Quote of the moment

"I have to tell it again and again: I have no doctrine. I only point out something. I point out reality, I point out something in reality which has not or too little been seen. I take him who listens to me at his hand and lead him to the window. I push open the window and point outside. I have no doctrine, I carry on a dialogue." Martin Buber

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mitos del síndrome de Down/Myths about Down Syndrome

Mitos del síndrome de Down

A lovely column in today's Mercurio (Santiago, Chile's newspaper) about people with Down syndrome.
the article invites us to put in front of statements that may describe an individual with Down syndrome (or any intellectual disability) the phrase: "Like all people...." to recognize that we are no different than each other whether we have a disability or not.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Canyoning in Puerto Varas

At Puerto Varas we heard one of the most exciting adventures was canyoning down Rio Blanca. I wasn't too sure about this part of our vacation.

This is what is was suppose to look like: (wait for the commercial to pass)

See ABC article: Extreme Tourists Canyoning in Chile

Jorge, Kristina, Ian, and Andy were ready to be among the extremists.  Me... I wasn't so sure. I was like the young lady who really had no idea what she was getting herself into.

We left our hotel overlooking Lake Llanquihue with the volcano, Osorno in the cloudy distance for a van ride to Rio Blanco. After getting sized for our gear and gathering up our wetsuits we were off to the jungles.

To access the river we would need to walk up a mountainside through a protected ecostudy center. The sign at the entrance of the center tells us there are bathrooms there.

Well yes... There are bathrooms but they are locked. Point to keep in mind- be careful of the large utilitarian sized leaved plant--they aren't Charmin' that's for sure with their thorns on the underside!

When we decided we'd attempt this adventure it had been raining incessantly and there had been previous trips canceled due to the rapidly running waters that had risen to a dangerous level. We crossed our fingers and decided to suit up anyway and give it a go just on the chance that the water levels had dropped a little. Getting into a wetsuit is like squeezing into a full body girdle. Amazingly Andy was up for the adventure with the promise that he would "ride the waterfall." He has always had a fascination with waterfalls and rocks splashing in the water. This was HIS adventure!!

So with great enthusiasm we suited up:

After we all were suited up the next phase was to climb the mountain. The first part of the trail was lovely and full of flowers. As the incline steepened the rains began again. Kristina and Ian along with a British tourist walked on ahead with one of our guides while Jorge, Andy and I slowly took the hike. Andy keep on moving with the prospect of running the rapids. But about midway the rains began harder and colder. The mud became slicker and the incline steeper. He had been hiking up the mud-slicked hill in a tight wetsuit for nearly 1/2 hour. At one point he stopped and said his legs could not move any more.  With frequent rests and Jorge patiently encouraging him along the way Andy, Jorge and I made it to the top to find the guide, Brit, his sister and Ian waiting for us.

Kristina and Ian greeted us with exhilaration while the Brit had a look of deep seated fear and panic. Kristina and Ian were allowed to "test" the waters and had no problems. The Brit however, nearly drowned causing the guide to think twice and decide that the waters were too dangerous for untrained tourists, especially one with intellectual disabilities and little swimming ability.

There would be NO leaving after the trek that Andy endured before he had a chance to see the rushing waters and throw rocks into .... even if he couldn't through HIMSELF into it.

The climb back down was just as arduous and long. But we made it and had just as much fun getting OUT of the wetsuits as we had getting ourselves into them.

Picture Taking and Horseback Riding in Torres del Paine

We went out one more time to capture the "money shot" of the mountains while the sun peaked out. Then went horse back riding. Unlike trail riding in the states we were allowed to just take off and enjoy the surroundings. The vaqueros did not keep a tight reign on us and for those who needed the extra guidance were there to help. As you can see the views were magnificent! While riding we experienced sunshine, rain, hail, wind-- but no snow.

Punta Arenas-Casco de la Fragata Inglesa Lord Lonsdale

To the south of the town just outside the cruise ship ports and the Navy station the skeleton of the English Frigate, Lord Lonsdale,  serves as a tribute to the sailors who sailed the Magagallan Sea and helped colonize this region. The houses that flank the rusted frame are as weathered as the shadow looming up from the beach.

