Sunday, March 23:
After a quick breakfast at our hotel we loaded up the car and headed to Salto Grande, just a quarter mile past where we’d parked the previous day for our boat ride across Lago Pehoe. The winds were blowing fiercely, but the air was warm’ish as we made our way the few hundred yards to the viewpoint overlooking Salto Grande.
Salto Grande isn’t a tall waterfall, but it makes up for it in volume, as hundreds of gallons of water gush from Lago Nordenskjold into Lago Pehoe. The winds kicked up a lot of spray, some of which caught the light, creating rainbows.
After we’d taken in our fill of this lovely view, we headed onward on the trail to Mirador los Cuernos (“Lookout of the Horns”). The wind continued blowing hard. Very hard. We had to lean strongly into it to stay upright, and it occasionally picked up some particulate matter and treated us to a little dermabrasion.
Cuernos del Paine
Almost immediately we had great views of the Cuernos del Paine (“Horns of Paine”) and the outlying hills and mountains of the region, quite a nice bang for the buck!
Fire-eyed Diucon / Diucón
A Fire-eyed Diucon stood in the middle of the trail with a caterpillar in its beak, thrashing it to and fro repeatedly, so much so that it left a arc-shaped mark on the ground! It flew off as we walked closer, and left us curious as to its intent in thrashing this already-dead insect against the ground.
Cuernos del Paine
Although the views were spectacular, conditions weren’t great for photography, with too many high-contrast clouds in the sky, and dark foregrounds. We met a professional photographer who reminded me that one of Galen Rowell’s famous images was taken on this very trail.
A nice black sand beach lined the shores of Lago Nordenskjold, and we spent some time there enjoying the views. I took a couple of short videos with my P&S camera, but haven’t yet figured out how to edit them (any tips on free/cheap software that can do the basics (change start/end, rotate, that sort of thing) would be appreciated!). I’ll post them here once I get that all sorted out.
Before long we came to the end of the trail, right across the lake from the imposing bicolored Cuernos del Paine. The winds were whipping something fierce on the summits, and we watched as the clouds moved swiftly overhead. Particularly interesting to me was one peak farther away that was, as far as I could tell, creating clouds. Its left side was blue and sunny, and clouds were literally pouring out of its right side. Very cool, and mesmerizing to watch! We ate snacks and enjoyed the vistas for a bit, then headed back.
The sun came out here and there, providing brief opportunities for landscape photos, but not really of the Cuernos themselves, as they were at the wrong angle.
Even the bees are dressed for the harsh climate!
Cute Patagonian bumblebees flitted about in their big, furry jackets. We were interested to note that although they are fairly large bees, their wings are very small and pointy. I suppose large wings would just get torn off in this climate!
Guanacos at Lago Pehoe
As we neared the car, a small herd of guanacos foraged on the hillside, keeping a wary eye on us. They had little to worry about, as we were mostly concerned with staying standing in the crazy winds! Back at the car we drove a short ways to Camping Pehoe and ate sandwiches, then returned to the hotel and rested for a bit.
After naptime, Diane & I went for a walk along the banks of the Rio Serrano to see if there were any interesting birds. At first there weren’t – the same numerous Upland and Ashy-headed Geese we had been enjoying large flocks of throughout our trip. A bunch of horses roamed free in the boggy forest at water’s edge.
Storm over Glaciar Grey
The weather didn’t look extremely promising, with dark skies looming over the distant Grey Glacier, but we walked on, enjoying the scenery even without much avian life.
Finally, right as we got to the farthest point we could without getting wet, I spied some ducks in the water a ways off. First I saw some Yellow-billed Pintails, but then I noticed some that were a little different. Diane, who had seen a great many South American birds in the 3 months she’d already been down here, identified it as a Speckled Teal (LIFER!). Some more peering turned up a family of Flying Steamer-Ducks (LIFER!). Steamer-Ducks are generally flightless, and this one is unusual in that it is actually able to (but really prefers not to) fly.
Satisfied with two lifers on our little walk, we went back to the hotel, where we all had a nice dinner. We were a little sad that this was our last day in Torres del Paine. It’s a somewhat difficult park to see, as distances are long, and other than a few short walks to viewpoints, the hikes that get you really into the rock formations are rather long and difficult.
Part 1: Getting to Patagonia
Part 2: El Calafate & Laguna Nimez
Part 3: Glaciar Perito Moreno
Part 4: El Calafate backcountry excursion
Part 5: Goodbye Argentina, hello Chile
Part 6: To Torres del Paine!
Part 7: Lago Pehoe and Paine Grande
Part 8: Mirador los Cuernos <– You are here!
Part 9: To Rio Verde and Punta Arenas
Part 10: Pelagic, Penguins, and farewell to Patagonia
Part 11: To Buenos Aires!
Part 12: BsAs’ Sunday markets and other diversions
Part 13: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Part 14: Buenos Aires’ Jardin Botanico and Costanera Sur
Part 15: There’s no place like home