From Punta Arenas, I drove north to Puerto Natales.
The road there is well maintained and mostly empty, so it was fun to drive there, although I didn't stay all the way on highway 9, but did a bit of a detour along the scenic route through Rio Verde. (The sculpture near Rio Verde supposedly represents a canoe used by the Kaweshkar tribe. Although my first reaction to it was "they must really like Cthulhu here".) The birds in the third picture are probably Caracaras - sometimes seen on fences, but more easily spotted next to any piece of roadkill.
This bridge crossing Rio Rubens is no longer in use. A safer looking bridge is nearby.
Generic cat picture from Puerto Natales...
After arriving in Puerto Natales, the next day I drove further north to Terres Del Paine National Park. Except for the first couple of kilometers, the roads are mostly gravel and mud roads. I pretty much dislike driving on those, but at least the pickup was suited for this kind of driving. And even long before approaching the park, there were lots of nice views along the road.
And a lot of wildlife next to and, unfortunately, in flattened form right on the road. Luckily, I didn't add any to the latter group. Though I had a rather close encounter with a skunk that was trotting across the road. I went round a corner, spotted the skunk in the middle of the road, hit the breaks and managed to stop two or three meters short of the skunk. It stopped its walk, looked at me, and I wondered whether I could get into reverse quick enough, in case it felt threatened and decided to spray the car. But then it ignored the car and just continued across the road.
Once inside the park, the scenery became even more spectacular.
I drove to one of the trailheads and walked to the "Salto Grande" waterfall.
From there, a short hiking trail led to a viewpoint overlooking Lake Nordenskjöld and the Cuernos Del Paine mountains. As is evident from some of the pictures, it was a windy day.
Going back to the car and driving down the road through this National Park until the very end of it, I came to the southern end of Lake Grey. At the north end of the lake is a large glacier, so the lake is a good place for iceberg watching. There is a boat tour to the glacier, but I arrived too late and was just in time to watch the last tour leave. But it was getting late anyway, and I didn't really fancy driving back along unmarked gravel roads in the dark, so I just had another small hike to the sightseeing point, before heading back.
Back at the parking spot at the end of the road, there were only two cars. My rented pickup truck and a camper van with german license plates. Somehow, at those places that promise to be at the end of the track, as far from anything else as possible, you'll find mostly Germans.
Driving back to Puerto Natales took me about three hours and I got there almost exactly at sunset, so I didn't have to drive in the dark. Phew!
Onwards to Bernardo O'Higgins National Park.
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