Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine, in the Magallanes Region
of southern Chile is a spectacular park internationally
renowned as one of the most beautiful, unspoiled,
and remote places on earth. The park is comparable
to the US Yellowstone or Yosemite Parks.
5 hours drive from El Calafate, this 450,000
acre park is an amazing biosphere recognized
as a World Heritage site in 1978 by UNESCO.
En route from El Calafate we saw many local
wildlife – Guanacos, Rheas and condors.
Guanacos are beautiful South American animals
somewhat similar to llamas. Rheas are ostrich-like
birds. The females make the nests and the
males sit on the eggs. There are also various species of birds and
even beautiful puma have been sighted in
Three large pillars, the towers from which
the park gets it's name, stand in one
part of the National Park. The mountains
are called Torre Central (2800m), Torre Sur
(2850m), and Torre Norte (2600m). The Mirador
del Torres (The Torres Viewpoint, also referred
to as Torres Base) is the best place to view
these magnificent mountains.
The Lakes & Glaciers
Interestingly, the lakes in Torres del Paine
were all of varying colours and desposits.
Named after Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa who
was a Spanish explorer, the lake literally
looks as if it has a ring around it. The
area experienced hydrothermal activity and
the calcium deposits are similar to deposits
that are found in other hot springs around
the world. Hot water rising up, through the
underlying rocks dissolve some of the minerals.
Calcite in particular are deposited at the
surface due to evaporation. Pehoe Lake
Pehoe Lake is the star of Torres del Paine’s
luminous lakes with its milky turquoise waters
that set off the mad jagged peaks of the
Paine Massif. Salto Grande waterfallSalto Grande is the prime waterfall attraction
. While its height is not overwhelming (it's
probably about 15m tall or so), it's
got incredible power as it drains the Lago
Nordenskjöld and feeds Lago Pehoé.
Glacier and Lago Grey
Glacier Grey and Lago Grey are true highlights
of Torres del Paine. The Lago Grey boat does
a lovely 3 hour tour around the lake and
takes you right next to glacier.
The Margarita and Marco Antonio lagoons generated
by the retreat of the thousand-year old ices
are surrounded by high pinnacles, home to
an abundant number of birds.
Although its summit is located at a height
of 1.559 meters and certain conditions are
required for its climbing, at 600 meters
there is a wonderful viewing spot of the
lakes Pehoe, Grey and Nordenskjold, Glaciers
Pingo and Grey, the impressive peaks of the
Paine Mountain Range, and the Paine massif.
As the path gains in altitude a landscape
full of lakes, glaciers and mountains appear
in such a way that almost every lake of the
park can be seen.
Sorreno and Balaceda Glaciers
We departed from the Serrano River dock at
9:00 hr after donning our very large jackets.
We would soon be very appreciative of their
warmth to below the knees! We sailed on zodiac
boats for 20 minutes to a piece of land where
we had to walk on land to avoid floating
down the small waterfall. Getting on another
zodiac we sailed down to a small pier and
disembarked at approx 11am to have a small
breakfast at Hosteria Monte Balmaceda. The
fire in the centre of the room was most welcoming.
We then sailed in the zodiac across the river
towards the Sorreno Glacier. We hiked along
a 1,000-meter-long path through a wonderful
native forest and along the coastline of
Lake Serrano. The local flora is made up
by perennial forests, where the coihue trees predominate (national flower).
Arriving at the base of the Serrano Glacier,
the ice wall is approximately 20 meters high,
whereas the impressive glacial tongue gets
lost in the white horizon, with the rest
of the small glaciers that make up its basin.
We returned to the small Puerto Toro pier
and embarked on the ‘21 de Mayo’,
a cutter vessel, 20 meters in length by 5
metres. It has a 360 HP Volvo engine and
can accommodate 50 passengers. In the inside,
the bar offers snacks plus soft drinks, beer
and, obviously, pisco sour. We were all given a complimentary pisco sour.
We then travelled to Estancia Perales where
lunch was served to all 50 people on our
boat and another boat. Very organised mass
We continued to sail southeast through the
waters of Seno Ultima Esperanza (The Ultima
Esperanza Inlet) through the Bernardo de
O'Higgins National Park, the largest
in Chile, being 3,525,901 hectares. The typical landscape of these channels of
Patagonia is leafy woods up to the edge of
the river, waterfalls and the imposing mountains.
We passed the ‘Barrosa’ point,
home of a cormorant colony. These birds,
whose appearance resembles that of penguins,
stay in this spot for three months during
the summer until their young learn to fly.
In the distance, can be seen Mount Balmaceda
(2,035 metres high), whose impressive figure
stands out from the surrounding scenery.
In the late afternoon we arrived at Puerto