I spent the last week in Chile's side of Patagonia, the region at the far south of South America. I hiked the W loop of Torres del Paine and then spent two days in Puerto Natales. I loved every bit of it.
|Welcome to Chile's Patagonia|
I started out by flying into Punta Arenas and then taking a bus to Puerto Natales where we stayed the night in order to catch the 7:30am bus to the park. For reference, this is a South America with Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales marked.
We caught the bus to the park the next morning, there was a slight drizzle and we soon encountered many others making the same journey to catch the bus to the park. When we reached the park we paid the entrance fee and took the shuttle to Pudeto. At Pudeto we got to take the ferry across Lago Pehoé. The lake was incredibly beautiful, it reminded me of the lakes in Michigan, minus the mountains of course.
|This was one of the many beautiful views from the deck of the ferry.|
|Sarah, Stephan, and I standing in front of the mighty Glacier Grey|
On the second day, we hiked back towards Paine Grande and then headed up to the French valley. It was a long day with our packs, about 8 hours in total, but we took our time so that we could enjoy the pristine nature that surrounded us. We arrived at Campamento Italiano, one of the free campsites, meaning it was a true campsite, the Refugios have running water and a light in a little shed that you can cook inside of. This campsite just had a shack to protect you from the rain and you got your water straight from the creek since all of the water in the park is drinkable. Italiano was my favorite place to camp during the entire trip.
|"Don't cross more than two people at a time" - The sign we were greeted with as we crossed over to Italiano.|
The third day may have been my favorite, we woke up and hiked up the French valley. We got a little off the beaten path and found ourselves at a beautiful vantage point of the entire valley. Other than the strong gusts at times, the weather was perfect. We did the hike up the valley and back without our packs, which made the hike even more enjoyable. It was like I had an entire load off my back.
|A typical sight in the valley when looking up.|
|Cerro Aleta de Tiburón from the valley.|
After we returned to Italiano, we had lunch and made our way to Cuernos, a refuge on Lago Nordenskjold. It took us about 3 hours because we stopped to have a rest on the beach. That night we had tremendous winds, with gusts well over 100km/h, needless to say it kept us from having a sound sleep that night, but it was worth every bit to be there in the park.
The fourth day was a longer hike, as we needed to get to Campamento Torres. We were very fortunate to have a beautiful morning trek along Lago Nordenskjold. The winds were very strong here, so strong that they would carry water from the lake and spray you. A very nice side effect was that it produced a perfect rainbow.
Unfortunately the weather ended up turning on us towards the end of the day. We were greeted with some gray clouds as we approached Chileano and then some rain. Fortunately, we had decent rain gear and the last part of the hike was through a forest, so we got some protection from there. Our worst fear was that it was going to continue to rain throughout the next morning and we would miss the Torres at sunrise. We arrived to the campsite (a real campsite, like Italiano) and it was still raining, with no end in sight. So we made dinner and went to sleep early, hoping that morning would bring an end to the rain.
The last day of the trek, the morning could not have come quick enough. We got up at 6am in order to make the hour hike up to the infamous Torres. The rain had stopped around 4am and the clouds were beginning to give way to the rising sun as we started the hike. We reached the Torres with a half hour to spare until sunrise, we then waited in cold for the sun to come up and shine on the Torres.
|The main road down to the gulf in Puerto Natales|
I really enjoyed my stay in Puerto Natales, it was almost like being in a small tourist town in northern Michigan. Everything was catered to people going to the park. One interesting thing though is that they have a statue of a milidon that greets you when you come into town. The milidon was a giant land sloth that used to roam Patagonia over ten thousand years ago. It is extinct now and there is a cave close to the town where they have found the remains of many milidons. I had to take the obligatory tourist picture with the milidon.
|The legendary milidon.|
I have put together an album of all my best pictures from the trip for you to see below as well as a map of the park with my hikes outlined by day. Starting with the red line from the east. Each color represents a different day.
Que les vaya bien!