Day 0. Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine Campamento Centrale.
I have booked the afternoon bus shuttle into the Torres del Paine National park. I am tired, I didn’t sleep well in the hostel and so I sleep in the bus before waking up to a beautiful landscape. At the Laguna Armaga check point we have to get out, pay the expensive entrance fee of 21,500 pesos and watch a movie on park rules. My camping site is some 7km further on the road and another shuttle bus takes me there (I already paid 8,000 pesos for the first bus from Puerto Natales, now another 3,000 pesos. Torres del Paine is expensive!). At the campsite I set up my tent and walk around a bit before deciding to cook. When I look for a table to cook on, I can’t believe my eyes: I just ran into Ryan and Jane who I met on the Antarctica cruise! Chile is apparently a very small country in the end.
We have dinner together and then walk to the dining room of the Refugio, very warm and cozy. A liter of wine in a box is not too expensive (especially not if I am invited in the end, thank you!!!) and we drink all of it, complemented by some whisky Ryan carried. It’s such a great evening, chatting and laughing and I am so happy to have met them now just when I needed it as I felt lonely.
Day 1. Campamento Centrale – Las Torres – Campamento Centrale. 20km.
A beautiful morning and sunrise. I can see the towers glowing behind the mountain and wish I was there already. But yesterday was too much wine and too much fun so getting started takes longer.
Ryan, Jane and I cook our porridge for breakfast around 8am and start walking around 9am. I am so happy to have company today. The first kilometers are rather flat, along the nice Las Torres Hotel (as a bed in a dorm of a Refugio costs already 55 USD this must be really expensive) and crossing the river on a bridge.
Then slowly but steady uphill. There are many other hikers, some already coming down from one of the campsites up the mountain. The whole touristy feeling is strange. There are horses to either carry up your backpack or even yourself. Ridiculously expensive but looking at some of the people here it might be necessary. Some seem to never have hiked before in their life and now hike and camp here. Some are at least part of a guided group. Some have porters carrying their gear. It doesn’t feel right but more like a tourist trap. Seems Torres del Paine has gotten too much interest and now everyone is trying to get their share of this money machine…
Anyhow we arrive after 2h at the Refugio and campground Chileno. After a short break we continue to hike through a colourful autumn forest. Further up but not yet too steep. After one hour we are at the intersection to the free Las Torres campsite (where I couldn’t get any spot) and now comes the steepest part.
It’s not that bad in the end (especially as I have a very lightweight backpack today), you can see how you get closer and closer to the Torres. Then we are at the lake with view of the Torres peaks. It’s impressive and nice, but somehow I don’t feel overwhelmed and stunned. Maybe expectations were too high or the surrounding touristy feeling and many people make it less attractive. We still spend an hour up there, watching the towers, the lake, the people, taking pictures.
Finally it’s time to walk back down. The views are better now as there aren’t many clouds left and the valley ahead is soaked in sunshine. Back at Chileno camp we take another break before the final descent to the campamento Centrale.
I am very tired, a mix of hangover and not enough sleep, but I am quite happy and enjoy the company. I try to walk slowly but am still a bit faster than Ryan and Jane, especially as Ryan has problems with his ankle. Back at the campsite we just go for dinner and then into our tents around 8pm.
Day 2. Campamento Centrale – Campamento Dickson. 31km.
I slept like a baby last night, warm enough this time. We just made it to our tents before the rain started around 8.30pm. It rained a long time but when I get up at 7am it stopped. The sky is cloudy and foggy but it’s a bit warmer. There’s no sunrise and I start around 8am. After all those people yesterday I find myself all alone today. It’s a weird feeling, being on my own in the foggy landscape, having said goodbye to my friends yesterday. I am so happy I met them, it would be fun to continue together but I booked a campsite further ahead.
The trail is pretty easy today, slowly uphill for a while, then all the way down to Río del Paine and very flat until I reach after 3h already the Seron Campsite. I take a break and eat one of my sandwiches – the bread is very dry now but as I am hungry it doesn’t matter. There are still a few hikers around although it’s 11am and I chat with an Australian couple. There were mice on the tentsite last night, I just hope on the next one it will be better.
I still have quite a lot of kilometers to hike today and so I get going. Some more easy and flat part before its climbing up to a hill with great views on the mountains. Some parts are still hiding behind the clouds but the sky is clearing up. It gets very warm now in the sun and I enjoy the hike today.
I arrive at Coiron where there are toilets and my first ranger check in. I have to register in a book and show my booking for the next campsite. A few hikers are sitting around and seem pretty exhausted. As the trail is rather flat and easy, I don’t mind hiking another 9km today, overall 31km. I can even hike in my shirt now as it’s so warm. The view is getting better and better, a glacier, mountains, snow, the river…. I just look forward to a shower today! As I have to pay for most of the campsites here, they have at least hot showers, but not much more.
At 4pm I reach the Dickson campsite and Refugio. After setting up my tent so it can dry out, I have a nice and warm shower. I now have to face that one of my toenails is dead and just hanging loosely. I try to be brave and remove it completely. It doesn’t hurt but it’s such a challenge to look at it. Well,that’s done, first toenail lost.
I still have time to hang out at the river with view of the Dickson glacier and enjoy the sunshine, letting my hair dry. The campsite even has a sheltered cooking place, that’s much better than the previous one. It’s not raining today but it’s warmer inside the big bubble and easy to meet others.
Day 3. Campamento Dickson to campamento Los Perros. 11km.
As I couldn’t book all campsites as I wanted, I can sleep in today, having just 11km and only a few hundred metres of elevation waiting for me today. I stay as long as possible in my tent, reading and trying to sleep but with everyone outside being noisy I get up at 8.30am. I take my time so it’s finally 10.30am when I start to hike. It’s been cloudy at night but the clouds are slowly disappearing. It takes under an hour to the first mirador of the Dickson glacier and the mountains. I am already hungry now so I have a snack.
Then back into the forest for some more time. It’s strange how knowing it’s short day makes me feel more impatient to arrive. I check all the time how much further I have to hike although it’s an easy hike and the sun is shining. Maybe it’s the lack of something special, but that’s waiting for me at the very end. I get out of the forest and hike up the moraine, seeing a lot of other hikers up there. And then I get to a beautiful view of the Los Perros glacier, beneath a lake and around some more mountains. I walk around before just sitting and enjoying. Almost everyone already left when the clouds finally disappear completely, giving us the perfect glacier view.
From there it’s just 15minutes to the campsite Los Perros, well sheltered in the forest. I check in and set up my tent before going back out in the sun for some stretching. It’s just 4pm but I am already so hungry that I prepare a soup and some noodles. I hope I have enough food, I feel hungry all the time now…again 😉