Patagonia, Chile
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  Patagonia, Santiago & Easter Island
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 the distance.

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.
Sarmiento Lake
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 waterfall
Salto 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. 

Mount Ferrier
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 catering!

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 Natales.