Tuesday, March 18, 2014



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.

Day 1
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.
From there we started our hike to Refugio Grey. By then the rain had cleared and the sun peeked out through the clouds, making it a great afternoon for a hike. After 3.5 hours of hiking we made it to the campsite around 5pm, set up the tent and set off to cook our first of many instant dinners. We then headed out to see the glacier before the sunset.

Sarah, Stephan, and I standing in front of the mighty Glacier Grey

Day 2

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.

Day 3

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.

Day 4

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.

Day 5

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.

Unfortuately, the camera did not perform incredibly well in the low light sunrise. But I managed to get this as the sunlight hit the Torres before the clouds covered them up. This was the grand finale that we had hoped for. We were so lucky to have the cooperation of the weather. We then hiked all the way down to the Hotel, where we were took a shuttle to get on the bus back to Puerto Natales.

Puerto Natales

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.
And so my trip came to an end, I couldn't have been more pleased with how it went. We met tons of people from all over the world and shared each others stories while we ate our instant rice dinners in the middle of some of the best nature the planet has to offer.

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.

Get Adobe Flash player

 Que les vaya bien!

Sunday, March 2, 2014



Time has flown by so quickly, to me it feels like I have just arrived. The Chilean summer is coming to an end and Santiago is slowly returning to work. I am not kidding when I say that literally half the city shuts down over the summer. Vacations are top priority in their culture, even the street performers go on vacations.

This past week, my host family invited me to Cachagua to stay with them for the weekend at their beach house. Cachagua is a small beach town on the coast, it is about an hour north of Viña del Mar. It can best be described as a place where it is not uncommon for people to fly in on their helicopters, play a polo match, and fly back. We were 100m from the beach, the following was a typical morning sight.

To the north there was also and island called "Los Pingüinos", yeah there were penguins, altough a bit hard to see, they still put on a show.

We then got hungry and decided to eat some food. If you know the kind of food that I normally eat, you would be in shock at the food I tried here. Look at all of these shellfish, mixed in with everything.

Round 2 was a classic Chilean barbecue, I ate so much meat.

We then headed north to a little town called Zapallar, from there we took a long walk on the beach and climbed up to a point where we could see the coast. Again, it was pristine.

All in all it was a great weekend, I am so thankful to my host family for sharing their vacation with me. I leave for Torres del Paine in a week. I am doing the W trek through the park. I'll be sure to write a post dedicated to how I survived my Patagonian adventure.