Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spotting the Condor

This morning saw flashes of sunlight and continued wind and rain. Typical. We went out for a short and easy hike to the Condor viewpoint, towards the southern end of the village. Some people go their whole lives without seeing a Condor in its natural habitat. It's an elusive yet iconic bird in South America. It's the national bird of Ecuador, though they basically don't exist there anymore. It's just as hard to spot them here in Argentina.

We started out on the hike and suddenly I heard my dad yelling from behind me. It was hard to hear because of all the wind, but he was pointing to the dark sky and yelling, "Condors!" My parents were hoping to see one before the end of the trip, and sure enough, they got lucky. There were two condors flying so high up that I couldn't even tell it was them, though they apparently have a 9 foot wing span, making them easy to spot even as they fly high overhead.

I'm not much of a bird watcher, so it wasn't that big of a thrill for me, though I can at least appreciate the luck in being able to see them. They are generally scared off by people and fly away, which they sure enough did just a moment later. We continued the hike to the top of the viewpoint, but could neither see condors nor the mountains, so after a couple of minutes of catching our breathes, we headed back down into town.

This town feels empty today. There are occasional hikers heading towards or back from the trails, but it doesn't seem like there are any locals. They are probably doing the smart thing and staying indoors. We're leaving El Chaltén in a couple of hours to drive back to El Calafate, and then flying to Ushuaia. We'll be there for another couple of nights, and then fly back to Buenos Aires.

I'm eager to get back to the capital. I'll have a lot of work to catch up on with all of the places that I've seen, and I miss the friends I've made in BA. I want to get back and enjoy the warm weather too, because as much as a relief from the humidity as it is, southern Patagonia is just a bit too windy and cold for me. That's why I'm not in Boston right now, and it's time to complain about the heat and humidity again.

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