Patagonia-last stop (Chile): Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine-W trek, NAVIMAG

Posted: April 7, 2012 in South America

After the beautiful Argentina and the first 3 stops of Patagonia I jumped on a bus and crossed the border to Chile. The bus ride is 5 hours from El Calafate to Puerto Natales and leaves usually at 8 in the morning. I had heaps of things to do on that day (27th), like find out more about the W trek and the Torres del Paine National Park, hire a tent, sleeping bag and all the necessary equipment for 5 days of camping. I was a bit scared of this adventure since I knew I was going to do it alone but when I got to the town and found an excellent hostel (Dos Lagunas), Alejandro (the owner of the hostel) explained me the trek and the park very well and also there is a session every day in a place called Erratic Rock where you can meet people and hire gear too.

So I went there, met a lot of people and got to know the following info:

So the W trek was named after the shape of the hike you need to do in order to accomplish. Here is a map:

The easier (and therefore the most popular) way of doing it is from West to East. So from the Glacier Grey to the Torres del Paine. Obviously the highlight is the Torres, but you need to calculate a few other factors such as weather for example.

The weather in Patagonia is changing hourly and also the end of March is pretty much the end of the season. Autumn, cold nights, stronger wind, more rain. But you can always get lucky. I had no clue until the first day where shall I start, west or east so I relied on the weather of the first day which was nice and sunny when I entered the park.

So the gear I hired:

-1 tent

-1 sleeping bag (with temperature of up to -5 degrees)

-1 matt

-1 cooking kit (gas, head, pot)

Renting price for 5 days: 45.000 CHP (around £60)

I wanted to start fresh and relaxed but after a random decision of going out for a meal with the people in the hostel and Alejandro I managed to down a half bottle of wine that actually woke me up and made me want to discover a bit more the bars in Puerto Natales. Bed at 1am.

Day 1:

Bus left Puerto Natales at 8am. The park is about 100km from the town so we enjoyed the picturesque landscape for 2 hours hoping that the weather will be superb. Most of the people I was in the Eratic Rock with started from west to east. Since I sensed a good weather I started from East to West with 15 kg on my back and 5 on the front in the small backpack.

The first part of the W is the most difficult part…UP UP UP…for 3 hours…until you reach the free camping place: Campamento Las Torres. I took a little video on my way:

Once I reached the camping, I registered, built the tent and went up to the Torres (it’s another 45 minutes of killing hike uphill-on rough rocks- but without the heavy backpack). The wind was very strong but I had a perfect view in sunshine on the Torres. I have to say it was amazing..but if I wanted to be completely honest, I preferred Fitz Roy in El Chalten. These towers were impressive but just 3 piece of stones with no glaciers and snowy top..and maybe I was missing the company of Greg and Marzena as well.

After careful examination of the view I went back to the camping and a few sips of Palinka helped me crash at 6pm..until…I heard someone outside my tent saying: Kip Kop, kip kop. This is a Hungarian way of knocking on a door…it was Bea, who I met in Buenos Aires!!!!! She saw me on the list of registered people in the camping and found me! Such a nice surprise! We both jumped of joy to see each other and spent the rest of the night together gazing stars and chatting to other pple. It was her last day..and my first one.(she started a few days earlier from west to east that’s why we managed to bump into each other)

We agreed that even though I had a long long way to go on the second day to the camping site, we would go up to the Torres again for sunrise. So we left at 6.30 am, arrived at 7.20 and hoped to see those burning red colours on the Torres that the sun paints on them but unfortunately it wasn’t a sunny day so we ‘just saw this’:

I took a video too:

So carrying on with Day 2:

I packed my tent and the full backpack and made my way down to do the U turn..

Unfortunately turned out later there was a shortcut (which wasn’t very obvious as the trail is designed to be made from west to east) so I earned myself another 6 km more by going back to the starting point and doing the U as per shown on the map. The map unfortunately didn’t say that there would not be an obvious trail to go on, so I ended up walking with my heavy stuff 4 hours long without meeting anyone and without being sure that I am on the right way..Here is a little taster:

Around 3pm I managed to get on the right track and I met a person finally who said that it was another 4 hours to reach the camp…I thought I would die…honestly..the exhaustion and the wind against me almost broke me. I had to stop a lot..I was crying swearing, I was surprised and enchanted by the view..I was laughing and happy to suffer. It was weird J Eventually after 5 hours I reached the Campamento Cuernos around 8pm (6000 CHP for the possibility to camp, but having a hot shower really helped me recover). I had no problem falling asleep:)

Day 3.

In the Cuernos I met Tasha and Denise (OZ and Swiss girls). They were both very nice, and were similarly exhausted and with full of blisters and back/shoulder pain, like me.

At 10am I made my way to Campamento Italiano (free camp 2 hours away). I got there at 12.30 and decided to have a quick lunch and go up to the French valley which was meant to be the second highlight of the W. I didn’t tell you but despite all the sufferance and physical challenge the landscape on these 5-6 hours walks since I started was absolutely stunning. On the first day when I saw the valley that lead up to the towers almost made me cry (of joy)…check this:

Also the tough second day was quite impressive scenery:

So back to day 3..lunch in Campamento Italiano. A group of Spanish speaking people invited me to sit with them so I did and we had lunch together. Was amazing, I could practice my inexistent Spanish…I have to say Italian helps a lot in South America. Around 2pm (sunshine, no sign of rain) the camping guard (Roberto) joined us and offered to take us somewhere off the beaten track. So the 6 of us went very close to the glacier in the French valley through rivers, climbing big rock..a great experience. After that we made our way to the normal track towards the first view point (Mirador).  Unfortunately it started raining..and the route was very steep and slippery too, plus you didn’t get to enjoy the view because of the rain. So I didn’t go up to the second view point . Went back to the camping, met Iain there (I have been travelling with him since Lencois in Brazil but I was always 1 day ahead of him since Buenos Aires!) We had a little evening reunion in Roberto’s house (cooked together and had a nice chat there in the warm while outside it was raining constantly). Around 1 I went to my tent hoping that the rain would stop by the morning. It didn’t. Cold and wet night…that’s all you need 🙂

A few pics on the 3rd day:

So on the 4th day I washed the tent in the river and we continued with Cora and Carmen (2 girls from the group, the other 2 guys went opposite direction) towards the Lago and Glacier Grey.

