Week 8: Christmas in Puerto Natales & Torres Del Paine

The W trek  in Torres Del Paine National Park is kind of like Peru’s equivalent of Machu Pichu and the main reason people come to Puerto Natales. It is almost impossible to get a booking for the trek because it has become so popular. People are paying hundreds to thousands to do this trek as part of a tour.  It was something I really wanted to do but resided to the fact that it was fully booked and I would most like just be able to do a day hike (as opposed to a 4 day trek) not willing to pay mega books. Luckily the beauty of travelling solo it’s easier to find last-minute deals and I was lucky enough to find a spot camping! Delira I started my ‘preparation’ for the following day.

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View from the entrance of Torres Del Paine National Park

I was a little bit worried about doing the trek because I haven’t had a proper nights sleep in 5 days. Last night was no exception. While shivering in the crappy tent I realized I had  lost my phone. I tried to re trace my steps and realized I last had it at the supermarket. At 2 am in the morning I decided the best option was to run to the supermarket in the hope of finding it. Amazingly the phone was just sitting on a bench. This is the same phone that I lost in Times Square in New York 3 years ago and subsequently got delivered to Temple Street. Myself and the poor phone have been around the block.  V v lucky.  In fairness the 30 minute run warmed me up so I wasn’t complaining and I was just so grateful to have my phone. When I eventually got back to the hostel my tent had blown away so I had to try to pitch it again in the darkness and rain not ideal. I can’t even explain how strong the winds are in Patagonia.

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My new neighbor has a better sleep set up than me!
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My other neighbors and professional tent advisers

At this stage it was almost time to get up for the 6 am bus to Torres Del Paine. A rough start to some tough days ahead.  I genuinely can’t remember being this tired. On the boat over to the national park I was trying to see if I could suss out any potential mates or solo travelers to share a tent with. When your this cold all shame goes out the window and I was genuinely serious. This was proving difficult with lots of jolly couples. There was one German lad who once again was having none of me. It look liked I would be flying solo in my sad excuse of a tent!  My first day I pitched the tent in Paine Grande (with the help of a Swiss couple). I did a 9 hour round trip to Glacier Grey and Lago Grey. They were beautiful. Weather in Patgonia is so unpredictable and changes all of the time. It’s renowned for it’s incredibly vicious winds which I was experiencing first hand. I got stuck in torrential rain  and got soaked. The rest of the day was fairly grim as I was absolutely frozen.  Keeping my head down to try to avoid the icy winds and rain I ended up falling over a tree. I did something to my thigh nothing major but walking was even more of a challenge.

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Day 1 trekking en route to Glacier Grey
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Beautiful Glacier Grey
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Lago Grey’s wildlife

I eventually managed to crawl back into the camp for ‘dinner’. Because I got a last-minute deal for the trek I was slightly un-organised ( wouldn’t be like me). Everyone around me had hot stoves, gas cookers, the complete works and steaming food. I on the other hand  had just brought some left over rice from the night before’s dinner. What I hadn’t planned was the fact I had no cutlery or a bowl so once again sitting there in wet clothes eating cold rice with my hands. Quite a grim image. This trek is un doubatably harder on your own because you have to carry absolutely everything yourself from tent to food to cooking equipment so mates are advisable for this trek! Things started to pick up from here. I got chatting to a Chilain guy who is actually a guide so he took pity on me and gave me thermals for the night and some hot water. Life saving. The next morning after a sleepless night breakfast was oats, cold water, peanuts, raisins and dule de leche. It was delish except for the chill factor. I had to make breekie in a plastic bag *due to lack of bowel (I found a spoon in the bathroom so happy days).

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View from my tent in Paine Grande

2nd day trekking was gorgeous with all the elements testing us sun, wind, rain and snow.  Another 8 hour round trip I rushed home to catch the last boat out Paine Grande delira to say good bye to the windy campsite.

