Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

I made it. 5 days, 66 km of hiking, 17 kg weight on my back. And I am very happy about that.

Wednesday, 14 December, 8 a.m. I am sitting on the Bus to Torres des Paine which is considered one the most beautiful National Parks in the world. I had met many people on my trip who had all had raved about how pretty is was there so I was really excited about doing the famous “W” trek (it got its strange name because the trekking path has the shape of a “W” on the map) and to see the many stunning mountains and glaciers the National Park boasts.

I had rented the whole camping equipment in one of the many trekking stores in Puerto Natales  and with a supply of food for 5 days my backpack ended up weighing 17 kg  – quite a lot to carry. One of the highlights of the NP are the famous “Torres”(towers)  which are huge granite needles and which adorn most postcards and covers of photo books about the Chilean Andes. Because Patagonia is known for having “ 4 seasons in a day”  I was extremely lucky to have very uncommon Patagonian weather throughout my whole trek – warm temperatures with long periods of blue cloudless skies, no snowstorms, no rain. Around noon we arrived at the National Park and the striking Torres and mountain range welcomed us in the most beautiful way.  I started heading up to the first campsite and after a strenuous, steep  2 hour hike I set up my tent and continued another 2 hours to the lookout for the Torres. The heat, the bright sun and my remains of I cold I had caught 2 days before really made this ascent a tough one, but in the end I was rewarded for it. Incredibly impressive, those 3 huge needles, with its waterfalls and emerald colored lake. This place could easily be the setting for a “Lord of the Rings”-like movie, I thought. When I got back to the campground after 5 hours of climbing and hiking I cooked dinner, shared it with about 1500 mosquitoes and horseflies and fell into my tens at 8 pm for a 12 hours sleep.

Thursday, 15 December: waking up with a migraine and knowing that you have about 6 hours of walking ahead of you is not the coolest thing on earth. But eventually I dragged myself to the next campsite after a 15 km hike.  On the way I was rewarded with beautiful lakes with very interesting shades of blue, the beautiful mountain range of the Torres and uncountable waterfalls. What I really loved on that whole hike is the fact that you can fill up your water bottle every 20 minutes because there are streams coming down from the glaciers and they have unspoiled, clean, glacier water. A pure and rare luxury, in my opinion. I had some interesting river crossings that day, sometimes forcing you to take off your stinky shoes and wading through iiiiiice-cold glacier water  (kostenlose Kneipp-Kur!). When I got to the campsite my shoulders felt like a brick and I would have paid a fortune to get a back massage (I thought it would be a good business idea to be a offer massages. I must have really looked quite “destroyed” because a French hiker hopped right away to his backpack and said “oooh, I sink I äve sömesing för juuuu!” and he pulled out a lemon and handed it to me with a big smile. I was wondering if I missed the point, if I was hallucinating or if I simply didn’t know  that lemons are THE remedy for sore muscles. But then he said “oh noooo, ju don’t iit it, you röb it on yör shouldör, it makes sö pein gö away”. And MAN, WAS HE RIGHT! I rolled that yellow thing up and down my back and it really loosened up my muscles! This was one of those situations which I really love about travelling as a backpacker: you meet interesting people and learn new things every day, sometimes big ones, sometimes the smallest things. But in the end they all broaden your horizon. That evening I skipped dinner, set up my tent and once again fell into the deepest sleep for 13 hours.

Friday, 16 December: thaaaank you, my migrane was gone! So I made my way to the next campsite, and as before I saw lakes which had shades of blue you don’t find in any paint-box, crossed streams and rivers and absorbed the beautiful sight of the bright red fire-bushes which grow all over the place. Half an hour before I reached the campground the famous Patagonian wind welcomed me and almost blew me off the path –thanks to my big backpack I safely stayed on the ground and enjoyed the views of Lake Pehoe – Caribbean waters are peanuts compared the the color of that amazing lake. The campground was nestled right next to the lake and that just made me evening. Setting up the tent and looking out of the little tent-window, seeing the Torres from the other side against a bright blue sky.

Saturday, 17 December: I was really looking forward to the next 2 days which I would spend around Lago Grey and its beautiful Glacier, Glaciar Grey. This part of the trail is facing the west side of the Andes and therefore also strong winds from the Pacific Ocean, so I was curious if I was going to take off like a kite or not. The first 2 hours led me through a colorful valley with great Flora and a few condors sailing high above my head. As soon as I reached the top of the hill and the grey-white- milky-colored Lago Grey I knew what 60 km/h winds  felt like. I was bounced around like a “Flummi” and had a blast trying to walk straight lines (no, I definitely didn’t succeed. It looked more like someone trying to walk after 5 bottles of wine). Anything lighter than 30 kilos would have flown away and this time I was glad I had those 17 kg on my back to keep me ON the ground!:) This part of the hike was probably my favorite part because walking along the edge of the lake and seeing the impressive, beautiful Glacier Grey coming closer every step you take was juuuuust amazing. Glaciers have a very special kind of magic for me and I was therefore glad that I had decided not to race down the same day and take the ferry and the bus back to Puerto Natales but instead camped a campsite only 5 minutes away from the lookout of the glacier. The campsite was almost empty and I got a nice spot quite protected from the wind and with my very own “Haus-Eisberg” in front of my nose!! How often do you have such a view when you look out of a tent! It was also quite awkward and fun to turn on the tap and brush your teeth (and DRINK!) the milky-looking, iiiiiicecold glacier waterJ. I enjoyed dinner with a nice Swiss couple and that evening the first drops of rain came down – I was so lucky to having had amazing weather throughout my hike (thanks, weather gods!!). The next morning I got up early and took the ferry and bus back to town where I had a big pizza, salad and a bottle of wine that evening and it tasted so very yummie (another one of those great sensations when you come back from a hike and days of eating only instant food, soups and müsli bars).

I know that those photos can only transport a fraction of the real beauty of this National Park but I think you will get an idea what Torres del Paine is like:)

So I want to dedicate this blog posting to my hiking friend Elke: you would have LOVED it here and I would have enjoyed sharing those great hiking moments with you together!🙂

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One response »

  1. Jim Hodges says:

    I will peruse these soon and give what I am sure to be Envious comments. Thank you for the gift of sharing! Jim

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