Patagonia - Lago Sofia / by Mark Boyd

 Lady's Slippers beside Sofia.... 

Lady's Slippers beside Sofia.... 

Each morning I'd rise ahead of the sun and explore my surroundings. This would be followed by breakfast a little rest period, maybe some yoga then off on another jaunt. The evenings would be more exploring and walking around the local vicinity until dark.... I loved it here.

 The morning following a wet night... 

The morning following a wet night... 

The first evening I explored 'my land' and it's boundaries. Patagonia suffers no shortage of animal fences.... and only fifteen minutes up the trail there it was. The main trail ended here. But on the other side there was unbridled potential for animals and birds.... Tomorrow I would explore 'beyond the fence'. I'd found a supply of fresh water running from the top of the hills seven minutes walk from my tent. This necessitated a couple of trips each day to fill my bottles and my water bladder for drinking and cooking.

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I perched on a huge boulder as the air temperature fell away. I watched the landscape. There were no pumas as yet, but to be quite honest, I was in such a fantastic, peaceful landscape I really didn't mind.

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During late afternoon I found a variety of paw prints, none of which looked feline, but were of impressive size nonetheless.

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…. then within 20 metres of my tent I found what I suspected to be puma 'belongings'. Fairly fresh scat full of hair and fur. Promising stuff.

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On one side was Lago Sofia on the other was a huge flat top mountain where condors soared on the developing thermals towards midday.... The top of that mountain needed exploring.

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Day 2. Having explored my surroundings at dawn, eaten breakfast and sorted my daypack I explored 'beyond the fence'.

 Warming my feet on the saucepan.... 

Warming my feet on the saucepan.... 

Tracks formed mainly by cattle snaked through thick brambles, brush and trees leading to a huge 'Ayre's Rock' type formation that I'd been keen on clambering. I climbed and sat for an hour.

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The ledge I sat on provided an incredible view across the landscape. A huge grey buzzard eagle perched on a rocky outcrop as a small bird demonstrated it's dismay through a series of dive bombs. The buzzard-eagle ignored the constant barrage and continued to relax.

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Day 3. Midday I set off in pursuit of condors. I walked to the end of the huge rocky formation until it tapered down to the mainland.... Once again I relied on animal tracks to lead the way. After half an hour I reached a steep, loose, energy sapping section which lead to the top. Each time I thought I'd trekked high enough my curiosity would kick in and I'd trek on further. Each time the views improved. I found a good looking ledge then crawled on my hands and knees to peer over the edge. My stomach felt a little fruity. The vertical drop was enough to provide a slight lightheaded sensation. I could just about see my tent a few hundred metres below.

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 See the little circle and arrow.... There's my tent!

See the little circle and arrow.... There's my tent!

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A condor soared by.... I watched as it moved higher on the thermals before dropping down to eye level again. The condors huge wings generated a jet like sound as it abruptly slowed to come in to landing ledge 30 metres or so below my ledge. The displacement of air sounded incredibly powerful....

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Another buzzard-eagle flew past with purpose, again at eye-level. It was awesome being able to watch these huge birds soar by on the same level.

 Out of focus.... But worth sharing....

Out of focus.... But worth sharing....

Having nibbled on some snacks I decided it was time for a nap. Almost two hours passed by before I decided it was time to make my way back down....

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The wind had picked up during the early afternoon and it was gusty and cool. Two male Andean condors were battling over a female on the wing. The display was pretty awesome. These huge birds were tangling midair, turning, falling and tumbling. This female condor was one very lucky lady!

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 The Condor Aerobatics Team (CAT) lacked finesse.....

The Condor Aerobatics Team (CAT) lacked finesse.....

That evening after eating I decided that with the impending clear night I'd try some night sky photography.

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At 10.45pm the sky was dark enough and the stars were bright enough. It was spectacular. The air temperature had fallen back to around 4 degrees Celcius so it was a chilly session. I was keen to try out my new camera and lens combination, but the cold and the dark, as always, made everything trickier, including battery life. Discovering where and how accurate the infinity settings on a digital camera lens should not be tackled on a freezing cold Patagonian night. What was I thinking?

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After an hour or so of attempted shots I retired to wrap myself in to my sleeping bag. It was past midnight so I decided I'd treat myself to a lie in the following morning.

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Day 4. After a relaxing morning of waking, eating and packing down my gear I hoped the biologists would appear so I could get back to Puerto Natales....

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 Charging gear via solar panel..... 

Charging gear via solar panel..... 

 Ready to go.... 

Ready to go.... 

It seemed as if yesterday had been their last day of work. Unfortunate. I loaded my big pack on to my back and my 'techno' pack on to my front and began walking with the extra 25kgs of body weight. I knew it was unlikely that anyone would be driving along this gravel road, so I'd have just over 4 miles (6km) until I reached the main road. A good brisk walking pace would have me on the main road in around an hour, but with the gravel track and extra weight I'd be looking at a little over an hour and a half....

 Why does it feel so damn heavy if it's AntiGravity????

Why does it feel so damn heavy if it's AntiGravity????

On reaching the main road I constructed a new hitchhiking sign.

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Within 10 minutes I was sat in the back of a cosy 4x4 enroute to Puerto Natales. I was dropped a 5 minute walk from my favourite bar 'Wild'. I popped in to say 'hello' to the guys, supped two sun soaked beers with a good meal then wandered back up to my Puerto Natales homestay, Dorodtea.

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Tomorrow I head 300km North to Calafate and then on to Perito Moreno on of the most accessible and impressive glaciers in all of Patagonia.... El Calafate is known to be one of the most expensive places in Patagonia. Note to self, buy supplies in Puerto Natales tomorrow morning.

 Two millimetres across miniature flower.... 

Two millimetres across miniature flower.... 

 Forget me not.... 

Forget me not....