Jane Simpson travelled with Active South America to Patagonia in January 2014, here’s a snippet of her travel musings:
As we climb the sun kissed mountains, edging towards Mirador Laguna Torre, and witness the giant glaciers piercing the sky with their icy frontier, I reflect on my Patagonian adventures that will stay with me forever…
Located at the southern end of South America, the name Patagonia derives from the word patagón – the mythical race of giant humans. With a population of just under two million people, Patagonia is truly a land of beauty. With its millennial forests, rampant glaciers, snow-capped peaks and a landscape almost desolate at first, I am blown away by its radiating mystique. Not only does the landscape captivate my attention, but our fascinating furry little (and big) friends I have encountered too. I am intrigued as to what other majestic creatures grace this land called Patagonia.
On the ‘W’ trek to Torres del Paine National Park, the guanaco is the first animal that greets us. This pragmatic wild animal, resides in the mountain regions and grasslands of the National Park. A close cousin of the Ilama, it was only a few decades ago that these fluffy animals were endangered. A few thousand now exist in Torres del Paine National Park. On approach they give us a puzzling stare, I nearly mistook the guanaco as a camel without a hump. The guanaco aren’t at the top of the food chain and are a substantial meal for the Patagonian puma’s and the Andean grey fox. The guanaco is fast, but will come a close second to the puma. Hey, only a few thousand years ago they would have been my main course as well!
The Andean grey fox, or otherwise known as the grey zorro or the chilla, lives mainly in burrows and dens found in rocks. My first sighting of the grey fox was its obvious tail, ombré shades of mushroom brown fading to black, so unique to this particular fox breed. Weighing between five and nine pounds (2.5 – 4 kilograms), the grey fox is definitely small in comparison to its fox cousins. The grey fox will mainly feed on hares and rodents, but will happily chow down on an entrée of guanaco if given the opportunity. The Andean grey fox is definitely the more social creature of the Patagonian animal kingdom.
Later on our journey we reach the Otway Sounds, the barren land that is uncharacteristically full of life. The abundance of penguins at this destination makes me feel slightly inferior. Timid on approach, penguins are very protective of their young. Easily startled, our guide tells us that they feel safest near their burrows. In the early part of January, when we‘re there, I am told the population of penguins is approximately 2000 mated pairs, 3000 adolescents, and 3000 offspring, which equates to a total of nearly 9,000. Because the penguin is near sighted on land, they will rotate their head horizontally to see us; one eye facing upwards, rotating their head again in a circular motion so that the other eye is facing up. I chuckle at this comical scene. I love the penguin, and they have been extremely welcoming to our group – I think one may have even winked at me. After time spent with the penguin, I then take in the breath taking views of the Tierra del Fuego. Totally engrossed with what this place has to offer, what a truly wondrous sight!
From the heart of Patagonia’s wildlife; the equally mind blowing views; surplus glacier branches; the glorious flora, I have pinched myself at least four times on this surreal Condor Experience!
No wonder this was a dreamland for early explorers of the nineteenth century.
As Butch Cassidy said, “I visited the best cities and best parts of South America till I got here. And this part of the country looked so good that I relocated, and I think for good.”
I will definitely be returning soon to experience more of what South America has to offer.