Such beauty .... almost heaven on earth!
Torres Del Paine Travel Blog› entry 1 of 10 › view all entries
Flying all the way to Patagonia, a visit to the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is a must! Named as the hiking mecca of Patagonia, unforgettable scenery at every turn, spectacular views of towering granite mountains, awe-inspiring glaciers, emerald-coloured lakes, breathtaking skies at sunrise and sunsets as well as unique wildlife are promised. We made our way from El Calafate to Torres del Paine after having spent some wonderful days of trekking in the beautiful Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina.
Breakfast at the bar ..... that was the early start to our day at 5am. With the pickup being arranged at 5.30am and the breakfast at Hotel Lar Aike starting only at 6am, they specially arranged our breakfast at the bar with excellent Cappuccino from the coffee machine.
Instead of taking the usual route to the national park via Puerto Natales, we chose the Torres del Paine day tour offered by El Chalten Travel that would take us directly from El Calafate into the national park with a return pickup on another day. It was a more costly option but direct and faster. Not only that, the tour also provided us with a panoramic and grand view of the National Park from a distance on the other side of Lago Nordenskjold and Lago Pehoe, which we would otherwise not have seen from that perspective on the W trek.
Except for the occasional interesting cap clouds up in the sky, the view on the way through the Patagonian steppe was nothing really special. For the first two hours of the journey, most of us were napping in the coach. Then the snow-capped mountains came slowly into view on the far horizon and we could slowly make out the famous peaks of Torres del Paine National Park as we drove towards it.
We finally reached the Argentinean border at about 9.30am where we had to get an exit stamp from the border control. We drove another 2km to finally reach the Chilean border village Cerro Castillo. All bags had to be removed from the coach and X-rayed. We had some leftover salamis and apples which were not allowed into the country and were thrown into the furnace immediately.
After clearing the immigration, we had a quick stop at the coffee and souvenir shop next door where we were met by the local guide. We were transferred from the big and comfortable coach to a mini-van before being driven towards the park. From here, it was another 57km through the Patagonian steppe before reaching the entrance of the park at Guarderia Laguana Amarga.
The guide explained the unique formation of the Paine Massif which was once an underground magma chamber beneath a layer of softer darker sedimentary rock, basalt. Solidified, up-thrusted, sliced up by glaciers and then shaped and sharpened by the Patagonian legendary winds, it is now the array of interesting peaks and granite spikes.
The views from here onwards of the mountains and lakes were just terrific.
We continued on the journey and the next stop was on the steppe where there was a group of Guanacos. They are the cousins of the Llamas, are less furry and live in lower altitudes. The Torres del Paine National Park is about 150m above sea level. As explained by the guide, they are rather shy animals. Hence we approached cautiously to have a closer look at them.
We continued on the journey and the mini-van suddenly stopped with the guide telling us to look to the left where there were three Caranchos feasting on a carcass, which I assumed was a dead Guanaco. These vultures certainly looked mean. Coincidentally, we saw the bony remains of a Guanaco during the last stop.
Laguna Amarga was the next lake that we reached. The only saltwater lake in the region, this lake is alkaline and has a pH level of 9.1. Pure water has a pH of 7.0 while soap has a pH of between 9-10. Hence it was interesting to know and not to assume that water could be drank from any lakes in this beautiful region.
After entering the park at Laguna Amarga and paying the park fee of approx. €24, we continued to drive towards along beautiful blue lake, Lago Nordenskjold, where we had a grand view of the Cordillera Paine from Mirador del Nordenskjold. At Guarderia Pudeto, we started the 4km easy hike to Mirador Cuernos. Gosh, the winds were crazy that day and blew so strongly that we were walking sideward at some points. We had excellent views of the Cuernos del Paine (Horns) with its magnificent granite walls and basalt tops from the Mirador.
Thereafter, we proceeded to Salto Grande which is recognized as one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the planet, thanks to the fresh clear air and uniqueness of the colour. Although it’s height of 15m or so is not so overwhelming, it exhibits tremendous powers as it drains the Lago Nordenskjold and feed Lago Pehoe.
We then drove along Lago Pehoe towards another viewpoint near to Hosteria Pehoe where we had equally excellent views of the mountain ranges. Proceeding to Area de Acampar Lago Pehoe after that, it was a short coffee break before the return trip. On the way back, we were dropped off at Guarderia Pudeto where we would take the Catamaran across Lago Pehoe to Refugio Paine Grande. It was a long two hours wait for us as we had to huddle at one side of the building to get out of strong winds.
The staff of the Catamaran arrived at 10mins to 6pm and we were only allowed to board the boat at 6pm. It was a comfortable and spacious boat and coffee and biscuits were served shortly after we left the port. Almost after tea and coffee was served and drank, almost everyone went above to enjoy the terrific views despite the strong winds.
Half an hour later, we arrived at Refugio Paine Grande. After checking into the room with clean sheets, towels and pillows, we headed off for dinner. This is the only Refugio on the W trek that offers sheets, towels and pillows while the others refugios provide only the beds.
It was a dinner with a grand view of the Los Cuernos del Paine!