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29 February, 2000

>From Torres del Paine National Park to Puerto Natales

Question 10: Which penguin lives the furthest north?

When we came back to the hosteria last night it was clear, and thousands of stars were visible. It was magically peaceful, standing under the vast dark sky, being buffeted by winds and being able to pick out familiar constellations--curiously distorted. I found Orion, but it was upside down! In the morning we took advantage of the chance to sleep in (until about 8), then wandered around the ranch for several hours in all directions. The family that owns this estancia only takes in guests in the hosteria as a side business. The main activity is the ranch/farm. They raise beautiful horses, sheep and cattle and grow hay. The horses are raised mostly for use by the gauchos (roughly the Spanish equivalent of cowboys) to manage the other livestock.

The estancia overlooks Lago Verde and the Torres, but is in a forested area, more vegetated than the Patagonian steppe. There are Austral Parakeets in the forests and Chilean Flickers all over the fields looking for insects. The parakeets are hard to see but very loud...like any parrot!

We returned to Puerto Natales tonight, so we are within easy driving distance of Punta Arenas. On the way back to the main road from the estancia we stopped at the lake shore to look at the wildly shaped rocks that were created by wave action. It is always windy here, and there are whitecaps and surf. The shore looks like an ocean cobble beach in Alaska with golf ball to softball-sized rocks, all pounded smooth by the surf.

Outside the park in the very windswept grassland area of the steppe we stopped for lunch near a border control station. There we met a couple from Europe who had spent the last year bicycling from Anchorage to Tierra del Fuego! Their bikes had lots of packs on them that caught the wind, and they were getting thrown around and blown over. The road rash on their knees was severe. Not surprisingly, they were considering not biking back up to Los Angeles to catch their plane home as they had originally planned.

Answer 9: Africa has the Ostrich and Australia has the Emu.

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