Joined: Jan 2005
Location: The Badlands (of NJ)
Beautiful, cool morning. We are traveling now out of Punta Arenas in northerly direction - away from Tierra del Fuego - toward another gem of the region: Torres del Paine National Park.
The plan is to stop at Puerto Natales, Roberto's base - for cappuccino, of course! - and make a loop to Torres del Paine, returning to Natales for he night.
After some spirited driving, feeling the effects of the strong winds, we stop at a roadside restaurant: Hotel Posada Rio Rubens. It's so in the middle of nowhere that its address is a mileage marker: Kilometer 183, Route 9.
Picture-perfect, elegant place, great food, nice atmosphere. I love that style of traveling! Enjoying the civilized high-life in an exotic environment. Can't beat that!
As we are nearing Puerto Natales, for quite a long while we are accompanied by a few horses galloping alongside. I guess that they have their fun, too, chasing our little KLR convoy.
A perfect Patagonian image... Picture-perfect!
Arriving at the World's End Café Book Store in Puerto Natales. It is an important element of our trip. The Book Store (occasionally using the name 'Patagoniax') is the base of Roberto's operation and my contact point for making arrangements for the trip. The store's owner - Claudio Matassi - is a sometime partner in the outfitting and guiding business.
Prior to the trip, I have seen many snippets of information and photographs of this place - we finally got there in person.
Cappuccino, eh? Roberto jumps behind the counter and does the honors.
Did I mention that I love maps? There is something exciting about pouring over a large sheet, tracing routes, discovering details, enjoying the feeling of adventure to come.
The store has plenty to indulge my interests.
Enough with the coffee. The day is not over yet: we leave Puerto Natales and pavement; ride on gravel toward the looming peaks of Torres del Paine.
It is a half-day route - seems simple on the map, but check out the satellite shot below to get the idea of the terrain.
While paying the park entry fee, Lewis is charming the Chilean clerk - a willing audience. He even got her to try a modular helmet!
As we ride deeper into the park, the landscape becomes ever more spectacular.
We dismount and explore a section on foot. I enjoy a suspended foot bridge, over a river full of glacial melt...
...while Lewis enjoys a good cellular connection. ;-)
A classic meteorological phenomenon: lenticular clouds over the massif. These clouds form in the standing wave of high-velocity airflow above the mountains. While turbulent and not suited for general aviation, lenticular systems are enjoyed by glider pilots, offering strong and predictable 'wave lift'.
At every turn, we enjoy a different, ever more fantastic view of these amazing mountains. The towers ('torres') are possibly the most characteristic features, but the sights of valleys, rivers and lakes are just as breathtaking.
Torres del Paine are a part of the southern end of the Andes. The high cliffs and deep valleys were carved by glacial activity; even today, the glaciers cling to the steep slopes and the lakes possess the telltale greenish color of glacial silt.
Despite its size, this is a very fragile environment. A recent disaster that befell it in 2005 was a wildfire caused by a careless hiker's gasoline stove.
The resultant firestorm engulfed 30 thousand acres of parkland and caused an international incident. The hiker was a Czech national - in the follow-up, Czech government and Czech conservation groups became heavily involved in restoration of the destroyed areas.
This is about the end of the tourist season. While the wind-blown snowfields in these pictures exist year-round, the rest of the landscape will also become snow-covered in just a few more weeks. February marks the end of the official summer season here; we are already into the first week of March.
Did I mention that it was windy? While taking this picture of rushing rapids, I had my only crash of the trip.
I was standing astride the bike, camera in hand, when the powerful wind simply blew me down to the ground. I just could not gather enough strength to resist it.
Amazed, astonished, breathless... We leave the park to return to Puerto Natales - past the ever-present guanacos.
Why did the guanaco cross the road? Because...
Back in town. I have seen photographs of this sign many times - now I am standing here myself. I am still digesting that thought.
Actually, I feel quite proud of myself: I have been - on a motorcycle, between the 2008 and 2010 seasons - as far south as about 55 degrees of latitude (Lapataia, Argentina) and as far north as 54 degrees (James Bay, Quebec or Cartwright, Labrador). Not in a direct ride, of course, but still not bad.
Checking into the (picture-perfect, of course) hotel in Puerto Natales.
Rather strangely named, though: Hotel Lady Florence Dixie. Huh?
Guarded by a ferocious (OK, maybe not) house cat, Clementina. Eh, you! Wake up!
rdwalker screwed with this post 10-19-2010 at 11:36 PM