If there's one thing I learned in Patagonia, it's that you don't plan your day - the weather plans it for you.
The day that I had scheduled to do a 12-mile hike in the beautiful Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile, it was blustery, sleeting, cloudy, and windy. Really windy. It was actually the second-most-clear day out of my ten day trip, but it was still pretty gnarly weather. So I decided to drive the park and made a photography day out of it.
So if you want awesome hiking photos of Mirador Las Torres or the like in Torres del Paine, use Google Images. But feel free to continue reading for photos of some pretty awesome scenery & wildlife of southern Patagonia.
The drive from El Calafate, Argentina to Torres del Paine, Chile is roughly 130 miles (210km) due south. You'll have to cross country borders, so make sure your rental company knows this before you travel. They'll give you an important paper that you present to the border control stations. The drive to Torres del Paine was, landscape wise, not much to photograph. But it was an awesome drive for wildlife:
This national park has en entrance fee of $35 USD per person. It's worth it, even for one day. Why? Because International Traveller ranked it #2 in their countdown of '100 Ultimate Travel Experiences of a Lifetime,' and National Geographic voted it as the 5th Most Beautiful Place On Earth. Can't argue with that.
The roads are all dirt and are pretty rough, but small cars still do fine. You should know how to change a tire - chances are it will happen. And did I mention that Patagonia is the Land of Rainbows?
Driving through the national park took a whole day - so much to see and photograph. The landscapes were so varied, from turquoise lakes to jagged granite peaks to rocky plains.
Running wild in both the plains and mountainous regions of Patagonia are the guanacos - Patagonia's "local llama." They're quite abundant, photogenic, and inquisitive, and have really long eyelashes.
There were lots of baby guanacos, called hulengos or guanaquito. Guanaco gestation periods are similar to horses - 11-12 months!
A Highlight of My Trip
Pumas, though rare to see, can be found in Patagonia. Pumas are the biggest and most dangerous predator in Patagonia, and are known for their elusiveness. Though I was hoping, I wasn't expecting to see one on my trip. Sure enough, I spotted one chasing down a rabbit as I was leaving the park.
He chased the rabbit down the hillside, getting pretty close to me, then suddenly turned back, and we had a staring contest. Witnessing his blatant lack of fear in humans was wild.
He then proceeded to meet up with his female mate - so I got to see not one, but two pumas in Patagonia.