Torres del Paine W Trek- days 1 & 2February 1, 2017 in Chile
I've split the TDP trek up into different posts because otherwise it's just ridiculous.
This is quite indulgent with lots of description to help jog my future self's memory. Some of it displays my excellent creative writing talent and some of it is basically me saying how nice everything was, depending on how deliriously tired I was when writing.
So this trek was one of the main things I wanted to do in South America. National Geographic named Torres del Paine national park as the 5th most beautiful place in the world. Not bad!
You can skip this next bit as it's more for me to document my admin faff...
TDP has two main multi-day treks that people do. The first is the W trek which is usually 5 days (4 nights) and oddly enough in the shape of a W. The second is the O trek which is the W plus more places in the park to make it about 10 days long and somehow turns the W into an O shape.
I had done some average to poor investigation and came to Buenos Aires believing I could book the free campsites along the W a few days in advance. I was told basically immediately by everyone in Rayuela that this year they have an online booking system and that all the campsites are booked until the end of February, and the only other option is to book refugios (read - hostel) which are $70000 dollars per night and they are booked up anyway.
So I kind of resigned myself to just daytripping into TDP park. Then one day I sat down and by fluke found some free refugios which date aligned with each other (cancellations I guess) and this meant I could go. Hurrah! (bank account starts wailing)
...restart reading here!
So the much awaited TDP walk has begun.
DAY 1: Paine Grande to Grey
Sat on the bus at Laguna Armada which is the first drop off for people who are going east to west to get the shuttle into the park. I have my map and I'm excited but nervous! This will be a new experience for me, hiking alone and over a few days with lots of things on my back. The first two days are a piece of cake but the last two are looooong and will involve very early wake ups I suspect.
I saw a bit of Patagonian beauty this morning just on my walk from the hostel to the bus stop. The clouds were insane. I read somewhere that they look unusual because the wind is strong and pulls them (?)
We got dropped off at Pehoe lake where a catamaran would take us across to our starting point. I realised that I had failed for day 1 and forgotten to bring a lunch with me so I spent an extortionate amount on a sandwich from a cafe. In the queue for the catamaran I chatted with Ilona, a girl from Seattle who I had first met in the hostel, and her friend Anna. The catamaran was cool cos I like boats and I like pretty scenery, basically.
The first part of the trek was 4 hours ish from the catamaran drop off to refugio Grey, walking up towards a glacier. I sadly walked through lots of burnt trees. About 5 years ago someone set fire to something in the park by mistake and burned a ridiculous amount of it, the fire so big it jumped across a lake and continued to burn on the other side.
I also went past quite a tall waterfall which was cool.
Once I got to the refugio I decided to make a coffee to energise myself and then walk an extra hour and a half further to see the glacier more closely.
I felt extremely competent and outdoorsy as I fired up the little gas stove I'd carried with me. To save weight I'd taken all my food packets out of their boxes and so I had little sachets of cereal, milk powder, coffee, potato powder etc. I added the milk to my coffee and started drinking. It tasted rough. I knew I shouldn't have got the cheapest milk powder, but who would have guessed it would make such a difference? I ploughed on regardless because I wanted the energy from the coffee. Halfway down the cup I discovered my coffee was turning solid and realised I'd used the mashed potato powder instead of milk powder.
Energised by my mashed potato and coffee combo, and by my lack of enormous backpack, I whizzed up through beautiful forest along the trail. It was really green and fairy-glen-like with lots of the trees strangely having fallen over, or twisted around things, possibly due to the famous Patagonian wind? I came to two 20m high hanging bridges, one with a huge ladder up to it, with views of the glacier next to it. I tried to pass a guy on one of the bridges and it was a very slow and nervous pass in case one of us spontaneously shoved the other off the bridge or something.
It was beautiful! I was buzzing. This amazing scenery is 100% worth the cost (thank god).
Back at the refugio I had a weird evening. The refugio is kind of like a hotel with the common area being a restaurant rather than the usual kitchen or sofas of a hostel. It meant I felt quite isolated especially as I was doing my cooking in the campsite area but my sleeping in the refugio. I felt a bit inauthentic staying in a bed rather than a tent as well! Luckily I had two nice Korean boys in my dorm, Daniel and Darren, who told me about Seoul and how much they hated mandatory military service, and fed me biscuits.
