $30); 8,000 pesos for the Chileans.

I’ll only post a few pictures of the, literally, 100s taken, since they’re all much of a muchness to be honest and it would get too repetitive to post more than just a select few. Our tour took us on a circular route through the south end of the park – a 10hour drive with frequent stops for photo opportunities and of course lunch - stopping at scenic lakes, lagoons and waterfalls; however the drive is around the same mountain range, just seen from many different angles with different lakes.

Before reaching the park entrance we stopped to take in the beautiful view of Lago Sarmiento, shown below

This is one of my favourite photos. After that it was off to Laguna Armaga and then around to Lago Nordenskjold, shown below.

After that we drove Salto Grande and walked down to admire a waterfall flowing into Lake Pehoe. We stayed there about half an hour, just drinking in the scenery, before driving down to Lake Pehoe where the Hosteleria Pehoe, built in 1971 - as old as me - is nestled in the middle of the lake....

Gorgeous right? Imagine waking up to that view of a morning!! I inadvertently captured one of our tour companions in my photo - there he is on the right - the single Chilean guy who the honeymooning couple took under their wing

Hosteleria Pehoe was the first accomodation in the park and I believe you can stay there for around $120 per night per room, although I read it's not very comfortable and all the rooms supposedly face into an interior courtyard, but who cares, you don't have to walk far for the view. This was my second favourite sight from the trip. It was breathtaking, although the photo just doesn't capture the full beauty of it.

After lunch at Parilla Pehoe - my friends will be shocked to hear I had steak, given my pseudo veggie past - we drove on, over the Rio Paine visit the shores of Lago Grey. This required a short walk through a wood and down to a bay. Up until this point it was actually pretty warm in the park and we didn't really need to bother with all the hats, gloves, coats we'd brought with us, so I'm not sure why I grabbed all my paraphenalia for the walk down to Lago Grey, but I'm glad I did. Windiest beach EVER!!! Invigorating though. This was my favourite part of Torres Del Paine.

That's us on the lower left, freezing our arses off on the beach, that's me in the blue coat, looking like the Michelin man in my triple layers. Do you see those blue blobs in the water? Ice floes from Glacier Grey. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!! I loved it though!!

After that it was back in the minivan and onto our final stop, Lago Toro, the largest lake in the park. When Melissa perked up at the mention of the Toro, "What was that? Did he say Concha y Toro, as in the vineyard? I'd love a glass of their cabernet right now."

She's wine mad that one!!


Amel said...

BREATHTAKING pics, Fish, esp. Lago Sarmiento (the first pic of the mountains). Unbelievable!!!

Having lived in Finland, which is pretty flat (they have no mountains), seeing mountain pics remind me of what they don't have here he he he...I remember when I was on the way to the airport with my family to fly to Finland last March...we passed by many mountains and I told myself, "I'd better enjoy the sight as I won't see mountains in Finland." HE HE HE HE...

Tel Aviv knows about photography? I'd LOVE to learn more tricks and to set up the Aperture and stuff he he he...

Anyway, GREAT post, Fish! ;-D

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Thanks Amel. I'm not much of a photographer, so you can imagine how awe inspiring it is in reality. It's the most beautiful place I've ever visited.

Amel said...

Yeah, nothing beats real experience when you see those breathtaking places with your own eyes...mmmm...

alcoment said...

Hey Fish, sorry it's been a while. Sounds like you had a fabulous time, I'm very, very jealous! Great photo's too.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Alcoment, no worries I know this is a busy time of year, thanks for stopping by, hope you are well. Fish

Flowers said...

There's nothing better (well, there are a few things better...) than being in a place that justs begs to be photographed.

I'm enjoying the visit!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Thanks Flowers :-)

Blur Ting said...

Wow, so beautifully. But it looks really cold and chilly there.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Blur Ting, thanks for stopping by. It was very beautiful and, at least on the day we went, surprisingly warm. It was only on the beach that we needed coats, in the rest of the park we got away without coats, gloves etc, although the weather there is temperamental :-)