Anthony on the Gringo Trail 2005 travel blog

Torres Del Paine reflected

Refugio Torres with the towers behind

First glimpse on the Torres Trail

The Torres Del Paine

Unfortunately by the time I got into Rio Gallegos, the weekly bus to Ushuaia had left. I was quite disappointed, as I really wanted to get to Tierra Del Fuego, the southernmost inhabited point and the jumping off point for Antarctica, but short of being lucky with a cheap and available flight, it doesn't look like I have the time to hang around for the transport connections. It is pretty god forsaken down this end. It is only as far south as London is North, but the presence of the Antarctic and the Humboldt Current makes it much more like Iceland, even down to the architecture. Nice to see some change in the monotonous scenery though, the pampas was beginning to bore me rigid. And I saw my first real gauchos (local cowboys).

So in the end I decided to go to Torres Del Paine - legendary amongst mountain lovers - sooner than I thought. So here I am, back in Chile, in the town of Puerto Natales, cold and full of trekking types. There were a number of options. I would have liked to spend five days walking what is called the `W`, but as a compromise to time, I am trekking the right and left arms of the W, not the middle branch, and I am not walking between them either, but using other transport. So all in all three days in the National Park, staying in refuges, and it sounds like it will be fabulous. Can`t wait. Later my host in my cute hostel (lovely comfortable bed for a change), shows me a way I could have done the whole lot in the same time, but it still would have been a push, and mean getting back very late to town on day three.

Nov 13th: Saturday night last night, and they party here in the Icelandic fashion too. Me and the two Watford girls I met on the bus from Rio Gallegos are waiting in the street at 7 for our ride to the National Park, while various hammered Chileans weave past on their way home. Long bus journey into the Park, but I am thrilled by the first glimpse of the actual Torres, which look radical from a distance. For reference, they are about 3,000 metres high, the last km or so being vertical. So I leave the girls on the bus as they are camping at Glacier Grey, and get a minibus to my first hostel, Refugio Torres. Very posh for a refuge I tell you. It may be dorm accomodation in bunks, but wooden bunks, with duvets, hot showers, etc. As this is one of the few refuges accessible by car, it is quite busy, so I dump as much stuff as I can and head on up the trail to see the Torres up closer. In general, the park is very beautiful in a sort of Scotland with proper mountains and more lakes kind of way, and I am really thrilled to be here and having a really nice time.

So I walk up the valley for a few hours, and then the last hour up a very steep field of boulders, what is called challenging in the literature. Has to be done though, no point in turning back at this stage. And at the top, is an uninterrupted view of all the Torres, rising from the main mountain massif, with an ice filled glacal tarn below them. All that effort very much worth it. So I spend an hour or so soaking up the view before heading back down the boulders, frankly harder work than going up them. And then back down the valley, knackered by the time I get back to the Refuge. And a nice three course meal, not the way they do refuges in the north! Nice conversation, and, which feels weird to me compared to other similar situations, lots of beer, as for once I am not at altitude, even though it might feel and look like it. And a good solid sleep.

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