Volunteer Work in Torres Del Paine
Torres Del Paine Travel Blog› entry 12 of 87 › view all entries
I have spent the last month in Torres Del Paine working as a volunteer within the national park with Agrupación Medio Ambiental, AMA for short. It is a nonprofit environmental organization that strives to conserve the natural environment of the surrounding areas of Torres del Paine National Park. AMA supports conservation projects, scientific research and environmental education around the park. Its efforts help reduce the negative impacts of tourism and the risk environmental problems, while maintaining the natural and cultural resources of the area.
While I was here there were two projects running, sign replacement and puma protection. The sign replacement project involved making the information signs throughout the main hikking trecks. These give hikkers essential information to navigate the park. It was enjoyable work as we got to see the finished project after many hours put in at the workshop.
The other project has been set up to help gather information on the endangered Puma. In the land surrounding the park there is a problem with farmers killing Puma. It is illegal to hunt the Puma in Chile but the farmers can obtain licences to kill if they have occured problems with them on their estancias. They need approx 20 sheep to have been killed by Puma.
The project is trying to gather information on how the Puma operates so that we can have a better understand of their habits. It is a long process to get the farmers to change their ways but the project is offering them a alternative view of the Puma that hasnt been considered before.
During my stay here with AMA there were 3 other volunteers, 2 from France and 1 from Brazil. While working on the puma project we all lived together on an estancia. This was an amazing experience as we had to learn to live with only the basics in life. The estancia has no electricity so all heat is generated using log fires. This means the wood has to be chopped and carried, so I learnt how to use a sledge hammer to cut wood. We did have hot water but this is heated using gas which is difficult to get to the estancia and expensive for the owner. As such hot showers were rationed.
Having no electricity means all food has to be prepared by hand. So now I am an expert baker, with fresh bread being made every day!
There are lots of other wildlife apart from the Puma in the park which are visible even in the Winter. Wildlife I saw while in the park include guanacos, ñandus (similar to ostrich), foxes, a skunk, condors, flamingos, woodpeckers and many other birds Im not sure of there names.
The main reason most people come to visit Torres Del Paine is to go hikking and the most popular trek is the 'W'. This walk goes past all the main highlights in the park including the Torres, Cuernos and Glacier Grey. Dont let anyone fool you its a tough trek, especially in autumn winter when there is a lot of snow, rain. ice and wind. However Im not a seasoned hikker so others might say different!
The walk is beautiful across rocky terain. The paths are well walked so very rarely could you fall of track. There are lots of different ways you can approach the walk so probably best to work this out before you go. You can either go with the plan to camp or stay in the refugios. The refugios are expensive but nice and cosy after a long hard day of walking. We stayed in three refugios during our walk as its so cold I didnt want to camp. The refugio we stayed in include Los Cuernos, Paine Grande and Las Torres. Defintitely for me Los Cuernos was the best of the three. The refugio is lovely and warm, the staff are friendly and the food is very good.
The weather in Patigonia changes so often that you can be walking in a snow storm to suddenly being in sunshine. Prepare for all eventualities here but remember anything you do pack you have to carry. Its a good idea to careful plan everything you are going to wear and eat to exact measurements - that way you dont have to deal with any extra weight.
My favourite thing in Torres Del Paine has to be the sky, its so beautiful. During sunset and sunrise you get the most intense beautiful reds, oranges, pinks, greens and blues filling the horizon. And at night the sky is alive with stars. Ive never seen so many in my life, you can barely take it all in there are so many. Worth the visit alone just to see the sky at night.
Theres so much to experience in this beautiful region that it should be a number one priority on anyones list coming to visit Chile.