Patagonia – Torres del Paine

Out into nature…

National Geographic indicates that being outside in the green, fosters the happiness of people. According to their article, in Finland, public health officials recommend to be out in nature for at least five hours a month. Some of you may know, that Finland has one of the highest self-suicide rates in Europe. Good approach, if nature is just in front of your door. 😉

In this post you may read about my impressions at arrival in Patagonia, climbing Mountain Dorothea next to Puerto Natales as well as my personal perception of the National Park Torres del Paine. Be prepared for a crazy ride.

Elisabeth, whom I got to know in the hostel in Santiago, and I landed it Puerto Natales. What shall I say? This is what I call a countryside with a sky so clear to see many kilometres of land around you extremely sharp.

Smallest baggage claim hall I have ever seen:

The ride to town in a cab:

We checked-in at Yagan Hostel and explored the town. The hostal is very recommendable, the TripAdvisor evaluations are probably no fake. Good location, very beautiful interior, clean, helpful staff and everything available, one may need to borrow, for a good multi-day hike.

Elisabeth and I explored the town’s seaside:

Patagonia! Let’s start to explore. After an excellent breakfast at Yagan we decided to do a hike up the hill Mountain Dorothea about 8 km away from Puerto Natales. The friendly lady from Peru behind the front desk told us about that place. We should expect a great view. We walked down to get a hitchhike. Very unlucky for 30 minutes. A cab! Let’s take it! Haha. We made our way and walked up through a beautiful scenery.

Waiting for a hichhike:

What a view to on Puerto Natales from top of Mount Dorothea:

Back down the hill, we tried to get a ride again. 15 minutes waiting and Mario picked us up! Yeah, first time hitchhike for the two of us! Fist to fist gangsta style winner greeting with Elisabeth. Mario has a shop, selling sombreros and boinas. He just came back from Argentina since the quality of these boinas is much better there, he argued.

Later in the afternoon we gathered some more information about the national park at a location called erratc rock. They do an information session daily at 3 p.m. Very valuable. We figured, that our preparations are actually kind of “on short notice” compared to all the other people. Nice, that’s what we want! Wild!
We walked down the road to Marios shop in Puerto Natales. Little chilli in a shirt, but still funny. Haha. Elisabeth bought a sticker for her backpack and I bought a boina. Kind of a hat. This boina is the first clothing I bought after selling everything back in December. Usually Mario only meets gauchos in his shop. That’s why he has no internet page. Well his shop is about four square meter. The way walking back, I should not freeze on my head any more. Haha.

 

While in town… know how to be save:

Environmentally focused fuel station. Better not drop fuel on gravel 😉

As described previously in the Santiago post, a lady in the hostel in Santiago gave the advice to book lodging in advance. She said, people book their place months in advance. Oh oh! That was like four days before I should fly to Patagonia. The evening of that conversation, I was sitting around 4 hours on the computer to figure out all the details and free places. It is all very bad presented and organised on the web, I must say. Free camp sites were booked out in November, I found out later. Other campsites were unavailable around beginning of January. Anyway, I got two nights at the Refugio Central and the third night at Refugio Glacier Gray. You might wonder now,… and what’s so special about it? Inbetween, it’s a 38 km day walk.

The stuff that went with me out into nature – learnings: food weights a lot!

That evening, Jan, the friend of Elisabeth, arrived. A cool guy one can tell from the first second. Fist greeting with Elisabeth “see you later sis”:

 
Early breakfast at the hostel and taking the bus to Torres del Paine. Okay, sleeping on the two hour bus ride and queuing outside the ranger station while it’s raining, to pay about $30 entrance fee. From there, I took a smaller bus to the Refugio Central to avoide 8 km boring walking. $5 for 10 minute ride. Yes, Chile is expensive….

That afternoon I did a hike along the east side of the O-Route. Raining almost all the time. Wow: I was lucky to see about 200 horses. I was amazed! After coming back, I was ridiculously tired and slept on the couch in the chillout room. Headache and eye ache is catching me every day recently. Is it the high UV penetrance?

