We had met a lovely German couple in Ushuaia (Nils and Johana) who we arranged to meet up with again in Porto Natales to make arrangements to do a five day/ four night camping trip within the national park Torres del Paine, which had seemed to have developed legendary status amongst the travellers we had met, particulary the most commen trek known as the W circuit.
Given that we had absolutely no equipment to do such a thing, we spent the majority of our first day running around trying to rent things from the various “only fools and horses” types that seemed to be at every corner…some of whom were just out right strange, particularly a girl who offered to take us to a place to rent a tent and clothes only to hound us for over an hour with the most bizarre conversation about Calvin Klein and her love of rhubarb! I should have seen the early warning signs when the first thing she said to me was, ” you must be Spanish being so short with such big nose!”…. charming…not
The weather within the mountains is notoriously unpredictable due to the various micro climates at the various levels of altitude, however we were comforted by the “experts” at Eratic Rock who give a free briefing about the treks who said that it would never really rain for more than an hour and that you could experience all 4 seasons in any given day. Either we were extremely unlucky or they were just outright wrong since it seemed to rain and snow for 3 days straight!
This was not the camping experience that I had signed up for…at least I was surrounded by ‘tha Gerrmanns’ who like most, are keen hikers and camping experts…or so I thought! They all seemed completely taken aback by the lack of facilities at each camp site and the cold weather conditions often starting most sentences with, “in Europe we wouldn’t have this…..bla bla bla”
Thankfully my inappropriate coments helped keep spirits up throughout the tougher moments, some of which included: leaking tents, food that took hours to warm up on the little gas hob, the non existence of any showers and what felt like subzero tempertatures.
We did at least have the fortune of being blessed with a day of sunshine the day before and morning of our final and longest hike up to the top of a valley to see what we heard was the highlight of the trek; the sunrise on the rock face of the famous three peaks.
The one thing we did get lucky on was the time of year we chose to come, the whole park was a sea of red given the blooming “Fire Bush” which only blooms for two weeks of the year.
Given our luck, by the time we got to the final leg of the hike up the mountain we hit a snow storm forcing us to seek refuge in a Refugio until it cleared. There isn’t much to report about the four hours spent killing time; apart from the hours of fun we all had at Andre’s expense. Finally Andre had taken the baton from me for doing the most stupid thing to date ( aka my border crossing moment) which I will let the pic below explain!
The plan was to spend the night at the highest camp site to wake up before sunrise to do the final 40 min climb with our sleeping bags and equipment to make breakfast to watch this spectacular sunrise. Of course, this night was to be the coldest of them all, with zero visibility due to the snow which meant we just spent the night in the cold, in wet tents, sleeping on the floor for nothing! Oh and to top it all off we had to hike back down in the rain to get back to the bus stop which took about 6 hours.
Despite what may read like an absolute nightmare , particularly for a city boy, camping virgin, I actually had a great time and don’t regret doing it at all…whether I would do it all over again is another thing.
Although we didn’t catch the sunrise the pic below should explain what all the pain was meant to be for!