Breathtaking Patagonia

Torres Del Paine Travel Blog

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Torres del Paine

Neither of us slept well and I was up with the alarm at 5:20, had breakfast in the Horizon Court and was in the Princess Theater at 6:30 against a 6:50 deadline, the first to arrive. The plan for the day was a trip to Antarctica that I had reserved months in advance. Sadly, a bit after 7:00 came the announcement that weather in Antarctica was forecast to become windy with low ceilings so that trip was scrubbed! Twenty-four of us plus a Princess rep had elected the alternate of Torres del Paine National Park. Someone asked whether we needed all the warm clothes for that and was told no but we didn't but have time to go back to the room to change. Within a few minutes we were put on the tender and taken to the pier to meet the guide, Betsy, and be loaded onto a bus for the ~25 minute ride to the airport.

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Betsy is Chilean but had impeccable (American) English and, given her comfortable use of idioms, it was obvious she' spent considerable time in the US. It turns out her father spent time at Cornell when she was a toddler and thereafter she spent a lot of time in the US as a child. She also returned there to attend UCSD. She is actually a veterinarian at the zoo in Santiago. She does research on penguins in Antarctica, though, which is how she's involved in guiding. She was supposed to be the one to take us south but she promised we'd enjoy the alternate trip. Her enthusiasm was contagious.

The Punta Arenas airport is actually quite nice, reminding me of the one in Duluth. We were loaded onto the DH7 that was supposed to take us south. Since 1/2 of the people had opted out, there was lots of room.

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After about 1/2 hour we landed in Puerto Natales, the closest airport to the park, and loaded onto a very nice tour bus. Here again we had lots of room since the bus was a full-sized one and we were only 26 with Betsy. The ride to the park was almost 2 hours and, since most of the 2-lane road was under construction, it was mostly on dirt. However, contrary to the warning, the road was not bad at all. The park itself was absolutely magnificent and I have little doubt it was more scenic than King George Island in Antarctica, our original destination. The scenery was breathtaking and we stopped frequently for pictures. Betsy, being focused on wildlife, was constantly looking for it and we stopped and climbed out whenever she spotted something worthwhile.
Airport at Puerto Natales

Lunch was at Hosteria Pehoé on a small island in Lago Pehoé. To get to it we had to walk across a footbridge. Upon arrival we each had a pisco sour. Lunch was lamb and it was great. Dessert was flan and it, too, was excellent. The scenery from the restaurant was unparalleled.

When we got back to the airport the crew was still in town so we waited about 20 minutes for them. As a result, it was 6:35 by the time we got to the pier though the last tender was to have left at 6:00. Betsy got a cell call and was told that, rather than go through the formalities, the bus was to drive us directly onto the pier and directly to the tender. The tender crew had already stowed much of the gear by the time we arrived at the ship and, by the time I got to the room Lin had already gotten a call from the Purser asking whether I was aboard.

Lin was already dressed for dinner when I arrived. I got dressed quickly and we went to the Wheelhouse but the Romantic Treo was there and they aren't especially good to dance to so we went to the Explorer’s Lounge to dance to Deep Blue. After dinner we went to the Wheelhouse to dance to Tito Cruz but we were tired and the floor was jammed so we quit early.

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WOW!  While this day-trip was essentially a "consolation prize" due to the cancellation of the scheduled day-trip to Antarctica, it was one of the most enjoyable I've taken anywhere.  The scenery was breathtaking and I know that I saw only a tiny fraction of this huge park.  People spend weeks here and it's easy to see why.  Having said all that, I admit that I visited on a spectacularly clear day and that, had the day been rainy or foggy, the experience might have been very different.  In any case, this was a place where it would be difficult to take a bad picture!
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Airport at Puerto Natales
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Dont feed the foxes.
"Don't feed the foxes."
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photo by: Vlindeke