Chile – Day 12 – Torres Del Paine National Park

Today I woke up at 7:00am. Catherine was still sleeping so I made us some coffee as well as some cheese and eggs on toast for us. Once I had made breakfast I woke Catherine up and we had breakfast together. After breakfast I made us some salami, cheese and avocado sandwiches for our lunch later on. We quickly got ready and hopped into the truck for a 2 hour drive to Torres Del Paine National Park. During our drive the scenery just kept getting more beautiful.

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Torres Del Paine National Park encompasses mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers in the southern Chilean Patagonia and is known for its three massive granite peaks, which are actually an eastern spur of the Andes mountains. The park receives about 250,000 visitors each year and is a very popular hiking destination in Chile. I would absolutely come back here to hike more than the one hike that I did here, and would easily spend a week or two here just hiking.

The entrance to Torres Del Paine is setup similar to a passport office but has multiple steps. “Step 1” has a booth where you fill out a double sided piece of paper with a lot of your personal information, including your address as well as your passport number. After you fill out the paper you take it to “step 2” which stamps the paper and takes your money; in this case 21000 Chilean Pesos ($42.30 CDN) for 3 days of entry. “Step 3” involves taking your stamped piece of paper over to a different desk where they will stamp it again with a different stamp and provide you with instructions and a very detailed map.

After checking into the park we slowly drove to Mirador Condor Trail (a hike I wanted to do), while taking multiple stops for photos. We arrived at the Mirador Condor Trailhead at about 10:30am. The hike takes about 1.5 to 2 hours return and has an elevation gain of roughly 200 metres over 4km (2km each way) and has a beautiful view from the top overlooking Pehoe Lake. When we started the hike the sky was fairly clear except around the three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range but the temperature was a cool 15 degrees Celsius. We were both wearing jackets when we started the hike, but I quickly took my jacket off because I was starting to get hot. Catherine kept hers on the entire time because she is usually always too cold.

Half way up to the viewpoint we noticed the wind started picking up, but we had no idea what we were in for until we actually got to the top. At the top we could barely stand up and we later learned in the day the top regularly sees 160 kph winds, which is very substantial. At the top I took the opportunity to make some hilarious faces with the wind morphing my mouth into all sorts of ungodly positions. The viewpoint is absolutley breathtaking. On one side you see the beautiful shimmering turquoise coloured Pehoe Lake and on the other side you see the remains of a 2011-2012 fire that an Israeli backpacker deliberately set by lighting up some paper rolls. The fire burned 176 square kilometers of the reserve, destroying 36 square kilometers of native forest, which you can see in my photographs. The Israeli government sent in reforestation experts to the park and has committed to donate trees to replant the affected areas.

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While on our way down from the top we ran into an older couple named Martin and Sophie who were visiting from the Netherlands. We talked for a bit and then realized that we were going to be on the same Lago Grey glacier tour tomorrow. After talking for a bit I was really starting to deteriorate because of my cold and being out in the cold wind so we head back towards the truck. The return only took about 30 minutes and we even saw some condor birds on the way down; they’re huge!

Once we arrived at the truck we were both quite hungry so we ate the salami, cheese and avocado sandwiches that I made for lunch. We continued on driving throughout the park stopping at multiple lookouts and doing short hikes. Another one of my favorite stops was the Salto Grande waterfall. It’s not a very large waterfall but the colours were absolutely stunning.

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We ended up leaving the park at around 5:30pm and arrived back at our loft around 7:30pm. On the way back we passed Puerto Natales airport where I saw a BAE-146 (Avro RJ-100) taking off. These old workhorses are a dying bread and most have come to South America to spend their last years before they get turned into scrap metal. Many work for the airline DAP which flies to Antarctica.

Catherine made us some pasta with chicken and some red sauce for dinner. I wasn’t feeling too good so we laid in bed and watched “The Impossibles” movie. I’m surprised that I had never seen the 2movie before but it was actually pretty good and is based on a true story on a family that was affected by the 2004 Thailand floods.

Chile – Day 7 – Calama & Alto Loa National Reserve

Today we woke up at 7:00am and had some delicious complementary breakfast, probably the best we had on the trip to date. We checked out of the hotel and started a 3 hour drive towards Alto Loa National Reserve. On the way to the reserve we stopped at Lasana and visited some prehistoric ruins that overlooked the valley. The ruins date back to the 12th century. On our way back to walking to the car we noticed a young local girl trying to break into our rental car. I hit the panic button and she casually backed away but still sat on a wall near the car. When I approached the car to get in she still stayed there. C had to go to the washroom so she went and the girl followed her in there. When C was coming back to the car the girl was talking to her loudly in Spanish demanding Pesos. C got in the car and I backed out and started to drive off when we noticed the girl get on her phone. About two minutes down the road there was a woman (probably the girls mother) who was on the phone and standing in the middle of the road demanding that we pull over. I drove around her quite quickly and sped off into the distance. We deduced that they were trying to either steal from tourists or demand compensation for the “free” ruins.

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We continued our journey towards Alto Loa was created 14 years ago in 2005 and is Chile’s largest reserve. The park is full of mountains, hills, flamingo’s, and guanacos (llama’s). An interesting fact about Guanacos is that they can live in some of the most hostile environments on earth, some living in areas where it has not rained for over 50 years. fog that condenses to water droplets on cacti and lichens that cling to the cacti. The lichens soak it up like a sponge, which are then eaten by the Guanacos.

