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RAMBLINGS OF A TRAVELER IN CHILE, SOUTH AMERICA: PATAGONIA

The territory of Patagonia is NOT just about jackets and outerwear. There really is a place at the end (farthest south) of the Americas in the countries of Chile and Argentina that is wild and beautiful and preserved. In this rambling I will focus a little bit on two famous National Parks and mostly Patagonia in Chile.

Almost one-fifth of Chile is protected to varying degrees in national parks and reserves. The national forest commission administers 32 national parks, 48 national reserves, and 15 natural monuments. The country of Chile is so varied, wild and rugged, and protected with the driest desert in the world in the north and mammoth glaciers in south, some say it’s a great wonder of the world not to be missed if your thrill is wilderness and nature. In this rambling we are going to visit Patagonia and you won’t be disappointed hopefully.

Patagonia territory is located at the southern part of the long narrow country of Chile and in a big bunch of Argentina.

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The Carretera Austral is the name given to Chile‘s Route 7. The highway runs about 1,240 kilometers (770 mi) through rural Patagonia. This was not an easy highway to build even in the 1970’s. It took more than 10,000 soldiers to construct the highway and several lost their lives while building it (Wikipedia). Today the highway is poplar with motorcycles and vans alike. The highway has become one of the most important attractions in Patagonia because it allows you to enter into a territory that still is open to discoveries: Northern Patagonia with its large extensions of cold forests, national parks, glaciers, gigantic ice fields, lagoons, fiords, rivers, and lakes. It is an ideal territory for adventure tourism, fishing, trekking, hiking, kayaking, rafting, and observing flora and fauna in its most natural state (Insight Guides). It’s not that much of a “highway” by L.A. standards.

Torres del Paine National Park is one of the many protected National Parks in the Patagonia region and one of the most visited and most spectacular. With its imposing peaks, called “horns” that reach up to the sky you think for sure you have died and gone to heaven. We are talking 450,000 acres of untouched and protected land that receives numerous visitors from the entire world from year to year.

It’s pretty awesome to hike UP to a glacier. The rivers and steams from glacier run off are a cloudy light turquoise green. The cloudy water is because of the glacier sediment that runs off the mountains in the continually moving streams of ice, which is the very definition of glaciers.

Once you make this trek to these wild, remote places – let me be the first to tell you that you will be sooooo happy you actually made it you’ll jump for joy.

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One of the coolest things that one can possibly do is hike ON a glacier. Patagonia glaciers are like the glaciers in Alaska, but different. They are bigger, and wilder, and more rugged. They are higher and thicker, and aren’t melting in most areas, but rather staying the same or growing slightly. That’s what we were told anyway.

I live just a few miles east of Glacier National Park in the USA, so I was very excited to get to hike to a glacier in a park named, Los Glaciares National Park. Technically this park is on the border between Chile and Argentina, but as I have asked in previous travel blogs I write – who’s getting technical here?

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It’s really super neat to see massive amounts of glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park, because where I live the small number glaciers we have left will be all melted away in a very few years.

The glaciers and so humongous they take your breath away.

And when you get really tired of nature at its best, you can always find the wildlife. The expansive Patagonia territory is a haven for guanaco as well as rhea. The European settlers slaughtered the guanaco to near-extinction to make room for cattle. Thank god, they are back and doing well in the protected national parks.

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And what about the rhea? They are like an ostrich, but not really. They are like an Emu, but not that big. They are the smallest cousin of ostriches and emus, but I’m not sure they are even related. They are unusual birds in that it’s the male, which incubates the female’s eggs, and raise the chicks. When scared, the rheas run away fast, constantly changing directions.

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And what about flamingos? I didn’t expect to see massive flocks of flamingos in Patagonia. It turns out the flamingos migrate north to maybe Florida or Northern Mexico for our summer and back to Southern Chile for the our winter. I didn’t expect that at all.

Back to the guanacos. Guanacos are awesome rock and mountain climbers – part goat and llama I think, but not sure. I do know, they always wear their Patagonia hiking boots with the good tread when trekking the rugged country, as did I.

Once you start clicking your camera you just can’t stop in this region of Chile. It’s a wild place that makes you feel solitary and very small even if you are with a group of other tourists.

King of the hill in Patagonia. This guy just likes to pose for pictures. Sorry, I just got carried away.

There are a few fancy lodges located in prime scenic locations, but they are far and few between. They run on mostly on generators, as there isn’t a lot of electricity in the wilds of Patagonia.

The best way to overnight when in Patagonia is in a tent lodge. Tent lodges are very comfort, but leave a minimal footprint on the landscape and that’s the goal in this place.

The tent and campsite below is very similar to the one I stayed in for several days. Pretty darn comfy & had all the conveniences of home except for electricity, water and flush potties. And that’s the way Patagonia is supposed to be.

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So as I leave Patagonia for now,

Don’t miss the Penguins and the Southern Most tip of Chile, South American coming in just a few days.

Til Next Time,

PSiddy

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One comment

  1. Great article. I have always wanted to visit both places. I can’t wait.

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