This is the route that made me sad…4 month ago a group of Izraeli people decided to have a little cooking party on the trail (strictly forbidden! You can only cook in the camping), and they left the fire on after moving on…a massive part got completely burnt down. It was so sad to see all those black trees…check this:

The rain stopped and the sun came out but the wind was incredibly strong. It took 2 hours to arrive to the Refugio Paine Grande where until 31st of March (the day we were there) there were 2 catamarans to take the passengers back to the point from where the bus left the National Park. At 12.30 and 6pm. We got there after 1pm, so the question was to go up to the glacier Grey and sleep one more night in the park, or go back to Puerto Natales and celebrate our hard work with a beer and a nice meal. To be honest with you I had a lot of reasons to opt for the 2nd choice..

  1. I did an amazing job on my own completing the rest of the W starting with the most difficult and most beautiful part…
  2. I didn’t feel like sleeping in a wet tent
  3. After Perito Moreno glacier (El Calafate) it would be hard to find a more beautiful glacier…so Grey didn’t appeal too much.

So we took the 6pm boat, and went back to Puerto Natales, had the great meal and crashed IN A BED, IN WARM BLANKET in a hostel we found with the girls.

The next day I went back to Dos Lagunas (where I stayed the first day, since I paid it already and Alejandro was very sweet) and spent the afternoon there uploading pictures and doing some planning (outside it was raining so i didn’t feel too bad staying indoors..I know i shouldn’t have even if it wasn’t raining as since I started my trip I had only 1 day off in BA when I was sick, and sometimes you need to rest but I am incapable to do so)

Did you notice my friends that for the first time I didn’t make any April fool joke? 😛 Surely you did…that’s how tired I was after the W.

On Monday (2nd April) I checked into the Navimag, and boarded to the ship. After a few drinks on board and Salsa with Rodrigo (one of the coolest people who works on the ship) I went to sleep and set the alarm to see the sunrise. It was great:

On the first day the weather is pretty shit..rain and therefore not great view on the glaciers and fjords of Chile..It’s a pretty chilling trip..I bought 2 bottles of red and a few beers..Iain and Roberto are here and other cool people so I am studying Spanish, resting, playing cards etc. The meal is’s a full board with breakie, lunch and dinner.

Well the night was absolutely amazing..a lot of dancing..(salsa, merengue, baciata and the rest)..I don’t know but the people on the boat are not massive party faces…only a little part of the people were there so i had the whole dance floor and dancers for myself.:) Loved every minute.

On the second day the weather was slightly better..until 3pm when we arrived to Golf of Penas and had a very rough 12 hours..lots of people throw up and were lying in their beds sick. I started to feel a bit weird too but it was more of a cold coming than seasickness. After an hour of chilling I was fine, had dinner and watched ‘Into the Wild’. No party was available after so I just went to bed.

Last day on the boat..usual breakfast, presentations on flora and mammals of Patagonia. Everyone started to feel that this was the last day/night together, people got to know each other by then, groups were formed. Really nice group of people..In the afternoon Benny, my friend from Hong Kong gave me a beer so I started drinking in the pub. Later on I joined the second Capitan (Enso) who was sitting by the bar. We had a very nice chat, and as the beer started to kick off I felt like climbing up on the highest point of the ship but it was closed, so Enso opened it for me if I promised not to tell anyone. After this he invited me to join the Official’s table (Capitan, second Capitan and all the VIP staff)…I didn’t believe what I heard so ladies and gentleman, I had my last supper with them, in their cabin at the principal table (because there were 2 for the slightly lower level staff- and here we are not talking about the people working in the kitchen), stylish with a glass of Chilean red. What an experience. My Spanish is pretty good by now so I could converse with them easily. They were all above 50 so obviously they also enjoyed the company of a young Hungarian girl travelling alone….

After dinner, we had bingo at 21.30…how first real bingo game after working in the industry for so long..I didn’t win   🙂

Bingo was followed by other fun games like limbo, apple game and finally salsa..Rodrigo was far the best dancer so I made the most out of the night. Everyone was pretty drunk..couples were formed by the end of the night so by 1am the pub was pretty empty. Since we arrived to Puerto Montt at 4am and we had to leave the boat by 8 I decided to stop drinking and go to sleep.

Breakfast at 7, and we left. First time it was so weird to leave a group of people that you were stuck with on a boat..I got half of the people’s details..And we will probably bumb into each other in the area.

So Benny decided to come with me for a while to discover Chile. We are on the bus now to Isla Chileo after a few hours of walking in Puerto Montt (very nice fishmarket with delicious seafood empanadas).  I love Chile so far!

  1. valerii55 says:

    Szia Drágám!

    Nehéz, kemény túra volt! Hol tudom az összes képed megnézni??
    Nagyon vigyázz magadra!
    Ölellek! Anya

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