I knew very little about Chile—I had an idea of a long, thin country full of lamas, Spanish colonial architecture and Indians dressed in homespun wool. But, I was about to find out a whole lot more about the South American nation—I had just agreed to accompany a friend on a trip there.
Before setting off, I did a little research. I learned about Chile’s geography, history and people—and the more I read the more I wanted to go there.
We arrived in Santiago airport after an overnight flight from Europe before connecting to Patagonia in the south. The 1,500 journey along the Andes was one of the most spectacularly scenic flights of my life.
The plane flies parallel with the mountains and the view continually changes between valleys, lakes, glaciers, volcanoes and 20,000-foot mountains. On our landing approach to Punta Arenas, I took some photos of the coastal landscape, including one of drumlin hills. This picture was later used in a published scientific paper by the British Antarctic survey.
Punta Arenas is the southern-most city on the American continent and an ideal starting point for exploring continental Patagonia. It’s a surprisingly modern, vibrant city at the edge of the world.
It also has quite a few good hotels, bars and restaurants. A must-try dish found in many eateries is the superb king crab soufflé. I had mine washed down with plenty of tasty Chilean beer. The Chileans adopted the craft of brewing from German emigrants who arrived in number during the 19th century—and the Chileans have learned well.
From Punta Arenas we took a few day trips—one was by boat to the penguin colony of Magdalena Island in the famous Magellan Strait, where 65,000 Magellanic penguins come to breed every summer.
Then we took the road north to the Torres del Paine National Park, a spectacular combination of dramatic mountains, beautiful lakes, forests, rivers, waterfalls and glaciers. Torres del Paine was one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Chile—it’s a place that has to be seen to be believed.
This photographer’s dream is also a haven for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. We explored much of the park by car before setting out on foot into the mountains and valleys.
On our second day in the park we took a boat trip to see the Grey Glacier. We sat onboard snapping photographs and drinking Pisco Sour—Chile’s national cocktail served with 10,000-year-old glacier ice.
We also visited the famous Perito Moreno glacier. Due to its size and accessibility, Perito Moreno is one of the major tourist attractions in southern Patagonia. It’s also one of only a handful of glaciers in Patagonia that are still advancing.
The front of the glacier is three miles wide and it rises an average of 240 feet above the surface of the water of Lake Argentino. It’s famous for its frequent calvings—when vast chunks of ice break off and plunge into the lake.
It’s hard to tear yourself away from sights like these—I would be lying if I said I don’t want to go back!
On the plus side, a number of the photos I took on this trip have been published in books, scientific papers and travel brochures. When you make money from a trip, a return visit is always on the cards.
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