April 17, 2017

Chile | Torres Del Paine National Park

Legendary Torres Del Paine National Park is a place unlike any other.  Its remoteness and pristine raw beauty are reason enough for so many people to make the long journey here.  When we first started planning this trip, naturally this was one of the first destinations we researched.  The question was, would we do the famous W Hike or something different?  Because we ended up planning a long journey through Chile & Argentina, we opted not to do the W Hike.  Instead, we would spend two nights in campsites and see as much as we could.  Before we actually got into the park, we joined a full day tour of the park out of Puerto Natales.  This gave us a chance to see a couple places that we would not see during our stay in the park.  Unfortunately, it rained most of that day, but we were fortunate enough to venture across the park and see Glacier Grey in the distance from a huge beach.

Inside the park on our first day, we may have been the only people from our bus that were not doing the W Trek.  As we watched people carrying huge packs, we carried just our day packs with some extra clothes for our 2 night stay.  We hiked out to the Mirador Lago Nordenskjold which was spectacular and the weather could not have been any better.  We bussed back to the Laguna Amarga station, then another shuttle to the Torre Central campsite for our first night, with the Torres in sight.  After an awesome refugio meal, we settle into our tents and slept through a howling wind.  The next morning we started our trek towards Refugio Chileno.  At first the weather was good, but after we started our ascent, it would not stop raining for 30 straight hours.  As we slogged into Chileno, we dropped our packs and continued up to the Torres with only snacks and my camera.  At this point, our waterproof clothes were saturated and we knew we would not see the Torres.  It seemed to take forever to get up to the famous viewing point and when we finally arrived, the freezing rain and wind drove us down after only 20 minutes.  It was another few hours back into Chileno and the rain did not let up.  Everyone crowded into the tiny refugio with its wood burning stove.  Luckily the beer was very cold and was well deserved!  Our tent that night was on a platform built into a steep hillside which made it extremely difficult to actually reach it.  It didn't make any difference if you fell down...we were soaked and muddy already.

Cold and damp is how we woke up on our last day in the park.  The rain was still coming down.  Eager to get away from it, we hurriedly ate breakfast in the refugio (all meals in the refugios, including the packed lunches were great!) and started the descent back to Torre Central.  Finally, we escaped the rain and it was such a relief.  We were able to dry ourselves out for a few hours before the last bus to Puerto Natales.  These 2 days in the park were quite unforgettable.  Despite the horrendous weather on day 2, the park was beautiful.  And despite the fact we did not see the famous Torres, we saw plenty of jaw dropping scenery.

March 18, 2017

Chile | Punta Arenas

We made a brief two night stop in Punta Arenas, flying in from Puerto Varas. One of the southernmost cities in the world, Punta Arenas is the launching point for many Antarctic expeditions. We saw several expedition members scattered around town in their matching jackets. Punta Arenas left a lot to be desired. We considered doing one of the penguin tours, but they were all insanely expensive without any food included. We opted instead to just walk around town and explore on our own. We visited some of the historic mansions, and enjoyed a nice afternoon looking over the city. In hindsight, we should have immediately boarded a bus to Puerto Natales when we landed, but it was good to get a little taste of such a remote city.

February 21, 2017

Chile | Puerto Varas

Following our stay on the charming island of Chiloe, we made our way few hours back up north to the lakeside town of Puerto Varas.  In the mid 19th Century there was a large influx of German immigrants, who brought their architecture and love of good chocolate and well crafted beer with them.  We had a very brief two nights in Puerto Varas, and were fortunate enough to stay at the wonderful Guest House Puerto Varas.  Originally home to a large family, the house now welcomes travelers to its awesome shared living spaces and delicious breakfast.  We had some really goo food while in Puerto Varas, especially at La Gringa, and Costumbrista.  We also enjoyed the small food truck park for tacos and coffee, and the pop up Christmas market featuring local products.  Now it was time to really head south into the heart of Patagonia.