Patagonian Animal Planet

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Patagonia is not only about breathtaking views. If you’re lucky you’ll meet wild animals living in their natural habitat. Some of them show little fear of humans and allow you to get really close to them.

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Other creatures are more elusive and rather camera shy.

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But the most rewarding experience we’ve had was not an encounter with some rare species but with the herd of sheep that stopped our bus for almost half an hour. This was the only time during our trip when we were not angry because of the delayed journey.

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The sheer amount of the sheep, the skilful way with which only few dogs managed such a big herd and the carefree attitude of the gaucho (man on the horse) were a delight to watch.

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We’ve met these cuties during the visit to Seno Otoway Penguin Colony near Punta Arenas.

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Despite the bad weather and although we’ve only seen a few hundreds of penguins, out of the colony population of over five thousand, we would still recommend it to others.

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These flightless critters didn’t want to pose for the photo and we had to follow them in the car for quite a long time to take this shot.

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And this is on the budget version. No excursions, no entrance fee to pay. Just bring your camera to the beach.

Torres del Paine

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With Ania beign already two months pregnant, we decided not to spend few days trekking the famous W circuit around Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.

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But we still wanted to visit the place so we opted for organised minibus day trip.

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The visibility and the weather may not have been at their best on that day but we still enjoyed spectacular views of the mountains.

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New Year’s Eve in Patagonia

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Could there be a more beautiful sunset on New Year’s Eve? Believe it or not but we took this photo less than an hour before midnight!

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All thanks to the latitude at which Puerto Natales, Chilean port is located. Being 51° 43′ below the equator, the city enjoys extremely long summer days.

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You can celebrate New Year’s Eve in many ways! If you can afford it of course :-) Unfortunately, we were not invited on board.

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And that’s how we welcomed the New Year’s Day: the Patagonian way! Our hosts took us to this lovely lake just a few kilometres away from Puerto Natales.

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Climbing Villarica

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SAM_3167The weather forecast seemed to be very promising in the morning. What a wonderful day to climb a volcano! 2,847 metres shouldn’t be that difficult. So we thought! At least at the beginning :-) So we didn’t bother with the pictures, taking the sunshine for granted. Fast forward few hours of climbing and it all changed in an instant! The visibility or complete lack of it made the further ascent impossible! We never made it to the top that day. Nobody did. At least we got to slide down on plastic boards! It was fun and quick and helped not to think about the initial disappointment…

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Salty lake and other sights

You can spend days travelling through north of Chile. It is full of attractions, most of them inconveniently inaccessible by public transport :-) So one hot November day, I and Mateusz decided to pedal it to Laguna Cejar, a sink hole lake in the Salar the Atacama, which due to high salt concentration has properties similar to the Dead Sea.

Mateusz made me proud that day. For the first time in his life he cycled over 30 km! In the scorching sun without a single shade on the way! Surprisingly, it was easier to get there than to take a dip in the lake! Although you don’t need to move a finger to effortlessly float in the water, Mateusz ran away from it as soon as he jumped in! A little skin cut on his leg meant that the high salt content was too much for him to bear :-)

La Portada is a beautiful natural arch located half an hour drive north of Antofagasta. In fact, it is closer to the airport so if you fly there, hire a car to see it on the way to the city. We were lucky to have the place to ourselves! Only few stray dogs kept us the company :-)

Mano del Desierto, 11 metres tall covered in graffiti sculpture is a peculiar sight in the middle of nowhere, on the Panamerican Highway as you drive from Antofagasta to Paranal Observatory.

Almost 100 metres high concrete Cross of the Third Millennium is definitely worth the time. After a short visit to the ground floor museum you can take a lift right to the top for the spectacular views of the Coquimbo bay.

Stargazing in Chile

Visiting Atacama Desert, the driest place in the world, could not be complete without taking a peek at its crystal clear skies. And we couldn’t get a better chance to do it with some of the best astronomical observatories located in the north of Chile. Luckily for us, they allow regular tourists inside!

We started with Paranal, famous for its Very Large Telescope, consisting of four main mirrors of 8.2 diameter but only 17.5 cm thick and weighing 23 tonnes each. Due to its isolated location the best way to see the place is to hire the car. Luckily, the daytime weekend visit itself is free! You just need to book it in advance!

Unfortunately, no touching the telescopes policy applies throughout the visit! But if you’re lucky enough, then who knows maybe you’ll even meet James Bond! He was filming Quantum of Solace here only a few years ago :-)

After we’ve seen the big toys of the very serious astronomers we thought it was time to have some hands-on experience as well. One of the places to do it is Collowara Tourism Observatory. It has a collection of 14 inch telescopes which fades in comparison with Paranal but hey, they allow you to touch it, look through it and even take photos of what you can see! And all of it during the night tour! Only remember to email them in advance: contacto@collowara.cl

Big trucks, ghost town and a very deep mine.

With the fuel consumption of over 3000 litres per day, more than 8 metres high, costing few millions dollars each these monsters trucks seem more like toys when you look at them from the viewing platform of Chuquicamata, one of the deepest open pit copper mines in the world near Calama in Chile. And for those of you who would like to visit the place a word of advice: don’t go with the travel agency as you can organise it for free (they only ask you for a voluntary donation to a charity that helps disadvantaged children) by emailing Codelco, the company that manages the site. Remember though to do it in advance as were almost turned away after showing up in the office one day before the tour. One more thing: long sleeves, long trousers and shoes covering toes are healthy and safety musts!

The tour began with a visit in the eerie, abandoned miners’ town, which has been preserved in a nearly ideal state. All the miners have been relocated due to safety reasons as the mine grows bigger and bigger.  We also listened to a short talk on Chuquicamata and its mind-blowing copper facts.

It’s a shame that they didn’t allow us to play on the playground, though! Strolling around strictly forbidden!