Torres del Paine
Some ten thousand miles from Manila is a place called Patagonia. A region so vast it covers two countries – Chile and Argentina. Go to the south end of both and you’ll find yourself surrounded with trekkers from all over the world. Why? This is because the region is among the list of renowned climbs along with Everest, PCT, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, and many others. From green landscapes to icy peaks, angry winds to shy animals, cold nights to pink mornings, Patagonia seems to be in the mind of trekkers looking for a beautiful challenge. But as for me, I don’t even dare say I’m a hiker. It’s not my first trek but my skill in this area has a lot of fine tuning to make. So with the abundance of excitement, I sorta forgot I’m not trained for Patagonia.
It was early November when I got to Puerto Natales, Chile. The nearest city to Torres del Paine. It was this that made me decide to see the region. Go ahead and google images “Torres del Paine” and prepare to be amazed.
I stayed in Hostel Cuatro Estaciones which is in between the water and Unimarc. After a few minutes of checking me in, Yasna was already explaining to me in front of her wall map how to trek Torres del Paine and where to camp. Goes to show that this is the norm. And I’ll be the exception.
I decided to sit out a few days instead – walk around town, blog a little, and contemplate some more. I was almost considering the idea of doing the W. The W is the more famous circuit in Torres del Paine. It takes about 4-5 days and can either be from East to West or West to East until you form a W. I heard some people base their direction on the wind to make the walks easier. If I haven’t said it yet, the wind in Patagonia is a beast. The other circuit is the O or the full circuit. This one takes 10 days I think. The Torres del Paine trek is not an altitude trek so that’s a good thing there. The not so good is if you’re on a budget and can’t afford the luxury of a refugio stay, then you have to carry camping gear, add to that your food. But this is just a slight complication to the many trekkers that take on the challenge everyday.
Here’s a sample base expense that I found:
Bus to park (15,000 RT)
Park fee (18,000 valid for 3 days)
Camping gear (cheap rentals in town/hostel)
Campsite fee (some are free but some are paid 4,000 – 8,000)
Grey boat (15,000, can also opt to just walk it)
I’ve met friends who did the W and many of them said that it’s fine for non-hikers too. Just take it at your own pace, they told me. And be prepared to encounter four seasons in a single day. As is the case when in Patagonia region, a rain/waterproof jacket can solve this although I didn’t have one. But again it’s possible to rent it out in town.
And this is the O circuit. By the looks of it, that’s a lot of nature day walking.
Now I said I almost considered the W. Until I didn’t.
One morning in the breakfast table of Cuatro Estaciones, I met Carina and we decided on the day tour. We’re both not prepared at the time on carrying a lot and camping in the cold. So the 25,000 tour was our price. This version was all spent in the park, no stop in Milodon cave. I think there were about 9 stops but some may have been due to our demand to “stop the car!” Compared to the google images I saw, the view of the torres in this tour are farther. I didn’t see the reflective lake beneath the torres but what I saw was good too. Those are not the kind of landscape I’m used to in the Philippines. So a bluish icy mountain surrounded by green-blue water made my heart skipped a beat. There were still some walks but nothing a kid can’t do.
The first stop was to see Glacier Grey. Quite cold in this area and super windy too. Here’s Carina trying to walk despite the wind. The glacier itself was very far from the shore but there were chunks floating in the lake.
After that we had lunch in this camp. The tour didn’t include lunch so we packed a sandwich and told stories with our tour mates who cycled around Patagonia but like they said – at our age, we don’t have to prove anything anymore, we just want to do it. That is so right, lovely couple!
And this is Lake Pehoe or I just dreamt it.
If you notice, the mountain is bluish. To be honest, I have no idea why. But it is the case so they named it Paine which is an old word for blue.
And that’s a Guanaco. If the north has Llamas and Vicuñas, Torres del Paine has Guanacos. Behind him are the torres and those mountains are probably where the hikers are.
We came home exhausted and sleepy. I came home unbelieving I really got to see that. It stuck with me that I couldn’t make myself leave the region. So I decided to backtrack and re-enter Argentina and sprint my way to El Chalten. I only had 4 days left in my Argentinian visa and I was that crazy I squeezed some Los Glaciares to that.
In the end, there’s no pressure. You don’t have to hike if you don’t want to. There are plenty of beauty around the park to be had. And I think I’ll be back for the others too.