Chile Tour 2011: Hiking Through Herds of Guanacos

January 27th, 2011 by Sarah Reichard, UW Botanic Gardens Director
Hiking in Torres del Paine by S. Reichard

Our group hikes through steppe vegetation in Torres del Paine

Last night we met with our guides to learn about the hikes possible for today. We had requested a long hike to the base of the Torres del Paine massif. It was clear they did not want to do this hike and warned us of the steepness, high winds, and danger. The other hike was all unicorns, rainbows, and puppies. Well, more like pictographs, guanacos, and fox cubs.

group photo by iceberg

Our hikers to the iceberg overlook

This morning Dan and a few brave hobbits started early for the long journey to Mordor. The rest of us slept in and had a lovely three hour hike through Andean steppe vegetation.


Manuela the naturalist photo by S. Reichard

Our naturalist guide, Manuela (with head scarf), helps us identify yet another Patagonian plant

Guanacos in Chile by S. Reichard

We saw herds of guanacos on our hike, including young frolicking together and several mothers with young.


baby guanaco photo

These three baby guanacos entertained us for some time with their playing

We saw herds and herds of guanaco. The young are adorable and several of us want one. Guanaco are related to camels and it really shows in their head shape.

Unfortunately, we saw almost as many bones and carcasses as live ones. Our guide said they call this area the cafeteria for pumas. We thought it would be cool to see one catch a guanaco,  but no.

vertebrea photo by S. Reichard

We found ample proof that puma hunt the guanacos here. Jim Heg holds up a vertebrae.

We also saw fox, condors, eagles, and oh yeah, a bunch of cool plants. We had lunch by a huge waterfall. We understand Dan’s group made it to the base, but they have not returned to camp yet.

Tomorrow we will say a sad farewell to Patagonia, though because we ate the Berberis buxifolia fruits, we will return someday. We will return to Santiago and late Saturday we will start the journey to Seattle. We all feel like the visits to Juan Grimm’s gardens were on another trip. It has been fantastic and our group is the best assembled – ever. We have loved traveling together and learning from each other.

When I get back to Seattle I will post better photos and some reflections on the trip. In the meantime, adios.