Culture

Drop Everything You’re Doing And Take A Look At This Ridiculous National Park

Today’s agenda: the rugged, beautiful Torres Del Paine. Or, according to one early visitor, “one of the most spectacular sights that human imagination can conceive“. 

And it’s a solid flex. This UNESCO world biosphere reserve is, in fact, one of the most uncontaminated places on the planet. Every casual shot of it deserves to be slapped on a bottle of fancy mineral water. 

Everyone from backpackers, adventure junkies and Pinterest users seem to fall in love with its otherworldly mountains, lakes and glaciers at first sight. So here’s everything you NEED to know about this slice of heaven. 

Torres del Paine National Park sits in Chile’s Región de Magallanes.

Credit: Google Maps

This 1810-sq-km park is for sure one of South America’s best.  

The closest major town to it is Puerto Natales – about a four hour ride away. If you’re coming from Chile’s capital, Santiago, just hop on a plane to Punta Arenas and bus on over. 

And its landscape is to DIE for.

Credit: WilliamPatino.com

Landscape? More like dreamscape.  

The lay of the land is some of the most unique and diverse you’ll ever lay eyes on. Just imagine snow-capped horned peaks and mirror lakes. Waterfalls, emerald forests, rivers and gleaming glaciers. Are you keeping up? 

All thanks to earth movements from over 12 million years ago that shaped these unusual landforms. The resulting jaw-dropping scenery has us all eating humble pie.

Their massive granite towers – or torres – will take your breath away.

Credit: AdventureWomen.com

A definite highlight of this park is to see the torres (or towers), themselves. It’s named after them after all (Torres del Paine = Towers of Paine). 

These three granite peaks loom over the Patagonian terrain in true tower fashion; imposing and impressive. Even on a misty afternoon, the clouds swirling around the highest peak of Paine Grande (3,050m), are a sight to behold.

It’s full of majestic glaciers that you can WALK on top of. 

Credit: Corey Rich

Oh yes, and Torres Del Paine park is chock-filled with glaciers. 

Like the one in that photo, called Grey Glacier. We’d argue its more of an unreal icy blue, with jagged bumps and crevices that paint a surreal shape against the mountainside. You can ice trek your way across it, because that’s apparently, totally a thing. 

And there are plenty of glaciers to go around. 

There’s also Torre Glacier at the foot of Cerro Torre. 

Credit: Dreamstime.com

This white and turquoise masterpiece is full of ice caves and deep holes that were carved out by water. Climbing it will earn you one heck of a view of Cerro Torre, Torre Egger and other wintery wonders.

Fun fact, because glacier ice is so dense, it absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue. Hence glaciers often seem to almost glow with an ethereal blueness. 

Speaking of blue – the park is full of lakes and waterfalls in EVERY shade of it.

From ghostly greyish blue to a vivid aquamarine – this park seems to be making its way through the colour wheel. 

It’s also full of the most beautiful lakes, lagoons and rivers, all formed from glacier melt from the nearby Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The most important river is the Paine, which crosses from lake to lake, crashing spectacularly into three stunning waterfalls along the way (like Salto Grande, shown above). 

And guys. You can literally kayak right up to these giant glaciers.

Credit: ecocamp / Instagram

This isn’t your average family kayak trip. Here, you can paddle your way right up close to some of these silent icy giants floating in the lakes. Lakes that are at more than five hundred meters of depth! Phwoar. 

And, we bet you’ve never seen a sunrise like this.

Credit: Thousandwonders.net

Sunrise in this park is probably as good as it gets. Just imagine, the horns of the torres glowing purple and fiery red at early morning as first sunlight catches on the rocks. 

Plus, the park is teeming with life, from owls to armadillos.

What’s more, this park is home to a mindblowing variety of plants and animals. Andean condors wheel through the skies whilst guanacos (a close cousin of the llama) graze in the open steppe. 

Keep an eye out for foxes, Andean deer and even ARMADILLOS. Lucky visitors might even spot a puma or three. The flora is also rich in everything from desert plants to orchids. And birds are plentiful – from woodpeckers, to the great horned owl. 

And it’s a hiker’s paradise.

Credit: IntrepidAdventures / Instagram

Most unsurprisingly, the park is a huge hit with hikers. And there are loads of trail options. There’s the famous W trail that runs through the main tourist attractions, and there’s the lesser-trod O Trail that circles the mountain on a 93.2 km trail.  

