|Winding road in the Chilean Andes, west of Valle Nevado ski resort|
Date of visit: Saturday, December 22, 2012
The Mayans said the world was supposed to end the day before, but it turned out they were wrong. In fact, the day dawned crystal clear, without a cloud in the sky - a nearly perfect early summer day in Santiago. Our driver/guide Leo picked us up at the appointed time a little after 8:00 in the morning, and we were off to the mountains. Our hotel was on the west end of Santiago by the airport, so we had to pass through the center of the city on our way east to the Andes. We crossed over the river, which was muddy and running high from snowmelt in the mountains.
By a little after 10, we reached our first hiking spot in the mountains, at an elevation of about 5,000 feet. We were in a narrow valley surrounded by higher mountains, which provided a great view of the road winding through the terrain.
Meanwhile, we were in for a special treat. Leo pointed out an Andean eagle sitting at the edge of the cliff. He sat pretty much perfectly still for a good 5 minutes, allowing for some rare bird of prey photos. The big guy appeared to be too preoccupied with scanning his territory to notice a couple of nosy humans with a camera.
Chungara Lake in Lauca National Park during our cruise, I can't complain about our consolation prize. We still got to see the Andes, the scenery was terrific, and our guide Leo knew his stuff and gave us a very good narrated tour of the area (and helped me pick out some delicious Chilean wines at day's end). Of course, now I want to make it down to Patagonia that much more...