The water is drinkable all over the park:

This wet experience made me tired:

Next morning, not so early, I headed to Morgado Torres Base to catch the view on the Torres del Paine. Tour of the day resulted in pain in my legs. 926 meters in altitude. Aua. Haha.

At the top close to Torres:

Amazing sceneries:

Still, writing this post today in Arequipa, Peru, this picture is my favorite so far – taken with a tiny but sick iPhone 7 Plus. Unbelievable I think:

Walking tour of the day:

So, I did three days of hiking in a row previously. The next day should bring the most crazy walk of my life…
Starting at Refugio Central. For an unnatural pain-day. 10 kg backpack. 38,65 km. 15 hours. 1271 altitude meters. 5876 kcal. Hiking, from Refugio Central to Refugio Grey. The scenery was beautiful. I started early morning before sunrise at 5.20 a.m. Put my headlight on and started walking towards Frances Valley. The sunrise was amazing.

At Refugio Cuernos, a breakfast should give new power. Some cheese, sausages, toast, dried fruits. Imagine, having no warm food for three days and this is the fourth day in a row of hiking whereby Torres del Paine was beaten yesterday.

Shoes on again, hiking westwards to camp Italiano. That backpack from LoweAlpin “Axiom” was doing pretty well, helping my back not to hurt at all, a very recommendable product. I could not tell so from my feet. Haha. Though, I’m using this Meindl hiking boots, which are very good as well and preventing quite well from these nasty blisters, my feet started to hurt.

Awesome, the sun was till out, what a scenery. The lake colored turquoise.

Some sweets and new energy at camp Italiano should boost. They did not really. “Get up Alex and continue hiking”, I had to tell myself. The way to Refugio Paine Grande was tough. However very cool, I met Elisabeth and Jan on the trail, …the two always ensure some fun. 🙂

Dark clouds started to grow over me symbolizing the pain… but still bringing beauty…

A big area of the park was destroyed by a fire some years ago. Crated by a hiker.

25 minute break at Refugio Paine Grande. Asking the front desk if they have dinner at their partner Refugio Grey where I’m booked tonight. I need some warm food after that hike. First warm food since four days. “No tienen”, I heard. Which means like they cannot offer food. Today writing this, I know that it was probably better like this, since at the end, I kind of had not the energy sitting on a table and eat… Let’s see:

After 26 km I’m about to rock another 11 km wild hiking. Well, it was more like the nature started to rock me. The last break kind of brook me down. Massiv pain in my muscels, tendons and junctions. And it is hiking all the fucking time! (sorry about wording, but it fits my emotions) No walking. Lifting each foot every step. That day, I saw so many stones passing by on the ground… I finally got stoned. 😉 And meanwhile, I walked, well hiked, like an 80 years old stoned man. A step not more than a foot, 30 cm. Some tendon at the bottom of my leg hurt like hell. The bottom skin on the feet touching ground, was like needels and telling me constantly it is almost paying the debts to nature. Step after step. 7,5 km left,… a viewpoint. Quick look, who cares. Continue. 6 km left. Great, some climbing included on the trail as well. 😉 Hiking, pain, breathing slowly, heart pulse at 110. “Do it, you will make it!” Four liters of water have run through me already today. How crazy must one be to do such bullshit? Then I met a guy from Texas overtaking. Funny, Nitin started at the same location in the morning. However not having three previous days of hiking in his bones. He was much quicker than I – respect my friend! We stopped at a small river, getting some water. An Austrian guy passed by. “I cycled from Alaska to here. However my body is not made for hiking. Another 800 km left to reach Ushuaia, the final stop.” I was wondering: What’s the name of this movie here? …I continued as a 80 year old. The trail from the last refugio to my final stop at Refugio Grey was marked as three and a half hours. It took me almost five hours. A break every 1000 meters, or after counting 3000 steps. I felt a strong desire to sleep while sitting. 2.1 km more according to google maps. Pain! “Come on, do it!” And the trail should turn downhill in the opposite direction. What the hell!? Pain is psychology. I’m not a person crying, so I fucking started laughing instead. That heals definitely more. Haha. 1.1 km, break, 850 m, break, 550 m, break, 250 m, I see the refugio between the trees, finally! Trail backwards again, a feeling of tingling in both my hands. What the fuck!? …A singn to be about to get unconscious. Break and searching for the glucose pills. Finally, arriving and towing myself up the stairs. What a feeling! YEAH! I MADE IT! YEAH!

