11/29/10

Cuernos del Paine


With an area covering 242,000 hectares of granite peaks, turquoise lakes, glaciers and steppe, the Torres del Paine National Park (TDP) offers plenty of jaw-dropping views that few in the world can match. Naturalists rave about the bountiful flora and exotic fauna while hikers have miles and miles of trails to tromp. In 1959, Torres del Paine became Chile's national park, subsequently declared by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978.


However, along with TDP's sheer beauty comes a very unpredictable weather that poses a challenge to visitors. This area in the Magellanic Region almost at the end of South America gets pummeled by fierce winds, rain and snow anytime of the year. It's not uncommon for clouds to cover much of the peaks. Relentless winds can go up as high as 180 kms./hour. Luckily for us, the weather has been relatively calm this time - even for a mildly windy start during my first night at EcoCamp.


After the previous day's hike to the Towers, we embarked on another hike - or two hikes actually - to view  the enormous Cuernos del Paine as well as adjacent Cerro Paine Grande up close. These natural attractions are very much a part of the Paine massif which is the very heart of TDP. Geologically, TDP as  a mountain group is unrelated to the nearby Andes mountain range.


After breakfast and doing the now routine chore of preparing our own sandwiches for lunch, we were driven on a van, past a one-car bridge and headed in a westerly direction following a dirt road. The wildlife even close to road is astounding - but this definitely merits a separate post later. Our main objective this morning was to hike to the Mirador Cuernos, a viewpoint that will give us a stupendous front view of the Cuernos (or Horns).

From the car park, we walked with our day packs on a path that led us to Salto Grande, a powerful waterfall fed by Lake Nordenskjöld which empties into Lake Pehoé. It's not particularly imposing in height but the massive amount of falling water is an incredible sight. On most days, the viewing deck can be nastily windy - and there's a posted sign alerting visitors - adding that 'risk factor' of being blown down into the raging waters far below. Thank God it's a calm, sunny day instead.


From the waterfall, we hiked for about an hour through an area lush with Guanaco's bush and Antartic beech. The walk is through a gentler terrain, made even more exciting as we see the looming Cuernos with its horns piercing the sky. And as if that's not enough, the adjacent glacier-topped Cerro Paine Grande (the highest mountain in TDP at 2,750 meters above sea level) had an avalanche - twice! - and the sight and sound of a torrent of snow thundering down the steep slopes is one I'll never forget.

Avalanche!

At the viewpoint, we ate our lunch while looking at the Cuernos from across the turquoise waters of Lake Nordenskjöld. What a view! The Cuernos have distinctly contrasting colors: crowning the top is black sedimentary rock while below it is pure exposed granite. As New Age music filled my ears  via my Ipod, I wished this is what I see while eating lunch on a busy work week back  home. My wishful thinking came to an end as Rafa tapped my shoulder - a sign that we're moving and on to another hike. Vamos!

Stupendous view
Cerro Paine Grande across Lake Nordenskjöld
Better than a walk on a treadmill, isn't it?

19 comments:

  1. FTW! that rainbow and the magnificent view is just awesome. wow, blessed to have been there through your blog. panalo.

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  2. Inggit ako! Stop it, you are killing me!LOL.I wish I were as young as you doing all the climbing and hiking that you do on your trips. Now, I travel with seniors who complain unceasingly if they are forced to climb the stairs to the second floor of their hotel rooms LOL.

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  3. Awesome awesome awesome photographs. I will not get over this page again...I can stare at your photos and forget about a lot of things...like the work reports that I'm finishing now. Hahahaha. Glad its holiday here in our country now. I'll finish it later or maybe tomorrow morning (once I've moved on).

    Did I just see a walis tambo (10th image)? You always have a way of incorporating Pinoy specialties (last time was peanut kisses) in your trips. Mabuhay!!! Kidding.

    Magellanic region - are these areas discovered by Magellan? That made as Magellanic Country. Mabuti na lang at may Lapu-lapu tayo. :)

    Yikes, Avalanche!!! The only avalanche I enjoyed watching was Disney's Ice Age's avalanche scenes.

    Take care.

