Friday, December 01, 2006

Here we go...

OK, its time to head to Paine National Park and my blog entries will be more pictures than words. Many pictures because there is no way to convey the beauty that is Paine in words. Even the photos are just pale images of the true beauty of the park. But first we had to get there.

There are two ways to go to the park from Puerto Natales, by land or by sea (really lake). To keep with the theme of this trip, the Gap Adventures itinerary takes the water route. We started on a small lake boat from the same port were we disembarked the Navimag. The trip was quite lovely and included great views of the surrounding mountains and waterfalls.
Waterfall from boat

We also enjoyed the views of a number of glaciers including this first one which was a hanging glacier who's name I forget.
Approaching hanging glacier

Approaching the glacier we also obtained our first view of the Paine Massif in the distance. These are not the towers (los torres), but rather los cuernos that you can see.
Paine from the boat

The boat brought us right up to the glacier and it was amazing.
Hanging glacier

The close-up shots even more so.
Close up of hanging glacier

Right side of hanging glacier

Left side of hanging glacier

After a bit longer the boat docked and we all got off for another glacier viewing that required a little bit of hiking.
Lake boat

I believe this is Serrano Glacier which feeds into a small lake. The ice flow in front of the glacier into the lake was really cool.
Glacier Serrano

The glacier itself was nothing to sneeze at either. Here's the obligatory "I was there" shot.
Serrano and Me

And then the close-up of the glacier.
Close up of Serrano

After the glacier mini-hike we headed back to the boat. But rather than boarding for launch we grabbed our stuff and all piled into a Zodiac raft to head across the lake.
In the first Zodiac

Zodiac across lake

When we docked for lunch we were all a bit surprised by the rather lush accommodations that had been made for lunch. This was no picnic of ham and cheeze sandwiches. We enjoyed a nice sit-down lunch on white table clothes which included a glass of wine or beer with the meal.
Lunch Spot

Glacier viewing was also included from the lunch locale.
Glacier from lunch spot

After lunch things got a bit more adventurous as we were to head back into the Zodiac and go upriver.
River Zodiacs

A cold, glacier-fed river with some bits of rough water required donning the appropriate apparel.
Alien rafters

Apparently, the color is in case you fall in so they can find you and fish you out before hypothermia sets in. Still, I felt more like I was heading to Siberia than Patagonia.
Ready for Siberia

Nonetheless, this crew of orange-clad adventurers headed out on our hearty vessel.
In the river raft

We did get a few splashes at times and somehow some of us still managed to get wet beneath our alien contamination suits. But we didn't do anything too rough. We tried encouraging the captain to go up this little waterfall, but no doing.
Waterfall on river

Just before finishing the raft trip, Paine came into view. And what a view it was!
Los Cuernos

From the rafts we took a short bus trip to another lake called Pehoe. From here we caught a catamaran which took us across this very blue lake below the Paine Massif.
Cuernos from Pehoe

Paine Massif from Pehoe

The very pleasant surprise was to find that these amazing mountains and towers would be the view we would enjoy from our first campground.
Campsite at Pehoe

We took a short little walk up to the start of the hike we would be doing the next day. As you can see, I am absolutely beaming with excitement.
Beaming in the face of Paine

Our guide explained to us what the hike would entail and some options we had if we made good time and were interested in going further. Our guide, Tadeo, is in the middle of the group photo below. He was only 24, but has been hiking these mountains since he was 14.
Group at Pehoe

This first night camping was right along the shore of Lake Pehoe which you can see at sunset below. It had a nice refuge and a cafeteria. While we stayed in 2-man tents we were far from roughing it. Our group had its own little private dining area and we had Pisco, wine and beer along with cheese and other appetizers at night. Ah...the life!
Pehoe at sunset


Jessica Deline said...

Those pictures are absolutely gorgeous. Wow! I need to go there...

miki said...

agreed. the pictures are so beautiful, it looks unreal. jess, i'm with ya. let's go.

Eudemus said...

Yes, you should both definitely go there. I will gladly return and volunteer to be your guide. I'm still so far behind on my blogging. I am only up to December 2nd! Although, it is kinda nice revisiting all of the places I saw. The really amazing views are in another two days (blog time).