Graffiti provides a colorful counter point to the early morning gray and shadows reminding us that:

Human rights are your rights.  
Take it. Understand them. 
Promote them. Defend them. 
They are the best of us. 
Give them life

Punta Arenas - Hotel and Palacio Sara Braun

The second leg of our trip was a stay at Puerto Varas that required we take an early morning flight in oredr to get there. We drove our car to Punta Arenas to stay for one night and took in some of the sites. Punta Arenas is also a cruise ship docking point and that night we had two ships in port. We stayed at Hotel Cabo de Hornos. Though beautiful, the modern hotel looked out of place  situated in the old town plaza. Neighboring buildings that surrounded  the plaza hearkened to a time nearly a century past.

We stayed in a Matrimonial room (King size bed, corner room with views of plaza and side street, the website photo has not been updated- plasma tv now sits on the modern furniture). The lobby seemed very dark and oppressive in its modern styling. The open design of the hotel lead to what looked like a men's smoking/reading room with a hunter's trophey wall filled with a dozen or more small huemul deer horns. Opposite the trophey room was a black silhouette of the beachedfrigate  Casco de la Fragata Inglesa Lord Lonsdale giving the restaurant an eerie and ghostly appearance.

The view from our window taken at 9PM:

The plaza and city out into the distance

The church opposite the plaza

Outlining street of the plaza- 

The corner house to the right is the Palacio Sara Braun

Jorge and I toured the town a little on our own. We stopped to look at the Palacio Sara Braun, but appeared to be closed. However, I saw people inside and what looked like a tour going on. Not to be daunted I went up to the door and knocked. I asked the doorman if there was a tour going on and he said yes and invited us in. But it turns out the tour was ONLY for the passengers of the cruise ships that had come to port that morning. The doorman suspecting we were late tourists ushered us in quickly so as to join up with "our group." A tavern was available for snacks and drinks but seemed like something out of an Argentine film noir with clouds of smoke encircling the lustful clients. We had hoped to eat in the garden room restaurant, but that was closed.

As described by Fodor:

This resplendent 1895 mansion, a national landmark and architectural showpiece of southern Patagonia, was designed by French architect Numa Meyer at the behest of Sara Braun (the wealthy widow of wool baron José Nogueira). Materials and craftsmen were imported from Europe during the home's four years of construction. The city's central plaza and surrounding buildings soon followed, ushering in the region's golden era. The Club de la Unión, a social organization that now owns the building, opens its doors to nonmembers for tours of some of the rooms and salons, which have magnificent parquet floors, marble fireplaces, and hand-painted ceilings. After touring the rooms, head to the cellar tavern for a drink or snack.

What impressed me the most were the high decorated ceilings--absolutely breath-taking!

Where we really wanted to have dinner that night.

Now there's a pool table for Jorge!

Christmas at Hotel Las Torres- a review and snapshots

Hotel Las Torres was a wonderful location to stay while taking in the sites and scenery of Parque Las Torres. The hotel has wonderful amenities and activities to keep everyone happy and pampered pre- and post-trekking, including a spa, internet services, and laundry services. The staff was always very accommodating and spoke English.

With the hotel located inside the park at the foot of Las Torres the grandeur and immense size of the mountain is impressive. However, we were happy that we had our first night outside of the park so we could take in the full picture of the mountains. As we looked upon the mountains at the lodge it was similar to sitting in the bottom, front row of an IMAX theater - trying to take in the whole picture.

Outside the hotel is a small kiosk that sells provisions to any who wish to take on the mountains but may be camping or taking refuge at neighboring hosterias. The items are pricey (think monopoly in a the middle of nowhere) but were handy for when we ran out of needed supplies.

Dining at the Hotel was buffet service and costly for the quality we received (nearly $200 US for the 5 of us).  Often it depended upon when we arrived to be served as to the quality of the plates served. The beef brisket on one of our days was just this side of tartar (raw) and it did not matter whether we arrived early or late somehow that roast just never got cooked.  The down side of staying here was there was NO where else easy to go for meals. While we were there during the summer solstice a trip to the other hosterias could have been done, but it would quite a trek to do so and nearly impossible for a round trip if you did not rent a car as we did. Their wine selection however was wonderful!

The views throughout the hosteria (the lodge, the restaurant, the rooms) were all spectacular. And though the mountain backdrop remained the same it was clothed in new light and cloud shading with each passing moment.

Here is a promotional film for the hotel:

 On Christmas morning we shared our breakfast with the "domesticated" fox. The restaurant staff have befriended a fox and her family by offering her a plate from the breakfast menu. We were told there is a mountain lion that comes down at times as well.

