About an hour later we arrived in Puerto Natales. To get there we had driven through the narrowest part of Chile. In Puerto Natales, we stopped at The last watering hole of our trip, a gas station. Then we drove just outside of town to the water. There we saw the hand and the Milodón statue. The latter will become clear momentarily, but the hand was ever clear. When I asked our guide about the hand, he couldn't tell me what it stood for or why it was there, only that there were several of them. In Chile.
About 15 minutes later we arrived at Cueva del Milodón, the Milodon's cave. This cave, carved out by water, was discovered in 1895 by Herman Eberhard, a German. Eberhard not only found the cave, but in it he found a fully preserved specimen of the ice age, a Milodón. Today tourists can follow a path into the cave, which is constantly reshaping itself via water erosion, and to a semi-cheesy fiberglass replica of the Milodón that Everhard found.
We continued on our way to Torres del Paine. The view was amazing, we began to see glacial mountains and blue waters. The drive became more and more like a roller coaster ride. Twists, turns, ups and downs....we put our lives in the (capable?) hands of our driver.
Before reaching the official park entrance we drove over Lago Porteño. This lake is a fisherman's dream, full of salmon and trout.
Then we drove on to Lago del Torro. This is the largest lake in the area. Our driver told us that the other name for this lake is Lago Maravilloso. The water of the lake came from two sources: Glacier Grey and Rio Paine. The main section of the lake was as blue as the Caribbean, but where the glacial water entered, the water was a green-grey color. This water carried bits of sediment from the mountain.
And then we entered the park. In Chile, it is typical to have a separate price for foreigners. In Santiago last summer some of the museums were free for foreigners, but the parks here are a different story. For example, at the Milodón's cave, a Chilean paid 400 CHP (about 1 USD) and we paid 3000CHP (about 6 USD). At Torres del Paine the cost for a Chilean was 4000 CHP (8USD) but for a foreigner it was 15,000 CHP (30 USD)! But it was truly worth every Peso!
Our first stop in the park was Lago Grey / Grey Glacier. The short hike 1,5 hours with lots of stops for photos) began by walking over a suspension bridge. The bridge shook and moved wildly as we walked over it. Fun!
Then we walked along the beach. There were some floating icebergs that had broken off the glacier. Some bits of ice broke off of those and floated to shore. The icebergs themselves were so blue in color, translucent and beautiful. It was said that the blue on the Argentinean flag was meant to represent the colors of the icebergs. We continued our hike across the beach to a lookout point on the hill. Throughout the hike the sun was shining and the temperature was warm, but the wind blew with amazing force and strength that one expended tons of energy just walking.
After Lago Grey we drove to a few other places in the park, stopping to take in the breathtaking views. Each of the lakes around the park varied in color... grey, green, blue and black - they were all amazing. Our next big stop and short hike was to the waterfall at Lago Serrano. The waterfall was beautiful! In the spray of the waterfall, mixing with the sun was a perfect rainbow.
On our way out of the park we finally saw some wildlife of the park. Throughout the day, we had seen birds of all shapes and sizes; but on our way out we saw guanacos and ostrich. Guanacos look a lot like Llamas. Later, outside of the park we also saw rabbits.
Our final stop on our way out of the park we saw the Torres for which the park was named. Truth be told, seeing them from a distance was a bit anti-climatic. I hope one day to return and really hike throughout the park and see them closer.
Then we drove back to Puerto Natales, traced our route back to the gas station and then onwards to Punta Arenas. We arrived back at our hostel at nearly 23:00. A long day, but an enjoyable one!
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