I woke up at the leisurely hour of 8:30am and packed all my shiz, went to the campsite and fired up my surprisingly powerful burner, had a more normal tasting coffee and some cereal with powdered milk (it's actually fairly convincing) and then left my massive bag and went to have another but different look at the glacier. This time I went to the Grey Mirador (mirador=viewpoint). I ignored the trails and did quite a lot of scrambling around the rocks to get the best view I could of the two awesome icebergs/other mini glacier things. The first one was an archway of ice, almost looking like one side of the arch was meant to be a slide at a kids swimming pool, and was milky white and solid. The second was a less interesting shape but was all shades of blue, quite a deep blue at points, and looked as though it was trying to melt, made up of lots of different coloured blades horizontally crossing its body. I took lots of photos. I felt intrepid for reaching the water's edge.
Something else that deserves a mention was the colour of the rock that I was climbing all over. It was BEAUTIFUL and almost as impressive if not more so than the glacier. It was shimmering, like mother of pearl, and loads of colours...purple, orange... in different patterns. Sadly my phone camera isn't good enough to capture this but they were definitely the best rocks I've ever seen! Nurd. I finally understand David's enthusiasm.
I was only planning on spending half an hour there but ended up more like 1.5! I couldn't get enough of these amazing glacier shapes and the floating ice in the lake. I actually really appreciated the solitude to take this in and was in awe of nature, absolutely loving where I was.
I headed back to the campsite to do the actual walking of the day.
As the walk was identical to yesterday's (but backwards... heading back the way we had come) I was worried it could be a bit more difficult mentally to be walking alone, so I was lucky to bump into Ilana and Anna coming out of the campsite and we hiked together. :) They are both from the US and met each other at work, fundraising for the opera in Seattle.
The walk back was...the same...but went quickly because of my buddies who are very lovely and also interesting people. We also bumped into the enthusiastic Germans who have hired a car and are sleeping in it and doing random day treks into the park.
The refugio I arrived at is Refugio Paine Grande. It's less swanky than the last one but feels better to me because it has more of a hostel vibe. Also...I didn't realise but I get dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch here! Sweet. It's right on a lake which is very lovely and blue. I went to sit beside the lake and it promptly began raining. I thought I could stay dry by shoving myself into a bush which worked for a while but then I had to abandon ship. Soon off for dinner. Tomorrow I walk something like 25km with my enormous monster bag. I'm sure this will go well.
Dinner was immense. 3 courses and meat and a salad! Met a girl from Switzerland who is on her second gap year and came to Chile to work for two months in Puerto Williams, which is the most southern city in the world and totally tiny and provincial, in a company selling helicopter rides to rich people. She didn't know any Spanish before she came so did a homestay for a month and then off she went to work with Chileans in the middle of nowhere- a city so isolated that they can't find enough people to work at the helicopter place because nobody in Chile is willing to go so far. Wow! So so brave and she must be about 20. I am so impressed.
My roomie is from France and she has been to loads of places, all of them alone. She said I should be careful because she used to want to be surrounded by people constantly, but none of her friends like hiking so she hiked alone...Then the more she did the more she liked the solitude. Now when she is with people she feels she misses everything the world had to show us because everyone is talk talk talking. She only travels alone now despite having a group of friends as home. They all think she is crazy.
Two very interesting people and perspectives this evening!
SMALL WORLD ALERT
Just went for amble around the lake and was stopped by a gaggle of middle aged men from... Huddersfield! One of them had overheard me talking to Lyn, the Swiss girl, and proceeded to spout lots of names of people who were around my age doing medicine in Leeds. And I actually knew one! I now feel excitable and a bit homesick, as one of them said, 'its impossible to escape Yorkshire folk'...Even when halfway round the world :P
Pic 1 clouds leaving Puerto Natales
Pic 2 glacier from distance
Pic 3 ice archwayRead more