The beautiful south

When we talk about going to the south, we usually think of going to a warm place. Well, as I learned, the south can be a rather cool place with lots of wind, but tremendous beauty.

Being here in the south, close to the mountains and snow, the well known saying “Life is not about the breath you take but the moments that take your breath away” comes to my mind. During our whole sailing trip of course I had many of those wonderful moments with all the beautiful nature and animals and I wrote about them. But, I have to admit, what takes my breath away the most is the majesty of those mountain, millions of years old, especially when you’re sailing right among them and then get a chance to hike on them. It is my biggest birthday gift that I have been able to get some real breathtaking views in the last 4 days when I was out discovering a bit of Patagonia.

I already wrote about all the beauties of Patagonia til Ushuaia. My favourite til then being my hike up the glacier in the Tierra del Fuego National Park - next to seeing all those dolphins, pinguins and sea lions. It showed me how much I love and missed the mountains and the work out connected with the visit of them.

Then came the views of the majestic glaciers ending in the water. Most impressive the blue reflection of the very compact ice. The less oxygen is left in the ice the more blue it gets. Simply a must see. We were very priviliged to be able to "park" and stay overnight in front of two of these. Unforgettable, very private views. 

 More pix of that trip: http://sailing.smichah.de/#43.0

All these glacier views were rounded up by the visit of Perito Moreno. Simply the dimension of this glacier is impressive. And then learning that there are about 1500km2 of ice in this area called the Ice fields of Patagonia (campo del hielo). Only Antarctica and all the ice around greenland and northpole present a bigger size of ice fields. Since Perito Moreno provides the easiest access to a huge ice field it's probably the world's most famous one. It lies in one campo with the glacier Upsala and Viadema. Close to that Argentina shows off with Fitz Roy, another glacier with lots of climbing and hiking facilities close to the town of El Chatén. 

Also Patagonia, but in Chile lies the Torres del Paine National Park which includes the southern part of the Campo del Hielo. This park is mostly famous for its three mountain peaks called Torres and it offers lots of hiking paths and multi-dorm cabins and campgrounds on the way. Most people here do the 4-5 day hike called the "W". Simple because the trails that take you to the best views of the torres and the glacier Grey are located as a W. So you go each path twice- in and out. From one "Refugio" (or campground) to the other. Mostly 9-12hrs a day of walking. The part I did - to the lookout "El mirador de los torres" - being the toughest one and probably the most beautiful part. Unfortunately I mostly walked in rain and then snow (which made me happy happy) so I did not see the torres up there across the turquoise lake. Would I have walked slower or waited for about 2 hrs I would have seen it. A
nyway I really enjoyed the hike and the snow made up for it. Plus I saw the torres from down at the lodge, the rest is up to my imagination – so why hike up there ;-)? It was worth feeling and tasting the snow.
Besides that W there is a round trail which in average takes 10 days and is way less crowded. Talking about crowded. Marcus has warned me that it is crowded here. Well, no wonder with only the 4 main trails and a good marketing. BUT: if I go to the famous mountains at home I meet at least as many people, just by far not so many with tents and big backpacks, since you can do million of different day tours while staying in one hotel or simply sleep in the dorms in the mountain cabins. In addition you have the choice of thousands of other not so crowded paths. Just the campo del hielo and the steppe is missing, although there are many glaciers in the alps and dolomites as well. But it is definitely beautiful here. Very unique is the change of landscape - Steppe, green hills, grey stone fields, rocky fields and glaciers. The pictures from here definitely show more diversity than the views at home. 

The nice part of hiking and being in beautiful landscape is that it brings together people from around the world, everybody is the same. What I love: everybody is happy, no matter what the weather is like. Rain, snow, sun, warm, cold. We're all here to achieve something and the weather won't keep us. It's just a matter of the right clothes. Seeing so many backpacking hikers in one place makes me understand the immense market of mountain gear sales. That's why there are millions of outdoor stores in Ushuaia, Puerto Natales and probably Punta Arenas, the starting points for most of the tours. I am a bit surprised that the vast majority of the people here are americans, followed by chilenans and argentinans. And most of the americans I saw were at least in the 50s, most people in general at least 40, only about 15% under 30. But I have not been to the campgrounds, maybe the picture there is different. In the refugio yesterday we had 80% over 55, all english speaking. Today we have a group of 6 young american kids. I only saw (heard) a couple of germans,French, Russians, two from probably sweden or so. Why is that so? I would guess because we've got enough beautiful hiking possibilities is front of the door. Patagonia just seems to be more of a tourist place for Amercians (and Australians) than for Europeans. But I don't know. Most tour Patagonia for about 1 month. What do you see besides the mountains? Plants (mostly the green bushes called Calafate, like the town in Argentina) and animals: guanacos, rabbits, fox, nandos (like a small strauss), cows, horses, even saw a mouse, and of course birds like even condors.

I really enjoyed my hiking, horseback riding and sightseeing here (and I have to come back with more time) and it's the only way I survive the thought that my beloved dance teacher from the EDGE performing arts center in LA, Malaya, is teaching in my home town Munich in the PA Studios right now on my birthday while I am not there ;-). At least I got my work out as well. :-)

Our new crew member, Jens, arrives today, a new adventure begins. We had a great time with the last crew, it was great to have more people at the same time, especially with that cool diversity we had, but we also look forward to the new crew…

Since the internet connection here is very slow, I just upload some pictures, otherwise it takes too much time. I hope to have better connection in Puerto Montt in 2 weeks. 

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