It’s been over a week since we finished our trek in Torres del Paine and it has given us time to comprehend, reflect and really absorb what we experienced. We loved it at the time but at times it was just so tough, it made the enjoyment difficult to understand. It only took a few days for our cries of “I will never trek again” and “I won’t wear shoes for a month”, to turn into both Kayla and I longing to experience something similar again. Such is the power of Torres del Paine.
When I started the journey I was completely taken aback by the incredible popularity of Torres del Paine and more specifically the infamous ‘W’ trek. I could not for the life of me understand how this one national park, only 4 hours south of Parque Nacional Los Glaciars and about 14 hours north of Tierra del Fuego and the ‘end of the world’ Ushuaia, could become this popular just for having a glacier and some granite spires. I spent days pondering why this one National Park could be such a magnet for the obviously unfit – we saw people on this trek who were clearly not up to undertaking a multi-trek, some were overweight, some were over the age of 60, and some just seriously looked like they were not enjoying it at all. Don’t get me wrong, I take nothing away from these people and actually admire them – especially the older folk who did it – they all did something that was clearly out of their comfort zone.
But Torres del Paine has something else, something that took a few days to get. Something I am having trouble putting into words even after thinking about this for a week. We started the trek by doing the ‘tail’, which is the bottom part from the Administration to Paine Grande and we did this to get a sense of wonder about what lay ahead of us. At the time I think the gravity of the undertaking had hit us harder than we thought and it wasn’t until we had finished most of the ‘W’ and started on the back circuit that we started to really get a sense of what we were experiencing. During our days on the ‘W’, we were at our most tired, sore and uneasy. After about the 5th day, nothing really hurts anymore and you are truly enjoying the Parque (obviously this would not be the case for everyone but we had heard this is a very common feeling) which I think was compounded by starting the back circuit and getting away from the masses. On the back circuit we saw on average 5 people a day, which is a far cry from the 50+ you would encounter on the ‘W’, you also get to know the people who were doing the same thing and you start to develop a camaraderie and friendship with these people. We were lucky enough to meet a great Australian couple and a group of travelling hipster, banjo playing Americans who all helped make those 5 days a great experience. The back circuit seemed far more relaxed, the scenery was maybe a bit nicer (if thats possible), and had a great feel about it in general. From the walks through the daisy fields to the glacier lake I swam in and the view from ‘The Pass’, everything about the back circuit makes for an incredible experience. I often wonder what it was that made it so special and I think it was just the combination of the people, the scenery and of the course the weather – 1 rainy day, 2 overcast days and 8 scorching hot days is something special on its own in Torres del Paine.
Before starting this trek we attended the Erratic Rock information session and we took in as much advice as possible. As such we really do not have any regrets as the advice they give is everything you need to know and totally invaluable. If we were to do it again we would however take a LOT more snacks – chocolates, biscuits, chips or anything that is calorie dense. We had enough food and survived – although we both lost several kilos – but those little treats are so much more rewarding and actually useful when undertaking such a big physical activity. We had to buy our chocolates and other snacks from the Refugio as stupidly inflated prices (which funnily enough were very similar to Australian prices). And we would also take insect repellant. We thought about this before hand, but the pharmacies here didn’t sell any with Deet, only an expensive aerosol kind that looked average so we passed. Big mistake. Despite being in patagonia there are a LOT of mosquitos and flies, which drove us nuts.
So there you have it. That is our experience with Torres del Paine, through all the highlights and the lowlights, we truly had one of those experiences we could only have dreamed about. With only a couple of weeks left in Patagonia it was a timely reminder of just how surprisingly calm and pristine such a rugged and wild region can be. We are off to Punta Arenas and the Ushuaia to round out the Patagonian leg of our South American adventure. Hopefully our awesome luck with the weather continues in Tierra del Fuego and when we start out adventure northward. I know I speak for both of us when I say we are both super-excited to see what the northern parts of this wonderful continent will show us.