Moments in Patagonia

This item appears on page 32 of the June 2011 issue.

My husband, Earl, and I took the 18-day “Patagonia Frontiers” tour from Odysseys Unlimited (Newton, MA 888/370-6765), March 22-April 8, 2010. The price was $9,990 for the two of us (international air not included).

After three nights in Buenos Aires, we flew to Ushuaia and drove to Tierra del Fuego National Park. We walked through the beech forest and could see lakes, the Beagle Channel and the snowcapped mountains of the Andes. This is where the Pan-American Highway ends, 11,090 miles from where it starts in Alaska.

We boarded the 130-passenger M/V Via Australis, our home for the next three nights. A lovely ship, it was very clean and looked new. However, the food was not a hit with any of us. It was so tasteless, but I don’t travel for the food.

In Wulaia Bay, Chile, we took Zodiacs to land on Navarino Island. The bay is home to seals and to Peale’s dolphins, which seemed to enjoy following our Zodiacs.

We also used Zodiacs to get close to Piloto and Nena glaciers. Piloto was an amazing blue color and came to the water’s edge. Small icebergs floated around us, and I wondered how we were safely plowing through them. The ship’s crew picked up a few pieces of ice for bar drinks; they said they never have to buy ice. It is crystal clear. We watched a few calvings off the glacier.

On Magdalena Island, in the Strait of Magellan, most of the Magellanic penguins had left for their annual migration to Peru and Ecuador, but there were about 40,000 remaining for us to walk among.

We observed the penguins with their nests dug out of the dirt like small burrows. One penguin was stealing feathers from a neighboring burrow for its nest while the owner was away. It didn’t seem to know the nesting season was over.

After disembarking in Punta Arenas, we boarded our bus for the five-hour drive to Torres del Paine National Park. The paved road became gravel after 3½ hours, and our guide said he hopes it stays that way to discourage development in the park.

Torres del Paine National Park is 927 square miles of breathtaking scenery — glaciers, jagged granite mountain peaks, turquoise-blue lakes, rivers and waterfalls. There are also large areas of rolling, barren, almost desert-like hills, where we saw guanacos. Tan with a white underbelly and similar to alpacas, guanacos are very pretty.

We were surprised to see big flocks of condors soaring on the wind drafts. I counted 40 in one spot.

On our drive back to Punta Arenas, we stopped at Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument, an enormous cave of one “room” with a wide opening. Remains of ancient civilizations and prehistoric creatures have been discovered there.

Roseville, CA