Aonikenk Trail (aka “Guanaco Central”)

Up and at ’em again Nov. 26! Our excursion started at 9:30, which is later than normal!

We visited an area called Aonikenk Trail (named after some of the indigenous people that once lived here) but the guides knickname for it is “Guanaco Central” as it is full of Guanacos.

The walk was pretty easy.  A meandering 5 miles through the northern limit of the Torres del Paine National Park that took us through an area filled with Guanacos, Ñandu (or “Rhea”, the ostrich looking bird), and many other birds.

One bird in particular, the Tero (Southern Lapwing) nests on the ground and as we passed one during the day she became quite agitated and eventually she dive-bombed us and came very close to our guide’s head!  They are fairly big birds, like a seagull size, so it is a bit worrisome to see one get that close to someone’s head!  They also apparently have some sort of claw in their wing that helps them attack their foe.  Nice!

Also in the area are a few caves with petroglyphs dating back 6,000 years or so.  They are hard to interpret (by anyone, not just me!) but I will include a few of the more obvious ones in the slideshow.

Guanacos are part of the ‘camelid’ family (so they are kin of the camel). In South America, there are four species of camelids, the Guanaco (the largest, and undomesticated), the Llama (I think most readers know what llama is, they are domesticated), the Alpaca (smaller than the llama, also domesticated) and the Vicuña (which is smallest of all and has a long delicate neck, undomesticated).

The llama and alpaca are used as pack animals and their wool is used to make garments.  Alpaca wool is very soft!  The vicuña wool is also spun and used in garments and is extremely soft and very expensive.

Anyway, today was Guanaco day!  They were lovely to watch and are very graceful.  Just like a deer, one minute they are there and the next minute they can vanish, or vice versa! They let us get quite close, maybe 30 feet or so at times, but then would move away or scamper off.

The males can be quite aggressive toward each other and if there is a territorial issue at hand they will chase each other and if the pursuer can get close enough he will bite the testicles of the Guanaco he is chasing!

We also came across two grey foxes.  One (the one in the attached photos) let off this strange, long, series of noises while we were watching him; it sounded more like a bird than anything you would imagine coming from a mammal.  Our guide said she had never heard this sound before but assumed their must be little ones nearby and the fox was telling them to stay put until the gringos were gone from the area!

We ended up at the Laguna Amarga Ranger Station were we were shuttled to lunch.

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About Sophia la Vespa

Seattle by Vespa!
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