We made it successfully to our hotel in Torres Del Paine National Park. This park is a huge place, and it is 75KM from the nearest gas station, so you must fill up before hand. We used almost all of our gas getting there, driving around and back to Puerto Natales. We do have spare gas so I wasn’t worried about it though. The roads are really good compared to others we have been on – not too many pot holes, and really not to hard to drive. We arrived at our hotel which was very nice, almost too nice for having kids at – but we showed up, and promptly proceeded to wash our clothes in the tub/sink and hang them all over our bathroom. Probably a no-no in such a fancy place but we needed clean clothes…
The park is a huge place. Most people with tents and ‘gear’ do the W trek – it’s a 4 day hike around the park where you can sleep near refuges and have a nice tent site. There are no fires permitted, but food is available at the refuges so you can take and pack less than you normally would. You can even rent a tent which is nice so you wouldn’t need to pack that. We did the hike to view the actual “torres del paine” – it’s 11km one way, with about a 3000 ft vertical gain. it’s just a constant grind up, but pretty smooth, not many switch backs and easier than other hikes we have done. When you get to the top section it becomes a huge rock boulder field and you are exposed to the high winds – but it’s only 1 KM of your entire hike. Once at the top you get to see amazing things, including a great lake at the top. The trail is simply up and down the same path. There is water available along the route as well via streams so you don’t need to pack a bunch of water up either. At the top it was quite cold with the wind blowing it was probably 40F – so we had our hats, jackets and gloves on. The motto for all these places is definately “be prepared” for all weather conditions.
After doing the hike we met up with some people we met on the navimag ferry and had dinner with Marc at his hotel. Marc is a facinating guy – started working in London when he was 15 years old as a hair dresser – he is now one of the world’s top hair dressers – and goes all over the world prepping models, actors, etc. hair. He was flying out Monday from Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt, to Santiago, to Madrid, to London. Then the next day he flies London to New York for a shoot. The boys took a liking to him and he’s a great person to talk with. We ended up leaving the hotel at 11 pm and then proceeded to drive our hour back to our hotel – in the dark, in a national park with lots of animals, etc. The roads aren’t really marked so I’m extra glad I had my zombie lights on the car.
Boat Ride Anyone? So the next day we woke up and the snow had set in. Thinking to myself – man there sure were a lot of guys hiking up yesterday with summer-type tents and gear – very glad that I slept in my bed and not in a tent in the wind, rained and snow at elevation. If you have the right gear it’s not a problem, but if you don’t, well a fun experience it is not. So in looking around for something to do we decided to take a boat ride to see the glacier on Lago Grey. The winds were blowing about 40 knots across the lake and down from the glacier – so the waves were breaking above the windows going to the glacier – which felt like you were inside of a car wash the entire time. Once there it’s a pretty spectacular site – with some ice bergs and lots of glacier to see from the boat. We did the touristy walk on deck, take photos, get cold and come back inside for the ride back to the base. The amazing thing about the glacier were the ice colors and the rock that you could see where the glacier had been and how it has cut the rock out. The lakes are all green with glacier water and pretty, but very cold.
Horseback Ride? On our last day in the park it was raining, but also very, very windy – forecast for guest up to 100km/h (60 mph) – not fun hiking weather and especially not up and exposed like were were on the torres del paine rock field. Since we are all very brave after being in Idaho on a dude ranch and of course like our “ponies” – we elected for a horseback ride. I do have to comment that the last time Cindy and I were in Chile we went on a horseback ride. I think that time my horse was named “el diablo” and cindy’s “crazed wild animal”. We didnt get to be bronc busters on that trip, but that experience did have me a bit cautious about getting on a horse in Chile… The ride left from the hotel so we didn’t have to go anywhere – but was very windy – blowing water/mist from the river into us and spooking my horse during the ordeal. The goucho’s here ride with purpose and our guide was no different – his horse always looked very tense, while ours looked pretty passive. My horse was the mean one of the bunch, always wantng to bite or kick the otheres – and not wanting to listen to me – maybe it’s my english? We rode for awhile out into the wind, then were able to turn around and go through the woods – which cut the wind considerably. Everyone did great – and Gavin kept having his hat slip over his eyes, but hung in there with everyone else. Cindy’s horse slipped and fell – I looked back to see my wife hanging forward over her horse who was on the ground and she almost goes over the horses head. The horse got back up and she was sitting on it’s neck – but then managed to get back in the saddle. Everyone on our end was ok, the horse might have a sore neck though.
We left yesterday for the drive to Punta Arenas on the “Ruta del fin del mundo” – route to the end of the world… got a flat tire on the way – but should be fixed tomorrow. We met a guy on our boat who is riding a motorcycle from the US down to the tip of south america. In Peru he blew his cylinder (he has one) – had to strap his motorcycle to the top of a taxi and take a 16 hour taxi ride to the shop. So I guess getting a flat and being delayed by a day is no big deal. It let’s us update the blog, find a laundry place and hang for a day.