Lynn & David travelling in South America travel blog

David at Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Puerto Natales, Chile

Guanaco, Torees del Paine NP, Chile

Condor, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Panorama, Mountains, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Lynn, Very windy Waterfall Walk, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Lynn reading in bed, Torres del Paine, Chile

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Condor, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Guanaco, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Rhea, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Bird in campsite, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Bird in campsite, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Bird in campsite, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Bird in campsite, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Ducks in campsite, Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Guanaco, Torres del Paine NP, Chile


Tuesday 28th January 2014

El Calafate, Argentina to Torres del Paine, Chile

Up early today, breakfast (3 boiled eggs each that we had cooked yesterday and several slices of cheese that can’t be taken across the border) at the hostel and then we drove from El Calafate south towards the border with Chile. Once at the border formalities to exit Argentina were fairly swift, but it took a lot longer to enter Chile because we had to take all of our bags in to be x-rayed as well as do the immigration. We reached Puerto Natales, the largest town in the area, at around 2:15pm and went to the supermarket to stock up and buy lunch. We were also on a mission to buy a blanket as it has been so cold at night and in the mornings on the truck. A lot of the shops were shut as it was siesta time – 12:30-3:30pm, but we managed to find a very nice (if a bit thin) green and yellow blanket with red flowers on it (the word gaudy does not even begin to describe it). There were two in the pack and they were on special so it was a successful shopping trip. The town was situated next to a large lake with waves, a jetty that was totally wrecked, and some odd large birds swimming that looked like a cross between white and black swans. The countryside was very similar to the past few days with very few trees and hilly country, heading towards snow-capped mountains in the distance. We stopped a couple of times for photo opportunities. As you approach the national park (Torres del Paine) the torres (or towers) loom larger and the scenery is very beautiful. We drove to our campsite, arriving at around 7pm, set up our tent and had a rum and coke, then dinner. The guide (John) we had picked up in the town this afternoon spoke to us about the walks that we could do while we were here for the next three days. Then coffee, chats with fellow passengers and bed around 11:30pm. Day cool – around 15C, cloudy in the afternoon. Very cold at night – 9C.

Wednesday 29th January 2014

Torres del Paine National Park

Woke up this morning and it had rained quite a bit in the night and water had gotten into many tents (including ours). Some people had wet sleeping gear and clothes. Fortunately our tent just had a couple of puddles in the corners and no clothes or possessions got wet. The tents will probably be OK when it gets warmer but for this cold, windy and wet climate are not fit for purpose. They are very thin and there is a mesh window at the back that is not possible to cover (except with the fly). A number of the passengers were very unhappy. Today we were all walking in the Torres del Paine National Park, an area of immense natural beauty with beautiful lakes, small streams, waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and many walking trails. We decided that we were not going to walk the difficult trail to the torres (towers) because of the scree on the trail and also the scariness of the drops next to the trail, given the fierce wind. We walked with 6 others starting at the Hotel das Torres into the valley next to a beautiful lake with the mist covered snow-capped mountains on the other side. Condors flew above and as the day wore on, the sky cleared and was fine and the weather was very pleasant, but cool and windy. Four of our group turned back after we had eaten lunch beside a bubbling little river but we scrambled across on the large stones and walked on for about another hour and a half taking in the beautiful views then we headed back to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel after the walk, we had a beer and a sit around for a while in the warmth waiting for the people to come back from the Torres walk. Then back to our campsite (about 1½ hours drive in the truck). Tonight we are having dinner at the restaurant at the campsite. Weather cool and windy today – maximum temp around 15-16C. Night around 8C.

