Saturday, September 29, 2012

Torres del Paine National Park

As posted in my last blog entry, Patagonia had been my dream destination for a long time. Having fulfilled this dream, I found that my favourite part was in Los Glaciares National Park. However, the manner in which I realized my dream was most memorable in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile instead.

I had attempted the 5-day 'W' trek in Torres del Paine National Park with a friend. It was our first multi-day trek on our own, carrying our own camping gear, and we had little training or preparation. So it came as no surprise that it was very challenging for us. Luckily, there were good information and logistics support in the access town of Puerto Natales.

We persevered and stuck to our goal, and the beautiful sceneries along the way pushed us and motivated us right till the end. And the sweetest moment was our final day and our final ascent to view the iconic Torres del Paine massif. It was a glorious morning, and the light was stupendous. Thus, the 'completion' of my dream was doubly memorable!

Again, words do little to describe the place and my feelings. But here's a series of photos that hopefully can show you a glimpse of the beautiful Torres del Paine National Park!


Hiking along part of the 'W' trek
The amazing Glacier Grey, one of the highlights along the 'W' trek!
One of the buildings of the Refugios - accommodation options in the National Park. These Refugios also offer camping facilities
Torres del Paine National Park consists of many lakes, which are fed by glaciers within the park
Hikers taking a break and enjoying the views along the route to French Valley, a section of the park surrounded by rocky mountains and icy glaciers
Different parts of the trek offers different terrain and views, but all are stupendous!
My friend and trekking companion pushing towards the completion of our trek
Glorious alpenglow on the iconic Torres del Paine massif - the three Towers of Paine

Saturday, September 15, 2012

El Chaltén - Los Glaciares National Park

Truly one of the most beautiful places I've been, and a dream destination come true for me, is Patagonia. Spanning both Argentina and Chile, the landscapes in the whole region are a photographer's heaven. Several National Parks are defined within each country, and the stunning Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina is a top favourite.

El Chaltén, a village within the park provides convenient access to the wonderful scenery. A very helpful visitor information centre/park ranger station provides excellent information for treks in the park, of which the favourites include 2 separate day treks to the Laguna Torre viewpoint and Laguna de los Tres viewpoint. Here, the famous beautiful peak of Mt Fitz Roy can be easily seen.

But words do little justice to the place, so here's a photo gallery to whet your appetite. But even then, I confess that my pictures also does not convey the feelings you'll get when you are there!

Nevertheless, enjoy!

The village of El Chaltén
Views from El Chaltén
Trekking in Los Glaciares National Park
Some treks go through beautiful ancient forests
Enjoying the views of Mt Fitz Roy and Laguna de los Tres
A lone hiker walking along the beautifu glacier lake Laguna de los Tres

Jagged mountains and snowy glaciers are just part of the landscapes
Alpenglow on Mt Fitz Roy!!
Alpenglow on the elusive Cerro Torre!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Taquile island, Lake Titicaca

Taquile Island on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca is a gem of a destination. Lake Titicaca, a highland lake in the Andes, covers both Peru and Bolivia. There are several islands on the lake worth a visit, and Taquile is certainly one of them.

The islanders, known as Taquileños, have developed a community-based tourism model, offering services such as homestays, restaurants, guides etc. This protected them from losing their heritage and livelihood from mass-tourism from non-islanders. They are well-known for their handwoven textiles, and are supposedly of the highest quality in Peru. A designated shop in the "village square" of sorts sells the islander's textile products, ranging from mantas, to handicrafts to clothings. The islanders are friendly, and there are no hassling to buy stuff etc and almost all of them are still dressed in a semi traditional way. And it's so interesting seeing the men knitting away continuously while walking/talking/resting etc!

But what I like is that the children on the island do not swarm to you asking for money or anything. They go about their normal life, but children being children, they are still curious about tourists, and they would often glance in our direction for a glimpse of three Asian faces (I was with two other friends).

The island also has some Inca ruins, but unfortunately are situated at the top of the island, which stands at above 4000m! So climbing up may be a little breathless, but the views are great, and so coming up during sunrise/sunset would be awesome. Overnight stay would be recommended, and as most tourists seemed to be day-trippers, you would likely get the place mostly to yourself!

From Puno, ferries ply the various islands on the lake daily. Note that the journey from Puno to Taquile takes 3-4 hours. Once you land on the island, there will be locals offering homestays, and while the accommodation is pretty basic, the experience would be certainly memorable!