Looking for food at her table

Waiter calling fox in for her close-up

Smile for the tourist

Andy returning to his room while the fox takes in the morning sun on a full tummy

Global Voices Online » Chile: Modern Day Human Rights for the Mapuche

Global Voices Online » Chile: Modern Day Human Rights for the Mapuche

An interesting article regarding the issues of human rights in Chile. Chile is unique in its honoring of those who faced injustices in the past under the dictatorship of Pinochet with the recently inaugurated Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, Chile. However, the article makes the point human rights is not a time limited activity to be housed in a museum. Chile and its global neighbors are challenged to be mindful that human rights actions must be ongoing for all peoples including indigenous peoples and those marginalized by class structure currently facing injustices and denial of their human rights.

French speaking disability consultant w/ CWS on Haiti relief

Please send out to your contacts:
Sharing the announcement from

Donna Derr
Church World Service
Development and Humanitarian Assistance Program
E-Mail:  dderr@churchworldservice.orgdderr@churchworldservice.org    or 
Phone:  202-481-6937

Dear Colleagues, 

Church World Service (CWS) is one of the organizations providing relief work in Haiti, and they are looking for a person who can join their team for one month to help specifically with a program for people with disabilities.  Because of my involvement with the broad disability community I have been asked to share this information and help locate possible applicants for this job. I am working with CWS through Susan Sanders, Minister for Global Sharing of Resources at the United Church of Christ (UCC) national office in Cleveland, OH.  I got to know with Susan during my six year term on the UCC Wider Church Ministries Board.

Before the earthquake Church World Service had implemented some disability related services in conjunction with a local Haitian partner, Service Chretien d' Haiti (SCH).  The pre-disaster work consisted of community programs that operated in several zones in and around Port au Prince. Their community offices were housed in local churches in each of those zones. The programs referred people with disabilities to available services, community educationopportunities, assistance in procuring wheelchairs, prosthetics, etc. as well as pastoral counseling for individuals with disabilities and their families.  While the focus of the disability work has changed somewhat since the earthquake, it is modeled on what was being done before the disaster.  CFS is working to re-establish and strengthen this community program for persons living with disabilities. (An outline of the plan is included at the end of this message.)

There is a couple from Cuba who are getting some supervision from Noel Fernandez, Latin American coordinator for the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network of the World Council of Churches (WCC) who have been working with people with disabilities in Haiti for the past year.  He is a psychologist and she is a social worker.  This couple will be a great asset to CWS in this disaster
response, but there is still the need for some guidance from a person who has broader experience in all aspects of disability work, hence the request for further assistance.

What Church World Service envisions is a person who:

~ can serve as a resource person to support CWS Haitian partners as they think through and plan the program.

~ can help local partners think beyond a basic program to one which is creative

~ has a sense of how to network with others in the field of programming for people living with disabilities

~ can help advise on the best type of program possible, what type of equipment is needed, etc.

~ speaks both French and English (Haitian-Creole would be an "off the charts" bonus)

~ can deploy initially for 3-4 weeks and then be available to return occasionally over the next several months

~ has had overseas travel experience, preferably to a developing country

~ can live beyond rustic - sleeping bag on ground, pup tent, bucket shower, latrine

CWS would, of course, cover the costs of immunizations and such for the person they would choose to send.

Should CWS not be able to identify someone who could deploy to Haiti for a time, they are considering an alternative plan. This would involve perhaps a two person team of disability experts who could travel to the Dominican Republic for several days to facilitate workshops and intense planning with the CWS program leadership from Haiti.

PLEASE, consider whether you could be the person called to do this work and/or forward this information to anyone who you think might have the qualifications for this consultant position or know someone who might.   I know this is a tall order.  Many of us meet four or five of these qualifications but are lacking two or three that are essential.  But surely the right person can be found if we all
think of our many contacts and spread the word. 

If you are interested in this position please send your CV to Donna Derr at Church World Service.  Once CWS has received some resumes, CV's or letters of interest laying out qualifications and experience, the plan is to choose those that appear best suited to the work and then do some telephone interviews. Ms. Derr can also respond to questions you may have.  Here is her contact

Donna Derr
Church World Service
Development and Humanitarian Assistance Program
E-Mail:  dderr@churchworldservice.org    or 
Phone:  202-481-6937


If you have other ideas about how the disability community in the United States
and worldwide might best help the thousands of people with disabilities in
Haiti, I would be interested in hearing your suggestions and passing them along. 

Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this request.  We have all
heard the devastating reports about conditions in Haiti and can see how
inaccessible the landscape is for people with mobility impairments.  But the
situation is especially dire for the thousands of people whose injuries have
resulted in the sudden loss of limbs. These newly disabled people particularly
need our experience, wisdom and hope.


