“Pic of the Week”, July 8, 2016: Guanacos, Patagonia

El Chalten 2014 (6c) Guanacos

I’d the impression guanacos were not that common an animal in South America.  Yes, they were there, but like the Andean Condor you’d have to be lucky to see one.  After visiting Argentina and Chile I learned this impression was totally wrong.  They’re as common as corn in the fields of Iowa on a summer day,   As common as mosquitoes on the Canadian tundra after the spring thaw.  They’re everywhere!  These guanacos were standing beside the road and didn’t move when our tour van stopped for these photos, unconcerned about our presence.

Guanacos are related to camels and between 1 and 1.2 meters (3 – 4 ft) tall  at the shoulder, weighing a surprising 90 kg (200 lb).   Their color is very bland compared to their cousins, …

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“Pic of the Week”, June 3, 2016: La Leona, Argentina

El Chalten 2014 (50d) La Leona

La Leona Rest Area and Countryside Hotel is 110 kilometers from El Calafate, on famous Patagonia Route 40, about half way between El Calafate and El Chaltén.  It’s an isolated place in an isolated region — the Patagonian steppe.  La Leona consists of a small collection of buildings sandwiched between the La Leona River and Route 40, and is close to Lake Viedma.  The main building was constructed in 1894 by the Jensens, a family of Danish immigrants.

It was at this spot that Francisco P. Moreno (Argentinian scientist, explorer and namesake of the famous glacier) had previously been attacked and wounded by a female cougar (known locally as a “lioness”).  Because of this incident the river that flows beside the …

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.All Trips / Argentina / South America

Nowhere is a Place. Visiting Patgonia, 5) Viedma Glacier, Argentina

Viedma Glacier, El Chaltan 066

Situated close to the small Argentinean town of El Chalten is Lake Viedma, a large glacial lake.  You can take a boat tour to visit the largest glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, the Viedma Glacier, from a dock on the northwestern shore of the lake, near El Chalten (which you can reach by bus from town).

The following overview photo, courtesy of NASA, will help orient you a little better.  Viedma Lake is obvious, as is the Patagonian Icefield.  The Viedma Glacier is at 12 o’clock in this photo (actually direction is west).  The boat launch is in the little thumb at the top right of the lake at about one o’clock.  El Chalten is in a non-snow …

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.All Trips / Argentina / South America

Nowhere is a Place. Visiting Patgonia, 4) El Chalten, Argentina

22 El Chalten 2014 (186)

Our next stop in Patagonia is the small town of El Chaltén in Argentina.  This town rests in the rain shadow of the massive spires of the Patagonian Andes and is a dry, windy and cool place.

The region around El Chaltén is part of Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is very remote.  It is usually reached by taking the bus or driving from El Calafate some 220 km to the south, El Calafate itself a remote town which we’ve previously discussed here.

The town resides in a glaciated valley adjoining the Rio de las Vueltas. The most dramatic aspect of El Chaltén is the beautiful mountains that frame it to the west, including the amazingly steep and narrow spire …

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.All Trips / Argentina / South America

The Church of our Lady of Pilar, Recoleta, Argentina

Buenos Aires Recoleta Cemeteryand Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar tower  080

The historic and beautiful cathedral, Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar (The Church of Our Lady of Pilar), is situated in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Recoleta.  The church adjoins the famous Recoleta cemetery, which we’ve previously visited on this website.

Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar is considered one of the most beautiful examples of Buenos Aires’ Colonial architecture.  It’s the city’s second oldest church and has retained its original altarpiece and icons.   The church is named in honor of the patron saint of the city of Zaragoza in Spain, and was completed in 1732.  Its original architect was a Jesuit, Andres Bianchi, and was built in conjunction with a convent of Franciscans.

Altarpiece, The Church of Our Lady of Pilar, Recoleta

Altarpiece, The Church of Our Lady of Pilar, Recoleta

The monks of Recoletos were expelled from …

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.All Trips / Central America/Caribbean / Peru / South America

The floating islands of Lake Titicaca, Peru

04 Peru 1995 121 Lake Titicaca, Uros Islands

I don’t anywhere people live on floating islands except for the Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca, a large lake straddling Peru and Bolivia (the Peruvians like to say they got the “titi” part, while the Bolivians got the “caca”).   It’s the most voluminous lake in South America and is considered the highest navigable — by a large ship — lake in the world, having a surface elevation of 3,812 m or 12,507 ft.  

The Uros natives of the lake are a pre-Incan people who live on forty-two floating islands.  They had a unique language (which has been lost for centuries) and obviously a unique way of living.  They historically moved to the floating islands for defensive purposes.  Some of the islands …

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“Pic of the Week”, December 18, 2015: The Fitz Roy Massif, El Chalten

03 El Chalten 2014 (224)

For many years I’d wanted to see one of the most famous peaks in the world with my own eyes, namely the Fitz Roy Massif (aka Mount Fitz Roy or Cerro Fitz Roy).  In fact, seeing the mountains of Patagonia was my greatest motivation for visiting the southern reaches of South America.

This mountain is very near that small Argentinian town of El Chaltén, which abuts the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.  The Massif is situated around the poorly defined (and often disputed) border between Argentina and Chile, although the Argentinians claim it as theirs.  The mountain was named in honor of the famous captain by Argentine explorer, Francisco Moreno, in 1877.  Captain Fitz Roy and his ship, the HMS Beagle, traveled extensively around and …

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“Pic of the Week”, November 6, 2015: La Chocolatta, Puenta Arenas, Chile

Chocolatta1

Situated on Chile’s southern coast, just north of Tierra del Fuego, the small city of Puenta Arenas is well off the main tourist paths in South America.  The city is the capital of Chilean Patagonia as it is a gateway to Torres del Paine, and is a port for tourist ships that cruise the Patagonian fjords, the Beagle Channel (and some ships even go on to Antarctica).  Puenta Arenas is a frontier town and a tax haven (to encourage migration and its growth), so it offers lots of shopping.  Many Chileans travel here for the low prices.

We weren’t much interested in shopping for toasters or jackets, and had just a few hours to explore Puenta Arenas before taking a memorable …

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