This may just be the longest blogpost you’ve ever read. But it’s about Patagonia, so I think you can make an exception.
Can I just say that I am so glad that I went on this trip?! Oh my goodness my heart is so happy just thinking about all the memories I made there. So without further ado, here’s what we accomplished:
Wednesday: After a whole day of anxiously sitting through classes, we were on our way to the airport Wednesday night! Only after sitting through rush hour traffic for an hour and a half…thanks to those tacos (traffic jams) in Santiago. When I booked my flight, it didn’t assign me a seat…so I went up to the ticket counter at the gate and the attendant graciously gave me a seat number…in the front of the plane! Winning. I ended up sitting next to a man and this kid, who I’m pretty sure was traveling alone…crazy! The flight attendants checked on him every time they passed our row! So cute. We pulled the bum card and slept in the airport that night…along with a couple of other gringos embarking on the same adventure as us. Good to know I wasn’t alone on my first airport sleeping experience.
Thursday morning started bright and early just before 6AM. After the first penguin company cancelled on us (the day before!) we attempted to find another. Alas, no penguins were seen that day… We rode into the city and went to the address listed, only to find that it was pretty much nonexistent. We aprovechared the day though, and waited on the rest of the group to come into town and spent the rest of the day exploring until we caught the bus to Puerto Natales at 3. We saw the sunrise on the hill, went to the naval museum, went to a small cafe (where I had hot chocolate and didn’t spill it on everyone else’s food), talked to some other gringos that happened to be on the same flight as us, and walked along the water at the port. Finally, at 6 we rolled into Puerto Natales. Our first stop was the Bus Gomez office to pick up our tickets to go to the park the next day, and lucky for us, the guy working there was standing out on the sidewalk waving at us to tell us where to go. (You see, he was expecting us this whole time and called me twice to make sure I was coming…) We then checked into our hostal, stumbled into a trail mix store (which was so genius…whoever came up with that idea was brilliant. Especially outside of Patagonia!) and bought groceries for the weekend.
Come Friday morning at 7AM, we could be found upstairs chowing down on breakfast, preparing ourselves for the day ahead. After a two hour bus ride to the actual park, we could begin our hike. In Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, there are two trails that everyone hikes: the circuit and the W trail. The circuit is what is sounds like; it goes all the way around the park in a circle. But the most popular trail to hike at Torres del Paine is the W trail.
One of my favorite things about being down here is that it’s a small extranjero world: you run into the same foreigners all the time! For example, remember the guy from the Netherlands that we met at Pucon? Definitely saw him coming down the trail to Las Torres as we were working our way up! When we saw him, we had to do a doubletake. We couldn’t believe we ran into him again!! Also, we ran into some fellow IES kids as soon as we pulled into the park and then again when we hiked to Los Cuernos! Even though we had only seen each other 3 days before, it was such a joyous reunion!
The hike to Las Torres is no joke. The beginning is a little rough and the middle smooths out, but the last leg of the hike has got to be the worst! Imagine climbing straight up rocks for about a solid 45 minutes. That’s exactly what we did. The view at the end made it so worth it though. I couldn’t actually believe that I was at this incredible place that you always hear about. That’s on everyone’s jackets. I was at Patagonia. WHAT.
Our victory song was as follows: WE MADE IT.
On Saturday, we started our hike to Los Cuernos as soon as the sun was up so we would have enough time to hike beyond that to see a little of the French Valley. It was cloudy and rainy the whole three and a half hours, which was a bummer. But literally nothing could damper the beauty of Patagonia. Yeah the sky may not have been sky blue, but the hike along Lake Nordenskjöld was still beautiful.
Now, you can’t just come to Patagonia and not make some Chilean friends. Our first friend was Daniel. He stayed in our room at Refugio Las Torres and I kind of woke him up when we returned from our day of hiking. But he was totally cool with it! He ended up hanging out with us the rest of the weekend haha! He just happened to be taking the same route we planned on taking. We also made friends with the park ranger at Campamento Italiano. You see, when we hiked up to the French Valley, we passed by his little office, and he asked us where we were going. He wanted to make sure we knew to be back before sundown…how sweet! Then we asked his opinion on our hike for the next day. We were in a bit of a pickle: the sun doesn’t rise until 8AM and it would take about 5 hours (according to the map) to get to the catamaran at Lake Pehoe. Problem was, the catamaran left at 12:30 and we didn’t have any flashlights, other than the one Daranee brought. He was hesitant to tell us that it was a bad idea, knowing that teníamos ganas de ir (that we really really wanted to go)!
But boy, did we put him in for a surprise.
We decided to do it. The beginning would be the hardest part, carrying our packs and all. We’d start at 7, only being in the dark for one hour. We’d have Daranee’s flashlight and the flashlight on Daniel’s phone. We’d also have Daniel with us, who has hiked around this park millions of times! (He actually works for the refugio company in the park and every now and then casually runs the trails. Which I should mention are sometimes crazy hard. No big deal.)
We completed the hardest part of the hike (the first fourth of it) in 45 minutes. All uphill, up rocks, across rivers, through mud… We did it. And the best part: the sun was just rising as we completed it! What a treat, right? Literally couldn’t believe that we had hiked this so fast.
The rest of the hike was a breeze. We arrived at Campamento Italiano at 9 and greeted our park ranger friend. He was smiling from ear to ear, so surprised and proud of us for completing that hike in such short time. Although the next half of the hike from Campamento Italiano to Paine Grande/Lake Pehoe was relatively flat, it took us longer to complete (probably because we were exhausted from climbing up the very first part at a rapid pace!).
We could finally breathe a sigh of relief…our biggest fear of missing the catamaran/missing the bus out of the park/complicating transportation back to Santiago was eliminated! We were able to catch a glimpse of Paine Grande and Los Cuernos as we made our way across the lake, as a little farewell to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.
So all in all, I guess my grand excursion could be summed up in this way:
1 exhausted (but overly joyous) Courtney
Hasta luego! Xoxo