Torres Del Paine "W" Trek

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Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Monday, October 29, 2012

So we made it to Puerto Natales, the main town where travelers organise their trip to Torres Del Paine National Park. I (Eoin) heard of this place from friends. Doing a trek in the park, commonly referred to as the "W" Trek is 1 of the 11 must do things as stated in the Lonely Planets Guide guide to South America. This was our first time doing a trek which lasted more than one day and which involved camping every night so we had no idea what to expect. There is a hostel called Eratic Rock in Puerto Natales (we don't recommend it as a place to stay because they messed up our reservation and we had to go elsewhere) which holds a talk everyday at 3pm informing hikers how to prepare for the W trek. For people who don't know about the W trek, itīs a 75km trek done over 5 days/4 nights. It takes place on mountainous land ranging from 70mts to 750mts above sea level. Hikers are affected by all types of weather conditions made worse by the heavy backpack! After the talk, we had to find another hostel to stay in. Hostel Shankana was recommended to us. It was a very old small building but the owner was very friendly and he would bend over backwards to help you. He also made omelette's every morning for breakfast which was great! The next morning, we checked out a few different rental stores to get the best/cheapest equipment that we would need for the trip. There was a Canadian couple and three English people in the hostel preparing for the same trip as us so we were all trading ideas of what to bring and how best to prepare. We were picked up at the hostel the next morning at 7.30 am for a 2 hour trip to the National Park. At the park, we got a boat across to the starting point which took about 30 minutes. On the boat, we were all getting excited as the sun was out and everyone was in good spirits. As soon as the boat docked, the weather changed instantly. High winds and driving rain were there waiting for us! We got off the boat and there was a queue of people who had started the trek from the opposite side waiting to get on. They looked miserable! They seemed to be judging us eager hikers coming off the boat as if questioning how many will actually make it to the end. It was hilarious! 
         So we were finally on our trek and after adjusting our bags, we set off as a group of 9 (we met a lovely American couple who joined us). The first day of our trek was very tough. It was mostly up hill with some very steep inclines, followed by flat spells into sharp declines and then up hill again. The paths were either very rocky and on the edge of cliff faces or else a foot deep in water. Over the course of the 5 hours, we had high winds, rain, glorious sunshine and even hailstone. When we got to the campsite, we almost collapsed with joy! We set up our tents and then went on a short trek to a lookout point to see glacier Grey. We had an amazing view of the glacier which is part of the Patagonian ice field, the 5th largest collection of ice in the world. There were huge icebergs floating around in the water which was a deep blue colour. After, we headed back to camp to cook our food and hang out at the Refugio (campsite where you can pay to sleep. Of course we didnīt do this as it was very expensive). After warming up sufficiently, we headed out to the tent. The next morning, we woke up very early and had breakfast. The rest of our group were slower to get going so we used this time to sit in front of the fire in the Refugio. At this stage, it was 10 o clock and the English gang had yet to get out of bed. We finally got talking to one of the group and it turned out that they had decided to quit the trek! We tried to talk them out of it but they had pretty much decided already. So after that delay, we finally headed off on our second days trek minus 3 people. The next 4 days were pretty much the same thing. It was uphill and down hill, across the mountain side and along lakes. The scenery was beautiful and the weather conditions changed by the minute. The second last day was a long hike of roughly 20kms. We got to the camp at approx 18.30. Since it was so cold, we just went to bed. We woke up the next morning to freezing conditions and snow. Myself and Patrice had no interest in hanging around so whilst the others cooked breakfast, we packed up our stuff and started our descent from the top of the mountain! It only took 3 hours. When we saw that it was finally over, we were delighted! We cooked some food there while we waited for the rest of our gang and whilst waiting for the bus to collect us. We got back into Puerto Natales at approx 16.30 and headed straight for hostel Shakana. The trek was a surreal experience. It's hard to say that we enjoyed it as our backpacks were heavy, the terrain was difficult and we were always wet or cold. However, we are glad to be able to say that we completed it. We stayed in the hostel for three more days after the trek. One of these days, we hopped on a bus down South to Punto Arenas where we got to see penguins in the wild. This was very enjoyable and a good way to end our adventures down South. On the 8th of November, we took a flight (from the smallest airport ever!) to Santiago. At this stage, we were really looking forward to warmer weather again.
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