16th March: Patagonia (Laguna Azul and Laguna Amerga – Torres del Paine NP)

We abandoned our attempt to photograph at dawn today because the weather closed in. Lots of zorros (Patagonian foxes) visible through the window at breakfast.

We had intended to walk to a closer view of the Torres del Paine but worked out it would take too long and we couldn’t be there at dawn anyway so we went for a drive instead. We visited a waterfall (Cascada Paine), Laguna Azul (not to be confused with Lago Azul we went to near Helsingfors in Argentina) and Laguna Amerga. We saw many guanacos on the way to Laguna Azul, a flamingo there and some magnificent views of the Paine massif from both Laguna Azul and Laguna Amerga.

This is about 10km from the hotel. A couple of buildings, a few people wandering around, probably some kind of farming activity going on. There either had been or still was accommodation, restaurant and camping here … and there is the old bus in front of the mountains. I think it was used for storage.

We encountered probably more than a hundred guanacos and you can see some of them on the road to the right. They used to be common right through Patagonia but they were largely eliminated by early ranchers lest they compete with their sheep and cattle. In the case of Tierra del Fuego, this was as recently as the first part of the twentieth century.

At Laguna Azul, I found a flamingo that I slowly followed up and down the edge of the lake and photographed with a long telephoto lens.

Google maps link.

We returned along a different road.


The Paine massif from the road just before Laguna Amerga. It was raining a bit and the weather looked as though it was closing in. Not long after, though, the rain cleared.

Laguna Amerga is a small lake no more than two metres deep with no rivers flowing into it, shut off by ridges and glacial moraines and a very picturesque location.

Google maps link.

This is now much later. We have had dinner and returned along the road a little way for a photograph of the sunset. However, there was no sunset to be had. This in any case is after dark.

It was three days before the full moon, just close enough for a spot of moonlight photography. This is by moonlight with the moon, about 40 minutes after sunset.

After that, we went back to the hotel and we could hear live music as we prepared for the next day inside our room.

There was a duo playing acoustic latin american music in the common area not far away. I went out to look and they sounded good but I couldn’t stay long because we had to be up early for a long journey.

15th March: Patagonia (Lago Pehoe to Hosteria Las Torres – Torres del Paine NP)

Climbing up the hill at Pehoe Island at dawn, we were greeted by a spectacular view and a cloudless sky. This is the peak of Cerro Paine Grande in the very early morning light before the dawn.

If you click on any of the images, you go to a larger image.  If you click on the one above you go to a huge image that you can zoom right into….then click the bottom right icon for full screen and navigate with other icons or your mouse and mouse wheel.

… And here we have a wider view at dawn.

The view from our room (left) helped us know when to go to catch the light. The laundry list (right) included beatles for 1,500 pesos. Since we didn’t have any beatles in our party we were unable to get any laundered. (Click on the image if you’re curious).

Later in the morning, we went for a short drive and then a walk to a magnificent viewpoint at Lago Nordenskjold.

Google Maps link.

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On the way back , this is the rapids above the waterfall Salto Grande.

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This is a view of the Cuernos del Paine from a viewpoint close to the one above. It clearly shows the dramatic striations which I think are black for lava and pink for granite.

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After that, we returned to Hosteria Pehoe to pick up our things (rather than leaving them in the car when we went walking) and for lunch.

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After that, we headed off for our next destination, Hosteria Las Torres. This is Lago Sarmiento which we passed by. The information plaques nearby say that the white regions were created by stromatalites, a kind of single-celled cyanobacteria that are similar to forms of life 3.5 billion years ago. There are a few places round the world where they occur, including Shark Bay in Western Australia. A geologist who visited the area suggests it may alternatively be calcium deposits caused by geothermal activity.

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We passed by many guanaco along the way.

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The road was narrow and pretty rough and as you can see above left there were some corners it was better not to meet with a bus hurtling towards you at high speed.

Then as we were getting close to our destination, there was a seriously narrow bridge, too narrow for the buses and a challenge for everything else except pedestrians and motorcyclists (above right). Note that wing mirrors need to be folded in. There is a sign beside the bridge that says:

Attention to all vehicules.

Bad Condition bridge. Please let all passengers get out of the car before crossing the bridge. Maximum load 1,500kg.

Google maps link.

The road also got particularly rough after the bridge because graders are unable to cross.

Eventually, we had another room with a view at the other end of the park with the prospect of different landscapes to capture.

