El Máquina Salsichas Patagonico

So, the Falklands was probably a bit of a hard act to follow but with all the hype we thought Torres del Paine might be the ticket. Sadly not. After six days of satisfactory but by no means special “activity trips” in the region we can only ask “Que está comiendo todos los pasteles??” (Who is eating all the pies?). We thought we’d seen inflated prices when in French Polynesia, but those island softies could learn a thing or two from the Torres del Paine crew! Want to hire a tent for the night? That’ll be £100 please.. oh, and a sandwich lunch in a paper bag? That’ll be £12. At another hotel we passed 7 nights accomodation was on offer for $7000, and as the Chilenos use the same symbol for pesos and dollars we assumed it was just an awesome deal on flea pit accommodation, but no! It’s US dollars… and what makes it even funnier is the place has a rep for bad food!

Credit where credit is due, the scenery is nice and there is some wildlife to see (not many other places to see flamingoes, hummingbirds and local “ostriches” in between glaciers and mountains), but really? Slap us in the face again, maybe we didn’t quite wake up last time…  No, it’s real alright!

As you can see below, the place is not without its charms (even when you do have weather requiring a liberal selection of bathroom vocabulary for accurate description), but it is sadly undermined by the unbridled and cynical profiteering that seems to be running rampant. (Yes, we have heard the one about how it is SO difficult to get stuff there.. it is less than five hours from Punta Arenas and about the same from Calafate, so that’s nonsense for a start). It is worth noting that the people who looked after us and guided us were professional and good company – the comments here relate to the place rather than specific people.

As a concluding thought, Torres del Paine (and the surrounds) are a pretty special area, but if you’re thinking of making the trip, think carefully what you’re going for and how much more you could get for the same price almost anywhere else in the world…

Volcanic mountains like that are not unique… (e.g. the Marquesas Islands – see previous blogposts), and an even more striking take on towers can be seen at Zhangjiajie in Hunan, China (see also previous blogs).  It is clearly not a premier destination for nature photography, and as you’ll see in a following blog post, if you are looking for stunning natural scenery not strewn with large herds of flourescent backpack covers migrating majestically across the landscape from muddy campsite to muddy campsite then there are better places not so far away..!

Sunset over the ridge of Amirante Nieto, the mountain next to the famous towers.

The Towers. Not clear that often, but we think they look a little more evocative with some cloud around.

When you do get lucky with the weather, it does look great...pity it seems to happen so rarely!

The ridge of Amirante Nieto emerging above clouds.

Buzzards and the famous Condor can be seen soaring high among the mountains.

Lago Grey is quite often just that with the weather but the blue icebergs lighten things up a bit in scenery terms.

Taking a boat trip up to the edge of the large glacier at the head of Lago Grey shows the scale of the glacier, and the crevasses.

Glacier ice texture.

Lupins are an introduced plant, but large stands of them add wonderful colour to the landscapes.

The flamingoes are most often seen around the salt lakes, such as Laguna Amarga.

Another of the birds that can seem a little incongruous arounds the snow and glaciers - the Austral Parakeet.

The American Kestrel can also be seen.

For a few weeks a year carpets of daisies cover many areas of the woodlands.

The Porcelain Orchid, possibly the most beautiful of the orchids in Torres del Paine.

The 'Chica' orchid..

The yellow 'lady's slipper' is common in many areas through the region - in contrast to the Falklands.

The similar 'orange lady's slipper'.

'Estrallita' - another local flower adding colour to the landscapes in flowering season.

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