“Pic of the Week”, September 21, 2018: Views from Ushuaia

09 Ushuaia 2-2014

Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world.  It lies on the tip of Tierra del Fuego, off the Beagle Channel, and is surrounded by the Martial Mounts. This excellent location allows you to enjoy dramatic scenes of the sea, mountains and forests of southern Patagonia.

We spent a few days in Ushuaia after completing a memorable cruise through the Patagonian fjords.  The weather was quite changeable and scenes of the city were often dramatic, especially when viewed from the hill where our hotel was located.

Ushuaia has a modern international airport and is the closest deep-water port to Antarctica.  The last photos below are some of my favorites, with “Godbeams” of light penetrating the heavy cloud of a clearing storm.

(Click on …

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“Pic of the Week”, September 7, 2018: Reminders of a Wildfire, Patagonia

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Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park is a UNESCO World Biosphere Preserve and is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world.  The area has had several significant wildfires in the past few decades, the largest in late 2011 which burned into 2012 and destroyed 16,000 hectares (about 40,000 acres) .   All of these wildfires were caused by careless human behavior.  While it is somewhat shaky, this short videoclip shows the magnitude of these fires and just how scary they are when you’re in the midst of it all.

The area doesn’t have the dense forests or taller trees one sees in coastal Patagonia, but the scrubby dead bush that remains is definitely a reminder of these fires. I …

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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

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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”, 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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