Carolyn Thompson


Church World Service Relief Plan to be carried out both in Haiti and the Dominican Republic - January 2010


Target population

Church World Service, in coordination with CAID and partners Service Chretien  d´Haiti (SCH) and the Cuban Council of Churches, will provide direct assistance  to 500 people (total beneficiaries = 2500) with disabilities and their families  in Port-au-Prince, Petion-Ville, Delmas, Tabarre, Cite Soleil and Carrefour. The  program will be implemented in close coordination with the Government of Haiti's
Secretary of State for the Disabled People and local and international organizations working in Haiti to support people with disabilities.


Each beneficiary family admitted to the program will:

  • provide information to complete a basic needs assessment
  • be properly registered
  • receive information and support to access disaster relief available to general population and People with Disabilities (PWD) specifically
  • and receive assistance in procuring necessary items such as wheel-chairs,
  • prosthetics, etc. 
  • receive psychosocial support from trained case workers
  • (monitors)
  • provide art, music, theater activities for emotional support to People with Disabilities
  • receive a monthly cash voucher of 65 USD for 12 months

Implementation arrangements

Implementation partner SCH will be completing a basic needs assessment and registering newly disabled as they are identified. Using a case management  approach and including small group meetings and larger events, the disabled  (both previously disabled and those disabled during the earthquake) will receive  psycho-social support and essential information for services available to them.  The 17 monitors (2 monitors for each of the 6 Port-au-Prince zones plus 5 pastors) will be trained and supported by the project leaders as well receive technical training in psychosocial matters from counselors seconded to the project by Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance members.

SCH in collaboration with Christian Aid will administer the monthly cash voucher program. The project will also provide training to ACT members, their partners, and relevant government ministries (especially the Government of Haiti Secretary of State for Disabled People) on effective integration of PWDs in society and future rehabilitation and recovery efforts.

During the first 6 months on implementation, a workshop for ACT members on the best practices, terminology/language and minimum standards on the inclusion into society of PWD will be conducted. The workshop, monitoring and evaluation will be lead by Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) staff in Cuba.


In the Dominican Republic, CWS facilitates logistics (coordination and communication), administration, personnel (part time and volunteers) and technical support (vehicles, phones, computers, etc.) to the ACT members in Haiti.


Transportation of personnel by request of ACT and the member organizations of the Alliance, travelling between Santo Domingo and Port-au-Prince. One vehicle in Santo Domingo and another vehicle in Jimani will provide this service, and it will be scheduled according to the demand and capacities. To fulfil this task, two vehicles will be rented. The costs of fuel will be also included, and the daily salary of drivers and their per diem will be covered as well. The communications related to the coordination of these activities will be also included in the appeal.

Transportation of goods

The transportation of goods (food and non food items, equipment, etc.) will be transported from Santo Domingo to Jimani, and to Port-a-Prince. One rented truck will travel weekly (4 times per month) from Santo Domingo to Port-a-Prince. Some goods may need to be stored in Santo Domingo Port, so these costs will be covered, unless the agency which is shipping the goods includes those costs in
its budget.

The transportation of goods will include only short noticed shipments requested by ACT Haiti and members of the alliance, and the transportation of locally donated goods in Dominican Republic.


The Dominican Churches' Social Services (SSID) will provide space for office and storage in the EOC in Santo Domingo, and office, storage and lodging in the EOC in Jimani. This will include minor upgrade in the building. Meals for personnel of ACT Alliance and SSID will be also included.

Implementation arrangements

SSID will coordinate the activities. The operation of EOCs (a logistics enterprise) in Santo Domingo and Jimani will require personnel, including a program manager based in Santo Domingo and an EOC manager based in Jimani. Santo Domingo-based staff will include a Customs and Shipping officer, a Purchase and Procurement officer, a Logistical officer, an Administrative assistant, financial officer and operations assistant. EOC Jimani will require a Center Manager, a warehouse manager, an administrative assistant, an operations officer. A protection officer will be included in the EOC of Jimani, located in the border.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Christmas Story- In Patagonia

Jorge in his efforts to retain his youth has taken up a new sport challenge- kitesurfing or kitesailing

For those of you new to the sport the all omnipotent Wikipedia defines Kitesurfing as...
"a surface water sport that uses the wind to pull a rider through the water on a small surfboard or a kiteboard (similar to a wakeboard). Generally kiteboarding refers to a style of riding known as freestyle or wake-style, whereas kitesurfing is more "wave-riding" oriented. These two styles usually require different boards and specific performance kites.
A kitesurfer or kiteboarder uses a board with or without foot-straps or bindings, combined with the power of a large controllable kite to propel the rider and the board across the water....
The sport is becoming safer due to innovations in kite design, safety release systems, and instructions[citation needed]."

