On Your Doorstep Issue 4 - Page 69

Cosmopolitan Urban: Santiago served up). I had a glorious time finding lots of flowers, Santiago, where we lived and spent most of our time, is including an intriguing yellow orchid, and several beautiful a large, European-style city in the center of the country. cascadas adorned with flowers among their rocks. Its metro area is home to about 7 million people – 40% of Chile’s population. That said, I found it to be an Grand Landscapes and Whistling Winds: Patagonia imminently walkable city, enhanced with lots of well-used Saving perhaps the best for last, we ventured furthest parks, large and small, as well as an array of cafes dotting south to Patagonia for the week before Christmas. Most many sidewalks (and the temptation of gelaterias seemed of the time we were being awed by Torres del Paine to appear every few blocks). National Park, with its towering, rocky peaks and so much more. The city is surrounded by mountains, including the snow covered Andes to the east. We had a direct view of Since it was early spring at this latitude, we were pleased them from our 9th floor porch, which offered us a daily to see many baby guanacos playing and nursing with their source of gratitude (see image of our view at sunset). The mothers along the grassy hillsides, with rhea mixed in downside was that this urban ‘bowl’ trapped unhealthy among them enjoying the protection offered by the herd amounts of air pollution, which at certain times of year from area predators. It was the time for an array of flora in would only clear if it rained. It is a major environmental bloom, including lupine, lady slippers and several orchids – challenge. That said, they have extensive public my favorite being the extraordinary Parchment Orchid. transportation which we (and many Chileans) used when walking was not an option. We enjoyed an afternoon boat trip across Lago Gray for an up close experience of Grey Glacier. There were Lush and Green: Puyehue numerous elements of interest, but to me two stood out. Further south, we spent a few days at a hotel in Puyehue. The blue of the ice is fascinating and within that there is The hospitable climate allowed for extensive, luscious an even deeper blue in places that is quite ethereal. It was gardens surrounding the hotel – where I spent countless unlike anything I have seen in 40 years, since I first saw hours walking and photographing. glaciers in Alaska and encountered that same gorgeous blue. Second, in the glacier image shown here, there is On the second morning, we were greeting with a light a large black rock mass directly behind it. Only 40 years misty drizzle that coated the world with droplets. ago, that whole section of rock was covered over by the Happily, it stopped shortly after sun up, so I headed out glacial ice! It is yet another dramatic reminder of the immediately. I was blessed with a world of flora laced with impacts of climate change. jewels. Both the Lluvia de Oro (Golden Shower tree) and the dandelion were transformed into visual treasures by One thing that I observed in most of Chile, but nowhere this embellishment. as dramatically as in Patagonia, was that the wind never stopped. It might change speeds significantly, but calm Later, hiking in the adjacent National Park afforded us air was a scare occurrence. This was of particular interest more varieties of flora and several potent waterfalls. It and frustration to an avid flower photographer. I did was all a refreshing retreat from city life. come to recognized, however, that it is an inherent result of the land forms and other geographic features of this Lake country: Coyhueque unique country. Chilean friends kindly invited me to join them on a fishing trip to the wild country near Coyhueque, at the eastern The natural beauty and the ecological variations across edge of northern Patagonia (we could see into Argentina). the vast reaches of Chile are awesome. These stories While their guide took them in search of the beautiful and images are highlights of my time living there, but brown trout of their dreams, my guide took me in search only begin to capture the wonders of what I saw and of the wild flowers and cascadas of mine. They had fun experienced. I love Chile, and hope to be back again. and caught some fish (I savored the trout sashimi they 69