We have arrived in Punta Arena, the gateway to the southern tip of Chile, home of the Torres Del Paine National park, and is the southern most city in Chile, A short stop-over for our next destination, Puerto Natales. As we made our final approach into Punta Arenas international terminal we were hit with sever turbulence. The plane was buffeted around as the powerful winds that howl across the south pacific finally made landfall. It became apparent that this was not going to be one of those beach holidays where we could absorb copious amounts of vitamin D and moan about the sand in every crevice. This would be a holiday where we could finally utilise those thermals and woollens that we had carried for the past few weeks……
Punta Arenas is located close to the Argentina border and is what most might consider, a simple stop over point as you make your way back north via land to the Torres Del Paine National Park. Punta Arenas was just that for us. We made our way to the bus terminal inside the city to get on the first available bus to Puerto Natales, the last town before you reach Torres Del Paine. The bus trip was short in comparison to other bus runs in this part of the world, as many who leave from Ushuaia experience a bus trip in excess of 12 hours, we were fortunate enough to only endure 3 hours. As we arrived into Puerto Natales, we were unsure if our host for the next week was expecting us, as we were a few days early, desperate to rid ourselves of that city feeling (and watchful eyes). Our accommodation for the next week was going to be the Erratic Rock, our host was to be Bill.
The Erratic Rock was extremely homely (or depending where your from rustic, I personally prefer homely as I kicked back on the lounge. I found it fantastic and with the clean Patagonian air, sleep was easy to find. Bill was wonderful and so were the staff. The breakfasts were fantastic and it was great to finally get a real cup of coffee (not that freeze dried stuff that a certain company tries to pass off as coffee). Caught up in the hype, we decided that we would attempt the “W”, a 65km plus trail which we would attempt in 4 nights and 5 days. After a briefing from Rustyn (Bill’s business partner of the Erratic Rock), we scrambled to get the food and equipment that would see us over for the next 5 days.
The following morning we made our way to the national park, hearts in our throats and nerves on edge. The 3.5 hour bus trip and ferry ride took us into the heart of the national park. Jayde was fighting a flu but we trekked on. That night we stayed at Glacier Grey, A mammoth glacier at the top of Lago Grey (Lake/Loch Grey). As we pitched our tent, we watched in amazement as ice bergs floated past not 20 metres away.
This was going to be a cold night….. We made our first trail friends, Rick and Roy from Missouri, as we shared a bottle of Chilleian Red and a game of “Pass the Pig”.
The following day we hiked to a lookout point (mirador) that looked over Glacier Grey where we enjoyed a simple breakfast, before hiking 25kms to our second camp-site.
As we arrived, we were greeted by a ranger with an extremely bad attitude (luckily the only one the whole trip). Obviously, as one would expect, after a 25km hike, the last thing anyone needs is to be called a stupid gringo behind ones back, which I observed the ranger do to another hiker. As I raised my brow at the ranger, he felt that it was necessary to ask me what “my” problem was. It is amazing that “you have a bad attitude” translates to Spanish. After the ranger abused me some more in Spanish, I simply responded “No entiendo” or simply “I don’t understand” and he advised (very unpolitely) that we were not allowed to stay at the camp as it was full. We simply shrugged and walked away before pitching the tent in a near empty site some 50 metres away.
We were now on the centre of “W” and left the following day to the next camp-site, the mountains towered above us, and the weather was beautiful. The legs were tired, but we hiked on. The water that ran from the mountains were pure and clear so there was never a shortage of water or humour. Our next camp came fitted with a custom waterfall, a towering mountain and lake lookout. It is good to be alive….. It was time for a nap.
The following day, packs and boots were donned and we set out onto the second last stretch of trail that our feet would pound. We made our was to Los Torres, we we pitched our tent for the last night. For lunch Jayde ordered a USD$10 ham and cheese toasted sandwich, and the weather finally changed for the worst, as the night brought snow. We broke camp and made our way on the final leg of the trail. After 5 days in the park, we left the park begging for a hot shower and a comfortable bed. After a big dinner, we parted way with some great friends that we had made on the trail.
We left Puerto Natales with a bigger address book and sad to go back to that horrible thing called a City. But it was time to move on….
We arrived back into Punta Arenas where we got straight back onto a bus to go penguin spotting at the Otway Sounds. The wind was howling, but the penguins were in abundance, with more than 10,000 penguins. The camera worked overtime and many photo’s were taken. Today (21st of February 2008) we leave Punta Arenas headed to Quito Ecuador, where we will be spending the next 7 days before heading to the Galapagos Island…….