Most of the hikes in Torres Del Paine are doable for anyone who comes equipped. So bring your wife, bring your kids. Hike, fish, climb, ice trek, whitewater kayak. Or just gawp at your surroundings. 

You don’t even need to rough it (unless you want to).

Credit: IntrepidAdventures / Instagram

Turns out you can actually hike its most popular trail in relative luxury. By that we mean sleeping in beds, taking actual showers and eating hot meals. Rumour has it you can even get pisco sours en route,  (supposedly served up with a tiny chunk of glacial ice).  

Happy campers just need to book their place in advance, but there’s no shortage of camping grounds. There’s even a ranger station that sells food! 

And good news is you can head there year-round.

Credit: Tom Alves

The usual peak period for travellers is from October into April when it’s warmest. There’s more sunshine, less rain, and the days are longer. 

In autumn and winter, sure temperatures drop and it’s more prone to rain. However you’d be likely to spot more wildlife and soak up a whole other level of peace and quiet (and cheaper entry!) 

Now excuse us as we book flights. 

Read: Here Are Some Hikers Of Color Who Will Inspire You To Travel The World And Explore Nature

A Chilean Military Plane With 38 People On Board Crashed While On The Way To A Base In Antarctica

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A Chilean Military Plane With 38 People On Board Crashed While On The Way To A Base In Antarctica

sebastianpinerae / aero.commander / Instagram

The search is on for clues after a Chilean military plane with 38 people on board crashed on its way to Antarctica on Monday afternoon. The plane, a Hercules C-130 transport, made the last contact at 6:13 p.m. which was around an hour and five minutes after it initially took off. It was 390 miles into its journey to the Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, a Chilean base on in the northern region of the frozen continent, according to a statement issued by the Chilean Air Force. Seven hours after the plane last made contact, the Chilean air force declared it lost, with no definitive reason as to why it had disappeared. 

According to the New York Times, the aircraft was carrying 17 crew members and 21 passengers, which included a university student and two Chilean civilians who worked for an engineering and construction firm that was contracted to do maintenance work on the Antarctic base.

“The chances are difficult but I think it would be profoundly wrong to lose heart at this moment when we are doing everything humanly possible and with all our energy and determination,” Defence Minister Alberto Espina told reporters. “The air force has provided a thorough investigation to clarify the facts with complete transparency.”

The Chilean military has deployed fighter jets in an expansion of its search. Uruguayan and Argentine air forces have also joined in on efforts.

Chilean officials are now conducting an all-out search for the plane and any clues that might lead them to why the military aircraft might have crashed. Officials said that the plane had taken off in favorable conditions Monday afternoon from the southern city of Punta Arenas, though the area is known for rapidly changing conditions that include freezing temperatures and chilly winds. According to a BBC report, Air Force General Eduardo Mosqueira told the local press that the plane didn’t activate its emergency signal and proposed the idea that the pilot might have tried to land on the frigid waters. 

The Chilean military is now in the midst of search and rescue efforts that include four ships and 10 planes. Joining this mission are the Uruguayan and Argentine air forces, who have each contributed a C-130 plane to help. The United States has also lent a hand by providing two satellite orbits to capture images over the South Pacific Ocean.

The plane is said to have crashed in Drake’s Passage, the sea in the middle of the southern tip of South America and Antarctica, which is known for its severe weather conditions. The area has been known to produce freezing temperatures and harsh storms that have caused other aircrafts to avoid flying through during these conditions. 

“The plane is presumed to have crashed, given that the amount of fuel and the plane’s autonomy had already run out,” said Chilean Air Force General Francisco Torres in a press conference, according to CNN.

South American leaders, including Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, have all expressed their condolences to those lost on the plane and their loved ones. 

This tragedy has prompted an immediate response from Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, who canceled a trip to Argentina, where he was expected to attend the swearing-in ceremony of President-elect Alberto Fernandez. Instead, Piñera headed to the Cerrillos airbase in Santiago, Chile where he joined rescue operations and families of the plane’s passengers gathered. He reiterated the message that the Chilean government would spare no effort to find the plane.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the 38 crew members and passengers of the FACh (Air Force) C-130 plane,” Piñera wrote on Twitter. “With the help of many we are making every effort humanly possible in the search operation for the plane.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also tweeted words of support saying that his government is doing all that is possible to help with search efforts. “We offer Chile support for the search and rescue operations of the Chilean plane, which disappeared in the Drake Strait with 38 people on board. We have already spoken to President Piñera and ask God that all those involved will be successful in the rescue.”

