Pushing the limits in Towers of Pain – Torres del Paine National Park
My first plan was to visit Torres del Paine just for a day. But it was before I found out how difficult hiking there was. And before the destiny decided for me and I had to stay there for 3 days because there were no more tickets to El Calafate earlier.
So from the 13th to 15th February 2012, me, a friend of mine who I met in Ushuaia and a couple we met on the way to Puerto Natales, we went to explore the national park of Torres del Paine for 3 days. We split in two and did 2 different routes there.
We took a bus from Puerto Natales (12,000 pesos chilenos round trip) to Torres del Paine at 7.30 am and got to the park at 10 am. Paid the entrance of 15,000 pesos chilenos at Laguna Amarga, got a map and took another bus to Hosteria Las Torres which is one of the entrances. This bus trip costs 2,500 pesos chilenos (approx. 5 euro) but we got it for free as we knew the guy who you had to pay to hop on. It saved us not only those 2,500 pesos, but also 1,5 hour of walking.
Finally at 11 am we started hiking all the way up to Campamento Chileno. It was more difficult than I thought. A proper tough hiking, mostly because of 15 kilos on my back (food, a tent, a sleeping bag, a mat, clothes for 3 days). We had to stop every now and then so I could catch the breathe. The sinusitis was getting worse and the ears were completely blocked.And the weather was getting worse, too. It started drizling and the wind was horrible, really strong exactly at the places were it was dangerous to walk. And there were some dangerous spots just before Chileno Camping where you could fall easily from the path down to the river valley.
It felt like in Towers of Pain and not Torres del Paine (Torres means Towers and Paine means Cielo Azul – the blue skies were not blue almost at all when there). There I really didn’t feel good so when we finally got to Camping Chileno, I was so happy! We had lunch in the restaurant there and dried up.
It stopped raining so we continued through the forest to Camping Las Torres. It was the easiest part of hiking to be honest. In between the trees, without the wind and rain, and not too steep. When we finally reached Camping Las Torres, it was just after 6 pm and I couldn’t believe it! We found a good spot and set up the tent. It was quick, 10 minutes, I was proud of us, yupiii! It was the first time I set the tent up if I remember it right. We had a dinner inside the tent – delicious bread with cheese, boiled eggs and avocado. After, we tried to sleep. It was so sooooo cold that I couldn’t sleep the whole night. I was literally shaking, with gloves, a cap, a jacket and all wrapped up in the sleeping bag and still freezing. I couldn’t wait until morning. I just wanted this to be over!
I prepared my breakfast with the gloves on. I used the thing from the cheese to put the oats with milk in it. After, we took the tent, packed again and headed off to Camping Chileno. The weather was nice, hot and sunny until we got to the place where the shortcut to Los Cuernos Refugio starts. There we met with our friends we met before on the bus – a couple from Jerusalem waiting for another friend Eran there. We had a nice lunch – tuna and avocado sandwiches. Me and Lyra continued hiking, we were told it was supposed to take us less than 4 hours to Los Cuernos, but the second half seemed endless. It was too windy, raining a bit and my ears and nose didn’t want to listen to me. We finally got to Los Cuernos refugio at 6.15 pm. At the restaurant we saw Eran knocking on the window to me to come inside. So we did. He was sick, vomiting all the afternoon so we stayed with him. Which meant we couldn’t continue to Italian Camping which is for free as they close the pathway there at 6.30 pm because of bad weather as it takes 2 – 2,5 h to get there and if you started after 6.30 pm, you couldn’t make it with the daylight probably. So we stayed.
All of a sudden, the 3 guys from Belgium (they were seated in front of us on the bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine) appeared there and sat next to us. We talked a little bit and I started to like them. Cuties! They made up my day after all the suffering during the second half of the hiking to Los Cuernos. I just love meeting interesting nice people!
Then the Jerusalem couple came finally and after we set up the tent, had a dinner and went to sleep. There was no one to pay to for the tent as in Refugio Los Cuernos you have to pay for camping (it is a private property, how stupid in a national park!) But then we were asleep already I heard someone outside shouting if we had the ticket for camping. But before I woke up and realized what was happening, he left. So woo hoo, free camping :)
This night was not that bad like the first one, there was less wind and it was not that cold like in Las Torres camping but I was still cold and shaking.
I felt like with fever.
And I got the period.
And the ears were really bad.
If my doctor saw me, I would have to stay in bed with antibiotics drinking hot tea, and instead I was sleeping on the ground with cold and no hot drinks and no pills. Well, it was stupid of me, I admit. Again I couldn’t wait until the morning. We woke up at 7 am and left the camping at 8 am. Headed off to Hosteria Las Torres, we made it in 4 hours, it was not very difficult and the weather was nice.
We were hoping to stop a car then from Hosteria to the entrance of the national park where the buses leave from, but there were only vans passing by and no cars, so we had to walk another 7,5 km. On the way we met the couple who came with us but did the opposite route in Torres del Paine. Once we got to the bus, we were all destroyed. I think it was the hardest hiking ever for me, and with the period, cold, sinusitis and a lot of stuff carrying on my back for 3 days, it was a lot of pain. And many people said the same that it was difficult to hike in Torres del Paine so we renamed it Towers of Pain :D On the bus back to Puerto Natales we all fell asleep.
After 3 days, to have a shower, shave, put the clean clothes on and have a hot dinner was something I can’t even describe. It was not the best time for me to hike in Torres del Paine, too many health problems so I couldn’t really enjoy it there.
But the views were jaw-dropping. Even though we never managed to see the Torres properly as it was always too cloudy. But we saw the nicest rainbow ever (if I don’t count the sun dog rainbow in Mexico.)
So we didn’t see the main spots of Torres del Paine, all the three towers themselves but did the other mountains, rivers, lakes and the forest were worth seeing anyway.
Tips for visiting Torres del Paine:
- The buses going from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine go every day at 7.30 am and 2.30 pm and come back at 2.30 pm and 7.45 pm. Different companies offer the bus service but the timetables are all the same.
- There is entrance fee of 85 pesos chilenos for the foreigners which you can use for 3 following days in case you come and leave every day. Or when you stay, it is valid until you leave the park.
- Torres del Paine is a national park, so no rubbish is allowed to leave anywhere, no campfires around the park, no leaving of toilet paper. You can use the toilet in the bushes but at least 100 m from the rivers.
- You can drink water from the rivers all around the national park.
- Be prepared for all the kinds of weather. It always gets windy even if it looks sunny first in the morning.
- There are only three free camping sites: Camping Las Torres, Camping Italiano and Camping Britanico. The rest are located in the private property so you have to pay to stay there overnight.
- You can rent a tent and buy food in Torres del Paine but you will be charged much more than in Puerto Natales so everyone rents/buys everything in Puerto Natales and then takes it to Torres del Paine.
- After the fire that started in Torres del Paine on the 27th of December 2011, most of the park on the West side was damaged and burnt. It is now open for public again but if you are a big nature lover, maybe it is better not to go there as it could hurt you to see everything burnt and black.
- You should not smoke in Torres del Paine. In case you do, you have to take the cigarette butt with you.
- Gas stoves are permitted for cooking in the campsites.
- No washing of the dishes directly in the rivers. No damage of the plants and animals.
If you don’t feel like hiking, you can take a day bus trip around Torres del Paine National Park to see at least some parts of it. It costs 20,000 pesos chilenos, plus 15,000 the entrance to the park.