Torres del Paine - Patagonian National Park

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
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46
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
Casa Bertila

Flag of Chile  ,
Friday, April 13, 2007

Moored outside of Puerto Natales, sharing a little case of cabin fever with fellow inmates while waiting for the weather to clear, we decided to spend a day or two in Puerto Natales resting and getting ready for the 5 day hike in National Park, Torres del Paine.

Puerto Natales was a windswept place with colourful buildings made of wood and corrugated iron, seabirds scavenging on fishing boats and black-necked swans gliding around in the rough water. We were met at the port by a small lady offering an Hospedaje (cheap, small, family-run hotel), so we followed a nice lady called Norah to Casa Bertila. Maybe it was our two huge backpacks in the back, but the old red pickup of Norah´s Dad really struggled up the slight incline to their place.

A cup of tea and cake was forthcoming and for less than the price of a dorm bed each in a typical backpackers cottage we had our own large room, private bathroom and TV. The mountains of home-made wool blankets on our bed attested to the cold night ahead. Another curiosity of Chilean accommodation - they do tend to favour the 2 metre pillow on a double bed. The battle is really on then, not just for blanket ownership but for pillow position too...

Next day, an organizing type one. Buying all the food for the trip, checking all the camping and warm gear is packed, organizing a bus or two......

Our 5 day hike in Torres del Paine was a challenge to say the least. Normally if a hike says it takes 4 hours, we complete it in three (lots of time for photos too!), but with Torres the trails took the allocated time and longer. (Not like the Depártment of Conservation trails in New Zealand, a 2 hour designated walk there must be for a 90-year-old with a dodgy heart.)

We were pretty excited to see pink flamingoes and rheas (ostrich-type things) on the way to the park, not to mention the odd eagle and plenty of guanacos (llama cousins). Once in the park, we didn´t see much in the way of wildlife (save for the mice who got into our tent and poohed in our porridge) and the occasional condor.

For the record, Ed picked out the mice poo, and we thoroughly boiled the porridge - it was that or starve. Only later, we found out that rodents and food are a great mix for some obscure disease called Hanta virus.

We´ll let the photos speak for themselves on the beauty of the place.

Some selected Highlights, lowlights and strange things!

Highlights

* The sun shone for the start of our 5 day hike
* Sneaking into Wim & Ria (Dutch friends) refugio for a hot shower - bliss!
* Meeting James (Aussie) and Lucy (Ireland) in a freezing camp kitchen and getting great advice on their 6 months of travel in South America
* Camping in and on snow for the first time (see lowlights also)
* Cloudy weather clearing for fantastic views of the Torres (towers) and Los Cuernos (horns) - key sights in the park
* Bangers & mash one day, tuna pasta the next - food never tasted so good!

Strange Things

* Met 2 young Aussie girls with tennis shoes and suspiciously small packs wanting to hike 7 days in the park including a high snow-covered pass - hope they got out OK!
* Hearing about an (again ) Aussie couple that James & Lucy met. They didn´t believe they could find decent hiking food in Chile, so cooked all their meals months earlier, freeze-dried them and mailed them to Chile in preparation!

Lowlights

* A miserable night at damp, depressing Campo Italiano - stove wouldn´t light for a start, then we cooked in the open in sleet, shivering bone-numbing cold conditions
* Ed´s wet feet
* Campo Italiano again - BLOODY MICE!
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