The plane crash comes at a difficult time for Chile and President Piñera, who has overseen a country displeased with socioeconomic disparity, vast systemic corruption, and other government abuses. All of this has led to almost two months of riots in the capital city of Santiago. 

READ: This Kid Is Going Viral In Mexico For Using His $70 Peso Winning Lottery To Buy Tacos For A Man In Need

A Toxi-Tour Will Take Activists To Seven States In Mexico That Host The Country’s Most Polluted Spots

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A Toxi-Tour Will Take Activists To Seven States In Mexico That Host The Country’s Most Polluted Spots

ChilangoMX / Instagram

Like most countries that depend heavily on coal energy and on manufacturing to keep its productive wheels running, Mexico is deeply affected by the environmental damage that many industries cause. Added to local production, Mexico has also been the site of maquilas, factories set up by foreign investors who are lured by cheaper labour and by lax tax regimes, as well as by looser rules when it comes to environmental impact. Both industry and public opinion need to be better informed of the toxic hot spots in the country.

Mexico sits at an strategic political and commercial position, and industrial powerhouses such as the United States and Canada, whose companies have set shop in the other member of NAFTA, by far the most disadvantaged. 

The toxi-tour caravan will travel the country for ten days in total, December 2-11.

Participants include environmentalists and scientists from both Mexico and overseas. The objective is to raise awareness and to denounce the companies that cause most damage. Perhaps shaming is the first step towards change. Besides Mexicans, there are representatives from the United States, Europe and other Latin American Countries. 

The journey began in El Salto, Jalisco, where a polluted river has led to cancer and death.

Credit: Regeneración radio

In this site industrial pollution of the Santiago river has caused the death of more than a thousand people due to cancer and kidney failure. People from cities in the United States affected by pollution in places like Flint, Michigan, can surely relate. A river is generally a propeller for economic development and productive activity, as well as a source of an increasingly scarce commodity: water. However, this river is basically poisonous now and has brought death to those who live nearby. 

The caravan will visit sites were more than three million people have seen their health diminished by pollution.

Credit: Notimex

The rest of the Toxi-tour stops include Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato; Apaxco, México state; Atonilco de Tula, Hidalgo; Tlaxcala; Puebla; and Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The journey will conclude in Mexico City on December 11. As you may lmow, Mexico City is deeply affected by high levels of pollution. Its high altitude and the fact that it is nested in a valley make it prone to elevated pollution levels that have damaged the upper respiratory tract in millions of its inhabitants.

In the photo we can see the cement manufacturing plant of Apaxco, which releases fine particles that have caused upper respiratory tract issues for both the workers and the people living near the factory. Imagine breathing grainy, minuscule cement dust day in, day out. Another big issue is the unlawful disposal of waste in landfills which end up pumping chemicals into the soil and rendering it sterile. 

The organizers have a pretty clear idea of who is to blame for the environmental crisis in these places.

As Mexico Daily News reports: “The Toxi-Tour will “denounce United States, Canadian, German, French, Spanish and Mexican companies” that cause environmental damage, said Andrés Barreda, a representative of the National Assembly of Environmental Victims, which organized the caravan.”

Yes, Mexican companies share the blame, but the fact that Global North companies have caused physical damage to the land and people of a previously colonized nation brings back memories of colonial times and trauma. So for these companies the lives of Global South countries are less valuable? It would appear that is the case. This is afforded of course, by corrupt authorities. The caravan will also get political and will engage local community leaders and people that have been affected or displaced by industry.

As Mexico News Daily reports: “In Tlaxcala on Friday, caravan members will learn about the community proposal to clean up the Atoyac–Zahuapan river basin, while on Saturday they will visit contaminated areas of Puebla city and speak with locals who have been dispossessed of their communal lands.”

Mexican history is a history of dispossession, and environmental violence is another way in which those in power have decimated the productive capabilities and future survival of communities that live and die by a deep attachment to the land and nature.