We went to all the places with red dots.

November 17 to December 23, 2010
Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil
This report was written by Jane

Introduction - I had gone to Patagonia 18 years ago, while living in Paraguay .  I lived in Paraguay for 9 years so I could speak Spanish, which really helped on this trip as they do not speak English in the remoter parts of Chile and Argentina.  Robert did not speak Spanish so he had to rely on me to translate things for him.

In hindsight, November & December are not the best months to go to Patagonia.  March or April would be much better because then you are not in high season, which is January and February, and you are less likely to be drenched in weeks of rain and cold.

Chile - Wednesday, November 17 & 18 - Robert and I flew from Atlanta, Georgia, USA and arrived in Santiago, Chile the next morning where we caught another flight the same day down to Punta Arenas, with a quick layover in Puerto Montt. At the airport in Santiago we had no trouble getting through customs.  I had declared that I had food.  When they asked me to open my bags they only barely went through what I had.  They queried the freeze dried peas but my homemade granola bars, dried fruit and nuts, powdered milk and other dried food went through with no trouble.  It seems they were most worried about honey, sausage and other dried meats, of which I had none.


Our tent at Hostel Independencia, Punta Arenas, Chile

We got into Punta Arenas in the early afternoon and immediately went to the tourist information center in the airport where we got info on the penguin tour and where we could tent camp in town.  We caught a taxi which took us directly to Hostel Independencia.  They had a small patch of grass in the front yard where we pitched out tent.  The hostel had several rooms, two bathrooms, a computer room and TV room.  Not bad for US$5 per person to camp.  Eduardo, the owner, was very helpful in getting us informed about the area and what there was to do around there.  He called to reserve seats on the bus to see the penguins and the bus to Puerto Natales.


Magellanic Penguins at Pinguineras near Punta Arenas

The shuttle got to us at 16:00 and took us to the penguins reserve.  It was terribly windy and fairly cold.  We stayed there for just over an hour, with plenty of penguins walking around entertaining us.  In all a 4 hour trip with all the driving was US$30 per person.


The beach with penguins in and out of the water

When we got back to town we went by BUS SUR to pay for our tickets to Puerto Natales.  We later found that no bus companies accepted credit cards so be sure to carry cash.  We also went by the grocery store, which was expensive, to pick up some supplies for the next few days.

At the hostel we met some of the other residents.  Fabiana, a woman from Montevideo, Uruguay, traveling alone, and three young women, Marian, Francesca and Amethyst, from the US.  We spent a good time chatting with them about our and their past travels.  We would end up bumping into them a few more times while hiking in Chile.

"The W" at Parque Nacional Torres del Paine


View of the Torres from the road to the National Park

Friday, November 19 - The bus ride to Puerto Natales was 3 hours.  We were able to leave our big backpacks at the BUS SUR terminal while we walked around town and got a few more supplies.  At 14:30 we left Puerto Natales for Parque Nacional Las Torres del Paine.  The sky was mainly clear so we could see great views of the Torres on the ride over there.  The entry fee to the park was US$32 per person, which seemed a bit steep.  Then another $5 for the shuttle to the trailhead.


Jane & Robert on the trail to Campamento Torres

We repacked our backpacks and set off for Campamento Torres, Robert carrying about 45lb and me with about 40lb.  Unfortunately the first hour of the trail was a grinding hill so we had to take several breaks until we crested the hill.  We started off with just wind but eventually it started to snow on us.  It took 2 hours 45 minutes to the camp.  The sites, which were under trees, were really nice.  As we only got into camp at 20:30 we pitched the tent, had dinner and went to bed, tired, but cozy in the tent.

Las Torres

Saturday, November 20 - It was cold and still slightly snowing when we woke up so we lay in a bit.  It was our plan to leave the tent in place and hike to the Torres and look at the surrounding area.  At 9:30am we were just heading out of camp when we met up with the three girls we had met at the hostel in Punta Arenas.  They said they could not see the Torres at all as the cloud was so low and it was snowing.  So we went back to the tent and hung around the campground until after lunch.


Robert & Jane at the Torres overlook, where we could see nothing but white

It was a 40 minute hike up a steep hill to the Torres viewpoint with snow and wind all the way.  In fact the snow was hitting our faces so hard it hurt.  We hung around hoping the cloud would lift but we ended up not seeing the Torres at all.

 


Our camp at Campamento Torres

Sunday, November 21 - We woke up to about an inch of snow on the ground.  We had breakfast and packed up.  We hiked for 7 hours (with one 20 minute and one 30 minute break) to Refugio Los Cuernos.  There was a bit of light snow at the beginning of our hike but it cleared and it was a pleasant hike the rest of the way.  There was however quite strong wind which would whip up the water from the lake and spray it on us.  So, even though it wasn't raining we still got damp.  We were tired by the time we got to camp and quite ready to drop everything and put up the tent.


The colors were simply unbelievable with the red flowers and turquoise lake

We paid US$5 per person to tent camp, which included hot showers.  We got the tent set up, had dinner, then went to shower.  The water pressure was very low so only a trickle of water came out, but it was hot.  I then sat inside the shelter by the fire stove until my hair was dry.  Robert spent some time down at the water's edge taking awesome photos of the clouds and water spray caused by the wind.  Every photo was a poster as the views of the lake and mountains were spectacular.


This shows the wisps of water being forced into the air from the lake by the wind downdrafts

By 22:00 we were both in our sleeping bags, but the wind was blowing so hard that it sounded like a freight train going by inches from our tent.  That went on all night.  Robert was very glad he had taken the 4 season tent and not the lightweight 3 season as it would never have held up in that wind.

 

Chile
& The W
Torres del
Paine
Mount
Fitz Roy
Bariloche
& Esquel
Island of
 Chiloe
Paraguay /
Brazil


For comments contact Jane at 
jburke@gtcreations.com
December 2010