Face telling about lack of energy:

The other face answering: “Fuck you – you better get up and do it!”

Some amazing views on the glacier brought motivation:

The Refugio Grey was very close – picture taken just after the final glucose boost.

The final face of the day full of happiness and stupid overspending:

Quick check-in hanging onto the reception desk. Oh no, my room is on the second floor, upstairs!? But yeah, they have warm showers. While taking one, I could barely stand on my feet. It felt like they are about to stop what they are there for, which is holding my body of the ground. I had to hold myself with my hands on the shower. I went to the dorm room, the force in the direction of the ground and the bed was unbelievably great! Eating one carrot in horizontal mode, some more magnesium and zinc pills. Putting Tiger Balsam on all the pain spots. Sleeping tonight…? No problem. Haha.

 

Tour of the day. Since the battery of my Garmin manages a maximum of 10 hours I had to split it. (Some meters not included while charging the fitness watch)

[…] Question: Does someone need an experience like that?

At the very moment while hiking: NO!

One day later writing this post: Not necessarily, but it forms your character. […]

 

Eleven hours later, I woke up. How is the pain doing? Better. Standing on my feet. Wohoo?! Not quite. Another eleven km back to Paine Grande today? No, I see the pain increasing again. No nasty blister!? Wrong!! They were just over-ruled by the other pain yesterday… So I did not feel them. Haha. Gladly I could change my reservation for tonight from Refugio Paine Grande to the same location again. And, the staff gave me the chance to participate in the warm dinner tonight. Yes! I’m in, gorgeous!

I heard, there is a viewpoint just a 15 minute walk from the Refugio Gray. I wanna see the glacier closer, so I prepared for a …, well, a 60 minute walk… two way! Haha.

The day ended up relaxing. I allowed myself one 0.33 beer at the cheapest rate of US$ 6.5. And enjoying two additional good things: A conversation with a guy called “Sam” and an excellent dinner. Sam, that’s his nickname, is from Pakistan. He went to The States when he was 22. Difficult to evaluate his age, if I may guess to European standards, I’d say he’s in his late 60ies. He worked in IT, now traveling quite often. I asked him: “What does happiness mean to you?” He returned quickly: “Having no negative thoughts and no dislikes.” He asked me, if he may guess my profession according to the question. “You may, however it is mostly misleading to people, I must confess.” He pointed towards Psychologist, Human Resources,…

A hot soup, a piece of pork on the bone, cooked excellently, combined with some mashed potatoes and finished with some home-made chocolate cake crowned the day.

Some good sleep followed and the next day was about walking backwards to catch the ferry to Porto Natales. Still feeling beaten in the context of a heart rate at the lowest of 75 bpm (usually I got like under 50 bpm ), I first walked to a hanging bridge, 30 minutes north up the O-Trail, opposite direction to the ferry. The view on the glacier was supposed to be even more beautiful. Well, not to much.

 

And then, I walked all the way back to Paine Grande to catch the ferry. A 15 km day hike, not quite without pain. But who isn’t used to that. 😉 The ferry ride was quite short, about 25 minutes. The good thing is, it was ridiculously cheap, easy peasy US$ 28. 😉 I want to avoid walking for some days completely, kinda sick of it. Need to bring down my heart rate urgently. Maybe they have a wheel chair at the hostel? And please, no more stones around. 😉

To sum it up:

Kcal used in the last 7 days just as of being active (excl. basic circulation which uses 2300 kcal/day): ~13,200 kcal

Fife days with no internet: Crazy and extremely rare.

National Geographics, you are right! Nature is great and important for a human’s well being. But always know your limits.

In the evening, I met Elisabeth and Jan again in the Yagan Hostel. The world was ok. 🙂
I should enjoy two chilli-milli days in the hostel, doing some laundry and backpack sorting.

Off to Atacama Desert with friends… join us!

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