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A Mountain with Horns: Cuernos del Paine, Chile

Paines Massif, Torres Del Paine (132)

I’ve been a lover of mountains for as long as I can remember. I grew up on the painfully flat plains of Manitoba (and I mean f-l-a-t, like a pancake), and still vividly recall seeing my first mountains when I was a toddler of about 2 or 3 years old. These were the amazing Alberta Rocky Mountains visited on one of many family vacations to Banff.  I was fascinated by mountains then and remain so to this day. 

I have seen many beautiful and interesting mountains in my life and have a list of favorites — the Matterhorn, Kilimanjaro, Ama Dablam, Mt. Assiniboine, Cascade mountain, Mauna Kea, and so on.  But there is no mountain formation I find more interesting than …

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Visiting the Otway Penguins, Chile

Otway%20Penguin%20Colony%20001%20Chile.%20%20%20%2813%29

It’s hard not to like penguins.  Flightless, of course, their comical waddling gait on land belies their great agility and speed in the water.  A chance to see them up close and in the wild is always something I’ll jump at, so I was glad for the opportunity to visit this penguin colony at Otway.  Otway “feels” inland but is connected to the sea and the Fitzroy Channel.

Situated off the road connecting Torres del Paine and Punta Arenas in Patagonian Chile, Seno Otway is home to a large but seasonal colony of penguins.  During the peak season, from October through March, there are up to 150,00 Magellanic penguins that mate and reside in the area.  They nest, lay eggs in October, and …

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A Stop in Puerto Natales

01 Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales is an isolated small town in Patagonian Chile, the kind where if you blink you might miss it while you’re driving through.  It’s best known as a gateway for trekkers and adventures traveling to nearby Torres del Paine.  Recently fossil rich caves near the town have brought it fame because of the giant sloth fossils found within.   Puerto Natales is situated on the Ultima Esperanza Sound and is a port for the Navimag ferry.

The first European to discover the area was Juan Ladrillero, a Spanish explorer who was looking for the Strait of Magellan’s western passage amidst the maze of the Chilean fjords (1557).  The famous British ship of exploration, the HMS Beagle (on which Charles Darwin was …

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“Pic of the Week”, February 2, 2018: Shopping in San Telmo

00 San Telmo shopping

San Telmo is one of the more popular neighborhoods for shopping and dining in Buenos Aires.  The city, at its prime in the late 19th century, is now in what could most kindly be called a state of “elegant decay”.  There are a lot of old shops in San Telmo, which is especially well known for its antique market.  

My favorite store was one that sold these unusual leg lamps (see above), which brought a smile to my face as I remembered the famous scenes involving a similar lamp from the classic film, “A Christmas Story“.  A small craft market surrounded around one of San Telmo’s squares, great coffee shops and produce stands.

My wife and I spent the better part …

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“Pic of the Week”, January 26, 2018: Alone with the Mountain, Torres del Paine National Park

Paines Massif, Torres Del Paine (127)

Patagonia’s Paine Massif is one of the world’s great mountain formations.  Rugged, glaciated and beautiful — it is a hiker’s paradise.  

I remember taking these photos of a lone hiker who seemed almost lost in the vastness of the landscape.  Beautiful desolation!

 

 

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First Hike in Torres del Paine National Park

00 Hike around Torres del Paine (1)

The Torres del Paine are three distinctive towering granite peaks of the Paines Massif (see above photo).  Extending up to 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) above sea level, these towers dominate much of the landscape of the park, as does the horned part of the mountain known as the Cuernos del Paine.  The Patagonian steppe abuts the mountains.

We arrived in Torres del Paine in the afternoon and had only a few hours to spare that day for a hike.  I had hoped to hike to the base of the towers, for there is a lovely glacier and lake there, but did not have the time.   Among the feasible options, we decided to hike along the hilly steppe and take in the views …

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“Pic of the Week”, December 15, 2017: Hotel Las Torres, Chile

00 Hotel Las Torres, Torres del Paine (3)

Much like the Grand Canyon’s El Tovar hotel or the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, Hotel Las Torres is situated in the heart of a beautiful park ecosystem, in this case Torres del Paine National Park.  As such, it offers a unique opportunity to see the region while providing most expected creature comforts.

Founder Antonio Kusanovic Senkovic was the son of Croatian immigrants and became a successful cattle farmer.  In 1979 he bought the Cerro Paine ranch, located at the foot of “Torres del Paine” mountain range.  On this 8 thousand acre ranch, he began his cattle breeding business.  In the early 90´s Mr. Kusanovic built 9 rooms with a small restaurant to welcome the many tourists arriving from all …

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“Pic of the Week”, June 23, 2017: Mate — South America’s caffeinated drink

04 El Tigre, Argentina 2014 (96)

If coffee is the morning beverage of North America (and most of the world for that matter), my limited experience in South America was that many people preferred a type of locally grown herbal tea called Mate (pronounced mah-teh). Mate, also known as yerba mate, is rich in caffeine and is especially popular in in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Southern Chile and Southern Brazil. A small amount is exported and sold in other countries, including in the Middle East, but mate has its home in southern South America.

The drink is prepared by steeping a handful of dried yerba mate leaves in hot water. As the beverage is consumed, more hot water is added to the same wet mate clump over …

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