Tales From The Camera Bag: Torres Del Paine

Tales From The Camera Bag: Torres Del PaineWith my eyes closed I inhaled deeply the air that was fresher and cleaner than anything I have breathed. I let the strong, cool, winds wash over me and let my clothes ripple like a sail as I wavered to its rhythm. I was standing on the shores of the Magellan Strait, incredulous to be here where famous explorers once set sail to find a way around the bottom of the world.

 Leaving Puerto Natales at 4:00am, driving the black gravel backroads of Patagonia heading for Torres del Paine National Park was an adventure. Driving 80kmph was not Dave’s thing, as he left his finger holes in the dash, and Libby was constantly reminding me of her displeasure with constant swats across the back of my head. This narrow, roller coaster of a road is sometimes so high you see the vultures flying below you and of course there are no guard rails. These death runs were all part of the adventure but more so because I wanted the quintessential shot of the Torres del Paine lit in a fiery, red, sunrise glow.

 What makes these images so wonderful is attributed to the landscape; these mountains rise up quickly and sharply like spears thrown upward from the underworld, in front of them is a wonderful lake and behind us a smaller mountain range. When the sun ascends behind us it peeks over the mountains and broadcasts a light show upon the Torres del Paine rich in hues of magenta, pinks, oranges and gold. A show only mother nature could put on. As we were here in the autumn, the air was cooler and heavier and these mountains make their own weather. We did this perilous trip four times to no avail. Mother nature was not giving this up. The base of the mountain painted in magenta, pinks and yellows was the best we could do, as these mountains wore their clouds like Patagonia togues. We offered up coffee and pastries too the gods as we picnicked on the nearby lake, but they would have none of it.

 The area surrounding Torres Del Paine was as unique as the mountains. Large expanses of land were populated by the Patagonian cypress (the tree is protected and not be cut down, but old wood can be harvested) an imposing, iconic fire dependant tree that is endemic to the Chile Argentina area. Usually the first tree to populate the poor, volcanic soils it grows quickly after a fire and may almost be dormant for 5-7 years if fires are suppressed to quickly. These “Redwoods of the south” are often very tall but here in the south their windswept forms looked more like arthritic fingers clawing out of the ground. They had so much character I just had to have a piece of it for home. I was lucky to find an artist who made wool hangings from the local Guanaco (Llama like animal) and incorporated a piece of this Patagonian Cypress.