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Published: April 27th 2014
PATAGONIA: Torres del Paine...The most beautiful place in the World.
In Europe all roads lead to Rome...in Africa to Mto Mbu...in Asia to Katmandu...in Australia to Uluru...in Antartica to Mawson's Hut...in North America to Yankee Stadium...and in South America to the front gate of Torres del Paine.
But for the latter its not always easy to get through...and its definitely not easy to get to.
When planning our Patagonia trip...I took one look at the picture of La Explora Hotel and its staggering view...took another look at its prices of over US$2,000 per night...and made two decisions.
We are definitely going there...and we are definitely going to find alternative accomodation.
Our friends planning the trip were suggesting we stay in Puerto Natales and visit daily...which seemed more affordable but a hassle...but what would I know?
As our friends had not joined us for our drive down the Andes due to the accident in B.A...nothing to stop us staying in the Parque we thought...so that's what we decided to do.
Our maps showed Ruta 40 from El Calafate on tarmac then dirt...so we took a gamble to travel an
extra 89 kms on sealed tarmac at speed to La Esperanca. The 4WD was covered in mud by the time we got there so pulled into a servo to wash the windscreen and top up petrol as well. The guy gave us a bucket, water & detergent so to leave sparkling was a bonus indeed.
Then Ruta 83 before joining Ruta 40 again.
We figured we had to make a RHT to cross the border from Argentina to Chile to Cerro Castillo and expected signs to do so.
Found a dirt track...missed it at first and had to go back...looked like a driveway between two bushes to an estancia at best...some kms along a dirt track then voila. Arrived at a village serving as the border crossing...Cerro Castillo.
Guy in the shop there tried to book some accommodation for us but only one place answered the phone and it was too much so decided to wing it.
Half hour past salt edged lakes...glimpses of needle peaks...then to the Admin entrance to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.
We had arrived...late afternoon...mountain chill descending...gotta get a pass for a few days...then find some digs to stay.
THE FRENCH TOWERS
The mask, the leaf, the sword
Come this far...reckon it'd be easy.
15,000 Chilean each...that's 30,000 total...I've got 27,000 plus some US dollars.
"Not acceptable...all has to be Chilean dollars...US dollars not acceptable."
Took an eternity...eventually got him to agree half in Chilean and half in US dollars and we're on our way.
He suggested Camp Torres to stay and I could swear he pointed that way.
Headed up a rise along a dirt road where we stopped and asked a German couple for directions.
We were on the wrong road but suggested we keep going and try Lake Pehoe or Glacier Grey.
The dirt road descended along a turquoise lake...into heaven.
There is no prettier road on the planet.
Stopped at a long jetty into Lake Pehoe to a hotel...views like La Explora...had a room...then when trying to book us in they didn't.
A camp site nearby had a spare room...led us to it...put down our packs.
"Oh you don't have sleeping bags. You can't stay here!!!"
Now we feel panic...try Posada Serrano further down.
Shown a tiny dingy room...lino floor...two
ricketty double bunks for US$139...dingy is generous...its called a double room...share bathroom...last one.
Felt cornered...OK two nights...time to race to Lago Grey to see if any vacancies there.
Got there at 7.30 pm...about half hour drive...No vacancies...but tomorrow Glacier View...OK book it.
Posada Serrano had a few lounges in a common area...backpackers/trekkers all...immediately felt at home.
Chatted to a Spanish/Swiss couple from Zurich, Jose & Patricia and immediately hit it off.
They had come by bus...as had most of the trekkers there so their itinerary for treks had to fit in with the bus.
Had a walk with them...bit of a climb...discovered a magic view of the Torres Massif nearby.
Jose couldn't stop raving how an Aussie had shown them the best view in the park they'd seen to date...pure fluke actually.
Great dinner and Chilean beer...fabulous stories of the road.
5 rooms sharing the bathroom and lights out at 11.45pm...explains the two spent candles and near empty box of matches on the tiny flimsy table...lights out meant just that.
And the bunks...slept in better in a rattler in Inner Mongolia...but we had a room...last one...still
Had to check-in at Glacier Grey at 1pm so time to look around. Think we'll find the elusive Camp Torres so drove the same roads we had come in.
