Gone With The Wind

Torres Del Paine Travel Blog

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Salto Grande

DAY ONE (Getting there and Grey Glacier)

 I had high expectations for Torres del Paine, following Rusty's talk at the hostel the day before I left.  I didn't sleep very well the night before as I knew I had made a mistake with my refugio booking, which meant the itinerary I had planned wouldn't work in the 3 days I planned.  Most people do the 'W' circuit which takes about 5 days, but I'm short on time and I don't like camping much, so i opted for a shorter trip, hoping to fit the main sights in.  Carla wasn't around in the morning, so I left a message for her with Bill to try and change my booking and to let me know by contacting the Paine Grande refugio.

After Bill's great breakfast I was feeling better and got on my only-one-third-full bus to the park (an unbelievable CLP15,000/£20/$30 return to go only 100-odd km and back) at 7.

Tyson trekking
30am.  We arrived at the park entrance (Laguna Armaga) at about 10am and bought our entry tickets (another CLP15,000/£20/$30...but Chileans only pay CLP4,000!!) and got pur 'free' map of the park.  It was another half hour ride to the Catamarran stop at Pudeto, where, yes you guessed it, we had to fork out more money for the boat (CLP11,000 one way, CLP18,000/£22/$36 return).  We had about an hour til the 12pm ferry so I walked up to Salto Grande, a waterfall nearby with Tyson and Kerry, a Canadian couple I met on the bus.  They were trekking for 5 days and had all their camping gear with them and it looked bloody heavy!  We made it back down to catch the catamarran over to Pehue on the otherside of Lago Pehue (25 minute crossing) and the wind had already picked up, causing massive waves to crash over the boat.
At the mirador for Grey Glacier...trying to stay on two feet!
...really quite a strange feeling when you are on a lake....it felt more like being in the middle of the Atlantic!

We got to the other side safely enough in the end and right by the shore is the Paine Grande camp.  It has a magnificent setting, with the Torres range in the background and the turquoise Lago Pehue in front.  Just a shame that the people who run this site are complete arses.  I tried to check in and somehow they couldn't find my booking, basically telling me that I didn't have a reservation.  I gave them my confirmation slip, but still they were confused, so I stood around waiting for 20 minutes whilst various radio calls were made.  It was exactly what I didn't need, given I needed to actually tell them that I wanted to cancel the second night of my reservation anyway.

The odd iceberg floating around!!
  Christ, my broken Spanish, their mediocre English - one big mess.  Inge, the girl at reception, seemed incapable of helping me.  The radio was working ok when she needed to try and confirm my booking with her office, but it was the most difficul thing in the world to use when I asked her to help me confirm a refund...all sorts of excuses came out.  Why is that people are happy to take your money, but when there is a slight problem or you want a refund, they then do not seem to think they have any duty to help or provide you with any service??  It must be a disease in South America, because its very rare to find people they understand what customer service is.  Anyway, this had all taken time and I told I would come back later to talk to her again, hopefully after she had spoken to her boss.
Grey Glacier

I met Tyson and Kerry and we embarked on a trek up to Grey Glacier.  Its about 3 hours from Paine Grande, and even though it was already 1.30pm, the light meant we should have plenty of time to get up there and back.  we set off with strong wind making it pretty damn difficult to walk at all.  That was nothing, however, as we turned round one headland and Kerry get floored by a gust of wind that was like a shot to gut - I have never felt wind like it!  Its not just the strength, its the unpredictability of it - one minute pushing you back, then it stops completely and you overbalance in a comical way that makes you look like you don't know how to walk...bizarre! The trek was 11km each way and there was a fantastic mirador half way where we stopped for photos - the glacier was straight ahead in the distance and shrowded in cloud - a whole lot of white!  we could barely stand and take photos it was so windy, we had to anchor ourselves to bushes and the like to ensure we weren't blown away down the valley!

We arrived at Grey Glacier and got the views close up of the enormous ice sheet.

