Torres del Paine National Park


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Torres del Paine has been on my wish list for many years.  And to think I’m here in the midst of it is amazing to me.  The weather, and particularly the wind, are notoriously bad here, so we plan to make the most of the 36-hour weather window we have stumbled into.

After paying a small fortune at the Administration building to get into the park (CONAF passes for national parks in Chile are a bargain and give you entry to all parks in Chile EXCEPT this one) we turn west on a dead end road bound for the Lago Grey Hotel.  On a last minute whim I sent an email out to the hotel this morning before we left our hostel to see if we could still get seats on the afternoon boat tour that takes you to the glacier at the far end of Lago Grey. And a quick reply told me we could. Spectacular!!!  So I hold the space and commit us to a 2:00pm check in time for the boat.

The roads haven’t  been too bad so far…some loose gravel, and some washboards, but overall not bad.  That is until we leave the administration building and enter the park itself, officially.  The main road is covered in deep loose gravel….mmm, yummy, my favorite.  It’s only 25km to the boat and we have an hour.

The road is good for the first half but as we turn a bit more northeast and into an ever-growing wind, I find riding my bike is like trying to thread a needle in strong gusts, to weave it between winrows of gravel.  I have to stop and put my feet down in some places just to get my heart to stop racing and get my bearrings. It’s all I can do to hold the bike upright in the wind. But on we go….so slow, but every minute getting a tiny bit closer to the boat.  And just in time….we arrive at 1:47 and park and lock things up.  We even have time for a quick sandwich (appropriately named the Torres del Paine and worth it’s weight in gold apparently) at the hotel bar.

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We catch a ride over to the start of a trail that leads us out through the forest to the lake shore.  After about 20-30 minutes of walking we arrive at the dock and wait for the incoming Zodiac to shuttle us out to the boat, the Grey 2.

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The crossing takes an hour and I’m grateful to be inside the warm cabin as we get blasted by the strong winds and wind-generated waves and mist.  When we reach the other side we are sheltered by the glacier itself.

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The ice is so blue….it’s absolutely gorgeous.

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We spend an hour trolling along in front of the glacier, admiring its color, its size, its deep blue crevaces, and its incredible surroundings.  The crew offers us Pisco Sours with bit of glacier ice in the drinks.

And then we begin the trip back to the dock and eventually to the bikes, arriving at after 7pm.  As we anchor the boat and get ready to board the Zodiac a deck hand points out a pair of nesting condors on the cliff wall next to the boat.  Incredible!  What a way to finish a fantastic day!

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The wind has either died down a bit, or its moving in a direction that doesn’t affect steering so much, and it’s a pleasant 30-40 minutes or riding to the Pehoe Campground back on the main park road. We settle into a nice spot with the tent in under a shelter.  The clock is ticking…only 18 hours left of supposedly good weather….

 

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