|We flew into the capital Santiago, situated approximately halfway down this 4,300km long rake of a country. We decided to head south from here, with it making more sense to access the high and dry northern Chile later on in the trip from Bolivia. After some frantic last minute planning, it worked out perfectly for me to fit in 2 weeks of work at one of Timberline's Chile offices. We enjoyed the hotel which was definitely a step up from the usual backpackers digs and I enjoyed using my brain again while letting Steve plan the next few weeks of traveling.
After earning some more traveling funds, we headed south into Patagonia, crossing the border between Chile and Argentina multiple times. We took a scenic ferry trip from Puerto Montt down through the fractured landscape of islands and fjords, sleeping two nights on the ferry and arriving very late into a tiny fishing village. The first night, one of our cabin mates drunk way too much, snored thunderously and sounded like he was going to choke on his tongue every few minutes. Never before have I smacked a stranger with a pillow to shut him up but I did on multiple occasions that night. The late ferry arrival forced us into a monster traveling day that involved extreme luck to catch our 6 connections and cross the border (ferry-bus-bus-shuttle-ferry-shuttle).
Further south into Chile, past huge expanses of wide and wild rolling dry grasslands, a couple of long bus days on slippery dirt roads and we were upon the hiking mecca of Torres del Paine national park. The park is centered around a massive rock monolith that rises out of the flat rolling nothingness. It is surrounded by multiple lakes, glaciers, moraines and is mind blowingly scenic. The dry rolling tussock and scrub that surrounds the mountains are overrun with guanaco (small llama like mammal) and nandu (ostrich like bird). We stayed a few nights up in the park in a 'Refugio' where we hiked parts of the famous 'W' trail and saw some of the great sights of the park. The highlight was undoubtedly the hike up to the Las Torres (the towers) which is a beautiful hike up a beech tree filled valley and a scramble up a rubble mountain side. The winds on the way up were seriously almost strong enough to blow us off the perilously skinny trail in the mountainside. The view of the glacial lake at the foot of three amazingly huge granite towers was just insane and made it worth every minute. Here we learnt about the Chilean earthquake and luckily could get access to the (overpriced) internet to let our families know we were fine.
Traveling south from here, the landscape got even more desolate and isolated. Huge flat areas were covered in scrubby beech trees or clear cut for sheep and cattle farming. From the depressing town of Punta Arenas we toured a penguin colony (a small reserve squished between sheep farms and an open cast mine of some sort) and could get amazingly close to the fishy smelling nests of the Magellan penguins. Our final crossing out of this long skinny country was on the island of Tierra del Fuego (shared with Argentina). We were blessed with great weather most of the time and made the most of the wild and isolated scenery. Check out the selection of pictures, as is usually the case, they just don't do it justice!