Friday, February 3, 2012

Puerto Natales, Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile 23-28 Jan 2012

Torres Del Paine
Puerto Natales is the entry point to access Torres Del Paine National Park. About 300 of us arrived at Puerto Natales with Navimag, I have made advanced booking for a hostel to be safe. The gals have no reservation managed to find themselves a hostel to sleep in. It’s windy and cold. As we arrived late, I have decided to leave for Torres Del Paine National Park in the afternoon so I could have some rest and time to plan. Parul decided to go ahead with the first bus to the park. So Inge, Marga and I will go together.

I have rented a single person tent and a pair of walking sticks. I will use my own sleeping bag which is comfortable for 15° and extreme to 5°. I figured putting on some extra layers will keep me warm. Bought some food for the 3 nights in the park and off we go.

We reached the park entrance around 4:30pm, as the day light last tills 9:30pm in summer we could trek up till 8pm at night. Our first camp site is Campamento Torres, a 5km trek with initial 2 hours of uphill and 1.5 hours easy trek to the camp site. This is the nearest camp site to the view point of Torres del Paine. We arrived the camp site around 8pm and found a place to set up our tent and prepare dinner. We found Perul’s tent but she was out to see the sunset at the Torres. The camp site is spacious with toilet facility, no restaurant or refugio here. Our plan is to wake up early to hike to the view point for the sunrise.

The night was long and cold, I hardly got an hour sleep. :-( At 5am the alarm rang, I couldn’t get out of my sleeping bag, it was just too cold. Inge run to my tent and tell me it’s cloudy, do you want to hike? I was delighted to hear that and said no, is cloudy we can’t see the sunrise. In fact I was too cold to get out of the sleeping bag and tent. So we continue to sleep for another 2 hours, till the sun slightly warm up the camp site. We finally got our ass moving and make a light breakfast, we saw Parul finally. She has been for the sunset and sunrise at the Torres where us the lazy 3 still hasn’t seen the Torres yet. We finally left at 8am, we arrived in 40 minutes to the spectacular view of Torres del Paine slightly covered by cloud. It was breathtaking. We spent around 40 minutes admiring the enormous tower. Getting back to our camp site was a breeze. After a big breakfast, we packed up and left to the 2nd camp site.

Lake Nordenskjold

2nd day was the toughest, we trek about 15km to reach Campamento Los Cuernos. Along the way, we had nice view of the Lake Nordenskjold and mountains around. It took us around 7.5 hours including some breaks. The last few hundred meters was the hardest when we have collected some blisters on our feet and had to walk on treks full of rocks. We scrambled down the last 50m to the camp site and drop everything down at the registration office. It was exhausting! As this was the final camp site to the entire W track due to the fire, they have only opened up the first V section, the camp site is packed with trekkers. We have to pay 6000 pesos per night per person to camp here. There are hot shower, clean toilet, restaurant and refugio. It took us a while to find a decent place to set up our tent, Parul who arrived earlier has reserved for us a nice place. We quickly set up our tent and make dinner before the sunset. It gets better and faster every time we set up our tent. We started to count our blister, I have 2 on both feet now. Damn it’s painful! So far we have been lucky with the weather, it hasn’t been raining or neither too hot. I was expecting strong wind at the camp site but nothing. Tonight it’s slight warmer then the first night, I managed to sleep much more then  the night before.

On the 3rd day, we woke up early to prepare to hike to the Valley Frances. As we have to return to the current camp site, it will take us around 10 hours in total for the entire 13km. We finally get going around 9am. We have sunshine! :-) As we trek along the Lake Nordenskjold, we see the mountains surrounding the lake. As we reach Campamento Italiano at the beginning of Valley Frances, it started to rain, pouring rain and strong wind. The ranger at the camp site informed us that there will be 3 hours rain ahead. Shucks! We waited for half an hour at the camp site, seeing some trekkers turn back from the trek forward. I was cold and didn’t have the mood to carry on especially with my blister screaming in my shoes. Parul was persistent to continue to the end. I turned back with Inge and Marga, it was hard on the way back as our blisters starts to complain. The wind picks up on the way back, we could finally had a feel of the 150km/hr wind speed. 

Back to the camp site, I decided to change my tent location as it was set up next to the river with wet ground, I quickly moved to a more flat and dry ground. The wind was blowing hard, some tents has been blown away as they were not attached properly. The trees are shacking so hard that it looks like it will fall on our tent anytime. I hide in my tent trying to get some rest but the howling wind outside kept me awake. Suddenly someone outside the tent was calling, the told me that 2 trees next to my tent is falling, only supported by another bigger tree. Aiks! Without hesitations, I quickly moved my tent again, don’t want to be crushed by tree. Lucky I had a tent with single stick, it was quick and easy to pack up and move. Late in the evening, more trekkers arrived, some could hardly find a flat ground to set their tent, yet they still have to pay the 6000 pesos. Parul finally made it back around 9pm, she had made it all the way. She said it was a breeze!  I didn’t regret not going as I made my decision and I was just satisfy with what I have seen. I actually enjoy the camping and cooking more than the trekking.

Final day, we packed up everything and lucky the bags got lighter after we ate most of the food. Today we have to make 11km back to the park entrance. From yesterday trek, we have collected more blisters and as you can imagine how it went with the last 11km. We could only scream when each toes press on to the ground and we made less stops so it wasn’t so hard to start again. We managed to complete in a short 3.5 hours. As soon as I arrived at the last river near the entrance, I took off my boats and put on my slippers, I could not take it anymore! I walked the last 500m with my slippers. :-)

Torres del Paine is the most beautiful park I have ever seen. It is a park with mountains, glaciers, lake and rivers that covers 2,422.42 km². In late December 2011, a fire burned 128 km² of the reserve destroying about 36 km² of native forest and affecting most of the areas around Lake PehoĆ© and the western areas around Lake Sarmiento. I couldn’t see the Glacier Grey during this trip. I hope I can return one day to finish the W circuit. 

We return to Puerto Natales, Parul and I have a night rest and head to Punta Arena the next day. We said good bye to Inge and Marga but hoping they will catch up with us in Punta Arena.

Hostal Lily Pantagonia – P8000
Hostal W – P7000
Camp site at Los Cuemos – P6000 per night

Return Bus to Torres Del Paine Park – P10,000
Return bus to Hosteria Las Torres – P2500
Bus to Punta Arena – P5000

Entrance fee to Torres Del Paine Park – P15,000
Tent Rental – P2500 per day
Walking stick rental – P1500 per day

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