Whoa there... "The sport is becoming safer??? Citation needed???"

Scrolling down the wiki-guru we encounter the section on Dangers and Safety:

"Power kites can be dangerous. Because of strong forces that can be generated by sudden wind gusts, people can be lofted, carried off, dashed against water, buildings, terrain or power lines, resulting in what's termed a "kitemare" (kite + nightmare).  Most kiteboarding fatalities are the result of being lofted or dragged out of control, resulting in a collision with hard objects including sand. It is possible to be seriously injured simply by hitting the water surface at speed or from a height"

And thus Jorge's Christmas story begins, Christmas morning December 25, 2009  in the field outside our hosteria in Parque Torres del Paine...

Click on captions then click back to story--

Yeah... you know how it ends

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Red Cross Red Crescent - Make a donation for Haiti's earthquake relief

Red Cross Red Crescent - Make a donation

Donating online was a piece of cake. I encourage all to do the same.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Christmas-- in Patagonia

With great liberty taken of author Clement Clarke Moor
This tale begins at the Hosteria's front door...

'Twas the night before Christmas, back at the concourse

Not a creature was stirring,  

not even a horse.

I took to my camera while all were asleep,
to find one lone bird not making a peep. 

My daughter all nestled her tourist guide read
While visions of trekking danced in her head.

And ma with her camera and dad with his truck
both realized without gas we all would be  stuck.

When out in the township of Cerro Castilla
As the station attendent sprung out of her silla


Away to my camera I flew like a flash
To capture the German tourist, his shorts tied with a sash.

The mountains afar with their glaciers of snow
Stood majestically shrinking the objects below.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a tourist stand and its clerk full of  good cheer

With a tourist bus driver and his passengers quick
I knew I must jump if I were to be a St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles my shopping skills came,
As I made my purchases according to fame!

A cap and a  necklace, a cookie and drink.
Good thing they weren't selling the kitchen sink!
To the top of the porch! Jump back in the car
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away far!

As tourists traveling with no directions  told
When they stand to face that fork in the road,

So too we wondered which way would do
With our truck full of toys and hubby Jorge too.

And then, in a tinkling, I saw our first clue
The shiny blue sign telling us what to do.

As I drew in my head and told Jorge please turn around,
Down the gravel he drove mumbling a low growling sound.

He was dressed all in flannel from his head to his foot
His clothes were the ones he wore to go shoot.

A bundle of maps he had bought at great cost
Still he looked like a tourist, wondering how he got lost.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His kissable mouth drawn up in a grin
His face was all crinkled from his nose to his chin. 

While back at the lodge he clinched his teeth tight
As smoke from the hearth filled the room that night
He took a broad poker and with a little patience
Pine scent and not soot became the room's fragrance

He was a seasoned camper,  a right capable old guy.
And I laughed when I saw him,  I thought I would die!
But when someone else tried to fix what was made
Soon gave me to know a price would be paid.

Yet he spoke not a word but went back to his hand.
Continental the card game played where ever we land.
He drew one last card  from the top of the deck
Going down to our cries of "What the heck!"

He sprang to the tree, to the rest gave a whistle,
And away we all flew like a sonic missile.
All lined up in a row we were full of good cheer
Wishing all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lago Grey Glacier...About Face In the Neck of Time

In a dead run we left the Hosteria at Torres del Paine with hopes the bellman would guard our  bags until our return. We were told we had another one hour trip across more graveled roads. But as we looked at our watches we noted we had to make that hour trip in 50 minutes if we were to arrive at the boat dock in time. Added to our panic, precious time would be lost at the bridge into Los Torres if we were cut off by tour buses off loading their passengers to walk across it.  We decided to drive like a native, bail at the bridge, run across it once again, hop back into our truck, and then speed onward to the Lago Grey. Jorge double checked his directions and off we went.

We were doing great until we met up with another fork in the road without a clear sign indicating where each fork lead. Jorge hesitated and then went left. We traveled nearly 20 minutes when we noted we seemed to be heading away from the mountains and all traces of water.  At break neck speed and atop a steep hill the car came to a screeching and swerving halt as Jorge recovered from skidding tires on the gravel. We were at a decision making point...Do we continue on and trust that Father Knows Best...or listen to Ian who had been quietly studying the map, sure that we should have gone to our right. Either way it was apparent we were NOT going to make the boat.

