Exploring Chile – Hello Torres Del Paine National park

We’d all been looking forward to visiting Torres Del Paine National park and also staying at Tierra Patagonia, this is the thing about these kinds of properties, they are an experience in themselves, OK it might cost a bit to stay each night, but when you add it up its not expensive at all. What you get for that is every meal included and Lunch and Dinner is a three course meal and breakfast an open and opulent buffet, open bar and when I say open bar I don’t mean beer wine and softdrinks I mean cocktails, liqueurs, you name it and all of your activities including hikes, horse riding, gaucho visits etc, it also includes your park entry fee each day and its an absolutely breathtaking property, 100% constructed from the local wood, lena and the architecture is so that is blends into the environment, you can hardly tell its there.

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Its set on an Estancia with arguably the best views of the Massif. You can see the ‘cuernos’ AND the ‘torres’ with a stunning lake in front of you and as you are on an estancia you have sheep all around you. If you were to find a down side to it I guess it would be as it is set on the edge of the national rather than inside it, there is a drive in and out each day for activities, but this didn’t bother us at all as it is such a beautiful drive with the opportunity to spot wildlife along the way eg skunks, guanacos, foxes, armadillos, condors and if you are lucky, pumas, we weren’t lucky this time. Plus as the end of each day as we got to the vans we were greeted with a cold congratulatory beer and then you get back to the hotel at days end and pour yourself into the spa to watch the sun set behind the magnificent mountains you have just spent the day discovering, before heading to the open bar and sitting down for your three course meal.     The biggest problem really is eating and drinking too much. Then you wake each morning to watch the sun hit the mountains straight from your room, every room has a view, even the staff quarters.

As you can imagine when we arrived we were all so giddy with excitement that we hit the bar and spent the next two hours giggling in delight.

The next day after breakfast the following day we were briefed by our guides on what we could do for the reminder of our stay. Ideally you would allow three days here but even with two you can have an amazing time. We were blessed with picture perfect weather, which if you understand Patagonia you’ll understand this is indeed a blessing, especially where there are mountains involved. The turn of phrase giddy with delight would become a theme for the remainder of our stay as the weather turned it on for our entire duration.

DSC08846On our first day we went on an easy 8 k walk to a stunning vista of the cuernos and the waterfall, being the start of the season there was simply no one around, we had what seemed like the entire mountain range to ourselves. Breathless with awe we walked closer and closer to what has to be one of the most stunning vistas of the park, ( I won’t say most stunning as that was yet to come) and spent time in silence taking in the beauty of this park, before retreating and visiting a stunning waterfall walking, again through unbelievable  Chilean scenery.

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We had not a breath of wind either which again if you understand Patagonia you’ll realise how amazing that is as well.

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Back at the van and beer in hand we made our way back to the hotel where we again hit the open bar and three course meal. The food at the hotel was very good. We didn’t indulge too much this evening as some of us had signed up to visit the base of the Torres del Paine the following day, an 8 hour return hike and an arduous one so we were told. Sleep was the order of the day.

During our stay I slept with the curtains open so I could be greeted by the vista as I awoke each morning, no morning disappointed.

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The next day we  got set to climb to the base of las torres… we awoke to another picture perfect day, a bit more cloud than the previous day but it was high and dry and we were pumped and ready to go after a massive buffet breakfast. The hotel supplied us with a packed lunch and we took off for the hour drive to the starting point which is right outside of Las Torres Hotel. On the way we passed Eco Camp as well, both situated nicely in the park with easy access to the walk. Nice location but I have to say Tierra wins in terms of vistas and privacy. Personally I’d go for the hour drive over being in the park with not so good views. But if you were to end up at either of those establishments, you would not be disappointed.

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There is no mucking around, on the hike you cover about one kilometre of flat ground then it’s a steep uphill ascent for an hour or so before hitting a valley where the uphill is not so steep but constant before the last hour of a very steep ascent up through boulders and scree. The entire walk has stunning vistas from the sweeping gorge where you can spot condors flying to the hushed forest to the moraine of the ancient glacier that once was there. It’s tough on the feet but not technical, we did it with people who were not necessarily fit but definitely had the right will power to persevere. I would highly recommend some physical fitness or training prior to partaking as it would make the day a lot easier. It is a long day of walking, 8 hours in total and barely a flat spot.

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But is it worth it, hell yeah being at the base of las Torres it unbelievable! We were lucky to have perfect weather, the skies parted when we got to the top so we even had blue sky as back drop. In early Oct the lake was starting to melt but there was plenty of ice, however I didn’t find it too cold. We had two guides with us who were a lot of fun and spoke excellent English, when we got to the top we were surprised with hot soup and picnic snacks to go along with our packed lunch, yet again far too much food but very welcome!  We spent about 45 mins to an hour just enjoying the view, as it was low season there were hardly any other people there in fact when we arrived we were the only ones. I imagine in high season it would be very crowded.

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Once we had taken in the magnificence of the place it was time to descend, and it was all downhill from here, sounds nice but in fact it’s very hard on the knees and thighs, another reason why training and fitness would be a great benefit.  Finally we made it back to the van where again cold beer was waiting for us. We were on such a massive high that I don’t think anything could dampen our moods and we made our way back through this stunning park to the hotel where we dived into the spa to ease our weary legs prior to open bar and a three course meal. One of the best days traveling ever… for many of us…

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Written by Meg Hall

To read the next part ‘Exploring Chile – Aboard the Stella’ click here 

For more information on Chile click here

Author: Meg Hall

“During my first trip to Latin America I found myself travelling solo down the Amazon River. At the time I wondered if it was a good idea, in the end I had an experience that would change my life for the better as I found my personal boundaries had widened.”

Now having now experienced Chimu on the ground in both Antarctica on my own and in South America with my precious cargo, my two young sons, several times, I can hold my head high and say, “it is the only way to travel”. The only difficult decision to make is when to go! I cant wait to get back!

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