Patagonia doesn’t have a reputation for being windy for nothing. At the moment we are in Punta Arenas where, during the windiest times of the year, ropes hang from street corners for pedestrians to grab onto so they do not find themselves blown into oncoming traffic. It is the southern most city on the mainland of Chile and is less than 1000kms from Antarctica… and it’s cold!Our lodging is the home of an eccentric old lady called Dinka who irons her clothes on her desk and keeps a collection of tacky but fabulous garden gnomes in the flower garden of her colourful house.
We rocked into town this afternoon from Puerto Natales which is a quiet, sleepy town that time forgot. Our hire bikes were the perfect vehicle for viewing the town, which has wide flat streets.You can roll down to the waterfront and view black neck swans bobbing on the choppy sea. After three solid days of hiking in the Torres Del Paine national park, a leisurely ride around the town was a welcome relief.
Torres Del Paine is one of the most spectacular places in Patagonia. It is home to the ‘three towers’, or Torres, as well as glaciers and mountains to boot. After the first night in our spacious tents, on an unseasonably warm night, we set out on the hardest hike of our trip.A walk through a flat valley and up over the base of Half Paine mountain found us at the first campsite for hikers looking to walk the famous ‘W’, which takes around a week to complete. The terrain continues across a river and through a forest until you reach a field of boulders, which was once the front of a glacier, or moraine. The real challenge was scrambling up the hill which in places was at an angle of about 65 degrees. As we came up over the ridge the Torres stood tall in all their glory, the center tower rising up 1200 meters, against the yet again blue sky which has chased away the clouds from earlier in the morning. They are a stunning sight to see…
The walk took about 9 hours and we were rewarded with a lamb roasted over the fire for dinner and several bottles of wine which caused a great deal of dancing and general debauchery into the night!Patagonia is known for its lamb and I must say has given me a new-found taste for ribs… yum!!!
The Grey Glacier awaited us the next day. It takes a bus and a ferry ride from our campsite to reach it and on the windiest days the ferry does not run. We were lucky. Despite the fact there was barely a breath of air on one side of the lake, in the middle of the lake the winds were almost enough to sweep you off the roof of the boat. The hike was quite easy, only four hours all up and when we came close, our guide warned us that the lookout point onto the glacier was quite ‘exposed’.An understatement if you ask me. I actually was able to lean all my weight into the wind as it reached close to 80kms/ph. The slightest wrong step and we would have been swept off the outcrop for sure. The glacier, which is one of the 48 glaciers of the Patagonian ice field, is sadly another victim of climate change and has retreatet quite significantly over the past 15 years.
Our next stop is Ushuaia, which is on the island of Tierra Del Fuego and even closer to Antarctica. Penguins, kayaking, fishing and horse riding await so stay tuned for further adventures!
Em and Stu xoxo
P.S Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about one of the best culinary discoveries of the trip. It’s called a ‘completo’ and is a Chilean favourite. It’s a hotdog with onions, tomato, guacamole and mayonaise. Genius!