The view from Valle Frances back towards Lago Pehue
  There were huge icebergs all around in the lake, with that special blue hue due to the lack of oxygen in them.  It was bloody freezing cold as we took photos, so we were there literally 5 minutes before we started to head back and as we did so, nature unleashed the most venemous storm I've been unlucky enough to be caught in and we had 3 hours of total drenchment (is that a word? If it isn't it should be, pretty good one I think), there was water everywhere!  When we got back, Tyson and Kerry tent was completely flooded, and I felt really sorry for them, it was going to be a cold night.  I was lucky to have the hot showers of the refugio to look forward and a meal ready for me when I got in.

DAY TWO (Valle Frances)

One good thing about refugio Paine Grande is the beds - they are bloody comfortable I have to say.

Lago Pehue, with the brown building of refugio Paine Grande
  So I woke after a good night's sleep, but still unsure exactly what I was going to be doing and where I would be going.  I knew I didn't want to stay another night at Paine Grande as it was expensive and would bugger my plans up for the final day.  So after breakfast I went to speak to inge again - the morning had made her no more helpful and yet again she tried fobbing me off.  She kept telling me I would have to speak to my agent and her office in Puerto Natales to discuss a refund, which she thought (but didn't know for sure) would be difficult.  She hadn't heard from Carla (my agent in P/N), so I was feeling pretty damn pissed off at this point.
stunning view of the Torres and Lago Pehue, when the clouds finally cleared
  Yes, it had been my mistake with the booking originally, but it seemed no-one wanted to help me sort it out, or even discuss sorting it out.

I knew that i couldn't get back on the catamarran & bus to Puerto Natales until the afternoon, so I decided to head out trekking anyway and see Valle Frances, which was meant to be the best part of the whole park.  I have to say I was disappointed.  I was expecting some massive valley to open up and be a wonderous sight, but it was really just some nice pine trees and a snow covered mountain (which was mostly obscured) - I really couldn't see what the fuss was all about.  Perhaps I was missing something obvious!  So I trekked the 2 hours back to Paine Grande, and luckily the weather cleared up, meaning the views of the 'horns' of the Torres range were clearly in view - fantastic.  On the walk back I had decided I'd had enough of Torres with all the crappy weather, sh*t service and expensive prices, so I decided to head back to P/N.  I checked out of the refugio (ensuring Inge knew I was going so they couldn't claim I had used the second night!) and went to get the 12.30pm catamarran.  well, that was the plan until it was cancelled due to high wind.  They eventually made it out at 3pm, but we had been told on the way that there would not be a bus to meet us - usually, buses connect with all the catamarrans and for each crossing there are about 4 different bus companies.  The fact that all of them decided not to wait was completely senseless and just typical of the lack of logic and intelligence of some people making decisions on this continent.  why didn't two buses go back to P/N on their original schedule and leave two to wait for the 80 passengers on the catamarran?? No that would have been sensible.  Instead, we all had to wait around for 4 hours until the last buses of the day left at 7.30pm....brilliant, it had just beenn that kind of trip for me and I couldn't wait to just get out there and away!  We eventually got back to Puerto Natales at about 10pm and luckily Bill had a bed for me at Erratic Rock - I crashed out straight away, knackered!

melsadventure says:
Sounds like a fun way to spend 4 days! Just planning my trip to Patagonia now but thinking of just heading to the Argentinan side. Thoughts? Hope you´re having fun and hope to bump into you in Blighty!
Posted on: Nov 30, 2009
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Salto Grande
Salto Grande
Tyson trekking
Tyson trekking
At the mirador for Grey Glacier...…
At the mirador for Grey Glacier..…
The odd iceberg floating around!!
The odd iceberg floating around!!
Grey Glacier
Grey Glacier
The view from Valle Frances back t…
The view from Valle Frances back …
Lago Pehue, with the brown buildin…
Lago Pehue, with the brown buildi…
stunning view of the Torres and La…
stunning view of the Torres and L…