Our 4WD paid for itself a thousand fold.
The word is the views of the peaks are the best in two years...last week a shocker...this week the best ever...bingo!!!
The views were staggering...lakes...around the Torres Massif...Los Cuernos from every angle...the three finger peaks glistening.
A bus stops ahead...tourists snapping at a herd of guanacos...they running down to the lake edge...me hiding in wait for them...running through me...click, click, click.
I'm in heaven.
Back at Admin...take the other road...wooden bridge...4WD too wide...dilemma.
A vehicle pulls up...folds our mirrors back...guides us across at a crawl...max two inches either side...phew.
Past the three finger peaks to Camp Torres...crawling with tents and trekkers...better get back or we'll lose our booking at Glacier Grey.
You wouldn't read about it.
Pulled into Glacier Grey Hosteria carpark at 2.30pm...cough, cough, then silent...
We have run out of petrol again!!!
If Denise had not done her
tangos at El Bolson to get the petrol container & hose...run out of petrol on Ruta 40 south of Baja Caracoles as the latter had "No Hay"...another tango to fill up the container at Gronador Gregores during a petrol strike...lucky she's a great dancer...time to swallow some petrol again and fill up from the container.
No petrol in the parque...gotta be careful we can see as much as possible and get out of here in a couple of days.
Our Glacier view room ended up as the most expensive we have had anywhere in the World...nowhere near La Explora prices...views of Grey Glacier and the Torres Massif...nice but still expensive.
Yet the lunch made up for it...can't remember any better.
Introduced to Pisco Sours...delicious.
Short walk to the glacier from the hotel we thought...but a river was in our way. Had to walk back and get the 4WD and drive to a public parking area...short walk through forest...springy bridge...onto a dark sand isthmus...yet water between us and the glacier.
Walk to a lookout...the Patagonian wind nearly picking us up and throwing us onto the glacier.
Should mention with the vehicle we had to angle it at sights or we couldn't open the doors.
The wind is physical...like a wall in places...no place for hats...no place for toupes!
Met a guy with a private guide...said his name was Rothchild...from New York...staying at La Explora...pretty insistent we visit him at the hotel for drinks etc.
Tempting I must say.
But we regarded him as a tosser...why waste our time sucking up to the rich and famous when we can have a better time doing our own thing?
We considered it for a minute or so though.
Dinner was seafood shellfish crepes...superb...but I was not happy.
We had one of the most expensive rooms in the place...probably why it was available...reserved table for dinner next to the window...Denise's view superb...mine a view of a bush and long grass.
It's funny what grabs one's craw...I was not happy...really pissed me off actually...that bush...rrrrr.
First chance I got I requested a move. Good call. Next to a Scottish couple heading to Antartica...great company.
Curtains open to the view in our room that night...couldn't be happier.
Worked out our stay at Glacier Grey Hosteria cost us US$25 per hour when we paid the bill...room plus meals...be warned...Chileans really know how to charge.
Cheap compared to La Explora...US$6,000 for 3 nights...booked out 5 years ahead...not even tempting.
Sneaked a visit...didn't ask for Mr Rothchild...more concerned we are short of petrol.
Took heaps of pics as we toured the park...couldn't recommend your own wheels enough.
We drove all the roads...magic views at every bend.
No time for treks unfortunately...but what we saw...wow...definitely the most beautiful place in the World.
Didn't have enough petrol to get back to anywhere in Argentina. Heard there was petrol at Cerro Castillo.
Petrol station was 3 miniature sheds...each containing a locked bowser.
But no attendant...gone horse riding with his kids we were told...OK...we wait.
Coming down the hill four horses...OK...we'll sell you some petrol.
Another couple also waiting...a German couple we met in Cochrane...friends of Gunther & Annika...good to see you again.
Wish we had more time in Torres del Paine...let the photos tell the story...only a pocket camera.
Many I know did
not get good weather...our daughter stayed on her trip around South America...windy, wet and cold she found.
But for us...couldn't have been better.
So I still say...Torres del Paine...our...most beautiful place in the World.
Relax & Enjoy,
P.S. Put your feet up, sit back and enjoy a drive through the incredible Parque Nacional Torres del Paine...a true wonder of Chile...pages of photos following to guide you on your way.
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