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27 February, 2000

To Torres del Paine National Park from Puerto Natales

Question 8: What type of rock is created from parcticles eroded and carried by wind and water?

On our way to Torres del Paine National Park we traveled through sheep estancias (ranches) on the Patagonian steppe. Patagonia is a geographical region of mountain, steppe and lake country in southern Chile and Argentina. About 12 km out of Puerto Natales the road turned to gravel and never recovered. In the vast valleys the grasslands are dotted with scrubby bushes and the occasional stand of trees. They are glacial valleys, U-shaped, but much larger than most in the Anchorage area. Summer is ending here and everything is starting to dry out. There is still green in the vegetation, but it is turning more to yellows and browns.

Along a straight section of the road that gave us the first views of the granite torres (towers), we got a flat tire. While we were starting to look for the jack and tools to change it, three cars full of several Chilean families pulled up behind us. After seeing what the problem was, they proceeded to take over and had the tire changed in under 15 minutes. None of our group was allowed to help out so we chatted and took pictures. All the Chileans we have met are very friendly people, but the ones who changed our tire take the prize.

The park itself was a sheep estancia until 1959 and is still recovering from over use of grazing land and forest. It is beautiful with a succession of brilliant blue glacial lakes dotted over the landscape in front of the peaks of the Torres which rise 2000 meters above. The weather is beautiful and sunny, but it is incredibly windy here. Temperature is in the 50s F.

Answer 7: The Magellanic, Rockhopper and Peruvian penguins only live around South America while the King, Emperor, Gentoo, Chinstrap, Adelie and Macaroni penguins live in the oceans around the sub-Antarctic Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

The granite peaks of the Torres del Paine in the national park.

Sheep station land on the way to Torres del Paine National Park. The little dots on the field are sheep and there are actually several Andean Condors in the field fighting over a dead sheep (not visible).

Wonderful Chileans changing our van's tire!

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