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Getting stuck in a blizzard in Francis Valley

My new mate Fabian had a car so I was so lucky after the boat he took me for the most amazing drive around the national park that evening (instead of paying for the expensive bus). Afterwards we cooked dinner together in the boot of his car; pasta with tomato and tuna never tasted so good. I was in charge of the booze so made mulled wine (essentially just hot wine with some orange yum).  Afterwards I pitched my tent in the darkness with once again the help of some locals with beautiful views of the following mornings challenge.That night it was less windy and although still freezing I managed to get a little bit of shut-eye.

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Evening Drive around Torres Del Paine

Day 3 I  trekked to the infamous Torres Del Paine. At this stage I had run out of oats so breakie consisted  of dulce de leche, milk powder and peanuts.  The trek was tough enough but the weather was gorgeous so despite feeling absolutely nackered I really enjoyed it. I spent about an hour at the top. It was glorious.  I have to say I underestimated the W trek. The trekking itself is fine but the days are quite long and on empty stomachs, really tough weather conditions and carrying all your accommodation makes for a great challenge in a spectacular setting. There were people doing 8 day treks in the park which personally I think would be too much for me.  I eventually made it back to the hostel at about 11pm. It was  fully booked so I had to resort to pitching the tent once again ( a professional at this stage). One of the guys gave me his sleeping bag that night and it made such a difference I slept like a baba.

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Day 3 en route to Torres Del Paine
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Relief!

I absolutely loved Refugio Hosken in  Puerto Natales it had such a lovely family atmosphere a perfect place to spend Christmas. Everyone there was from Chile so it was perfect for practicing my Spanish too.  They were all big into cooking are were constantly baking bread and cakes. I was in my element.  A place you could easily get stuck in.  Christmas isn’t as big a deal  as at home with virtually no build up or anticipation. They celebrate with a big meal on the 24th with very little happening on the 25th.  Christmas this year was always going to be different but it was a sad one this year. Mam rang me  on Christmas eve to say our dog Benjy had suddenly died. We had him for 13 amazing years and it was so tough being so far away from home and not being able to give him a hug ( Ben is the only once allowed to hug me).  This was the first time I was grateful for the tent as I was about to take some time to myself. I cried for the whole day even in the supermarket. A stranger kindly gave me their sunglasses to cover up my mess of  a face in the supermarket. I pretended I was a celebrity. I will never forget Ben and how much happiness he brought us all.

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One of my favourite photos of Ben in Corpus Christy braving Storm Ophelia

Everyone in the hostel were really kind to me and we all chipped in to make dinner for 20 people that night.  The distraction was the best thing I could have asked for.  There was no mention of a turkey or ham and menu for the night was boiled sausies, rice and salads and of course mayonnaise. I have never met a nation more obsessed with mayonnaise. In fairness the mayonnaise was homemade. Christmas day was v chilled with more boiled sausies, eggs and rice on the menu for lunch.  I spent the day learning guitar drinking vino and eating homemade cake. I couldn’t have asked for nicer people and it was definitely a memorable Christmas.

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Christmas Eve Chilain Style

 

So with my friend Martha leaving Porto Natales I had to return the tent. As an early Christmas Present to myself I decided to treat myself to a brand new tent, inflatable mattress and extra hot sleeping bag.  Absolutely delira with my new purchase I set up my new house and had one of the best sleeps since coming to Chile.  Obviously I didn’t even consider  the extra couple of kg of weight. The usual impulsive Ró go the better of me (I know Lucie you warned me).

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Views of Puerto Natales
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Views from the town of Porto Natales

Leaving beautiful Puerto Natales to try out my new ‘house’ in Ushuaia.

 

2 thoughts on “Week 8: Christmas in Puerto Natales & Torres Del Paine

  1. Ro…amazing story …what an experience you had made in Patagonia…glad you make it through…hopefully you had learn a good lesson…always plan ahead whatever you do in life…otherwise there is always a price to pay…
    Sorry to hear about your dog…
    Looking forward to hear your next story…
    Love Seong

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great again Róisín.

    The carrying must be a killer!

    And I see you have discovered dulce de leche.

    I’m so sorry for you about Benji but it seems as if Christmas was good just the same.

    Big hug

    Like

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