Torres del Paine National Park
The Smithsonian excursion to Torres del Paine National Park began on November 18th and ended on the 22nd. After arriving in Punta Arenas on board the Terra Australis, we had a brief city tour, then headed north to the park. Lunch was spent at the sheep ranch, Estancia and Hosteria Rio Penitente. While there we were given a sheep shearing demonstration. The night of November 17th was spent in Puerto Natales, Chile, which is located on the Almirante Montt Gulf. Leaving Puerto Natales on the 18th we headed north to the park, with a stop at the Mylodon Cave on the way. The Mylodon Cave is so named because it is the location where the now extinct giant ground sloth (Mylodon darwini) was first found.
We arrived at the Explora Hotel on November 18th in the early afternoon. After lunch we were able to select from a few half day excursions. I opted to go on a short hike to Lago del Toro. The daily routine was typically that each evening we were given a briefing on the next day's activities and had to make our selection at that time. A variety of half day (morning and afternoon) and full day options were presented, including long and short hikes, horseback riding or van excursions. I pretty much stuck to the hiking.
On our first full day in the park, Kevin and I went on one of the more strenuous all-day hikes to the Base of the Torres. The next day was divided between two hikes, Lago Sarmiento half-day hike in the morning and the Lago Grey half-day hike in the afternoon. The last full day in the park, November 21st, I took a half-day morning hike called the Guarderia to Guarderia hike ("entrance station to entrance station"). Lunch was a lamb barbeque at the Quincho Explora. I spent the afternoon reorganizing my things and packing my bags in preparation for an early morning departure on the 22nd (Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. - but no turkey diner for us). The morning of the 22nd was something of a pleasant surprize in that it had snowed during the night and was still snowing (well, it was a pleasant surprize for me, but for the people who were going to be arriving in the park that day - maybe not!).
The 22nd of November was basically a long day of travel. We drove from Torres del Paine National Park to Punta Arenas, where we boarded a plane for Santiago, Chile. The flight north gave us some rather spectacular views of the Andes Mountains. The only unfortunate part for me was that while I was on the correct side of the plane, and had a window seat, I was sitting over one of the wings! Bummer! I did manage to get a few pictures dispite that inconvenience. Once in Santiago, most of the group re-boarded planes and were heading back to the United States. A few of us, however, were continuing on to the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. We spent the night in Santiago, had a half day tour of the city on the 23rd, then departed for San Pedro de Atacama in the afternoon.
The map of Torres del Paine National Park and surrounding areas shows the routes that were traveled and the places that were visited. Click on the place names or map symbol to learn more about that area and to view pictures.