Even though we have driven through a little of Chile, this is our first stop here. Torres Del Paine is a national park featuring a few cool excursions and some incredible nature walks with stunning views. We are camping just outside the entrance to the national park at the Rio Serrano camping grounds. Well equipped with hot showers and decent undercover seating space, it is one of the more “luxurious” camp grounds. The area in and around the national park hosts snow-capped mountains, river filled valleys and glacier blue lakes. The weather is generally cold as you have the wind sweeping over the famous Glacier Grey but expect 4 seasons in a day.
The Torres Del Paine National Park
The Torres Del Paine National Park is located in southern Chile about 112 km north of Puerto Natales which we stopped at earlier to do a 6 day shopping spree while in the park. There are amazing views to be had wherever you are in the park. Glaciers, snow-capped mountains, valleys with glacier blue rivers and lakes. There was a devastating fire in Torres Del Paine at the beginning of this year which destroyed about 128 km squared which is quite sad but does provide an interesting contrast with the rest of the park. On a good day, the temperature averages at around 15 deg celcius in summer so warm clothes are a must, especially if you plan on taking one of the many nature trails and hikes into the mountains. There is wildlife to be seen in the park such as Condors and Huanacos (which are from the Llama family) but the main attractions in Torres Del Paine is the Grey Glacier and the Torres Del Paine which are the three mountain peaks in the image featured on the right.
With 5 days to spend in the Torres Del Paine national park, there were a few good excursions to keep everyone busy. The two that follow I did not partake in as I did not feel they were worth it but the kayaking I did do. One option was to jump on horse back and go riding along various nature trails in the park. Trips lasted between 2 – 4 hours depending on what people felt up to and from all reports, most people seemed to really enjoy this excursion. People were given the freedom to take their horse for a little gallop every now and then which we were not allowed to do when horse riding in the Pantanal and that seemed to be the highlight for most. The excursion cost 45 000 Chilean pesos.
Another excursion was the Graciar Grey boat trip. Strange how all the excursions cost the exact same amount (this also being 45 000 Chilean pesos). A boat took a large group of passengers on the lake up to the Glaciar Grey (Grey Glacier) and gave everyone some photo opportunities (either with your own camera or making use of the professional photographers on-board after which you could buy the photos or a DVD of the entire excursion. For the most part, people seemed to think that this trip was not worth the money. Some did enjoy it though so I guess its a matter of what floats your boat (doh!).
Of the available excursions, the one I did choose to do was the iceberg kayak trip. Also costing 45 000 Chilean pesos, it included all gear, the guide and the kayak. It was a two hour trip starting on the shore of the Grey Glacier lake. We had a debriefing on how to use a kayak and all that. I have kayaked in the past and Joel has past experience so there was little challenge for us :P After the informational extras and all kitted up, we hit the lake in our kayaks at full speed. It was about 1.5 km to the iceberg each way. There were three or four icebergs floating about in the lake however the wind was rather persistent and therefore we only stopped at the first one (which apparently was further than the guide usually takes clients but he determined we were all quite proficient in the kayaks so took us the extra mile).
It was a pretty awesome excursion in my opinion. The day before was spent hiking so my legs were rather stiff. This was the workout for the arms and chest to help balance everything out :P . It did feel good to be active again after all the hours spent sitting / sleeping on the truck during those long drive days (which thankfully are almost over). From here, we cross back over into Argentina for the next 14 or so days visiting places like El Calafate, El Chalten and Bariloche.
Nature Trails and Walks
There are many trails and hikes available in the park. The most famous one being the “W Trek” which can be done in 3 days but it is recommended to take 5 days to do it. 5 of the guys in our group decided last moment to do it and they managed to compete it in 3 days. They all raved about it saying it was an amazing hike with some spectacular views. I did a hike up one arm of the W to the base of the Torres Del Paine mountains with a few of the others. Took about 7 hours in total and was quite a spectacular trek. Crossing rivers, walking through jungle-like sections and scrambling up rocks to the top. It had some challenging sections but its easy enough for a beginner. There is also the option of doing sections of the trek on horseback as well as other horse-specific trails and treks which can be done. If you love nature, you will love the Torres Del Paine National Park.