We welcomed the summer solstice on December 22 in the most organic experience for the Patagonia: a bonfire in the woods and watching the sunrise over the Strait of Magellan. We felt night’s darkness embrace us for 2 hours before the dawn broke and filled the air with the quiet sound of the forest. Then the birds began to sing.
Tierra del Fuego and the King Penguins
We had our first tour to Tierra del Fuego to explore the vast, beautiful and open landscape that sits at the end of the world. Tierra del Fuego, once inhabited by native Selk’nam and Yaghan people, is now mostly pastoral lands distributed among sheep and agriculture estancias.
We started early in the morning from Punta Arenas and headed North to the Ferry crossing at Punta Delgada. Once on board, we climbed to the top of the ferry to watch as dolphins jumped in our waves and the sea bird caught the wind drafts.
From here we took a long road past pastoral landscapes filled with sheep, guanacos and migratory birds who have journeyed from the north of the world to the Patagonia to raise their young. The scenery is beautiful and peaceful, open and immense.
We arrived at the King Penguin Park, and found it filled with penguins! When we visited in December their eggs were incubating, perched delicately on top of the feet their parent, protected by a warm layer of abdominal skin. After visiting the penguins, we drove to the town of Porvenir to grab lunch and wait for the long ferry ride back to Punta Arenas. This tour was incredible, a full day of exploring a vast island filled with history and wildlife.
Gastronomic City tour of Punta Arenas!
We have created the first ever ‘Gastronomic City Tour of Punta Arenas’! This tour is designed for travelers and food lovers who want to taste their way through the Southern most city on the American continent!
We learned how Punta Arenas’ artesian microbrewery Cerveza Hernando de Magallanes creates their 3 different brews;
Ate choriqueso and drank leche con platano;
And explored the diverse uses of calafate.
We finished the tour eating king crab empanadas at the best local seafood restaurant in Punta Arenas. Along the route, we visited the Plaza de Armas, the Municipal Cemetery, and Cero de la Cruz, for a view of the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas, and Tierra del Fuego.
Tours every saturday at 9:00am, 8-people maximum. Contact us for tour reservations or to inquire for private tours.
Protect the Magallanic Penguins!
The penguins are arriving and they are cuter than ever! Every day more penguins migrate from their winter vacations in Brazil to the Patagonian summer, where they breed and raise their young in the protected beaches and grass lands of Seno Otway.
However, the Magallanic Penguins face a new danger, wild dogs, which have killed over 170 penguins. The dogs do not kill them for food, like a puma or other carnivorous animals. Instead, they kill them in foul-play, leaving their bodies scattered.
With the December hatching of baby penguins, it is critical that we, locals and tourists, are aware of the danger our beloved penguins face while we look for methods to prevent further killings.
New Tour! Bird Watching in San Juan River
We are very excited to bring you Bird Watching in San Juan River! This new tour, created and guided by our good friend, veterinarian and local wildlife expert Cristofer De la Rivera, takes bird watchers to the end of the continent to seek out regional biodiversity. San Juan River is located around 60km south of Punta Arenas, and is the launching off site for trips at the end of the continent to see the light house San Isidro (Faro San Isidro) or touch the end of the continent at Cape Horn (Cabo Froward).
This region is host to diverse bird habitats. Cristofer takes you on a bird watching adventure through Southern coastal zones, along the shores of different lakes, and into protected nesting areas on a one-of-a-kind, truly specialized tour.
Suspiro de Limeña
Last week On the Road went to an old favorite, the Peruvian restaurant Suspiro de Limeña in Punta Arenas. We like the restaurant for the comfortable interior and their strong pisco sours, but most of all for their ceviche. It is lemony, filled with fresh fish and seafood, and has a touch of spice. We tried a new dish this time, octopus with a cream-olive sauce. Tasty, but the octopus lacked a desired freshness. For the main dish (sorry, no picture because we at it too quickly!) we shared a generous portion of congrio, battered and fried to perfection.
If you are in the city and looking for an interesting, high-quality, and not overly expensive restaurante, we recommend you take a taste of what Suspiro de Limeña has to offer.
O`Higgins 240, Punta Arenas, Chile, 56-61-242026, Monday-Saturday 19:00-24:00.
La Reserva Magallanes Mid-November
We put on our rain jackets, hiking shoes, and a hat and heading into the beautiful Reserva Magallanes. The Reserva Magallanes, or Magallanes Forest Reserve, is located a mere 7km from Punta Arenas, yet holds 20,878 hectares of protected forest.
There are two main entrances to the Reserve, one is located up in the hills near the entrance to Club Andino while the other is below at Rio de las Minas (River of the Mines). We took the high road on sunday in order to take in the views of the giant gorge, Garganta Alta (High Throat), and of the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas and Tierra del Fuego.
First we drove to the Garganta Alta trail head and set out to see the gorge. Remember, when the strong Magallanes winds blow down the valley and out to sea, make sure you hold on to your hat because it might just blow away!
Next we headed back towards the park entrance to meet up with the trail “Mirador Zapador Austral.” We shed layers as we hiked through the protected Lenga forests, climbing the 2.2kms to the lookout. At this time of year, spring had arrived: the berries were in blossom and the canopy held a soft, filtered light which descended on the forest floor.
The Reserva Magallanes, like other hidden jewels in the region, intertwine the yin and yang of life in the Patagonia: the softness of a delicate native orchid growing near the twisted, crooked trunk of a native tree, doubled over from the harsh winds. The land, like its people, have adapted and transformed to combine these soft and harsh realities. Everyday brings something different, so being prepared for whatever life throws your way makes the Patagonia a hearty soul. And remember, hold on to your hat!
