Sunday, July 29, 2018

Argentina and Chile, the camera version, 2018

The previous blog of this trip was done with an iPhone, much faster than using a digital SLR full size camera.  I am transitioning from mirror digital cameras to the mirrorless and you won’t be able to tell the difference in image quality, just that the mirrorless are smaller, faster and quiet.  And what you see in the viewfinder is what you get.  Starting in the Peninsula de Valdez. This is the place when you see orcas attacking and eating the seals on the beaches and had been there before but never saw the show.  This time was 20 minutes late and missed again.  The orcas cruise the shoreline and capture the prey by rushing into the beach.  This time they were training the young ones. 

The armadillos are common and usually not concerned with humans so are easy to approach.
They live in burrows and usually can be seen followed by the children.  Foxes are also very common and not averse to human proximity.  And then the maras, these resemble rabbits but are not related.  They are diurnal and monogamous for life. They use communal dens and are very vocal among themselves - sorry, don’t speak the language.  Foxes are very common and hunt maras; this one was not far from one of the dens. There are birds too; this one looks like a North American mockingbird and behaves like one.  This is called a calandria morada and it seems that it had a bad hair day.

After leaving the coastal area of Argentina moved west to the famous Ruta 40 that runs the length of Argentina mostly bordering the Andes. It appears that the same bird followed me to El Chalten, a massive rock formation in the Argentine section of the Andes similar to Torres del Paine in Chile.  In my opinion is easier to access than Torres and friendlier to the visitors.  The village of el Chalten offers a variety of accommodations and eateries at reasonable prices.  Torres has a very limited and expensive Hostels and entrance fee.  And if you are a foreigner, you pay more than the locals although this also applies in Argentina particularly when you make reservations from overseas. The image below the bird is of the Rio de las Vueltas meaning the River of Many turns or in geological parlance “meandering”.

El Chalten is Tehuelche name meaning Smoking Mountain due to be covered with clouds most of the time. It offers extraordinary photo opportunities that are constantly changing as seen below.  Some of the images are presented in Black & White and Color. The first and second are both versions but the third one was a rare opportunity in which an opening in the clouds led the sun create a line of fire. The dominant peak is also known as Mount Fitz Roy in honor of the Captain of the Beagle, with whom Darwin sailed around South America and to the Galapagos that resulted in his book the Origen of the Species.

The trails inside El Chalten offer variety of stress rewarding with various landscapes particularly in the fall when the leaves of the trees are changing. Really a single camera with a quality extra-wide to wide zoom is needed as well as a tripod for the finicky photographer. Rain/cold protection gear and water will be required since the weather changes are fast.

 Continuing south in the Ruta 40 deviated from the main road to visit La Cueva de Las Manos. Below, the canyon of the Pinturas River where the petroglyphs are found.  As always, for humans to survive there must be water. These in my opinion are the best I have seen in my travels.  Consider that they are between 8-9000 years old and the colors are still vibrant

Most of the hands painted are left ones and that is because the painter used the right hand holding a hollow bird bone to blow the pigments. There a few right hands too and there is one with 6 fingers!!!  Most of the hands are closer to the lower section of the rocks and I imagine that this was because these were more accessible because there may have more short people than tall or to the work of the children.  Animals are also represented with the guanacos the most abundant as well as people, symbols and insects.

Continuing down Ruta 40 deviated again towards Calafate to visit the nearby glaciers.  On the way there a fox eating a dead rhea offered some entertaining as well a young black chested buzzard eagle not familiar with the danger of humans.

Perito Moreno Glacier is the only one that is advancing while others around the world are retreating.  This is my third visit and as in all parts of the world global tourism had a detrimental impact.  The first time I was able to walk to the shoreline but now, there is a system of elevated steel passages to which one is limited.  This not only limited free roaming but destroyed the landscape integrity.  It was named after Franciso Moreno, an Argentine explorer and perito just means “expert”.  He had an interesting life once caught by the Teheulche Indians and condemned to death but escaped and was also attacked by a puma and survived.

Nearby in the Lago Argentino one can take a boat tour to visit other glaciers not as impressive but still worth of a visit since one can encounter interesting passengers as well as icebergs. Images are of the glaciers Upsala and Spegazzini glaciers.

 Returned to La Ruta 40 and again deviated to the town of “Los Antiguos” that used as a staging place to close the border into Chile to visit the Marble Cathedral in Lago General Carreras.
More details about the Marble Cathedral can be found in my previous blog where the iPhone was used as the camera.  Below are more images of the same place using a full size digital camera.
Notice the last image looks like a skull emerging from the water.  This was one of the places I always wanted to visit as well as “La Cueva de Las Manos”.  

Trip ended in Torres del Paine in Chile, one of the most photographed places of the world and not just because of the landscapes but because of the pumas.  As in Iceland, the weather changes every 15 minutes. I visited there 18 years ago and several times since then and it has changed -not for the best in my opinion.  One year I was not allowed in because of the great fire that cause great damage and will take decades for the park to recover.  All parts of the park were affected.

There a variety of animals such rheas and guanacos that easy to photograph and as previously mentioned great landscapes.  There is no other place where place the pumas are so accustomed to humans, allowing great photo opportunities. The puma photographed is known as “la Hermana”, sister of “La Mocha” whose whereabouts are not known.  I met both in 2015 and had a great close encounter resulting in images that I will probably not be able to replicate in the future.

Finalizing the great adventure, a view of Torres del Paine from Lago Pehoe but in Black and White; not as often seen color ones.  Until I return.