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Monday, 05 May 2008

Hiking the "W": Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile - Page 3

Written by Alison Aitken
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As the rain hammered against our window and freezing wisps of wintry air seeped through the tin-lined walls of our Puerto Natales hostel, we lay huddled under the thick down duvet quietly questioning our decision to spend three nights camping out in the Southern reaches of Chilean Patagonia. Of course, given that our bags had been packed and repacked, equipment hired and bus tickets bought, there really was no going back. Come 6am, we were scurrying around the dimly lit room looking for odd socks and anything else that might have fallen under the bed, before dashing outside to board the waiting bus.

 

As the meagre light began to fade, we were delivered to a beautiful shingle beach, littered with the haunting skeletal forms of silky grey deadwood. The equally picturesque Los Cuernos were not far away. We used what remained of our energy to explore the site - pressing our noses hopelessly against the windows of the definitively shut but nonetheless cosy-looking refugio, before retreating to our austere little encampment among piles of horse dung and boulders. As a result of the wildfire accidentally set by a now infamous Czech hiker in 2005, Los Cuernos is one of the only sites in the park where fires are permitted. After much stoking and blowing we managed to get a carefully supervised bonfire crackling nicely. Steaming socks and gloves soon adorned the fire pit, whilst we and our fellow campers huddled round, stamping our feet in search of warmth. The seemingly relentless drizzle eventually prevailed and as the fire fizzled out we retreated to our tents for another restless night.

 

Hiking the W: Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile, Chilean Patagonia, hiking Chile, travel south america, travel ChileWe rose early the following day. The sky had cleared and we stood in shivering awe admiring the lingering stars of the Southern Cross, as the icy ground crunched beneath our boots. A thin layer of snow had settled across the tent, and the landscape had changed once more. The granite stack looming above us was now swathed in snow. We had experienced four seasons in as many days. As we trekked up and out of the camp, picking our way across surging streams and into open land, we found much of the path obscured. Now reliant on a dwindling supply of dried fruit and the listing green markers to guide us, we zig-zagged our way through puddles and around bogs towards our endpoint – the Hosteria Las Torres. From here we hoped to catch a shuttle bus the remaining 7km back to the administration point and the bus back to civilization. Our slightly more determined companions pushed upwards to the Torres campsite, in the hope that the jagged Torres peaks would at some point emerge from the swaths of thick cloud now encircling them.Hiking the W: Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile, Chilean Patagonia, hiking Chile, travel south america, travel Chile

 

Using the last of our energy and willpower, we loped across the fields surrounding the plush new resort. Grubby and dishevelled, we stumbled through the empty car park and into the comfortable reception area. We were politely informed by the kind old receptionist that the shuttle too was now finished for the season. Looking at the clock behind him we realized that we had less than an hour to cover the remaining 7km to catch the once-daily bus back to Puerto Natales. Given our depleted food supply, there was no question of wanting to camp out for another night. Horrified but galvanized, we re-shouldered our packs and broke into a trot before even reaching the door. As the minutes sped past and the kilometres did not, our legs slowly turned to lead.

 

Just as it was starting to seem that the maliciously hilly little road was taking us absolutely nowhere, the glorious green tin roof of the administration hut came into view. With a final burst of energy, we bounded downhill, splashing through bogs and streams as we went. Hot showers, soft beds and a cold beer were within reach. As we collapsed onto the steps of the hut, trying to catch our breath, a sturdy little minibus pulled up outside. As we threw our bags into the back of the steamy little vehicle, we were grinning from ear to ear – and already planning a return visit the following summer.

Hiking the W: Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile, Chilean Patagonia, hiking Chile, travel south america, travel Chile

©Alison Aitken

(Page 3 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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