Posted by: Bert and Tania | December 23, 2011

‘W’ Trek, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

On the 25th October, we finally returned to Buenos Aires from Ecuador, but not for long as we were expecting visitors! On 31st, Tania’s special birthday present arrived. Her Dad and Ali landed in Buenos Aires ready for adventures. On 2nd November we all flew down to El Calafate in the South of Argentina and then bussed ourselves further South to Puerto Natales in Chile. This was our base from which we set off to do the (fairly famous) ‘W’ trek in Torres del Paine National Park. This is where my friend Tom and I unfortunately failed to get to back in January due to fuel protests that meant we had to escape from Chile on foot!.

We spent two days in Puerto Natales preparing for the five day trek; renting equipment, pre-mixing and portioning our meals, finding the perfect trail mix and packing and repacking our rucksacks. Our hostel, the Erratic Rock, was run by a very nice American guy called Bill on very environmentally friendly principles. The hostel initiated recycling in the area and has a system for re-using everything possible from half-used gas cylinder to plastic bags. They even have shopping bags made from broken tents for you to use instead of plastic supermarket bags.

After our 2 days of preprartion, countless ‘debates’ about what food to take (food is a very emotive subject it seems) on the 5th November we were ready to start and we caught the bus to the National Park ready to take on ‘The W’.

Days one and two were spent hiking up the side of a valley to Glaciar Grey, which was an incredible sight. A condor was warming its wings just in front of the glaciar. Day three took us up into the French Valley, with views of the amazing ‘Cuernos’ (Horns) mountains and through a moonscape type forest. On day 4 we walked round to the ‘Torres’ (Towers) campsite so that we’d be ready for a 5am start the next morning. On the last day we walked up to the three towers themselves, starting in the dark but it was worth the very early start to watch the orange light hit the top of the towers and slowly illuminate them from top to bottom.

The trek was quite challenging, perhaps we should have prepared a bit rather than just eating tacos in Mexico for 2 months. We were particularly proud of Dadso and Ali’s fine performance. They may hold bus passes but they are a fine pair of fit fiddles. Other than endurance, the trek also tested us as couples. Ever tried putting up a tent with your nearest and dearest when you’re cold, super tired and unable to find a flat pitch. Luckily any tensions did not rise beyond a level that a hot cup of tea couldn’t sort out.

It just so happened that the lovely Cath, who we met at the Erratic Rock hostel, was also doing the same trek at the same time in the same direction as us. And she proved to be a lovely trail and campsite companion. Great to meet you, Cath, and we hope we can stay in touch when we’re back in the UK.

At the end of the trek we found a refuge with a (we thought) well deserved beer and lay around in the sun waiting for a shuttle bus to pick us up.
Then back to Erratic Rock for one last night and a celebratory dinner before heading back to El Calafate. From here we got a taxi to the incredible, blue and huge Perito Moreno Glaciar which despite us both having seen before is still mind-blowing. Fortunately, we had a friendly taxi driver who used to work in the national park where the Glaciar is so he became a sort of tour guide for us. For example, apparently the blue colour comes from total internal reflection inside the ice crystals and the older the glaciar, the larger the crystals and the bluer the glaciar. I’ve since heard there are competing theories. Anyway, the sun was shining on and through the glaciar and it looked amazing.

So, a fantastic adventure in Patagonia. After which it was time for us to abandon Dadso and Ali at an Estancia for a few days and head back to Buenos Aires to prepare for the next visitor’s arrival…


  1. Unfortunately the park doesn’t look quite like the photos in this post anymore thanks to a massive fire. Boo… Literally the entire stretch we walked on our first day and a half is now burnt, very sad. Here’s hoping Mumma Nature regenerates herself soon.

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