Torres Del Paine - big trip - diary - chile - march 2003

Plenty of minefields in Chile

Lago Grey with blue icebergs

Approaching the towers

Monday 17 - Wednesday 19 March

Arriving back at Puerto Natales we spent the night in a cheap hotel and left the following afternoon for Torres Del Paine amidst the usual foul weather. Arriving at the park we drove straight past the entrance building without stopping to volunteer payment as we'd heard it was pretty expensive. Nobody saw us as it was almost dark and the horizontal rain made visibility poor. We headed around the big Lago Pehoe and continued on to find ourselves at Lago Grey. The skies had cleared a bit and the sun was going down, casting a nice light on the surrounding hills. Following the path to the lake we saw the amazing deep blue icebergs floating about, their shapes formed by the wind as they slowly melt.

Guanaco, not too camera shy

The horns

Torres Massif from Lake Pehoe

In darkness we drove about looking for a campsite and arrived back to Pehoe and inquired at the official site there. It was a shocking $17 so we searched out a side road and set up camp there. During the previous evening the speedo cable broke so in the morning we replaced it with the spare we thought we'd never use. The drizzle stopped and we made our way to Camp Torres, a hotel and restaurant at the bottom of the trail to the towers via Camp Chile. It was already 3pm when we set off and a couple of hours later, after the Chile camp, we met some people coming down and they told us that it would be dark by the time we were heading back. For once taking some advice to heart, we turned back, a decision made easier for T by his freshly formed blisters on each heel - those boots are going to burn after the trip.

Cooking dinner with a view

Hiking towards Camp Chile

The three towers in the sun

Back at the hotel car park we made some tea and got chatting with a guy who's going to climb Everest in a couple of months and then we met an English guy and his wife who kindly invited us for dinner at the restaurant. We had a great meal with them and headed off in the dark to find a place to camp on the way to Lago Azul.

Despite a clear evening it rained hard during the night but come the morning it was bright sunshine with just a stubborn lump of cloud on the Torres themselves spoiling a perfect view. A slow breakfast and some time spent absorbing the first sensation of warm sun since El Calafate soon saw the clouds lift and expose the spectacular mountains for the first time in three weeks.

Passing by a waterfall on the way to Lago Azul, we followed the road past the lake where you can picnic, but you have to pay $4 to sit and eat your own food, and onwards through an estancia into a quiet valley where backpackers never tread. The scenery was a treat and the landy drove on the first snow of the trip too.


Lago Azul

Around the back trail

Just near our campsite

We wanted to see the mountains from Lake Pehoe as the sun was setting and so had to enter the park via the wardens offices. As we trundled past he came running out to stop us but we didn't notice anybody, did we? Cooking dinner and admiring the view of the Torres massif from the entrance to the $1000 a day Explora hotel as the sun left pink streaks across the sky was great - as was leaving the park under cover of darkness and getting away without paying a single peso.

The road back to Puerto Natales is about 150kms of potholed gravel and the occasional skunk, one of which we saw too late and drove right over him, he must have ducked as the landy didn't smell any different as we pulled to the side of the road a bit later - out of fuel! The warning light had only been on a short while but maybe the strong headwind was having an adverse effect on fuel economy - we had all four 20 litre jerry cans full of cheap argentine diesel so in it went and off did we.

From our guidebooks we deduced that Torres Del Paine is an almost inaccessible place where the only way to get about is on foot. This is not in the least true, in fact it is possible to see almost everything from the roadside. We had to feel sorry for the scores of backpackers who'd done the famous 'W' three/four day trek and had seen nothing, got soaked daily and blown off their feet by the wind - our advice, get a landy!

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