Las Torres: it's pretty good-looking.
The Torres del Paine National Park is widely considered to be one of the most spectacular natural areas in South America. It is located on the south western end of Chilean Patagonia and is the primary destination for the large numbers of tourists that visit the gateway town of Puerto Natales. It is quite a photogenic region.
They say that Patagonia experiences four seasons in a day. They are right. We left Puerto Natales in rain, arrived at Torres del Paine with sunshine and rainbows three hours later, walked into wind so strong we were nearly laying on the ground, saw crystal night time views of the milky way then woke up to rain, sleet, snow and the coldest morning of our lives. The varied elements we faced made for some spectacular views and a very interesting walk.
Usually people do the 'W', a four to five day hike encircling the accessible areas of the park, however we only had enough time to trek for two days and camp one night so we chose to head straight for Las Torres. The scenery was spectacular.
Passing through lenga forests is a moving experience. They held on where they could through the valleys on our way to Las Torres.
The wet forests are host to a wide array of plant life and the odd invertebrate.
On Condors, Pumas and Guanacos
When we arrived back at Laguna Amarga, the administration area from which buses come and go, we decided to have a siesta as the sun was out and shining. We noticed a herd of guanacos, a camelid closely related to the better known llama, on a high plateau well above the lagoon where we were snoozing. Intrigued, we watched as one moved to the highest point and stood there for over an hour making occasional odd shrieking noises. It was rather impressive and reminiscent of a meerkat lookout.
After speaking with the ranger we found out that a puma had taken a guanaco further up the valley earlier that day. When this happened the guanacos in the area were often on edge, hence the lookout behaviour. It didn't take long for a number of Andean condors to appear, the largest bird in the world, with a wingspan of 3.3m. We thought this was pretty impressive until we ventured to Cerro Ballena in the following days, but that's a story for another time....