Torres Del Paine, Some Sheep, And An Awesome Van Ride...























I'm in Torres Del Paine!!!  It is really hard to describe how beautiful it is here.  I don't think the photos do it justice, but I tried.  I probably had one of the best days ever today because of the van ride here.  And, seeing some amazing things.  Here's how today went...

I was picked up this morning at about 9:30 at my hotel in Punta Arenas by a driver named Juan Carlos and a guide named Janet.  Janet spoke great English and Juan Carlos spoke none.  When I got in the van, there was already a couple in there.  It was Kathy and Nick from Australia!  You know them, right?  Let me tell you, the Australians know how to vacation.  They are now on week 2 of a 6 week vacation.  Going all over South America.  They are a retired couple so they have the time.  But, in my travels I have met quite a few Australians.  I don't think I ever came across any that were on a vacation for less than a month.  They are livin the life!  They are a really sweet couple.  Anyway, we exchanged pleasantries and then we were on our way.  Janet explained how the day was going to go.  We were to drive about 2.5 hours to the Estancia.  The Estancia is a working sheep and cattle ranch owned by the people who own the hotel I'm currently staying in.  At the ranch, she explained, we would have lunch and then have a demonstration on how they shear the sheep.  It would take about 2 hours there, then we would get back on the road and another 3 hours to the hotel.  Then she asked if there were any questions.  There weren't any.  So, Juan Carlos pulls to the side of the road and Janet leaves us.  She left us with this...Juan Carlos doesn't speak any English, but if you need to stop and take photos or whatever, just tell him.  Well, I don't speak much Spanish and Kathy and Nick don't speak any.  It was bound to be a comedy of errors.  Then she informs us that we are going to stop at the airport and pick up two more people.  She said they work at the hotel.  She wasn't quite right about that.  Then, Janet was off, and we were off with Juan Carlos to the airport.  We waited in the van while Juan Carlos went to pick up the 2 new people and they arrived about 20 minutes later.  The new people were 2 men.  So, this merry band of people, 2 new guys, myself, Kathy, Nick and Juan Carlos were off on a road trip.  We didn't speak to the new group until maybe an hour into the ride.  The man sitting in the front seat translated something to Juan Carlos for Kathy!!  He speaks English!  We are saved!!  The guys wound up being very, very nice people.  We got to the ranch and I learned more about them.  They are coming to the hotel as consultants.  They work for a company in the hospitality industry that, from what I can tell, comes in and identifies problems and helps the hotel or restaurant work through them.  They are coaches!  Everyone was really nice.

We arrived at the Ranch and were greeted by a couple.  The wife, which I can't remember her name, cooks lunch and the husband does demonstrations for tourists in the off sheep shearing season.  So, we went into this amazing old ranch house.  It was full of antiques and really had a lot of character.  We were greeted with Pisco Sours and instructed to have a seat at the dining room table.  It was so comfortable.  There was a nice fire going in the stove and it was so relaxing.  The wife served us empanadas, lamb, potatoes, and a salad.  We also had some delicious Chilean wine.  For dessert it was a dried peach reconstituted in a liquid with wheat.  It looked weird, but it was really good.  We had a nice long lunch and learned more about each other.  Talk of politics, Chile in general, travel, all sorts of things.   After lunch the husband came and got us and we all went to the barn.  First there was a demonstration on how the dogs on the ranch work.  They have something like 35 working dogs on the ranch.  I think we saw and met the main one.  He was the only dog hanging around the house, so I kind of think he was the boss of all the other dogs.  I hope so, anyway.  He was super sweet too.  All the guy had to do was give a couple whistles and that dog went right for a group of sheep and had them herded to the barn before we could even think about what was going on.  So smart.  Then we all made our way to the barn and had a demonstration on sheep shearing.  I had never seen this before and I was really worried that the sheep was going to be hurt and bloody.  There was no blood.  I think the whole process took less than 5 minutes.  The sheep didn't seem really happy about it, but it didn't seem like it was being injured either.  So, I was happy to get through my first sheep shearing without seeing any blood.  Plus the guy that did it is probably really, really good at what he does so I'm sure everything is fine.  After that, we all loaded up in the van and we were back on the road.

This is my favorite part of today.  Now, I don't know if it was the Pisco Sour and the 2 glasses of wine I had with lunch, and being tired, but about an hour or so into the drive all was quiet in the van.  Then I heard it.  Barry White on the CD player.  He was singing about "Oh, woman, my beautiful, sexy, foxy woman" and "Let's start swinging baby, yeah baby, lets start swinging".   Well, I couldn't control myself.  I was in the back of the van with one of the 2 airport guys and I felt the giggles coming on so bad.  Here we are a group of 6 people who had just met each other and we are sitting in silence while Barry White is getting us all funky.  Then I started thinking about it, Juan Carlos put that CD in, and he doesn't even speak English!  Does he know what is happening?  I had to bite my tongue and pretend I was sucking something out of my teeth to keep from busting out laughing.  I was almost in tears.  I don't know why I found it so funny, but I did.  It was awesome.  I don't think anyone else in the van realized what was going on.  I finally calmed down.  On the way to the hotel, once in the Torres Del Paine National Park, Juan Carlos pulled over a few times for photo ops.  When we got back in the van at one point, Bob Marley was playing.  Phew, that seems like an appropriate thing to play while driving through beautiful scenery with virtual strangers.  I don't know how the music changed, but I was kind of relieved that it did.  

We arrived at the hotel at about 6:00 this evening.  I checked in and got to my room.  This place is amazing!!!!  It is right at the foot of the mountain in all of these photos.  Oh my God.  It is beautiful here.  I am on the all inclusive plan here, so it includes my meals, drinks,daily hikes, horseback riding, biking, and tours.  I got to my room and worked on these photos and then went to the lobby about 7:30 to plan my excursion tomorrow.  I met one of the guides, really cool guy.  I am going on the Full Paine tour tomorrow.  He recommended it since the weather is supposed to be awesome again tomorrow.  It is a van tour and I ran into Kathy and Nick there.  They are going on the same tour.  I hope they don't think I'm stalking them.  The tour will take us further into the park where we will stop and have some short hikes, I think.  Then we will visit a waterfall.  After the waterfall, we will go to the glacier, called Grey Glacier.  I've never seen a glacier before, so I'm super excited.  At the lake, we will get to take a zodiac across the lake right up to the glacier.  I think he said we will get so close we can touch it.  Then we will have a picnic lunch at the lake and then visit a couple more places.  I'm not sure exactly where, but the guy suggested that one for tomorrow so I went with it.  I think on Tuesday I will do a horseback tour maybe.  

Thanks for commenting, on the blog, everyone!!!  So great!!!  I'm livin life right now!!!  Yeah!  I can't believe the internet is better here.  Wow. I guess I'll see what happens when the weather gets bad.  Anyway, thanks so much everyone!!  Until next time...