Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Torres Del Paine, Chile - Fire In The Sky Over My Estancia

Estancia is a Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese term describing a large rural estate with similarities to the English term ranch. The term is used in Argentina, Uruguay, southern Chile and southern Brazil. The equivalent in other Latin American countries would be hacienda.

Unlike a hacienda, which could be any type of agricultural venture, producing grain, coffee, vegetable, beef, etc., an estancia, most typically located in the southern South American grasslands, the pampas, has historically always been a livestock (cattle or sheep) estate.

Torres del Paine is a national park in the Extreme South region of Patagonian Chile. It is located in the southern tiers of the Andes and features mountains, lakes and glaciers.
The Torres del Paine (Spanish for "Towers of Paine" and "Paine" is the old indigenos name for the colour blue), three immense rock towers give the park its name.

Other attractions include the Cuernos del Paine (Spanish for "Horns of Paine" -- horn-like mountain tops), Grey Glacier, Lago Grey, Lago Pehoe, Lago Nordenskjöld and Lago Sarmiento. Jutting out some 2800m above the Patagonian steppe, the Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine) are spectacular granite pillars that dominate the landscape of what may be South America's finest national park (admission high/low season US$17/8.50). These breathtaking spires are flanked by the summit of Paine Grande (3050m) and the sharp tusks of black sedimentary peaks known as Los Cuernos (The Horns; 2200m to 2600m). Yes, these are the famous Patagonian mountains that you see on posters and book covers all over the world.

But the park is not just mountains. Trails meander through emerald forests, alongside and over roaring rivers, past radiant blue glaciers, azure lakes and up to jaw-dropping lookouts. You can hike into the vast openness of the steppe, heading to less-visited lakes and glaciers, all the while keeping an eye on the looming peaks. That is when the weather is clear. Unpredictable at best, weather systems can sheath the peaks in veils of clouds that hold for hours, if not days. Even then, the park has its allure - but it is always wise to plan a few extra days to make sure that your trip isn't torpedoed by a spot of bad weather.

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