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We checked into our hotel; Geotel Calama and were welcomed with a pisco sour and mango sour as welcome drinks, which were delicious and quite strong. The hotel was well appointed and even had a small kitchen so that we could prepare and cook food. After checking in we went to the nearby Lider (Walmart) to get food for dinner and for tomorrow. Dinner was simple; we made mushroom soup. After dinner I still wasn’t feeling great so I had a bath and listened to podcasts. After my bath it was time to go to bed. The bed ended up being extremely terrible for a brand new hotel… it felt like a broken mattress that transferred movement very easily.

Vermilion Lakes

Last weekend I went to Vermilion Lakes with my friend Hadrian to photograph Mount Rundle at sunrise. Hadrian met me at my house at 5:30am and we drove together in my car. We arrived at Vermilion Lakes shortly after 7:00am and setup our equipment. Our initial thoughts were that it was going to be a spectacular sunrise due to the clear sky with moderate higher clouds. We definitely were in for quite the treat this morning.

The key to getting great shots of Mount Rundle from Vermilion Lakes is to situate your gear really low to the water. Hadrian uses something called a Platty Pod, which is a massive aluminum plate that has a shoe mount that you can screw into your camera. This is as low as it gets essentially. I had to improvise with some rocks and ice chunks since I don’t own a Platty Pod. I also took some photographs on the tripod with it at it’s lowest settings, but the shots were not quite as dramatic as I was hoping for, hence moving to the rocks and ice chunks.

After watching the spectacular sunrise we drove to Lake Louise, where we didn’t get very far due to an unfortunate slip and fall, so we returned to Calgary.

Be sure to check back in just over a weeks time when C and I depart on our trip to Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. This is a trip you won’t want to miss!

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Jasper National Park

Two weekends ago my girlfriend and I took a little weekend trip to Jasper, Alberta. Jasper is situated in Jasper National Park, which is located in the Canadian Rockies. Jasper was established in 1813 as Jasper House and was a fur trading outpost for the Hudson’s Bay Company on the York Factory Express trade route. Jasper National Park was established in 1907. The town of Jasper saw the arrival of the railway in 1911 with the railway siding being added by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (now CN Rail).

On the drive up we stopped numerous times to take photos along Highway 93 North (Icefield Parkway). We also stopped at Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and Columbia Icefields.

Our stay in Jasper was fulfilled by Sawridge Inn, which has a day spa, pool, hot tub, and sauna. They went above and beyond to accommodate us and we really appreciated the hospitality.

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Sulphur Mountain Hike

Last weekend I went on a wonderful hike up Sulphur Mountain in Banff National Park with my friend Hadrian Robinson. It’s a moderate hike with 744 metres of elevation gain and 11km round-trip. The weather was perfect and we couldn’t have had a better day. Check out Hadrian’s wonderful photography on his Instagram account @hadrianrobinsonphotography. Here’s some of my photos from our hike!

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June 4th 2016 – Bourgeau Hike

Today I went for a hike to Bourgeau Lake with a colleague of mine from work. The trail wasn’t very busy, but it was a little muddy towards the top. The trail is switchback after switchback, getting more difficult the closer you get to the lake. The last 300 metres of the 725 metre elevation gain occurs in the last 1.75 km of the trail.

When we got to the lake we relaxed and had our lunch, and were watching Pika’s try to steal food from my backpack, and the backpacks from other hikers. After lunch we climbed up a bit further to see a slightly better view of the lake. I was absolutely blown away by the sheer beauty of the glacial fed lake. The colours were so vibrant!

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April 6th 2016 – Exploring Southern Kauai

Today was my second consecutive day of no roosters or birds disturbing my slumber. I woke up at around 7:30am. I had to walk to get my car from the previous night, which I had left about 1/2 mile away where we caught the shuttles for the wedding. I picked up the car and drove down to the St. Regis hotel, where we had a buffet breakfast with everyone before Marc and Jen took off on their honeymoon.

Breakfast wrapped up at around 11am. I wasn’t sure at first if I actually wanted to drive all the way down to the South today, since the day was starting so late, but I decided to go ahead anyways. My first stop was the eucalyptus tree tunnel on the way to Koloa.

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Koloa is a very beautiful small town. There was an older, beautiful church, and a nice little stretch of beach.

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After visiting Koloa I drove to Port Allen for some lunch. It looks like Port Allen is a fairly industrious town, in fact it seems the South is way more industrious than the North.

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I then headed to Waimea, where I saw a bunch of racing canoes.

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The real fun then began! I headed to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park. The roads are out of this world! I only had a Nissan Versa for a car, but it was still fun twisting through the roads at a decent pace. Today is the day I wish I had upgraded to the V8 Mustang! I’ve never driven on such twisty roads in my life! The views were out of this world spectacular. Along the road there were about half a dozen official lookouts, but I stopped everywhere I could do so safely. The round trip into the national park took about 2 hours, which included stopping to take photos.

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It was starting to get dark so I head back to the condo, where I just relaxed for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow is a beach day, unless it rains!

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