The Road to Torres del Paine

After seeing the Perito Moreno glacier, the next part of my Patagonia journey was to get from El Calafate, Argentina to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Chile. These two places aren’t terribly far away from each other on the map, but traveling by road, you have to go far out of the way to a remote border crossing and then make your way back up to the park. So, we had a nice long bus ride across the high steppe and stopped for coffee some where in the middle. Below is the approximate route that the bus took.

I did get to see a lot of the high country with lots of guanaco, sheep, and rheas in the fields near the road; more on them later. We eventually arrived at an unpaved road that led to the Argentinian border checkpoint, where we basically swiped our passport, and then on to the paved road to the Chilean border check point where we swiped our passports and had our bags x-rayed. I think they are mainly concerned that you not have unpackaged food with you. This all went without incident. Below are pictures of the two checkpoints if you are interested. My daughter wondered why there was a Texas flag flying at the Chilean checkpoint.

After the border checkpoints, we swapped busses and drivers, visited a little souvenir shop, and we headed up the road toward the park. Along the way we began seeing a lot of wildlife; mainly guanacos, rheas, and geese. We would eventually see much more of this wildlife and others in the park, but here are a few pictures from along the road. I tried to capture the guanacos with the landscape in the background to sort of set the mood of the area as the park has thousands of these things roaming around (much to the delight of the pumas). And I didn’t even know there was a large flightless bird called a rhea in South America before this trip, but there were plenty of these as well.

Our next stop was at an overlook at Lago Sarmiento with the cloud shrouded mountains in the background. I like the picture that I took with the boulder in the foreground, so here it is. The towers that give name to the park are in the clouds, but no need to worry as the skies will clear up after this day. Also, the lakes really are this cyan-blue color in the area and it makes it look like I messed up the color when editing my photos. The land is a yellow-tan with red trees on the mountain sides showing autumnal color.

We stopped at another overlook and I was told we would be here for sunrise the next day, so I checked out where the sun would be with a phone app and worked on possible compositions. The nice thing about sunrises here is that the eastern horizon is generally free of clouds as the Andes seems to provide a weather barrier to the west. So hopefully lots of nice dawn light high on the mountains at sunrise. Below is my planned shot with foreground boulders, the cyan lake (Laguna Amarga), and hopefully fewer clouds in the morning. The lake really looked like that, and the white shore around the laguna is calcium carbonate, I am told, left behind by cyanobacteria. The early cyanobacteria may have been the first organisms to ever develop photosynthesis a couple of billion years ago, polluting the atmosphere with oxygen causing a mass extinction and eventually enabling the evolution of animals. I will get to see more work of cyanobacteria later in this trip as well.

Next, on to our lodging: EcoCamp Patagonia. EcoCamp has lodgings based on domed structures scattered around. It is apparently a popular place to stay, and I must say that the “suite domes” where very nice to stay in. Below are pictures of the main entrance to EcoCamp, my sweet suite dome, and the inside of my dome. If you want heat, and you will, you have to get a fire going in the wood burning stove. I tried this for a couple of nights, but the fire died by 1:00 or 2:00 AM and I didn’t feel like getting out of bed to tend to it, so I woke up to a cold dome anyway. It was a very romantic place to spend all alone next to a cozy fire.

Anyway, we did get up early and head out for sunrise which didn’t occur until about 8:30AM. We arrived at Laguna Amarga and I hurried to my place and stood in the freezing wind waiting for light. There was some early light in the high clouds that had trouble making it to the mountains in the first shot below.

Below is my favorite shot for this blog post. The morning light was cutting through gaps in the clouds and hitting the mountain side in the distance. The bright cyan lake in the mid-ground is kind of surreal, and the boulders in the foreground sort of echoing the mountains in the distance. And those poor photographers down on the water’s edge who not only didn’t have a foreground, but were also Photoshopped away by me without qualms.

The mountains and towers would eventually emerge from the clouds, but I’ll save that for next time. And yes, everyone else had to wait for me at the bus while I wandered off to take the shot below. Thanks for reading.

19 thoughts on “The Road to Torres del Paine

    1. Thanks, I will try to focus on my impressions in future blogs. I did make a daily journal while I was there to record my journey and my impressions to enable me to re-read that later.

      I did actually get quite emotional at some points along this trip.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I really like that last shot, and I think it was worth the wait. Then again, I wasn’t in the bus.

    I also like your idea of having a foreground in a landscape shot. That seems to make photos more interesting. I’ll keep it in mind in the future.

    Patagonia looks like a cold place to visit. I imagine by June or July it will be covered in ice and snow.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Some of the tour members spent quite a bit of time waiting for me and others to get back to the bus. I went there to experience the place and not be first back to the bus.

      We were the last group of the season. I think the days get much shorter and colder through the winter. Most mornings while I was there were at freezing and sometimes windy, but the middays were great.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. My understanding is that it has an extreme PH due to the fact that it is isolated (no rivers in or out) and has these microbes living it producing certain compounds. This is all sort of beyond my level of biological understanding. I stayed out of the water.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “A romantic place to spend all alone next to a cozy 🔥 fire.” So should I tell Brad to book a trip there for our anniversary? 😄

    The sunrise photo over the lake is amazing! Those last two are my favorites. Glad you didn’t feel pressured to hurry back on the bus! Why take such a long trip if you aren’t going to take the time ro appreciate it. Not like you can just go back another day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You and Brad would love the little domes, though he might make you get up in the middle of the night to tend the fire. There is no internet or phone service of any kind there, which can be a blessing. They serve a nice breakfast in the community domes. And you can just take off on some mountain hikes from there.

      Also it is very dark at night out there and on a clear night you can look up and see all the stars and the Magellanic Clouds.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They do look nice inside! Umm…no, I would remind him that he is better at making fires. 🙂
        Yes, no technology can be good sometimes, especially when out in nature. It would be fun to see the guananco close up and the mountains.
        So how many miles would you say you hiked?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If you go there, be prepared for a Chile reception.

          The hiking wasn’t intense. Maybe 4 miles a day. They do have 8 to 10 day hiking trips through the mountains.

          The guanacos didn’t seem to mind people being around. They kept about 20 feet distance from us, but they didn’t seem too worried about us, but they didn’t see what I had for dinner one night.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Ireland sounds nice. I haven’t been there.
              I had a lot of guanaco and lamb. It was all very good. The lamb there wasn’t similar to what I had before. Not as greasy as lamb I have had around here, I enjoyed it.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Ireland has always fascinated me. I want to go to the Cliffs of Mahrer and see some castles. Think of the romance stories I could weave from a castle. LOL! There is a tour where you can stay at a castle for a week. We won’t talk about the price tag attached to that.

              I have had some good lamb here but wouldn’t be surprised if yours was better. Never tried guananco. Kind of hard to find that around here. 😄

              Liked by 1 person

  3. I missed this! We did (almost) the same thing as a result of my insistence on visiting the Argentinian side for several days. For personal reasons, I wanted to see Cerro Torre. So we stayed a little north of El Chaltén and made day-trips into the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Greatly complicated the travel and resulted in some very long bus rides.

    Liked by 1 person

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