Friday 9 December 2011

Spectacular Torres del Paine – Magdalena Island and Gabriel Channel

As promised yesterday, today we’ll blog about the excursion to Torres del Paine National Park. And there is plenty to blog (and brag!) about, as we had the most wonderful experience.
 The long drive to get to the park is an experience in itself, as the long dirt road traversing the immense Patagonian plains with the mountain ranges in the distance is a beautiful thing to do. Especially if one has the chance to observe the local fauna en route; yesterday, we were lucky enough to see groups of condors hovering overhead, cara-cara devouring carrion, a vixen basking in the mild sunlight with her cubs, skunks lazily crossing the road, and a guanaco giving birth to an astonishingly agile calf that started nursing a few minutes after entering this world!
All the time, we were enticed by the imposing Paine mountain range, which this day was showing itself in its full splendor: the strong winds kept its massive glacier-laden slopes, sheer cliffs and vertical towers completely exposed, with clouds being swept away and shredded when torn with the jagged rocky peaks. Albeit the mountains forming the Paine massif are not particularly high, reaching about 3000 meters, they are – literally – awesome as one watches them from almost sea level and it is quite an impressive sight to gasp at 3 kilometers of rock reaching to the sky! Add to that a collection of turquoise lakes in the foreground and hills covered with blossoming bushes and you get the picture… 
After such an exhilarating journey, we had to start the new day with something rather exciting – and we did: we landed early today on Isla Magdalena, where a colony of 40 thousand pairs of inquisitive Magellanic penguins greeted us. 
Later in the day, we sailed south through the Straits of Magellan, en route to the Gabriel Channel and enjoyed the magnificent scenery this part of the world has to offer. Once inside the Gabriel Channel, we could see at close quarters, just how dense and impenetrable the rainforests in this region are. The only gaps between the trees, were those formed by beautiful waterfalls, cascading down from the glacial meltwater… a wonderful sight to close a wonderful day.