La Reserva Nacional Laguna Parrillar
We took an adventure to check out the start of the season at the Reserva Nacional Laguna Parrillar. The park is located around 30 km South of Punta Arenas, heading another 20km or so into the mountains at the road junction at Agua Fresca.
About 20 meters from the entrance to the park is the trail head for ‘3 Morros’, an 8-hour hike round-trip through peat marshes (turba) and forests to view the ‘3 Hills.’
The inside of the park is popular among locals for the abundant fishing opportunities in the lake. There are many camp sites situated throughout the park with beautifully constructed wooden picnic shelters and bonfire pits, a great way to spend a weekend with friends and family.
From the campground you can hike a 1.5 hour loop on a forested hiking trail to views of the lake and surrounding mountains. This park is a great place to escape to for the day or for a weekend camping trip.
The First W Trek of the new Season
In true Patagonico and Magallanico style, our trek in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine was marked by a presence of all four seasons: the crisp air of Spring’s blooming flowers, the bright warm sunshine of Summer, powerful gusting Fall winds through a deciduous forest, and to top off our day- charming snowflakes and the night time chill of winter.By Thomas Graham Photos by Karen Farfán and Thomas Graham
2013-10-19 Dia 1- “The Season Begins!” – Puerto Natales > Hotel Torres > Refugio Chileno
Our trip started in Puerto Natales, the launching point to the two-hour bus ride to the park. The bus ride was tranquil and spent gazing out the window at the stunning open fields, farms and mountains of the region. However, all of our excitement was quite visible, and our park arrival was met with sunny weather, herds of guanaco, and a nice Patagonian wind. It was a fabulous morning to make the upward hike alongside the imposing Mount Almirante Nieto, offering great views of the shining blue lakes and open valleys of the park. After an hour and a half of challenging uphill hiking we rounded the corner of the mountain, where our passenger got to experience her first taste of true Patagonian wind, at approximately 100km/h!
We battled through the imposing wind and arrived at Refugio Chileno in time to relax and take a well-deserved warm coffee and snack break. We hiked to the base of mirador las Torres as the ground became blanketed in a pure winter snow, further beautifying an already beautiful land. Native birds like chingolo, the austral thrush and austral blackbird were abound.
2013-10-20 Dia 2- “Soaring Condors and Yellow Budding Calafate” – Refugio Chileno > Refugio Cuernos
On our second day we were privileged to see numerous pairs of Andean Condors soaring high above our heads. We were even able to distinguish male condors from the females, as at times the condors flew low above our heads (Males have white collars around their necks flesh crest on his head, while the female has bright red eyes). Additionally, we saw many Calafate bushes blossoming their bright yellow flowers, and we even enjoyed a Calafate sour cocktail at the end of our hike in Refugio Cuernos.
2013-10-20 Dia 3-“The French Valley & Blue of Pehoé – Refugio Cuernos > French Valley > Paine Grande
Though the morning and afternoon of day three was cloudy, the rain held to a slight drizzle and we were able to enjoy a great view of the imposing Glaciar del Francés. We sat and watched rain and snow clouds pass high over the chilling glacier, looking at the highest peak in the park, the Cumbre Principal, at 3,050m. The Cerro Espada, Cerro Hoja and Cerro Máscara, to our right, completed our amazing view from the French Valley, and we left in awe of this inspiring place of granite peaks and massive sheets of ice and snow. From the Valley we trekked back to Campamento Italiano and on to Paine Grande, where we saw Lago Pehoé, the brightest blue glacial lake in the park.
2013-10-20 Dia 4- “Glaciar Grey, as far as the eye can see” – Paine Grande > Refugio Grey
It is impossible to fully express in words the emotions that wash over a person when they see Glaciar Grey, a part of the Hielo de Campo Sur- the Southern Patagonian Ice Sheet. It is magical and truthfully breathtaking. Glaciar Grey is immense in size, powerful in scope and brillant in color. We first saw Grey at a mirador an hour and a half after leaving Paine Grande, before walking through scrublands and forests of lenga and coihue trees. The view and grandeur of Grey only increased as we walked to Refugio Grey. Upon arrival to the Refugio we met with friends and enjoyed a coffee and snack, while watching a Tiuque (Falcon) perch outside the cafeteria window and Carpintero Negro (Megallanic Woodpecker) play his tune on a near by lenga tree. It was a magical end to the “W” hike.
2013-10-20 Dia 5- “All great things must end” – Refugio Grey > Paine Grande > Catamaran to Pudeto
We left Refugio Grey extremely well-fed and headed back to Paine Grande early to catch the 12:30 Cataraman to Pudeto, and our bus to Puerto Natales. The Cataraman offered an always-incredible view and photo opportunity of the Paine Massive and the famous Cuernos of Torres del Paine, with the piercing blue Lago Pehoé in the foreground. This opportunity was not lost on us, as we went atop the cataraman deck to take some final pictures of the Cuernos before the end of our trekking experience.
It was a wonderful “W” trip to kick-off the 2013/14 season, and we all left refreshed and excited for our next adventure.
Fort Bulnes in early Spring
ORP took their first trip of the season to visit Fort Bulnes at the end of September. Evidence of the fading winter was visible only in the brown hues of the grass and the mostly bare branches. However we found signs of spring emerging through green leaves budding on trees, the retreating snow line, and the minimal quantity of layers we had to wear for the day.
Fort Bulnes offers fully guided tours through the park led by local guides knowledgable about the history of the region’s first settlers. We learned how the people lived, learned and eventually migrated to Punta Arenas, leaving a forgotten town that went virtually undiscovered for many, many years. Today the park is beautifully reconstructed using traditional architecture and materials and offers several kilometers of hiking trails which weave around the dramatic landscape.