Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Torres del Paine National Park

The Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most well known and oft visited parks in Chile's southern Patagonian region. On our motorcycle trip in 2010 we visited the park on a day trip out of Calafate, Argentina. We were impressed with the place then and again on this visit. The 10000'+ towers of the Paine Massif give this park a look like no other. Peaks, glaciers, lakes, rivers, and hiking trails make this a very popular destiation for local and foreign tourists alike; approximately 150,000 people visit this 935 sq. mi. park each year. Unfortunately, with the influx of humans come some bad things--namely fires. In recent years it appears that foreign tourists have been the culprits: 1985 (Japanese), 2005 (Czech), and the most recent in 2011/12 (Israeli).

Two different tours of the park were offered to us and we took the 10 hour tour in order to visit the Salta Grande (big weaterfall). The logisstics for these visits were interesting as both English and French speakers had to be accomodated.  Some passengers arrange their own land tours so there are usually several vehicles waiting for the ship's passengers.   On this trip there was an interesting twist. Our tour had a large motor coach for the French speakers and smaller bus for the Anglophones, but I noticed that there was always another motor coach with us when we stopped at a scenic overlook or to do a short walk to see a point of interst.   I finally saw the small sign in the window of the second coach, it said: "Back up Bus"! The remoteness of this location meant that we had to have our own "sag wagon" to make sure that we all made it back to the ship on time!

Lake Amarga and the Cerro Paine mountain range
The Towers
Fire damage
Strong winds warning on the way to the Salta Grande
Salta Grande
Salta Grande
Lodging in the park
We had lunch at the resort below
A beautiful and peaceful place
A nice lenticular cloud

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