Santiago Airport, Chile
Today and tomorrow will be marathon travel days: two different 2+hour drives to get to the airport in Punta Arenas, a two hour wait for a three hour flight, followed by five hours in Santiago (and I can’t check my bags till 3 hours before the flight…😡…then three flights home followed by a three hour drive to visit my parents for Thanksgiving! However, the trip was worth it.
Yesterday we did the hike to the base of the Torres del Paine, about a 16 mile hike (I had over 40,000 steps by day’s end). We gained about 4000 feet overall in elevation even though our peak was around 700-800 meters…we did a lot of up and down.
Yesterday was the first day we had rain in Torres del Paine, which is amazing but unfortunate, as the view at the top, instead of the towers was of…clouds, though we could see the unnamed lagoon at the top.
We started early, 7:30am. I wore rain pants over shorts and a rain jacket (over a t-shirt and long sleeved shirt). It wasn’t freezing, but wasn’t warm either. Our fearless leader Claudio wore shorts, no rain pants and a rain jacket…he’s a native Patagonian and used to the weather.
The walk up, though lacking clear views, had its beauty. We walked through a beautiful forest for quite a while, across too many small streams to count, over several small wooden bridges, some with rails…some without. The moss covered tree trunks were so beautiful. After exiting the forest we walked down windy point, which luckily for us wasn’t really windy. Then the last 8/10 of a mile was rock climbing basically…..not the kind where you need handholds, more like doing step ups of various heights and stability. I didn’t mind the ascent. At the top we added a layer or two of clothing and had lunch by the aqua colored lagoon. The towers were covered with clouds but the weather kept a lot of people away and it was still beautiful. It was snowing very lightly at the top…brrr!
It was amazing how many people we encountered hiking in jeans, hiking in sneakers, hiking without any rain protection…(that was not us). I can’t imagine they’d woke up today feeling very good and their jeans and sneakers were pretty much trashed, mud covered up to the knees, and feet soaked and dirty.
So…after the ascent there was the descent…through that rock forest. I was pretty slow at that part of the walk. We all got down and then it was up and down again. We stopped halfway down at a refugio, a hostel with flush toilets. :-).
The rain had pretty much stopped by then and the views opened up some, though at that point the towers weren’t visible. We made it down around 5:30 pm, tired but happy to have survived and seen another beautiful area.
Of course, by the time we were down the towers were somewhat visible again and this morning it was sunny again (but really cold).
Things I learned:
1: Claudio Silva is a superb guide for anything Patagonia. Energetic, speaks English and Spanish well, patient, extremely knowledgeable and always upbeat. Loves what he does and loves where he lives.
2: You can go to Patagonia and just stay at a hotel and walk up to the base of the Torres del Paine, and take the boat ride to Grey lake to see the glaciers, but you won’t learn as much as if you use an experienced guide and you won’t see the less populated areas we saw
3: The standard domes at Ecocamp…great beds, but it’s really cold in the mornings! Really good dinners too.
4: This was an REI Adventure trip. It was a good experience, my first but Claudio made it wonderful.
5: Don’t wait to do this, you can take buses around the park and see beautiful places, but the hike to the base of the Torres is not super easy. And it’s 16 miles…
6: Patagonia is more beautiful than I expected.
7: I am not a bird person.