A couple astute observations from Patagonia thus far:
- They have switched all the hot and cold water knobs. Probably a practical joke on los gringos.
- It is quite a challenge to pee standing up as most toilet seats do not stay up on their own.
El Calafate has provided a respite from the harsh, but fun climate of Buenos Aires in preparation for Torres del Paine. The biggest challenge here is waking up by 9:30 for the free breakfast. A welcoming assortment of bread, cereal, coffee, juice and raw eggs available to cook. It is easy to get sucked into endlessly refilling your coffee cup and turning paperback pages. El Calafate is a wonderful place to rest and utilize as a jumping pad to other spots, but does not necessarily provide a plethora of daily activities. Fine by me for a couple days. The peak of each day is sunset…
Everything is quite charming other than a rabies scare when a shit little dog bites you. Probably because he knows you hate shit little dogs. I hate shit little dogs. If I had a picture of this dog I wouldn’t post it because he deserves no fame or further recognition. Where ma big dogs at?? This punk was domestic, but there could be an entire blog about the Dogs of Calafate. They are in better health than the gutter punks of haight st, and appear to wash their fur more than Blake Cole. (Shampood today for the first time this trip and feel pretty good about it) Every dog has their day I guess 😉 Also sincere congrats to you Blake on MIT, you smarty pants! If you don’t know what to do with your life just go back to school, or travel.
Y’all probably want to hear about Torres del Paine, or you didn’t, but now you do. It feels a bit contrived to provide a description of each day, or at least it does the park an injustice to reveal all it’s secrets. I think half the fun of a trip like this is, as much as you look at iconic photos beforehand, it provides you with maybe 1% of the actual views and 0% of the emotions. As much as you mentally and physically prepare, it is never what you imagine.
In regards to preparation, I did very little other than show up with the right gear. Websites will tell you to reserve campsites and permits. Upon arrival, hostels and fellow travelers will exhaust you with their detailed plans and printed reservations. At least during the fringe or off-season, like now, I wouldn’t worry. Just get there and figure it out. Don’t quote me however if you somehow get turned around. Just bring a warm sleeping bag and clothes because it’s cold as tits at night.
The park reminds me a lot of Yosemite in regards to the traffic it sees. But like Yosemite, if you venture into the wild for a few days, you will find the solitude you seek. Don’t look at weather reports. They will tell you “It’s Patagonia, don’t ask about the weather,” and they are right. A sunny forecast can mean rain and winds, but a rainy forecast can also mean bluebird skies. Be prepared for anything, and definitely cold nights.
The only way to describe the park is extreme. From tame bright torquiose lakes to thundering glaciers and jagged mountains. Clouds move faster than you and swarm to the mountain peaks. My fortunate timing during falls revealed wonderful fall colors that painted the hillsides in earthy tones. Rivers flow throughout valleys and provide ample drinking water. Supposedly you an just bring a cup in lieu of water bottles. Glaciers and snow cover the mountains year round and provide constant warning of the constantly changing conditions and harsh environment you at hiking in. Every mountain has its own character and looms over you each day. The intensity of the environment really sets in slowly as it feels impossible to recognize the magnitude of where you are. Just looking back on photos now helps the enormity of Patagonia’s beauty sink in.
The hiking itself is long, but not terribly difficult. Remember to look up as much as possible without tripping. The only word you need to know is ‘hola’ for the passing hikers. Camping is provided in designated sites. I really don’t think it’s a good idea to camp outside of these areas. Part of the park was burnt down by some dummy who camped out of boundaries and tried burning his toilet paper. Don’t be that dude. The one rule I would break, but again don’t quote me, is camping at Campamento Torres if they say it’s full. You want to be there to catch sunrise at Las Torres. Find a bush to camp behind if you have to. They won’t kick you out if you show up at sunset. Likely there will be open spots anyway. Do this for your last night and walk back to the park entrance with the biggest grin, mainly in anticipation of a shower and dreamy dinner.
Go for as long as you can and don’t let the weather deter you. Four to eight days is what’s up. Then go back in for another week like many do! Maybe a bit earlier than April would be recommended though, to gain access to all the park before seasonal closures. It’s pretty much winter here now.
So much of this trip is finding peace and stokedness in being solo. I think I found much more in my time in the park. However, if you show up alone, don’t expect to be alone for too long if you don’t want to. This brings me to my People from around the Globe highlight of the week and the two unlucky travelers who I have been sharing much of my Patagonia experience with so far.
I met Dan and Leila at the grocery store in Puerto Natales on the Sunday night before heading into the park the next morning. Word of wisdom is to not go to Puerto Natales on a Sunday. Everything is closed and you will be forced to forage through the grocery store for what little options remain for backpacking food. The only sure bet was alcohol. Of which I bought a bottle of rum, and they purchased the same… in addition to three boxes of wine. I complemented them on their purchase in line not expecting to see them again. The next morning on the boat ride into the park we found ourselves once again next to each other. Similar to encounters with all other awesome people I have met, it was quickly easy to recognize that we would continue hanging. Grateful to have met these two as we shared much of the hiking together and a couple nights swapped spirits and stories. Ultimately we watched sunrise at Las Torres under the warmth of sleeping bags and coffee. I think my time hiking and camping solo was that much better because it was complimented by the time I also got to share with these two. Yin yang or something.
Dan, a cheeky bloke hailing from the UK is on a year long walk about through Central and South America. Leila, a damsel from Canada on an adventure through South America before embarking on the adventure of Law School. One of these adventures is arguably more dangerous. The humor between these three different English speaking countries is how you say, humorous. Certainly makes 6 hour bus rides more tolerable. Apologies to the French girl next to us for my attempt to learn French in a single bus ride.
The three of us are now back in El Calafate nursing sore limbs and dirty clothes. I’m mending my relationship with the pups of this town as well. We’re doing alright now. Day by day my Spanish improves and my black nikes turn less black. It’s fun as hell down here. Some photos from the trekking below->
Toast, Jamon y queso, chorizo and grilled veggies. And far too many, I ate something bad last night I think. 😦