Drenched in Torres del Paine

Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
Trip End May 2010

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Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Thursday, February 12, 2009

We weren't sure if we'd have time to squeeze in a short trek in the famous Torres del Paine National Park. When we arrived in Puerto Natales, in one hour we bought our tickets for Punta Arenas, went to the ATM, bought tickets for Torres del Paine, swapped gear in our bags to take two instead of four, changed and off we rode the the 160km to Torres del Paine National Park.

It was rainy and windy, but we had lucked out with such good weather so far this trip that we felt like had to pay our dues to the Patagonian wind and rain Gods. We headed into the park at 5:30pm against better judgment-when everyone else was trying to get out of the park! The sign said two hours to Refugio Chileano, the first refugio and campsite and four hours to the second campsite at the lookout for the Torres del Paine group (torres = towers/massive granite spires).

Ben holding onto his hat in Torres del Paine

Sunset is around 9:30pm so clearly we needed to book it. Despite knee problems, Lindsey's cardiovascular fitness has improved dramatically, so on many treks now, we have been slashing suggested trek times in half.

The rain and wind increased the higher and further we went. The once dirt trail turned into muddy rivers and we had to rely more on our trekking poles than our feet to keep upright in the wind! Gusts of up to 80 mph blasted us on steep, sketchy side hills, nearly knocking us over at times, pelting our cheeks with rain like slaps in the face. The wind really slowed our pace; it felt like we were crawling forward upright! But we put our heads down, shouted "Bring it on, Patagonia!" in the relentless wind and rain, and continued on as fast as possible.

When the wind lessened to only 30-50 mph gusts, we began to run to make up time. Doing this, we passed 4-5 parties. In just about an hour, we arrived at Refugio Chileano, again in half the suggested time. Conditions worsening, we decided to check with the refugio for availability. Both the dorms and camping were full, but seeing how drenched Lindsey was, the refugio manager took pity on us and allowed us to camp, paying 4000 Chilean Pesos (the rate for one person) instead of two so long as we promised not to tell anoyone on the trails about this. We kept thinking how lucky we were that we ran and passed all those parties on the trail because they too were looking to stay at the same place and would likely have some difficult decisions to make.

Who doesn't love hiking in the rain?!

Copy and paste link to check out this funny video: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benkunz/3319288022/

The campsite was truly full. People had pitched tents on 30-degree hillsides because that was the only space left. Ben found us a flat spot that was not part of the camping area (which we later got yelled at for), but we paid the price for this location: It was by the refugio sewer outlet. Every couple of minutes, strong wafts of someone else's business fumed into our tent. At least we had shelter.

To ease the plethora of unpleasantries, Ben slurged on a bottle of wine in the refugio ($12 USD is a total splurge for wine in this area). Surprisingly, despite conditions (and oh yeah, we forgot the footprint for the tent, leaving the floor of the shelter soaked), we seemed to enjoy ourselves. Ironically, we've had very little alone time thus far on our trip, so being trapped in the tent with a bottle of wine wasn't all that bad. We thumb-wrestld (Ben won, 3:2) and beligerantly belted out all the songs we could think of that Ben knew at least 50% of the words to (which was like 4 songs).

It had rained all night and all morning, so with no chance to see the Torres, we packed up the dry stuff in plastic garbage bags, the wet tent on the outside of our pack, and headed down.

At the bottom, the rain subsided, the clouds cleared, and out came the Torres for about 45 glorious minutes before being reveiled in grey!
The magical moment when we actually got to see the famous Torres del Paine! That people manage to climb these torres is really something else.

Ben - always ridiculously stoked when he gets to see more mountains

Ben also got some close-ups of Jorge, our new mascot bird of prey.
Jorge, our favourite Andean hawk!

We decided to hike the road from the hosterias to the partk entrance to avoid getting gouged again by Torres Del Paine tourism ($25 USD per person to enter the park and another $5 per person each way to take a van from the park entrance to the hosterias and start of all the treks). We lost track of time gauking at the gianormous granite torres and realized we only had an hour to walk the road, so we ran the 6km instead, and once again once again managed to snag the last two seats on the bus!

Wet from rain and sweat, we gratefully took our seats, ate the one and only Snickers Ben had been carting around since the States, and watched the flamingoes and guanacos out the window back to Puerto Natales (PN).

Back in PN, we found our first hostel for the trip to spread out our drenched gear, and as luck would have it, our one nice in PN was the first night of the Banff Film Festival! How crazy is that, we thought, that people in Banff, Vancouver, and other NW cities need to get tickets far in advance for this amazing show and we could stroll into a random school gymnasium in Puerto Natales, Chile, 10 minutes beforehand, beers stashed in our bags, and proudly watch the Banff Film Festival!!?

We ran into the Canadian girls too from other legs of our trip!

After the show, we stumbled back to our hostel, cooked some more pasta, and crashed for a few hours before taking our bus to Punta Arenas and flight to Puerto Montt to start our next adventure: crazy Cochamó awaits--hasta pronto!
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benandlindsey on

Birthday updates
Hi all -

Thanks much for the wonderful birthday wishes and all the great comments! Beyond getting to see Santana, we had great birthdays!

Lindsey got her wish of some amazing Chinese food in one of the new, ritzy areas of Santiago (Los Condes). It was seriously the fanciest Chinese restaurant either of us had ever been in and the food did not disappoint!

I got my wish of renting bikes and touring some of the great sites of the city. I love touring cities on bikes and I love doing it even more when the bikes are painted green! Not to mention, the post bike huge pint of Stella Artois went down very nicely!!

Keep em coming!

benandlindsey on

THE Border
Ben and Lindsey...did you tell em about the Argentine border crossing??? Mr. John Morro you will appreciate this: the Chileans and Argentineans are adamant about fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat and food in general crossing the border. They confiscated our meagre supply of nuts and a chocolate bar at the airport...$200.00 U.S. fine for lying to them about food! Anyway at the high point of the Andes border on the way to Mendoza, Argentina, we spot an American kid gobbling down his banana in full view of the uniformed authorities... These guards quickliy inspected our bags...about 20 seconds worth of rustling and poking, maybe less, and just before we climbed back on the bus, the bus driver passed around a plastic bag for gratuities from us and gave it to the guards in full view. Everyone chuckled a little but the big laugh was the guard singling out Det wearing his shorts, of course, high up in those chilly peaks, asking if Det was going directly to the playas....(beaches) as if there are any remotely near anywhere we were headed! So the guard went off laughing and jingling his loot, snickering about playas and shorts!
P.S. everybody: Lindseys Spanish is muy bien!
Sal and Det

benandlindsey on

Re: Krill Oil
Hi Barb and Joe! Joe, thanks for the recommendation on the Krill Oil, and for being genuinely interested in our health. I'll look into it for sure!

Det should be at Sonne's by soon, so I hope you're enjoying a beer with him and watching the game! You missed a magical moment when Det and Ben were walking down the street in Mendoza, holding hands and swinging their arms in glee. Bring back memories? :)

Best to you both,

benandlindsey on

Re: THE Border
FYI - Sally, we finally found your message. Looks like you wrote to us while signed into our account!! :)

On an important note that Sally brought up about fees, etc. If you fly into or out of Argentina, as a US or Canadian citizen, you usually get hit with taxes, some a hight as $100. However, if you take a bus into the country, there is no fee. Just something to think about...oh, and the bus ride of the Andean pass from Santiago to Mendoza is the most beautiful pass I've been over, save for Highway 20 in the North Cascades, of course. It is well worth the couple extra hours of travel!


benandlindsey on

Re: Happy Trails!
Thanks, Bets!

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