Chile would be our very first country to visit on the South American continent and we had no idea what to expect from this very thin but very long country. We knew that the national parks in the south would be spectacular but what about the rest?
Filed Under: Chile by Katrine April 19, 2013, 17:32
We arrived in smoggy Santiago after a long journey across the Pacific from Australia. When sharing a mini bus taxi with a group of other travellers we were not sure what to expect of our first visit to the South American continent, but we felt both excited and curious. The main thing we wanted to do while in Chile was to trek in Torres del Paine natural park in the south of the country. So we had decided to spend 5 days in the capital before flying to Punta Arenas where we were going to book in the trek.
We stayed in a busy and quite large backpacker hostel down a small street in Bellavista, a well known suburb famous for its numerous restaurants and nightlife spots. We found out pretty quickly that South American portions of food was very generous and packed full with potatoes and meat with very little room on the menu for vegetables or salads. Rob thought he had gone to heaven
We spent the next few days looking around Santiago doing the standard hop on hop off tourist bus through the city and we also signed up for a couple of tours doing a wine tasting tour at the famous Del Toro cellars and doing a whole day trip to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar by the coast. We really enjoyed the colourful and beautiful Valparaiso with all it’s quirky houses, old funicular rail elevators and tons of little art shops and cafes.
Once we left Santiago and flew south to Punta Arenas we were met with a completely different type of place, so much so that we wondered if we had ended up at the last outpost on the planet! Punta Arenas was a town with wide streets all aligned in a symmetrical square pattern but with almost no people around at all. It was quite cold and the sunset lasted for hours boasting with spectacular cloud colours in purple, yellows, reds and pinks. It was a very strange place, so barren and empty like a ghost town, yet it was painted in such beautiful colours and scenery.
We found out pretty quickly that there was not much for us to do in this place so we booked ourselves onto a bus for Puerto Natales where we could book in our trek instead. We arrived after a 7 hour bus ride through the cold and barren landscape of the south and checked in to the little hostel that was really just a b&b in a woman’s house. It seemed to be pretty common in Puerto Natales that hostels were in fact normal houses that the people living in and that had a few rooms available for rent. The town itself seemed to have a bit more charm than the previous place and we felt happy that we decided to come here instead. We booked ourselves in for the Torres Del Paine trek with a company called EcoCamp. We had read reviews online that this company was one of the best ones and we felt we wanted to enjoy this trek fully without having to book the cheapest option and maybe miss out on things.
We ended up having a weeks free time before it was time for the trek so we made an impulse decision to head to El Calafate in Argentina since we heard that it had a lot of national parks and beautiful glaciers to explore. We bussed it again and when arriving at El Calafate we rented a car so we could drive around and explore on our own. Our first stop was driving to the Glaciar national park to see the huge Perito Moreno glacier. We opted for a boat cruise to see the Glaciar wall upfront and the one hour trip really blew us away. Perito Moreno was an enormous glacier whose terminus ended into a lake on two sides of a narrow straight. The ice was almost luminescence blue and rose about 80 meters above the water. Huge pieces of ice broke off every now and then leaving an echo of thunderous noise and a swell of several meters. After the boat tour we drove closer to the glacier and did a couple of hours trek to see it from land as well. It was a truly amazing experience.
The next day we headed off driving to El Chalten, another area near the famous peek of Fitz Roy mountain. We ended up spending one night there so we could do a couple of smaller treks to see the amazing nature and spectacular glaciers, morays and mountains. When we left to drive back to Calafate we felt that one could easily spend another week here just doing all the different treks and walks.
Once we got back to Puerto Natales to do the trek in Torres del Paine we met up with our guide Hernan and soon the rest of the group that was joining the trek showed up as well together with our second guide Pablo aka Brujo. We all enjoyed a delicious lunch before we grabbed our gear and headed off in a mini bus towards the natural park. Once we got closer to our destination we started seeing hundreds of guanacos grazing on the plains and once inside the park everyone was excited to arrive at camp. Me and Rob cramped together in a small tent and we had our first taste of what this trek was going to be like
The next morning we started our days 32 km trek quite early. We all had snacks and plenty of water with us and we ended up walking along a fairly flat and beautiful trek through the first bit of the full circle track. The sun was shining and despite some pesky mosquitoes we all enjoyed the long day taking loads of photos and chitchatting among us. Our porters and the cook and his assistant made a tasty dinner and cold pisco sours for when we arrived at the camp and we all slept like babies after the first taste of the trek.
The following two days we started climbing more up and down, passing some beautiful and scenic spots and some seriously windy corners before having to climb up to the infamous John Garners pass. We had heard that this particular climb could be pretty tough since weather usually played a major role here. Snow, rain and wind was the common theme, but we were extremely lucky having the best weather we could ask for, sun and no wind what so ever! Once we hit the top of the pass we had stunning views over the huge ice field and the great Grey glacier. Trekking down the slope towards the next camping we now knew that the solitary trek on the back of the mountains would end and we would start running into more people on the more popular front side of the park.
We spent the following 4 days doing the classic w-trek which included one day through burnt out forest from when a non serious guide had set fire to the park while camping illegally the previous year. The day we did the French Valley was a tough day, it was non stop climbing until we reached our goal, but what a goal! The scenery from climbing up the valley left us speechless. We were surrounded by colourful mountain peeks, the ice field peeked through the tops and major waterfalls and avalanches were rumbling the mountain sides around us. It was stunning and very impressive.
On the last day we climbed up the grand finale: The Towers (Torres del Paine). The speed in which our group trekked to the top was nothing less of a racing course speed, and we realized that our guides were trying to get us there before the rain was coming in. We were rewarded with spectacular views of the three grand mountain tops and we all had our lunch in the freezing wind enjoying the view of the barren land around us. We all celebrated the last night in base camp eating beautiful food and drinking red wine and chatting. We all had a fabulous time and our guides Hernan and Pablo made the whole thing so very memorable.
When we arrived back in Puerto Natales me and Rob only had a day before we headed off on the bus for a 17 hour trip to Ushuaia in Argentina. The next great adventure was coming up: Antarctica! With all the beautiful landscapes, mountains and glaciers we had seen in the last weeks we were wondering if Antarctica could beat it!
WE PROUDLY PRESENT
YOUR COMMENTS! WE LOVE 'EM
LEAVE A COMMENT
AND MAKE US HAPPY
Welcome to Rob and Katrine’s travel blog!
Please have a look around our site and enjoy your visit!