Tour Part 1
It had been six week since we started off on our adventure and it was time to switch from self-sufficient travellers to being part of a tour for 23 days. Tristan was excited as there was finally others for Jen to blame when things went wrong! Jen was excited to socialise with other people who weren’t Tristan.
We met the rest of our group at a hostel in Ushuaia and found out the trip had been booked to full capacity + 1. It was going to be a very full and crowded bus (aka truck with seats) to travel in for the next few weeks. After our first night in the hostel together, the next morning we all piled into our new home and set off towards the Torres del Paine national park where we would be starting the W-Walk.
The plan for the first day was to drive for as far as we could towards the park and then pull-over to bush camp for the night. However, after numerous bus breakdowns, which included a “make-shift” fan belt it turned out we wouldn’t be travelling very far at all. Whilst the bus was being repaired our new tour guides tried to keep us entertained by displaying some of their special talents including playing the didgeridoo and not speaking a word of Spanish!
We finally limped into a desolate and forbidding bush camp on the side of a dirt road in the middle nowhere. After unfolding ourselves out of the bus we had a demonstration of setting up our WW1 era tents. Dinner was rice and beans which we ate huddled next to the bus trying to get some protection from the biting winds and rain. We crawled into our dark and dingy tents falling asleep shivering hoping that tomorrow would bring a better day.
After the time we lost the previous day it was an early start to pack-up our tents and then we were back on the road to cross the border into Chile. Passing through customs proved to be slightly difficult but fortunately a local truck driver was able to point us in the right direction while our flummoxed guides stood by.
We stopped off into Puerto Merino to pick-up our guides for the W-Walk before heading off to the Torres Del Paine National Park. Luckily for us these guides were from South America and they could speak Spanish. Juan was a friendly Columbian who thrived on difficult hikes and mountain biking. Omar was a local Chilean who was a man of few words with a very dry sense of humour. He hated city life and after four days with him, it was discovered that he may also hate tourists.
Day 1 of the walk was a 22km circuit up to Los Torres, one of the main highlights of the park. The last kilometre was a brutal uphill rock scramble to the highest point. It was tough going but the views at the top were well worth it. On the way down the rock faces, Jen fell and bruised her bottom. Tristan had already charged ahead and was no where in sight, luckily some kind tourists helped her back up.
Day 2 was a short 14km stroll to the next campsite. It was a beautiful walk along the shores of the lake and we were again lucky enough to have near-perfect weather conditions with sunny skies and little wind to speak of, nothing at all like the Patagonia that everyone had warned us about!
Day 3, was another big day with a walk up to different viewpoints in Frenchs forest before making our way over to the next campsite, 28kms in total! We had some amazing views along the way but it was a relief to finally stumble into our last campsite for the trip. We were so famished that night we eagerly ate our dinner which consisted of cheap hamburger patties and rice.
For the last day of the W-Walk we were headed to the Grey Glacier before returning to camp and catching the ferry across the lake and back to our base camp. Our group was split in two with one group just walking to the first view point of the glacier and the other walking an extra 10km for a closer inspection. We chose to take-off early and try and make it the whole 22km to the end. Out of the 23 people we started with we were down to 6!
It was another tough day but we were well-rewarded with some fantastic up-close views of an impressive glacier. The return trip was one of the toughest we had ever made and we needed to push ourselves to make sure we didn’t miss the final ferry for the day at 5pm. Jen’s feet were covered in blisters and she had convinced herself that her big toe on her right foot was broken, but we managed to make it just in time and after 86km the W-Walk was completed. We celebrated that night with a lot of Chilean vino tinto.
Two things were confirmed at the end of the W walk. The first thing was that maybe we should have listened to Tristan’s mum when she suggested we bought trekking shoes rather than wearing joggers and the second being that we are the worst photographers. The photos we took do not the park justice, the places we saw were incredible. Lucky they were so beautiful to distract Jen from the pain of her feet.