The decision was made-- we'd do an about face, head back the way we came, then take the other path at the fork in the road. And if that was the wrong choice...at least we'd be closer to the Hosteria and its bar.

Back at the fork we now had 20 minutes to make a 30 minute drive.  We were committed. We would give it a go and hope for the best. Soon it became evident that Ian was right as signs for Lago Grey beckoned us to continue. We reasoned... Hoped... Perhaps the boat ran on Chilean time!

There it was! Hosteria Lago Grey with its boat dock framing the glacier in the distance and billboards assuring us a trip of beauty and splendor.  The car came to a screeching halt as Jorge flew out of the driver's seat and ran to the registration desk to see if the boat was still at the dock.

In the meantime Ian, Kristina, Andy and I  quickly grabbed our belongings and cameras as we debated if we really had luck and should run after him or take our time and enjoy the views here. Andy by this time was in no mood to run anywhere.

Jorge met us half way with a smile so grand. WE DID MAKE IT-- and had a half hour to spare. It turned out the reservation information was incorrect. PISCO SOURS ALL AROUND!

 It was the most spectacular part of our whole vacation -- a Christmas Eve gift tied up with a Christmas (rain)bow.

From iPhoto Slideshows

Christmas Eve-- Looking for the Right Fork in the Road

After our grand tour of the lakes and perimeter of Parque Torres del Paine we finally found our way to  Hosteria Mirador del Payne . We pulled up to the gate at 10PM exhausted from the long ride and so thankful that the sun still had not set.  We must have taken every wrong fork in the graveled road! We chanced upon a shepherd who finally pointed us the right way.  The lodge, in operation since 1998, is part of the Estancia El Lazo, a livestock center that dates from the late years of the last century. We had a wonderful meal prepared late for us and then took our road-weary selves to bed.

The next morning was Christmas Eve. We awoke to the beauty and splendor of Torres del Paine set out before us in the distance. Accommodations at the Hosteria were beyond fabulous! The kids shared a large room with private bath. Only one other couple shared the lodge with us and we barely saw them. From our kingsizebed we could look out over the vista and take in all its majesty. The lodge gave us the feel of stepping back into the turn of the century. We agreed that viewing Los Torres del Paine from afar was the best way to start our Patagonia trek. As we prepared to leave, the hosteria's vaquero was returning from rounding up the horses.

Our only pre-booked adventure was to view the Lago Grey Glaciers by boat. The boat was scheduled to leave by 2PM. Jorge figured we'd have no problem arriving in time. Why we might even sneak in a few photo stops along the way and STILL have plenty of time!  What we didn't figure on were the guanacos standing guard over the country's hillsides along the way... and yes and the guanacos were doing what guanacos do..which caused for a large back up of tourists documenting it.

We soon we realized that if we were to make it to the boat on time we needed to run like scared guanacos. We reached the Parque Torres del Paine entrance to be stymied with another delay! The rickety bridge had a small load (1500 kg) limit that required all passengers (read tourists) to get out and walk behind their truck or bus. And we, being dutiful yet late tourists, did just that. Well, actually we ran like heck. With no time to really check in we dumped our bags, took a quick look around, and crawled back into our truck and peeled out towards Lago Grey... or so we thought until we came across another miserable fork in the road.

Christmas Eve
(Click to open slideshow in Picasa)

We Arrive in Patagonia and Are on Our Way

We landed in Punta Arenas Airport (PUQ/SCCI) December 23, 2009, just outside the city of Punta Arenas. Once we gathered our belongings we rented a kingcab truck, loaded it up and were on our way south to Los Torres del Paine.

Surprisingly,  the terrain was steppe-like and relatively flat.

Here we encountered our first guanaco...

and Chile's version of the emu, a rhea

After lunch along the way,


we stopped at Puerto Natales to pick up a tarp to protect our suitcases and backpacks from rain. Puerto Natales is the capital of the Province of Ultima Esperanza and the beginnging point for excuresions to Torres del Paine National Park, Bernardo O'Higgins National Park and the Cueva del Milodon (Milodon Cave). The town is often bustling with trekkers picking up last minute items for their trek into Patagonia's mountainous terrain.

With our tarp secured we were ready to head south and take in a few of the sites. Our first stop was the  Cueva del Milodon (Milodon Cave)


By all accounts this was to be our first exciting venture into Patagonia...to seek out the  wily Milodon.