Torres del Paine – December 1 & 2
The natural beauty of this part of South America is hard to beat. After dragging ourselves away from El Chalten and El Calafete we head to Puerto Natales, the nearest town to the Torres del Paine National Park. There is another dirt road to get us back across the border back into Chile – another stretch of Ruta 40.
Puerto Natales is on the edge of the Chile archipelago but it is the national park that brings people to the area. We seek out a tour office and decide if they can take us for a drive through the park in a bus we can take the bike.
First stop is the Milodon cave, the home of the prehistoric, toothless herbivore who roamed these parts until about 5,000 years ago. Prehistoric man also lived in the cave about 13,000 years ago. It’s so unlike Australia – no rules, no guards. You just pay at the gate and wander in and around the cave at your leisure!
We pass a couple of gauchos herding their cattle across the road. Their dogs make sure the cows don’t stray into our path. The gauchos wave as we pass.
It’s 60 ks of dirt to get to the gate for the national park. He we pay our entrance fee and get a map. The roads twist their way past Lago Torro and Lago Pehoe. The colours are exquisite and the reflections picture postcard perfect.
These mountains are not part of the Andes, they just tuck on to the end of them. Their beauty holds its own. And there are the three peaks of the Torres del Paine themselves – towers of granite looming over the lakes and pastures.
Inside the park there are camp grounds on the banks of the lakes and even hotels offering four-star accommodation.
The map shows us where we are likely to see wildlife. We don’t hold out much hope of seeing any guanocos – there is way too much traffic. Then one crosses the track in front of us. Then another…and then we round a bound and there are more than 100 grazing on both sides of the track. They just look at us and go back to their dinner. Our day is made!