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Published: January 31st 2016
We arrived in Puerto Natales in good spirits after we managed to book all the buses and campsites that we needed to in order to do the W Trek in Torres del Paine, as well to get down to Ushuaia. We found our hostel and things got even better – it was friendly, people were nice and it was clean. They sorted us out with a tent and stove for camping on The W. We then took a trip to a supermarket with the world’s largest queues to stock up on enough food for 4 days of pretty intense walking. After 45 minutes in the queue (no exaggeration) we left with a shed load of food that was going to weigh our bags down.
Having packed our big bags ready for the trek the night before, we headed early to the bus station for the 2 hour journey into the park. Then we got some bad news, the Italiano Campsite that we wanted to stay at the second night was fully booked. We made an alternative plan to camp at another site which meant we would have to do a bit more walking than we wanted to on the second
day of the hike. The first stop off was at a place called Pudeto where we took a catamaran across a lake to Paine Grande shelter / campsite. When we got off the catamaran, it was pouring down with rain, not just a light drizzle we had read about in other peoples’ blogs! We huddled in the shelter and scoffed down some lunch whilst waiting for the rain to subside.
Once the rain had died down (it was still pouring) we headed off in full waterproofs in search of Lago Grey, our first campsite on the trek. The rain was on and off for our 3 hour walk and we also now had our first experience of the strong winds in Patagonia. The wind was so strong in places it moved you off the paths! We stopped a couple of times to take some photos of the stunning lakes, mountains and Glacier Grey but didn’t spend long at each stop due to the horrific weather conditions and Vicks had to be held up to take photos!
After arriving at the campsite and setting up our tent, we headed for the closest viewpoint of Glacier Grey. We were mighty
relieved to have dropped our heavy bags for this 20 minute stretch and the rain held for us to get a couple of very wind swept photos of the impressive glacier. When we got back to our tent, we noticed that the zip on the door was open a little which was odd given the fact that the zip was right down the bottom. After playing around with the zip we soon realised it was properly buggered! Not ideal given the fact that the rain was back again! We managed to turn the tent around so the doorway was a little more sheltered and botched it so the zip was stuck but done up most of the way (which meant squeezing underneath the door to get out). We weren’t in great spirits at this point and they were about to sink even more as we went inside to the designated cooking area. It was packed and left zero room for us to cook any food. People were being properly selfish and not moving once they were finished eating. We eventually managed to cook right by the sink so were constantly knocked into by people trying to clean their dishes. After
heading back to our tent it was here where I had a bit of a huff and said that I really wasn’t enjoying myself! We decided to sleep on it and decide in the morning whether we wanted to continue.
Next morning we somehow woke up dry in the tent even though it had been hammering it down all night! We managed to get breakfast in and pack up nice and early. For the first 20 minutes of walking back towards Paine Grande the paths were empty and it wasn’t raining as much which made us think we could continue. However this soon changed and we were properly battered by winds and rain that was going sideways right into our faces! This made up our minds and we agreed to take the catamaran back to get picked up by the bus (we had to wait 40 minutes in the pouring rain to make sure we got a space on the boat).
So that was our failed adventure – we managed to turn the W Trek into more of an “I Trek”. The nice people at the hostel apologised about the tent and refused to charge us for any
rented equipment which was good of them. As we had a few spare days on our hands, we decided to go Punta Arenas, 3 hours away from Puerto Natales. Our main reason for wanting to go there was the large penguin colony nearby in the Magellan Strait, which we started to get excited about!
We arrived in Punto Arenas and booked our tickets to go and see the penguins. The next morning we were called to breakfast by our slightly mad Air BnB host and had a good hour and a half long chat with an older Canadian couple that were looking to retire in Southern Chile. They were learning Spanish and started quizzing Vicks loads about how to pronounce lots of different worlds.
We headed out for some ceviche at the local fish market and then went to the port for our ride over to Magdalena Island where the penguin colony lived. After a couple of hours on the ferry we arrived to see over 120,000 penguins on this island. They were hilarious to watch just waddling around and fairly comfortable with loads of tourists being around. All the penguins come back to the island in the
summer to breed, lay their eggs and take advantage of abundant fish in the area. They even find the same little burrow every year. There were plenty of fairly young penguins around that were fluffy and grey as they were yet to shed their feathers.
The next morning we managed to get a lift down into town from our host (saved a good 25 min walk with heavy bags) and started out on the 10 hour bus journey to the most southern city in the world, Ushuaia (pretty much the end of the world). The bus was a little grim – a lot of people with seriously bad BO! I managed to doze for the vast majority of the journey which also included a ferry ride across the Magellan Strait (where we saw dolphins), a good 100km stretch over unpaved roads (very bumpy), loads of Ukrainians having issues at the border into Argentina and finally some awesome scenery!
Our first full day in Ushuaia we spent looking around the memorial square for the Falklands War and in the afternoon climbing the Glacier Martial trail. The trail was sold to us as being a short 2 hour hike but
was more like 3 hours and included some properly steep sections. We got some decent views over Ushuaia and out to the channel from the top though so it was well worth it, even if the promised glacier at the top was more like a thin sheet of ice!
Our second day was spent mainly in the Tierra del Fuego National Park – a short bus ride away from the town. We did an awesome (if slightly chilly) walk along the Beagle Channel. The scenery here was also pretty spectacular!
Overall, although we failed with the W Trek we made up for it by doing some other pretty cool stuff. We have learned that we are fair weather trekkers!
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