Sunday, March 3, 2013


Patagonia and Magellan Strait
Argentina and Chile, South America

Today, on my birthday, I am back at home and will celebrate with friends and family. 

However, the last 4 weeks I traveled far from home and explored Patagonia and the southern region of the South American continent.

Overview of my Journey:

My journey took me from San Francisco to Buenos Aires in Argentina – albeit not in a straight line fashion as indicated on the above map.  Painfully, I had to go through New York before the night flight to the capital of Argentina.  But traveling with my good friend Lynda made the long flight and layovers bearable.

After a short trip for the airport to the inner city, we were met by our Photo tour group at the hotel and spend 2 nights exploring the ‘city of tango and music’.   Our next flight took us further south to El Calafate in the heart of Patagonia, the most southern region of the South American continent shared by Argentina and Chile.  

The next 14 days, we explored the FitzRoy Massive, a mountain chain with its highest peak at ~11,000ft, walked on the Viedma Glacier after strapping crampons under our hiking boots, met with an original ‘gaucho’, the South American Cowboy, and his dog and horse,  heard the rumblings of glaciers as they move and saw calving big ice sheets from the glacier face, observed sheep herding on an authentic sheep ranch, Estancia Alicia, photographed guanacos, the cousins of alpacas and guanacos endemic in the South American Andes in the Torre del Paine region, took a great ferry ride to Terra del Fuego (Land of Fire) and saw our first penguins, a small and newly established King Penguin colony – and I fell in love with these curious and beautiful non-flying birds.

On the Punta Arenas-El Porvenir Ferry crossing the Magellan Strait

Lynda and I left the group to return to Punta Arenas where we explored the most southern town of 150,000 inhabitants and explored more penguins, this time the Magellanic Penguins on Isla Magdalena, before joining our next group for an expedition on the Magellan Strait.  We traveled by small boat – 15 participants – that carried zodiacs and kayaks for the further exploration of the shores and waters.  During the next week, we had an incredible experience with humpback whales that played in the waters by spyhopping, slapping their narrow white flippers on the water, and breached.  We saw mothers followed closely by their babies and observed the little ‘baby breaches’ as they tried to imitate their mothers.  Curiously, the whales were often followed by fur seals that also jumped out of the waters as if to say:  we can also breach as our big cousins.

Our home on the Magellan Strait

Curious Young Elephant Seal

The time passed quickly with so many wonderful experiences and soon we were back in Punta Arenas not looking forward to our long haul back to the USPunta ArenasSantiagoBuenos AiresNewarkSan Francisco.

Last day on the Magellan Strait - finally the sun made an appearance!

But what a journey it was!!  High mountains, open seas, wildlife on land, on sea and in the air.  Seeing 8 condors taking the thermals up higher and higher was an unforgettable sight better enjoyed without the camera in front of my eyes.  What a joy to see these enormous birds with a 3 m (9ft) wingspan taking flight and soaring in the high sky.  They are not threatened in these mountains, gliding over the enormous glaciers and over the fjords and islands of this untouched land. There is a beauty in the rough landscape that tells of hardship for man and beast who try to penetrate it.  Those who survive the raw nature in this region are richly rewarded.  Since the land in the southern cold climate offers sparse, low and hardy vegetation, the seas mostly provide food for the condors, albatross, petrels, fur seals, elephant seals, humpbacks and all the other critters that make their life here.  I am thankful having been given all but a glimpse into a world quite foreign to me.  I loved having the wind blowing in my hair, happy that I did not fall into the icy waters when kayaking! - and mastering my fear of climbing on crampons over glacier crevices. 

 Moody sunset over the Magellan mountains

Now I am back home.  My camera and I were very busy during the trip – amazing that I did not get cramps in my index finger from triggering the shutter release - and I will share my images as I work through and relive my trip. 

Til next time soon,

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