14th March: Patagonia (Lago Grey to Lago Pehoe – Torres del Paine NP)

Up early at Hosteria Lago Grey, at the end of a glacial lake, but the weather was not entirely cooperating and what there was of the dawn was fleeting. Cerro Paine Grande at the rear middle left, with Cerro Catedral behind to the left and Cuernos del Paine behind at the right.

Google maps link.

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The is two of the peaks of the Cuernos del Paine from the same spot, must be Cuerno Principal and Cuerno Este. The rock is visible because it’s autumn and the snow has melted through summer, so you can see how the rocks are stratified in different colours. This is due to different volcanic extrusions, some vertical, some horizontal and at the time underground, combined with uplift. The mountains are relatively recent and this is why they are jagged, the weather has not had sufficient time to wear them smoother.

At the right is Salto Chico, a torrent through a narrow gorge where Lago Pehoe flows through into Lago Toro. Right beside here is Hotel Explora, a huge and very ugly hotel costing thousands of dollars a night, proving perhaps that if you pay enough you’ll think anything is wonderful.

From here, we continued on a fairly short distance to Hosteria Pehoe, on a small island on Lago Pehoe with a walkway access. A small friendly place and we lucked out with the “photographer’s room” for a great dawn view. We were told that the island was a favourite place for pumas to come at night. We didn’t see one but Greg later told me he was sure he could smell and sense one when we were up at the top of the island that night.

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In the late afternoon, we went climbing up a hill trying to get images of condors and though we saw a few condors we weren’t so successful with those images. This is the best I managed to get, and it’s cropped down to 100% even though taken at 600mm (full frame sensor).

13th March: Patagonia (Lago Verde to Lago Grey – Torres del Paine NP)

This is before dawn at Estancia Mirador del Paine. The building in the middle is where some of the workers live and smoke is starting to rise from the chimney.

Google maps link.

.… and this is the dawn.

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Later on in the morning, we set off for Torres del Paine National Park. On the way back along the side road, we tried stalking some guanaco but didn’t get very close.

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Guanaco have natural predators, especially puma. There’s always one keeping watch.

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We also saw some rhea. This one was taken out of the car window (a perk of being the passenger at the time).

Google maps location.

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When we got closer or into the national park, the wildlife were less and less concerned by us and some guanaco simply ignored our car passing very close to them. I was also able to slowly walk up quite close to some.

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We passed by some having a salt bath (though they didn’t hang around long).

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Looking across at a river of ice (probably on Monte Almirante Nieto)

Laho Nordenskjold and mountain with lone guanaco

The scenery got more and more spectacular and the roads more and more rugged.

Google maps location (green arrow, applies to both images, which were taken looking in opposite directions).

Round this time Greg, who was driving, found that there was less and less clutch available. When we finally got to Hosteria Lago Grey, our destination for the night, we discovered that we were almost out of clutch fluid and also that the new battery from El Calafate was floating around unsecured. Fortunately the hosteria had a couple of mechanics (there for the tourist buses) who were able to supply some brake fluid and secure the battery.

12th March: Patagonia (El Calafate to Laguna Verde in Chile)

The battery in our hired 4wd showed signs of weakness the day before and in the morning the engine didn’t turn over. The car wasn’t new and it appeared to be the original battery. We got the hire company to change the battery; just as well it happened in El Calafate rather than in the middle of nowhere.

That sorted out, we took off on the long drive towards Chilé. On the way we saw lots of Guanaco (a kind of llama) and many kinds of birds including some flamingos.

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Flamingos by the roadside

Due to confusion in reading the map, we accidentally took a “short cut”, shorter in distance but longer in driving time though a much more interesting road. Here are some flamingoes and ducks by the roadside, still in Argentina.

Google Maps location (green arrow)

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Here we are well inside Chilé, part of the way along a side road to our destination for the night. In the left background is Monte Almirante Nieto and behind to the left the Torres del Paine (the Towers of Paine)

Google maps location (i.e. arrow shows where I took the photos, looking north-ish)

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We stopped for the night at Hosteria Mirador del Payne at Lago Verde, a working estancia with a spectacular mountain backdrop just outside Torres del Paine National Park.

At the bottom of the image to the right are a couple of gauchos with their horses and dogs, getting in the sheep for the night. (You may need to click on the image to see that).

Below are a couple more views around the estancia.

We had a wonderful meal and it was very quiet and laid-back. We were in fact the only guests.

Google maps location (green arrow).

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