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  4. Arceli AlegadṐ6:40:00 PM

    Dennnnniiissss! i want to tag along with you na. dream ko Easter Island, Russia, African Safari...can we compare our bucket list? lol!
    and uuh, tibet.

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  5. Fernanda Sanchez8:44:00 PM

    loved it! please keep blogging your trip! its very good!! :)

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  6. ay daanan pala ng sasakyan yung tulay na yun. parang scray naman. ang gandaaaaa nung rainbow!!!

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  7. I loved the rainbow shot! How blessed you are to experience this because you are physically prepared aside from the other aspects. Again, here's a shout out that you should write a book!

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  8. breathtaking views! ill have to prepare myself physically if i will travel like this one of these days. :D

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  9. wow magnificent... those pictures are taking my breath away, seriously...

    vamos?? why dont you bring me there also!!!

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  10. Nature at its best. Sabi naman pasyal ka dito sa Sierra Nevada so you can tell me kung pwede nang maki pag compete ito jan.

    How was your holidays?

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  11. Z Joya,
    if not for the sunny day and the right position, I wouldn't be able to capture that shot.

    bertN,
    LOL! kaya siguro mas mainam kasama ang mga mas bata, di ba?

    Rizalenio,
    I thought of the same thing when I framed the shot of this Patagonian grass - para ngang walis sa atin.

    Magellan sailed through a straight (now named after him) near Punta Arenas before reaching the Philippines. Kaya this southern part of Chile is administratively called as such.

    Arceli AlegadṐ,
    plenty in my bucket list hehehe! but at the top of my head right now: Alaska, Tanzania/Kenya, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, Ecuador.

    Fernanda Sanchez,
    Glad you love it. There's more to come. Hope your boss likes it :) And please let Daniel know!

    princess_dyanie,
    believe nga ako sa driver kasi araw-araw ba namang dinadaanan yung bridge at walang galos yung sasakyan!

    witsandnuts,
    ang hirap yatang magsulat ng book. mas mahirap pa sa hiking hehehe.

    Ed,
    oh yes, physically, this trip requires that you be fit. I did some hikes before this one.

    fufu,
    since you're still in South America, I reckon you're gonna be there. don't ever miss Patagonia!

    Photo Cache,
    when I get a chance, I'll surely visit Sierra Nevada. there's so much to see in the West na di ko pa nararating.
    Thanksgiving was great although I wasn't into turkey.

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  12. Simple awesome!!

    Bro, do you go to those places as a visitor or it's part of your job. Nakaka-ingit naman kung kasama sa trabaho mo yan! : )

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  13. Please vote for Biyaheng Pinoy for the 2010 Bloggers Choice Awards category. You must have your own blog to vote. Please click the link below and read the instruction on how to vote. Awards night will be next week, December 12, Sunday. So we appreciate if you vote us very soon. :) Thank you.

    PS. You will need to register in the Philippine Blog Awards website so you can leave a link/comment so they can count your vote as valid.

    http://www.philippineblogawards.com.ph/2010/12/02/voting-for-the-2010-bloggers-choice-award-is-now-open/

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  14. Anonymous1:33:00 AM

    Awesome photos again! Most of your travel destination requires hiking...you should visit Yosemite, it's great for hiking enthusiast & photography.

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  15. the photo with the stupendous view caption and the last photo is awesome. such great mountain scape! no need to say im in envy. ive always been after each posts.

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  16. Anonymous9:59:00 PM

    i love it never fails, i want to go with you sometime...paul, sorry i dont have other account dens...but your blog is a joy and reminds me to praise God for the beautiful world we live in and yes we have been lucky to experience it in one way or another...gogogo

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  17. BlogusVox,
    How I wish that's part of my job hehehe. I went there as a visitor which means it cost me an arm and a leg :(

    dong ho,
    thanks for following this series Dong.

    Paul,
    oh yes, we should travel together sometime. perhaps with Erwin. hope to see you soon.

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  18. My gulay! The scenery suggests it's somewhere in the European countryside, but it's South America! The subject of your photos are awesome and beautiful to the highest degree!

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  19. the waterfall... and with the rainbow... stunning

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