Chile Trekking

From Santiago we went on a self-guided tour of all things Neruda, stopping by his house in Valparaiso and in Isla Negra.  Naturally, being sailors without a boat in Valparaiso, we needed a trip to the naval museum where we learned about the seemingly short life of any individual boat of the Chilean naval fleet.  Their boats kept running aground or catching on fire. The fierce winds, unforgiving land and lucrative trade in fertilizer played some part in that. Next on our list of must see's in Valparaiso was to take a stab at getting into the Yacht Club.  We got turned away at the gate.  We both blamed the state and smell of Tim's shirt for the uniformed dismissal we encountered.  Isla Negra was a small expensive village on the ocean, Pablo Neruda's place is gorgeous, right on the cliffs.  He loved boats and the ocean, but hated actually sailing, so he built his houses to resemble boats with long narrow rooms, tight doorways, wood planking and figureheads everywhere.  The figureheads were cool.  He even had a boat, high up on the cliff in his front yard, where he would invite guests for a drink in the cockpit.

We flew to Punta Arenas and took a boat ride to Isla Magdalenas in the Straits of Magellan. So cool!  A whole island covered in penguins, the little tuxedo-ed waddlers checking us out as much as we were checking them out.  Each penguin family seemed to have two baby penguins, nearly full grown but still with their gray baby fuzz.  We spent about an hour walking around the island, watching them play in the surf, waddle around with their buddies, bray like donkeys at each other, and lay contentedly in the sun next to their holes. It was cool being in a boat in the Straits of Magellan too, the wind is constant and whipping. The Straits got heavy use for years from shipping traffic avoiding Cape Horn, until the Panama Canal opened up. 

We cut out of Punta Arenas as soon as we finished up our food shopping and last minute things for backpacking, then off to Torres del Paine via Puerto Natales. Torres del Paine is a Chiliean National Park mostly known for it´s famous Towers of Paine, three sheer granite monoliths, but we found the Horns of Paine and Glacier Grey to be perhaps more impressive. We intended to stay only for a week or so, hike around the Torres on the "Circuit" trail and be on our way.  But wow did that place take our breath away, and not just when we climbed up those hills. We ended up staying 12 days, spending a day in the Valle de Francais, a day for the Torres lookout trail and going veeery slowly past Glacier Grey.  We started our trek in near gale force winds, along a gravel road that was mostly coming at us horizontally, it was cold, lots of days were rainy, and it was still just that cool.  The lakes and rivers are all these crazy colors of bright blue from the glaciers.  The Southern Patagonian Ice Feild, the largest icecap outside of a polar region is just to the west of Glacier Grey, we got to see on a sunny day, stretching out into the distance. Having your field of view include a giant ice cube and a flock of parakeets flying by was pretty odd.  Think parakeet, jungly type amazonian bird living on fruits, and, rather far from tropical thoughts, the southern icecap. 

Now, we´ve cut out to Argintina, where, finally, there´s some decent food to eat.  And I mean finally as in since we left the States.  There was chochos in Ecuador, boiled beans with roasted maize and lemony tomato-onion salad on top, but that was it.  Other than that it´s been rice, eggs, and the occasional fish or ceviche.  Seriously.  Finally the bread is decent, the pizza is good and they use olive oil.  Of course the beer quality went south.  Were in El Calafate now, and heading for El Chatlén soon for some more hiking around Mount FitzRoy.  Then on to Ushuaia for some hiking in Tierra del Fuego and maybe some volunteering in Isla Navarino, where they say you can see Cape Horn from the south side of the Dientes mountains...

Here´s the album with all the photos...


Tim found a snack that seemed to fit.


Spending time with the penguins


Tim, pointing out the Torres del Paine

We found a little plastic animal had found his way to Torres del Paine too.


Me, enjoying the view over Glacier Grey


Us on a break from walking...