Thursday 30th January 2014

Torres del Paine National Park

This morning dawned a little overcast and quite cold – only about 7C. It is certainly cold for the summer even in this part of the world – the weather almost always looks threatening rain due to the proximity of the mountains either in the morning or the afternoon and the wind blows all the time. Not a very pleasant experience so far. Today we did two walks. On the first walk we walked to a waterfall then on to a very famous viewpoint of the Torres del Paine. It was fine but extremely windy with gusts that threatened to blow you over all the time. It felt windy when we got off the truck but that was nothing compared to when we started up the track, and when we reached the lookout over the waterfall it was even more windy and absolutely freezing! You could turn back at this point but the group all went on. We had only walked a few more metres up over a crest when the wind blew even stronger – our guide said it was 120 km per hour – you had to hang on to the nearest person just to keep your feet on the ground! We were told to sit down quickly on the ground if we felt the wind was blowing us over – who on earth would want to live somewhere like this? However, when we reached the end of the track we were rewarded with a magnificent view of snow-capped mountains and beautiful lakes. Then we walked back to our starting point, hanging on to each other when necessary, and walked down the road to have a break in a (warm) café and eat our packed lunch which consisted of a very stale bread sandwich. We then drove to the next walk, a fairly straight trail down the dividing fence between the national park and private land. On this walk, again very windy, we saw many guanacos and a number of rheas. Guanacos , as we said previously, are in the alpaca family but larger and are not domesticated at all – not even for their wool. Although we sometimes see them in fenced areas they roam as they please and jump over the fences when they want. Sometimes, unfortunately they get their foot caught in the wire of the fence and we have seen a number of skeletons near fences. On the walk we came across an obviously newly dead body and John, our guide here, said it would have been a puma kill – it certainly was crunched up. John also told us we could eat the berries on the Calafate Bushes – they taste a little like blueberries and certainly look like them. Somewhat difficult to harvest though as the Calafate Bush is covered in long spikes. Distant views of the mountains and lakes were also enjoyed. We then went back to the campsite near the lake. By the early evening the temperature had dropped to about 5-6C and it was spitting rain and absolutely freezing, so we jumped in the tent and had a rum and coke before dinner. Dinner was fairly late tonight as a number of the group had been horse riding and had returned quite late. It doesn’t matter that much as it stays light until about 10:30pm at this latitude (about 50° south). Tonight almost everyone (even those who come from cold countries) was complaining about the bitter cold and rain. The fact that the tents are quite light material and many have let in the rain has not gone down well with the group (as you would expect), partly because they are old and worn out and partly because they just aren’t suitable for colder climates. Anyway, we have made ourselves as warm as we can in our tent by wearing all our clothes with the exception of our gore-tex jackets and our thick polar fleeces – a total of 4 layers - it was 6C in the tent and that is a lot colder than we are used to or that anyone except for a polar explorer would consider camping in….. To sleep around 11pm.

Friday 31st January 2014

Torres del Paine National Park

Up late this morning as we had decided to stay around the campsite today. It was quite cold this morning – about 6°C when we got up. Lynn had a cup of coffee in bed in the tent and afterwards we sat around chatting to our other fellow travellers. The day warmed up to about 14°C eventually but no rain today. Spent the whole day doing not much except washing our clothes and chatting. It was our turn to be on cook group tonight so we were summonsed at around 3:30pm to do peeling and chopping. We happily passed a couple of hours doing these tasks and then we went back to our tent for an aperitif (the Coke was flat tonight after four days). Our washing was mostly fairly dry by then and because we are leaving here first thing in the morning, we needed to tidy the tent and pack up for an early departure. It was a very pleasant day, spent mostly hanging around doing not much after our last two days of hiking. This park is one of the jewels in Chile’s crown and it is very beautiful and appears to be well cared for. The park was created in 1959 and has an area of 227,298 hectares and has around 155,000 visitors per year – the main attraction in the park is the Paine Massif which includes the granite spires of the Torres del Paine as well as the Cuernos del Paine whose notable formation is composed of contrasting igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks unique in the world, and the tallest peak in the park at 3,050 mtrs, Cerro Paine Grande – taken straight form the brochure. The wildlife in the park consists of the largest subspecies of puma in the world, the camelid guanaco, two species of fox and the huemul, an endangered deer. There are also many birds, including the condor, flamingos, nandu (Darwin’s Rhea) and swans as well as many smaller birds. The park was designated as an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1978. Indeed a one off place to visit (Beryl and Tim – you would love it here).



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