Penguins, Glaciers y Más

I find it ironic that I am wrapping up writing about an action-packed trip while preparing to embark on a rum-soaked, beach bum voyage to Puerto Rico.  Before I switch gears to the hot, humid tropics, I’d like to relive some memories of the cool, crisp Patagonian air and a few the adventures we encountered.

Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve

Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve, an hour boat trip from Punta Arenas, is worth a visit.  Known as Los Pingüinos Natural Park, the protected reserve has been a breeding site of Magellanic penguins since 1982. There are literally thousands of penguins crowding the shore, squawking and frolicking happily in their natural habitat. A cordoned-off trail meanders around the island, allowing you to stroll at your leisure. The trail leads you to the island’s highest point, where the historical lighthouse has displays of exhibits relating to the rich ecosystem of the island.

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The boat that takes you from the mainland to Magdalena Island.

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Grey Glacier in Torres Del Paine

Located in southern Chilean Patagonia, the 447,000 acres (181,000 hectares) that make up Torres Del Paine National Park abound with mountains, glaciers, lakes and valleys. With its broad diversity of vegetation and animal life, the park was designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1978. One of the most impressive sights in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park would have to be the Grey Glacier.  At 6km wide and nearly 30km in length, the glacier sits at the south end of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, west of the Cordillera del Paine mountain group. Water from the receding glacier flows southward into Grey Lake, so-called for the color of the water.  Our tour van parked at the edge of the lake, where we walked about a kilometer to the boat dock, boarding a boat which wove through floating icebergs.  The cruise gets as close as safely possible to the glacier so tourists can see the large ice formation.

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Torres Del Paine National Park.

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Keeping warm with pisco sours or whiskey…choose your poison.  The lifejackets are not a fashion statement, but required.

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The color is so blue because the dense ice of the glacier absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue.

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Paine Towers Hike

We only had time for one big hike, and for that we chose a hike to the base of Paine Towers, the iconic granite rock centerpiece of Torres del Paine National Park. It is necessary to get an early start from the Singular to drive 2 hours to the base of the trail of this somewhat difficult 12-mile (19-km) hike through a valley, crossing streams and traversing woodlands before climbing a moraine to the towers.  The highlight of the climb is a close-up view of the three granite towers that give the park its name: Torres del Paine, meaning ‘Blue Towers of the Sky’.

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The first 90 minutes or so, we wound our way up a series of switchbacks over Ascencio Valley to get a beautiful view of Nordenskjöld Lake. I had the best hiking companion ever.

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The trail snakes around a mountain, with the Ascencio River rushing below.

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At this point you may be wanting some ayuda from passing gauchos, but soldier on…the climb is worth it!

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The Ascencio River.

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The end of the trail. For reals…no filter (we were extremely lucky with the weather).

If your feet are too sore from all the walking…

One of the prettiest ways to see Patagonia is on the back of a horse.  My feet were sore from the Paine Towers hike, so I was more than happy to leave the work up to the horse.  Most hotels can arrange for horseback riding tours on nearby estancias.  Levels range from beginner to experienced, and to be sure, when they say “experienced”, they are not joking.

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One last note, while the food at the Singular is some of the best in Chile, I had heard a rumor that the best pizzeria in Chile was located right in Puerto Natales at Mesita Grande.  Naturally, we had to check it out.  While I have not eaten at enough pizzerias in Chile to agree or disagree, the pizzeria was a nice change of pace, and a good place to grab a slice of ‘za and a beer.

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Provecho!

May your spring be filled with adventure and fun!

xoM

 

This was our second time to Patagonia.  To read about our first trip, where we stayed at the Explora Patagonia, check it out here: http://www.texaztaste.com/patagonia-chile/.

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