On Monday morning we got up, had breakfast, and headed off on our chosen excursion to Lake Sofia with our guide Claudia. It was just the two of us, and Claudia, which was quite nice for a change!
We hiked to a vista where Condors typically fly. There were times where the hike was steep, but obviously manageable! We also saw a lot of examples of how farmers in Patagonia set fire to the forest in an effort to clear land for their animals to graze. Personally, I don’t really get it as there are felled trees all over the place and I would think it difficult for the cows, in particular, to graze in such areas. Also, once the trees are gone, the earth is more exposed to the wind and is quite dry so the grass is not lush and thick.
Anyway, we made it to the Condor lookout and sure enough we did see a few. At one point I had gone to find a tree to do ‘some business’ and while I was ‘busy’ a Condor came out of nowhere heading right toward me which was quite unsettling considering my situation! Fortunately he veered off!
Claudia had packed a nice picnic lunch for us which we had in the area. Turkey sandwiches, Caesar Salad, Pisco Sours, chicken soup, and oatmeal cookies for dessert.
After lunch we visited a cave to see some more petroglyphs (6000+ years old). These were made by the indigenous people, the Aonikenk (same as in “Guanaco Central” in Torres del Paine National Park).
Puerto Natales is only 100 years old and the first non-native settler, Eberhardt, came to the area in 1857 (if I recall correctly). He was an explorer and apparently got fed up with all the people exploring around the lower part of Patagonia so headed north and found this area.
The history goes that it took just about 100 years for the aboriginal people to become extinct. There were all sorts of reasons from disease, to killing, to infections caused due to the ‘white man’ introducing clothing to the natives which irritated their skin and caused infections.
At the end of the walk we came across this massive cave where excavations have occurred to uncover bones of the natives and also of prehistoric animals that roamed the land here.
On of the animals is the “Milodón” which was a giant sloth, larger than a bear, and is the symbol of Puerto Natales. There are quite a few milodon statues around town and there is a little silhouette of the milodon on the street signs n town.
Like all other prehistoric animals, there is a lot of conjecture as to what exactly happened to end their life cycle, but a new group of Argentine archeologists have literally just arrived to begin more excavation work in the cave.
When we returned to the hotel, Leslie and I had a private ceviche lesson with the hotel chef, Rene. Ceviche is a South American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood, typically garnished and served as an appetizer. It was delicious!