Sunday, 15 February 2015

0206 Torres del Paine to Lago Grey

14th Feb 2015 

What a dramatic change in the weather  from yesterday – Patagonia strikes again ! Grey, overcast – You couldn’t even see the Torres behind the camp site - See photo on left.  Photo below is from yesterday.  Soooo lucky to have done the hike up to Torres yesterday.  But that was OK – I had other plans for today, and after eggs for breakfast (no (recognisable) bacon in this part of the world unfortunately -  And giving some of my old tourist info to the Dutch girls, I set off up the road to head to the end of the park at Lago Grey. On the way out of the camp site I saw the French lady I had met briefly yesterday on the way up the mountain – She was standing by the road so I pulled over to say Hi.  Turned out she was waiting for a bus to take her up through the park, so I said I would give her a lift – As long as she could wait 10 minutes because I had just realised that, along with the old tourist info,  I had given the Dutch girls my current map of the park, so I had to go back to get it.  When I got back to the camp site, I collected my park map, and then Dwayne and Jerry came over (the NSW guys on bikes) and we had a bit of a yarn, so by the time I got going again it was half an hour later.  But the French lady was still there, so I picked her up, her name is Eva, I found out, and we headed off up the dirt road through the park.

Not 5 minutes up the road, a fox ran across the road into the scrub – But 2 minutes later another one did the same, but then stood at the side of the road looking at us !! At one stage he appeared to be eating leaves or berries off a bush – I didn’t realise foxes ate berries etc.  Maybe in Patagonia the eat whatever they can !  We then drove on along the track, with the weather really starting to close in, and not 10 minutes later we
came round a corner to find an enormous herd of guanaco all over the road and on he bans beside the road – Must have been 100 of them or more.  And for  change they weren’t timid, running away as soon as I appeared. This time they stayed right where they were and carried on doing what they were doing !  So we just sat there and photographed them for about 10 or 15 minutes.

And it was quite interesting – We presumed it was part of their mating ritual, or of the males trying to decide who was the boss, but several of them were engaged in what seemed to be quite vicious behaviour.  They would bite each other on the legs, on the neck, on the ears, and even between their back legs (?!!), and chase each other around to keep doing it.  They would also “knock” necks – Swinging their necks like poles and hitting the other animal on its neck.  I have seen film of giraffes doing this, but didn’t realise camels (guanaco are of the camel family) also did it.  If this is part of their mating ritual, perhaps this is where the phrase “necking” comes from ?? Ha ha.  As we left, we saw one animal with only one ear – The other side was just a stump – Maybe the biting of each other really does become vicious and this chap had had his ear actually bitten off ?

The scenery now became totally different from previously in the park – With rolling hills and spectacular views up to the central mountain range in the park – The Cuernos del Paine, which I hadn’t been able to see from where I had been for the last couple of days.  Several little lakes to the side, and in the back ground to the north, the enormous Lago Nordernskjold.   We then came to Lago Sarmiento which has a white line around its edge, which turns out to be the remains of stamatolites, like we also have in NW Australia. Looking like rocks, they are in fact living micro-organisms that are hundreds (thousands ?) of years old, and are growing – Albeit rather slowly !  While many of those around the lake are now dead / fossilised, you can clearly see the living ones down on one section of beach next to the water. 

The road then wound round past more lakes before we did a detour towards Salto Grande where there is a cataract – Trouble was it was now pouring with rain !  However Eva said it was only 5 minutes away, so we dressed accordingly and went up there.  Quite a dramatic cateract, but by the time we got there it was pouring, so a couple of quick pics and we hurried back to the car.   Shortly after that I left Eva at a cafeteria at Pudeta where she could catch a bus back to where she was staying, and I then continued on through the park.  I saw the ferry leave that goes from Pudeta to Guarderia Paine Grande, and as I drove along the road the ferry was beside me on the blue lakes for a while.

I drove on past lakes and mountains that occasionally disappeared from view in the cloud, only to reappear again 10 minutes later – It was an ever changing landscape in this typical Pategonian unpredictable weather.  Eventually I go to the camping area at Pehoe, about 25 kms from where I started today, and as it had now stopped raining for a while, I decided to stop and make some lunch.  There was a Pategonian eagle running around where I parked, so I photographed him for a while, then had my lunch.  I then found there was wifi at the campground, and as someone else had kindly given me the password, I was able to log on and send Janet an email for her birthday today !  I normally communicate while on the road via text as it is cheaper and also one normally has a phone signal, whereas wifi is more difficult out here.  But I have had no phone signal since entering the park, so was feeling a bit guilty that I hadn’t been able to contact her for her birthday !  I will find out if she got the email later !

With the sun now trying to appear, the views back over Lago Pehoe to the Cuerno Principal and Curno Este peaks, and also the Cumbre Principal and Cumbre Central of the Cerro Paine Grande range were just stunning.  None of these are especially high, with the tallest peak in the park ( Cerro Paine Grande) only 3050 metres, but due to their geology, they are as stunning as any range anywhere.  Then came to the Hotel Explora at Salto Chico, which is one of three main (and expensive) hotels in the park.  It is in a beautiful location, and on a clear day the views from it would be very special.                                     

Then it was down along the blue blue Rio Paine, then over the Rio Grey, before turning north again towards my destination, Lago Grey.

The end of the road is just a big gravel beach at the southern end of Lago Grey, at the norther
n end of which is the enormous Glaciar Grey, feeding down from the ice field above. So this gravel beach is probably a terminal  moraine from when the glacier reached this far.  I went back the short distance to the Hotel Lago Grey which is not really an imposing a building, but once again has spectacular views up the lake towards the glacier, and of the Cerro Paine Grande on a clear day. I knew this was where you booked a ferry ride up the Lago Grey, and I decided to do this tomorrow while my legs continue to recover !  So I have booked a ferry for 12 noon – Weather permitting (high winds means no ferry !)     

I then returned the short distance to the car park at the end of the road which is a designated camping spot, albeit with just a bathroom but no other facilities.  I had noticed a British registered but LHD truck motor home in the previous camp site, and found them here today, so I introduced myself – Steve and Gilly, and their two young daughters Elisha and Lucy (6 & 9)  who shipped their truck to Halifax Nova Scotia 18 months ago and have come all the way down, home schooling the girls on the way.  So I tucked Troopie up beside them – Unfortunately I am on the windward side so I am sheltering them more than vice versa !   At about 5.30 pm I set off and did the one hour walk out across the

beach and round the headland with a view up the lake to the Glaciar Grey – And the wind coming down the valley of the glacier was SO strong, I could hardly walk against it – Walking with it one was just bowled along !  Then it was back to the van, no pop top up tonight in this wind !  In fact I have had to use a guy rope to peg back the spare wheel to stop it banging to and fro in the strong wind !  The whole car is rocking as I write this, and it certainly makes for an interesting time !  I cooked two minute noodles on my little stove inside the van, adding vegetables and some real chicken pieces to the noodles to make quite a filling meal.  Helped by some local red wine, I am now ready to unpack my bed and get rocked to sleep by the wind !  Lets hope there is less wind tomorrow so the boat can take me on my trip !!

  Pics are here :-


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