Patagonian Chile Travel Diary NOTE:   Images were prepared using screen settings of 1024x768, and are 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 2008Los Cuernos del Paine
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. 





Guanaco Herd

Photographer friend 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 2008Austral Negrito
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. 












Andean Condor10 January 2008
Along the road to Lago Peho 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.











Gray Fox

At a 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.









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