From the National Geographic Explorer in South America

Nov 04, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer

Guanaco standing guard over Torres del Paine
Spring wildflowers (guanaco bush) above Lake Nordenskiöld

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Patagonia is known for strong winds and extreme weather. To our surprise and delight, after a night of heavy rain alongside the dock in Puerto Natales, we awoke to find blue skies with clouds only for composition.

Bound for a long hike in the shadow of massif of Torres del Paine, early risers departed National Geographic Explorer after an early breakfast. As we approached the trailhead the glacially carved towers began to emerge from the clouds. Without a breadth of wind, a major miracle in this part of the world, the hike was like a dream, with guanacos along the trail and on ridge tops as far as the eye can see and encounters with gray foxes. By the time we reached the halfway point, the dark layers of sedimentary rock that capped the towers emerged from the clouds. This was in-your-face raw geology, with erosion exposing the igneous rocks that cooled within the earth a mere 12 million years ago.

Our shipmates departed the ship at a more civilized hour, exploring the winding gravel roads paralleling the mountain front making photo stops along the way, including a thundering waterfall spilling from Lake Nordenskiöld, named after the Norwegian geologist that explored this area after the turn of the last century.

After a full morning of exploration marveling at the many scenic wonders of this World Heritage site, we all gathered for lunch at hosteria Rio Serrano, with the mountains still looming on the horizon. Recounting the many tales from the morning adventures, there was much rejoicing. Was it the weather, the spectacular scenery, or the pisco sours? No doubt, all of the above.

Heading back to the ship, the mountains again became obscured by clouds and the wind started to blow. We were sure that we experienced Patagonia at it’s very best. And we had the images to prove it…

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