PUNTA ARENAS TO TORRES DEL PAINE; A TRANSFER ADVENTURE
By CHANTAL COOKE
Usually a transfer is a dull journey that takes you from one place, perhaps an airport or harbour, to another place, perhaps a hotel or resort.
But if you arrive in the port of Punta Arenas in Chile with plans to transfer to Torres del Paine National Park – be prepared for something much more.
The transfer is between five and seven hours – so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see this as a bit of an ordeal rather than a mini adventure in itself. But a mini adventure tour is what it is.
You leave Punta Arenas pretty quickly – but despite this you do get a brief sense of the place, and if you haven’t spent any time there – you’ll probably wish you had as the car whisks you past colourful buildings, monuments and the coast road where imperial cormorants sun themselves on wooden jetties.
Then as you head inland and north, the scenery changes; golden fields of grass, low rolling hills and vibrant blue skies. Look out for the elegant guanaco, the rather incongruous rhea, known locally as the nandu, flocks of hardy sheep and strong, well-muscled cattle.
Stop enroute at the Estancia Cerro Negro for lunch. Set back off the road this large white house surveys its 6,000 hectares from a low hill. The house has a museum feel with antique furniture, wood burning stoves, and mirrors with elaborately carved wooden frames. There is a welcome aperitif of Pisco Sour and then lunch starts with a Chilean salad of cucumber and tomato with fresh baked bread, followed by large ribs of barbequed lamb or, for the vegetarians, delicious cheesy scrambled eggs. For desert, another typically Chilean dish; stewed peaches with wheat – sounds odd but is actually rather tasty.
Before you leave the Estancia there is time to see a sheep shearing demonstration and then watch as a friendly, tan-coloured dog shows off his sheep herding skills, nudging the sheep this way and that in response to a slight flick of his master’s hand. Oh yes – and there is a pair of bright pink flamingos in the lake.
Then it’s back on the road, travelling north towards Puerto Natales. The landscape changes, becoming more rugged and mountains appear through the clouds in the distance, lit from behind by the slowly setting sun.
There is the obligatory ‘comfort stop’ and a chance to buy some knitted hats, fleeces, postcards and other touristy offerings. Then it’s back on the road travelling further away from the signs of human habitation. Our wheels kick up a plume of dust behind us and the shadows from the mountains become longer, creeping their fat fingers across the landscape. Gradually the hills become craggier, the mountains closer, the road rougher, and the scenery ever more wild and dramatic.
We pass the park boundary and stop to admire the giant Sarmiento Lake opening up the landscape before us, with the three jagged towers, that lend their name to the park, looming over us in the distance.
Hungry, tired, in need of the bathroom… all this disappears as you drink in the view of the Paine Massif, its highest peaks dusted with snow.
We’re in the Torres del Paine National Park. The trip here has been a mini adventure tour of beautiful Chilean scenery and I can’t wait to continue my journey tomorrow as we explore this jewel of southern Chile.
To arrange your tour to Chile contact:
ProTours Chile firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author:
Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster with a passion for the planet. In 2002 she co-founded the award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET and in 2009 Chantal was awarded London Leader in Sustainability status. Chantal also runs a successful communications agency – Panpathic Communications.