Patagonian Chile Travel Diary
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best viewed with those settings. As usual, the name of the bird in the
photo can be seen by placing the cursor over the photo.
8 January 2008
To be sure, Punta Arenas, Chile is not the end of the
earth. But you can see it from here.
In splendid isolation at 53° S latitude, as far south
as Dublin, Ireland is north, Punta Arenas is just a stone's throw from the tip
of South America. Around it are hundreds of islands, the largest being
Tierra del Fuego.
The town is located on the Straits of Magellan, set amid a
bleak plain that stretches north 400 km to the amazing spires of Torres del
Paine National Park. But neither plains nor mountains make the most
enduring impression of Patagonia. It is, rather, the wind, el viento.
Here the wind is a wild howling beast, cruel and
relentless. The wind in Oklahoma? Just a trifling breeze compared to the
fierce gale that pummels us here. They even built a monument to el viento, very
sturdy so that it cannot blow over.
Duncan Hill and I have come here as a prelude to visiting the Falkland Islands
and its penguin colonies. After a night in Punta Arenas, we drive north to
the park. Here we find guanacos.
A relative of camels and giraffes, the guanaco is a rare,
wily animal. Only the most skilled, experienced nature photographer can
hope to get a photo of them.
Actually, no. They're quite tame in the park, about as
difficult to approach as a flock of sheep.
9 January 2008
We're spending 3
nights at Hosteria Las Torres, an upscale inn, modern and well run. The
food, however, is dreadful. One plausible theory is that the hosteria
caters mainly to backpackers who, after 4 days of eating freeze-dried lasagna,
will consider anything resembling actual food as manna from heaven.
No less tame than the guanacos is the little Austral Negrito.
Both mom and dad are busy feeding chicks at a nest on the ground near the inn.
Along the road to Lago Pehoé
are Andean Condors. With a 40 mph wind behind them, the condors zip
past like bullets; then, they turn into the wind and hover, scarcely moving for
long minutes. Now they spiral upwards, finally becoming a black dot
against the blue. The view from up there must be wonderful.
mirador overlooking Lago Nordenskjold, we find two gray foxes, likewise
grown tame in the park. I must confess that against park rules and good
judgment, I fed them - they relished the chocolate fudge that wife Charlotte had
given me for the trip.
Later we find another fox species, the red fox. It was not tame but
nonchalantly trotted along near the road until it was out of camera range and
then out of view.