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Vacation Day 7
Thursday , January 29th
Punta Arenas, Chile

Today the ship stopped in Punta Arenas, Chile and I took an all day, super expensive shore excursion to Torres del Paine National Park. The park is 300 miles or approximately 500K northwest of Punta Arenas.

HA Map

(Note: I have a map that shows it better than this one that I may be able to substitute at a later date.)

The easiest way to find it on this map is to find Punta Arenas which is located part way up the Strait of Magellan (at the end of the black line labelled as Punta Arenas). If you go straight up (or north) from there you will see an east/west line marking the border between Chile and Argentina. You will see where the west end of the line turns north then jogs west (or left) and then to the north again. The park sits just in line with and below that jog.

To do this trip in one day requires an airplane flight. The flight is to Puerto Natales. So we (meaning the 40 or so people on this excursion) left ship minutes after the ship docked at 7:00AM and headed to the airport. After going through all the processing that an airplane flight requires we went to our planes. There were 4 planes. One was a De Haveland Twin Otter (made in Canada, a number of years ago, by the way) and the others were smaller planes that I think were either Cessna's or Beach's I am not sure as I flew on the Twin Otter. We left first but arrived last as the other planes were faster than us and had fewer than the 17 people that were on our plane. The flight took approximately 45 minutes.

Here is a picture of it and the airport at Puerto Natales after our arrival there.

This is the Twin Otter I flew on. There were 17 (or so) of us on this plane. Here is the Twin Otter and one plus a bit of the other planes that got the group to Puerto Natales.

I thought I had a picture of the airport buildings but I can not find it.
This will have to do.

Once everyone was there, we boarded 2 busses and started on the 2 hour drive to the National Park. We stopped for a Coffee break at Cerro Casstillo which is not a very big place as you will see in the picture.

There is not a lot of detail to offer as the park part of the tour progressed. I will let the pictures and what detail I can remember I will include in the picture captions.

As we headed out of Puerto Natales we saw this. Taken threw a bus window as are many of these.
Some scenery along to way to the coffee stop.
These are an osteridge (sorry about the spelling but no spell checker I have has it in it) like bird who's name I cannot remember.
The coffee stop. It is out in the middle of nowhere. I was on the lighter coloured bus. The darker coloured bus was the other group.
More scenery on the way to the park.
We stopped at this lake which I believe is called Lago del Toro. Do not quote me on this it is hard to tell from the map I have.
We were told this is a condor. I think they said this was likely a young male.
Another view of the same bird.
More animals along the way into the park. This is a lama like species with a name that starts with a "G", I think. Again I cannot remember but I have a feeling that I could not spell it even if I did remember.
More of the same. There were quite a group of them here. By the way these are native roaming wild animals and not on a farm.
This is a different Condor. Notice the white head. The guide thought that this may be a female. He was not absolutely sure.
More scenery as we approach the park.
The are wild flamingos. Apparently they migrate here in the northern winter. Hard to see but there are a number of flamingos along the waters edge. The darker specks along the shore to the left are two people on horseback with a pack horse.

The picture above is at the main entrance to the park. I took a picture of the entrance but it is not very interesting so I did not include it here. Nothing much changes when you enter the park. There are all sorts of regulations about not hunting and fishing and camping and so on. The park is fairly new so when the Chilean government established it they did not force the people living there to move. This means there are isolated pockets of people in the park not covered by some of the rules. The restaurant where we had lunch is one of these situations. The mountains in the park create their own weather and as you will see, it changes.

Here we are approaching the part of the park that is best known but not too often seen due to the weather, as you can see here. If you can read Spanish, you can read the sign and you will know what it is all about. This is an impressive waterfall when you are right up beside it. It was pouring rain when we were there so I only took the small HD camcorder with me to document it. If I can get a still image from the video when I get back I may add it here.
We had lunch at a hotel situated on an island. This was our lunch view. This is the best known view of Torres Del Paine National park. You can see it changing as the clouds move around. These are taken through the dinning room windows so they may not be perfect. Some colour correction was also required to correct another problem.
The mountains framed by the window.
An outside picture taken later. Not as a much is visible.
The Restaurant/Hotel is on an island. This is how it is accessed.
A view of the restaurant as we drove away. You can see the access road on the far left.

Lunch was late, around 1:15 PM and by the time it was over at about 2:15 all that was left to do was to get us back to the ship by 6:00PM. The ship was scheduled to sail at 7:00. So from lunch it was a mad dash back to Puerto Natales Airport which took two and a half hours from where we were.

The pictures below were taken as we started the mad dash back to the ship. The only stop we made on the way back was for the first 2 pictures below.

Here, as we started back, is one of the other best known but not often seen views in the park. We did not get to see all of it but it is identifiable.
A slight wider view a few minutes later.
There is another one of those birds that I cannot remember the name of. This time there was only this one.
More scenery as we headed back to the airport. This was outside of the park but not too far outside the park.
One last scene.
Here we are boarding the plane back to Punta Arenas.

The cockpit of the Twin Otter from where I sat.

A funny thing happened to the pilot as we flew back. His seat broke and he dropped about a foot. It was a good thing there was a co-pilot to take over while he fixed it. Everyone who saw it happen, including the co-pilot, were laughing their heads off. I suspect the pilot was non too happy about it.

The fight took 35 minutes (tail winds this way) back to Punta Arenas and finally the 15 minute bus ride back to the ship. We were there by 6:20PM.

One of the unusual things that happened with this excursion was that they told us we had to take our passports. Nobody could figure our why, because we never had to use them. I asked the person collecting them when we got back and she said that if there had been a weather or technical problem, the ship would have sailed with out us and we would have been flown to Argentina to meet the ship at its next stop. (It is a good thing that this did not happen because as you will see on the next page we ended up not stopping as planned in Argentina before we headed to Antarctica.)

Here are a couple of pictures taken from the ship just before we sailed.

This was from the stern (rear, for those that do not know) of the ship. The black ship at the dock is a Chilean navel vessel.
Looking off the bow (or front) of the ship was the other cruise ship in town this day. It is a Princess ship but I cannot tell which one.

The ship sailed as planned.

The plans for tomorrow changed all of a sudden and things ended up happening quite differently than originally planned by everyone.

Created: February 3 & 4, 2009 on the MS Amsterdam near Elephant Island, Antarctica (3rd) and on the way to the Falkland Islands (4th).
Last updated: March 16, 2009 2:00 PM