The Torres del Paine National Park is located in the Chilean Patagonia, in an area of climatic contrasts that have allowed a great variety of plant and animal species.
The Torres del Paine National Park is located in the Chilean Patagonia, in an area of climatic contrasts that have allowed a great variety of plant and animal species. Located in the middle of the Andean range, the Paine massif lends its name to the National Park. The mountains, with peaks in excess of 3,000 metres, mark a diving line which differentiates two completely different areas.
- To the west of the range, on the Pacific side, moisture-laden winds collide with the slopes and releases their rain, which hardly ever reaches the other face. It is a cold and wet side, characterised by rocks, forests and ice.
- On the east slope, where rain hardly ever falls, large plains extend as far as the Atlantic, the steppe gradually transforming into quasi-desert.
The entire relief of the Patagonian Andean range has a pronounced glacial character.
Thaw waters arriving from the Paine massif irrigate both slopes. There are a multitude of rivers and large glacial lakes are spread throughout the park.
Waterfowl, ñandues, armadillos, geese and foxes are some of the most numerous species of the park, although there is an animal that stands out above all because it is the most characteristic of Patagonia: the guanaco.
Of the four South American camels, it is the most adaptable and can live from sea level up to a height of 4000 metres.
There is a stable population of them in Torres del Paine. The young males congregate in herds of approximately 30 until the age of five, when they reach sexual maturity. At this moment, they separate form the group and seek their own territory and females and form a new family.
The guanaco herds divide the Torres del Paine brushland and pre-desert into marked territorial areas. Each group has a dominant male, which does not allow any of the adolescents to mate with its females and an inflexible hierarchy is established.
In the mating season, these dominant males have to reaffirm their position in face of new candidates and there are frequent chases, biting, and spitting of gastric juices and partially digested matter.
Although their distribution is highly restricted by the pressure of man, something of the ancient totemic respect of the South American Indians continues to impregnate the figure of the guanaco. Some inhabitants of the region still approach areas where herds have spent the night to collect earth sodden with urine and excrement. They form small balls out of it and use it in the form of pills as medicine for different bodily and spiritual ailments.
In the same way as the Patagonians admired the guanaco, the Incas worshipped the condor like god. For them, it was the “Lord of the Andes”, a mythological animal which inspired them with respect and veneration.
The Andean condor is the largest bird of prey in the world and the largest flying bird. With a span of almost four metres and weighing up to 12 kilos, this majestic flyer requires air currents in order to fly. Its enormous muscles only allow it to make thirty consecutive wing movements before fallin in exhaustion, which is why they are generally to be seen planing in circles until reaching heights of over 6,000 metres.