Sunday, Nov. 7—5:07 pm
Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
I think the Chilean ministry of tourism must bring in caged animals and release them in front of Lindblad/Nat Geo participants. The hikers—who walked for two solid hours in wind so stiff I couldn’t get my comb through my hair when I got back, and I only walked about half a mile—saw a SLEEPING PUMA, lounging right next to the trail.
Man, let sleeping cats lie!
But we bus riders didn’t do so badly. A guanaco ran right past me; all the other passengers behind me have this same shot, except for the addition of a large woman in an orange sweater whose hair REALLY needed to be combed.
And a Patagonian fox wandered through our picnic lunch. He was looking for food, obviously, so he was on the uneasy balance of wild and sort of used to humans. Trouble, I thought—but we managed to get out of there with all our fingers and toes still intact as no one cried out “Oooh, doggy—here. Have some of MY sandwich!”
Puerto Natales (where I am now—a town of 22,000 hardy souls) is the capital of the “Last Hope” Province. It is surrounded by utterly flat land and then random upswellings of huge mountains—like the cover of a Led Zepplin album, or the strange curved pyramids from Season Four of “The Expanse.” I was told by our Torres del Paine guide, Diego, that all of those upswellings are part of the Andes Mountains—the chain signifying some massive geological apocalypse so outrageous that the chain that starts here actually ends far to the north in the Canadian Rockies. (Cool shit just abounds here.)
The reason this place looks like science fiction is because over the many, many, MANY eons, the three things that Patagonia is famous for (that would be water, glaciers, and fucking NONSTOP WIND) has carved away any substance from those original mountains that is weak in any way. If those mountains didn’t have core strength? Off with their heads. It’s so damned strange.
But if you take the "Ruta del Fin de Mundo," or Road to the End of the World (I'm telling you; cool shit is everywhere!), you get to Torres del Paine. Torres is “tower” and “Paine” is not what you think it is. It’s not what ANYONE thinks it is, because it appears to be an original indigenous word and all the native speakers have gone toe-up. Bye-bye. (Probably not from water, ice, or wind, though.) This “massif” started as a magma bubble underground. Unlike the Andes, these huge hummers of a mountain cluster were forced up much more recently—and are they drama queens! MY GOD.
The day was both sunny and cloudy. Every time we came around a curve of the road, the mountains had done a quick costume change and were now robed in different shades of grey and white and mystery. Dazzling. I kept trying to take good photos, and I have the less-than-good proof of my intentions. Many of them. The image I took at the picnic spot was the best (at the top of this post).
I’m wiped. I gotta nap before Lindblad comes up with something else I can’t miss. We’re leaving port any minute—and thus the good internet connection—so this is short. Thinking of you! (Sort of…)