Spring 2016 – 2017 in Patagonia on the border between Chile and Argentina.
It is about a four-hour drive from Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine National Park on a mostly deserted two-lane road.
Driving Through Patagonia
After three hours on the road we reached Puerto Natales, the only city in this part of Chile. Puerto Natales is located on a finger fjord of the Pacific Ocean, Seno Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Sound).
After a brief rest stop in Puerto Natales, we continued the journey.
Guanacos, sheep and cattle roam the countryside.
A guanaco carcass testified to the fact that this is puma (mountain lion) country. The puma has the greatest range of any large land mammal in the western hemisphere – other than man. Puma habitat extends from the Strait of Magellan to the Canadian Yukon.
Cueva del Milodon Monumento Natural
Cave of the Mylodon Natural Monument is a 30-minute drive from Puerto Natales.
The Mylodon was a large ground sloth that roamed much of the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina before becoming extinct around 8,000 BC.
On his voyage aboard HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin first identified the species from bones found at a site near present day Buenos Aires.
Milodon bones were discovered in this cave in 1896.
The Milodon was smart. It is much warmer inside the cave, and there is no wind.
Torres del Paine National Park (Parque Nacional Torres del Paine)
From the Cueva del Milodon it is another 50 miles or so to Torres del Paine National Park.
The park is quite large consisting of numerous mountains, lakes, glaciers and rivers.
Inside the park we first visited a stream (Rio Paine?) and waterfall.
The park has beautiful lakes with mountain vistas.
Prominent blue hued rock spires give the park its name.
Grey Lake and Grey Glacier
Getting to Grey lake requires a short hike.
Grey Glacier, part of the Southern Patagonia Icefield, feeds the lake.
The wind here was the strongest I’ve ever experienced. Standing upright was difficult at times. Walking against the wind was exhausting. As an experiment, I tried jumping in the air several times. Considering that my standing vertical jump is no more than a foot, I was amazed that the wind was strong enough to move my body at least three to six inches each time!
Even without the wind, it was much colder here than in other areas of the park.
Going to Patagonia, the Strait of Magellan, and Punta Arenas was something I’d had in the back of my mind for a few years. Actually visiting exceeded all expectations. I plan to return. The goal of the next trip will be a flight to Antarctica.
Other posts about this trip to Peru and Chile: