Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

And the moral of the story is .....

..... don't light fires.

The fire in Torres del Paine started on 27 December 2011 and burned for nearly two weeks. Even when we visited from 25 January some parts were still smouldering.
There were some areas where the forests had been completely cleared of trees and bushes, leaving only charred earth and the burned stubs of the trunks. 

The burned areas looked especially stark at the areas where they met with a lake or pond, and the reeds at the side were still green and bright having been protected in the water.  These devastated areas were sad to see and you can quite understand why the people who work here, and in some cases grew up close by, are so upset at the loss.

But whilst clearly you would never wish this to have happened, there were some areas that we passed where the fire had left something that in my view was absolutely beautiful in its wake.  There were some sections where the trees had not been razed but instead had been left whole and completely blackened.  

Because these trees have such wonderful shapes of their branches, the simple effect of being bare and totally black does itself look amazing.  They were particularly effective where the blackened trees were set against the backdrop of the azure blue of the lakes.  I would have loved to have been able to spend time photographing this, but figured that it would be unreasonable to ask the driver and guides to stop to let me do so when they clearly are upset at the sight of the damage.

I spoke to two of our guides about this afterwards.  One is an artist, and said she agreed that the trees have a beauty of their own, and has herself been out photographing them.  The other could see what I meant, but could not herself see beyond the destruction to find any beauty in it.  I can understand that when you are so close to something it is hard to see anything positive in it, perhaps especially because her partner has lived here all his life and is devastated by the fire.

But even if some of the trees do look beautiful now, the lasting effects of the fire are terrible.  We passed by areas where the fires had been in 2005 and in  1980.  Even thirty years later, the areas of forest that burned have only got grasses and low shrubs.  The forests haven't returned and won't for many years yet.  Seeing the huge amount of lasting damage that the fire causes really brings it home why they ask you to be so careful with even the smallest bit of fire or cigarettes in a place like this.

No one (except for some very sick people) would ever intentionally cause a fire like this, but some people ignore the rules because they think the rules are excessive or just reckon that the rules are meant for others. Many people think they can get away with breaking a rule because they are sensible and will be more careful.  But they are wrong.  It takes only the tiniest thing to go wrong, which may be completely out of the person's control, and a fire like this breaks out.  I for one will make absolutely sure that I follow national park rules in future.

One small point that did amuse us though was the supposedly divine intervention when the little roadside shrine that was in the fire area managed to stay undamaged.  Personally I think that may have had more to do with the little stream of water flowing behind it that probably kept the vegetation around it damp and protected.  Of course if it was divine intervention then it was a little selfish that it allowed all of the area around it to burn so badly while keeping itself safe!

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