As my first month in Chile flew past and the days to the end of summer began counting down, I was beginning to worry that I wasn’t going to have enough time or good weather on my side to make it south to Patagonia. From the beginning I’d been dreaming of hiking the 5-day W trek in Torres del Paine National Park. But with a few days off over Easter, I grabbed the chance and booked some last minute flights to hike the W with my friends Siofra (from Melbourne) and Austin (from Texas).
DAY 1: Santiago – Puerto Natales
We began to actually realize how far south Patagonia was after the 12 hours of travel time it took us to get from Santiago to Puerto Natales, the town closest to the Torres del Paine National Park. After multiple taxi rides, a 4-hour flight and a 3-hour bus ride later we had finally made it to our cosy hostel called Yaganhouse and headed out to fuel up for our hike with some of the best pizza in Puerto Natales.
DAY 2: Puerto Natales – Paine Grande
We started our Patagonian adventure early with a frantic morning rushing around trying to rent a tent, backpacks and a cooking stove and making sure we had enough food to last us the hike. Despite a few mishaps (including me not realizing that I had bought a water bottle with a huge hole in the lid) we were ready to roll and took the 2-hour bus to the National Park. The bus ride into the Park was just a taste of what we were about to see for the next 5 days, with the mountains towering above the open plains filled with grazing guanacos. From the bus, we took the catamaran across Lago Pehoé to our first campsite at Paine Grande. The catamaran ride was incredibly windy but so beautiful, with Paine Grande providing an incredible backdrop to the striking blue water.
DAY 3: Glacier Grey
My first day of hiking was not off to a good start as I already had a pretty bad cold. After throwing up 20 minutes into our hike because of an upset stomach, my enthusiasm for hiking was low. Nonetheless, we continued along the trail up to Lago and Glacier Grey. I was glad I had continued on when we saw our first glimpses of Lago Grey. The lake honestly looked Photoshopped, with Glacier Grey feeding into the dark blue-grey waters with iridescent blue-white icebergs floating on top.
DAY 4: Valle Frances
Our second day of hiking began with a stunning start: a sunrise of brilliant pink and burnt orange over Lago Pehoé and Paine Grande. After a breakfast of porridge and Nutella, we packed up our tent and backpacks and started our walk to Valle Frances. The valley was stunning with mountains covered in snow and ice rising up on either side. We started getting pretty nervous about rain when we started to hear what sounded like thunder. Though we soon realized that the sound was actually sections of the ice falling from the cliffs and crashing when it hit the ground below.
DAY 5: Campamento Las Torres
With an ‘easy’ day of 10km ahead of us, we treated ourselves to a sleep in and were one of the last groups to leave camp. We followed the trail alongside Lago Nordenskjold, one of the biggest and bluest lakes we saw on our hike. We were pretty relieved to head into camp, with the steep climbs and descents of the last few days starting to take a toll on our knees. Being out in the middle of nowhere, we had kind of lost track of the days and I had completely forgot that it was actually Easter Sunday. So it was an awesome surprise when Marco, a Swiss guy we had recently befriended, shared his packet of Easter eggs with us!
DAY 6: Campamento Torres
With Marco joining our crew, we had a long and steep walk ahead of us to our final campsite for the trek. This was definitely the section of the walk that I found most challenging, as we had a very steep 3.5-hour hike with our packs on. Though we powered on, encouraged by hikers returning down the mountain who told us it was 100% worth it to see the Torres.
DAY 7: Torres del Paine
Our final day started early at 5am. We sleepily cooked the last of our porridge, and started our trudge up the steep 45-minute in the dark to see the sunrise at Las Torres del Paine. Once at the top, we found a rock to sit on, got rugged up, and waited. The whole 5 days were worth it to see a mostly clear sunrise followed by a stunning double rainbow arching over the Torres! While we watched the sunrise unfold we rewarded ourselves with a well deserved Snickers bar each and then began the long descent back down to where the bus would pick us up for our return to Puerto Natales.
After a long awaited hot shower and some clean clothes, we celebrated the end of our trek with beers and burgers at a local brewery in Puerto Natales, and prepared ourselves to return back to Santiago. Our week in Patagonia felt like another world and I’m already dreaming of my next trip south!