During our trek to the Towers, I asked Rafa what's his favorite spot at Torres del Paine National Park. Little did I know that he would actually be bringing us there himself, on this gorgeous windless afternoon, to the Mirador Condor. This wasn't part of EcoCamp's regular walks but Rafa sure knows how to surprise his guests. The Mirador, as the name suggests, is a viewpoint for condor sightings but it's actually more than that - up there in that rocky peak is a panoramic view of the whole Paine massif.
|One hour hiking up . . .|
|. . . hoping to see the condors.|
|A grand view of the Paine massif|
Our van dropped us off on a roadside overlooking the fantastically turquoise Lake Pehoé. For about an hour, we walked straight up to the Mirador, not knowing whether condors would actually show up. Their cliff side nests were clearly visible, marked by their whitish poop. As we walked higher, the granite towers and horns of Paine re-emerged, rewarding us with a completely different perspective. At the the top, we simply found ourselves breathless - I wasn't even sure if it was from the walk, the view or both.
|Rafa spots condors|
Rafa had another reason to be happy being back up there: the weather was sublimely beautiful, nothing like his last visit when he said he could barely stand in the howling winds! And because of this great weather, we further stretched our luck when the main stars did show up. Not just one, not two but three Andean condors, a family composed of an adult male, female and their juvenile offspring. These enormous birds of prey glided majestically close enough to us, probably curious to find people standing atop their dwelling. During that half hour we stayed up there, the birds made a truly unforgettable show.
|A juvenile condor flies above Lake Pehoé|
Andean condor is pretty much an iconic bird in all of South America, even prominent in the coat of arms of Chile, Bolivia and Colombia. While their cousins up north, called the California Condor, are a bit longer measured from beak to tail, Andean condors are much heavier and have larger wingspans (that can spread to about 10 feet), making them the largest birds of prey in the world. They feed on carcasses, that's why they're called vultures. In the vast steppes of Patagonia, Andean condors have enough carrion to feast upon. Wildlife abounds here, after all - and that's coming up in the next entry.
|The descent to the other side|
|At the end of our Mirador traverse|