Pull out a map or globe and take a look at Chile. It is a long, long country. As a result, it takes a long, long time
to travel north to south over land. After our two week Spanish course in Santiago and a weekend getaway in
Valparaiso Jarrod and I began our southward journey toward Patagonia. Besides being a top-notch outdoor
clothing company, Patagonia is also a giant area comprised of the southern third of Chile and Argentina. Our
strong desire to see Patagonia is what initially brought us to Chile. For the first part of our southward journey we
skipped from town to town in order to break up the lengthy bus journey. After short stays in Valdivia and Chiloe
we found ourselves crossing the Argentine border to a town called Bariloche. Bariloche is a cross between Lake
Tahoe and Vail, as it is a ski town nestled on the shore of a massive lake, with block after block of shops selling
upscale leather goods, woolen sweaters and silver jewelry. And…it is the chocolate capital of Argentina! Imagine a
quaint ski town with mountains on one side and a glistening
lake on the other. Now add to that picture shops bursting with
every imaginable kind of chocolate located every 20 feet. I’m
not kidding, we did not walk 20 feet without passing a window
adorned with bon bons, chocolate covered cherries, milk
chocolate sticks, etc. From huge conglomerates the size of a
department store to small mom-n-pop shops. Between the
lake, mountains, and chocolate we stayed in Bariloche longer
than planned. But as all good things must come to an end, we
finally departed Bariloche and climbed on board what would be
the mother of all bus trips.

    Thirty-seven hours later we peeled our backsides off the
bus seats and made sure we still had all our teeth.  The
infamous Route 40 that runs north-south to Patagonia is not
for everyone. First, most of it is unpaved. Second, there is little
to look at. If you really want to get away from it all then this is
where you should come. Nothing as far as the eye can see.
Add to those virtues the joy of our bus breaking down twice
and you can imagine the fun we experienced. But finally we
were in the heart of Patagonia and about to embark on a 4-
day trek in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, or as us gringos
like to say “Torres del Paine National Park”. This park is often
described as the jewel of Patagonia. After seeing the park
firsthand Jarrod and I would vehemently argue it is the

    After two days in Puerto Natales buying food, renting
The Torres del Paine...shortly after sunrise.
camping equipment and planning our route we ventured into the park. From this moment on I felt like we magically
stepped into a National Geographic documentary. We chose to hike the “W” which is a 4-day hike encompassing
the park’s highlights that follows a path shaped like the letter W. The first day we hiked on a path cut directly into
the side of a mountain with the Rio Ascencio (Ascensio River) raging hundreds of feet below us. Evidence of
previous landslides dotted the mountain sides. We made it to our campsite, Campamento Torres, in time to set up
our tent and make dinner before dark. Here’s where we exposed our camping inexperience. We walked around
The Rio Ascensio in Patagonia.
the campsite looking for a good place to pitch our tent. We knew to look for flat ground and to avoid rocks, but
that was about it. After all, on Kilimanjaro our tent was already set up and waiting for us by the time we waltzed
into camp (thank you Kili porters!). We found a spot that met the above two criteria and began setting up the
tent. By the time we got the poles in and lifted the tent we realized our error. While the ground was smooth and
level, when the tent was fully erected it was actually much larger than it looked. We found that we just had
enough room between a circle of trees to get our tent up. We had to shimmy around the trunk of a tree to enter
the tent on one side, and there was just no coming and going from the other side as it butted directly up against
a large tree. So we learned the third thing to look for in a good campsite—enough space for our tent.
     The next morning we planned to get up
before sunrise and hike to the sight that
graces every postcard of Patagonia and
that the whole park is named after, the
Torres del Paine (towers of Paine). They are
two 2800 meter granite pillars deftly carved
by eons of wind and glaciers and they jut up
from the surrounding mountains and lakes
like two whittled incisors.  As we unzipped
our tent we found darkness already
receding from the horizon so we settled for
seeing the towers just after sunrise. We
braved the precarious one hour climb over
house-sized boulders to reach the lookout
point. The towers are magnificent but what
makes this one, and as we would soon find
out most all of the sights in Torres del
Paine, extra incredible is the solitude. There
are no roads leading to this sight. Unlike
most other impressive nature sights around
the world there was not a tour bus in sight.
In fact, as we crested the hill and caught
Where's Waldo...I mean Jarrod?! There he is, in front of Glacier Grey.
our first glimpse of the towers we were joined by only one other
small group of hikers. Amazing.

    While the Torres del Paine are the most recognized sight in the
park they don’t lack competition for the most impressive. Over the
next three days we hiked past raging rivers, glistening glaciers,
magnificent mountains and…lovely lakes (this is where my alliteration
falters).  By the third night Jarrod and I were pros at setting up
camp. It’s a good thing too as we found ourselves racing against the
weather to get our tent set up. As rain and wind whipped at our
faces we scrambled about and managed to erect our tent in about
four minutes. The wind is quite legendary in Patagonia. In fact,
before we set off on the trek we saw people wearing t-shirts with
something like “I survived the wind in Torres del Paine National Park”
written across the front. We found that an odd fact to broadcast on
clothing. Odd, that is, until night three. We spent the night
alternatively laughing and cursing as the wind raged down from the
mountains and across the lake near our campsite. It was so strong
that the poles of our tent repeatedly collapsed all the way down,
Los Cuernos, beautiful red and white mountains
The view from our campsite on the second night of our trek
striking us, then rebounded and sprung back up. Luckily, the next day was our last so the lack of sleep was not a
problem. We hiked up to Glacier Grey which, although not as massive as the Perito Moreno Glacier, was
spectacular in that again, we were the only two people there to admire this triumph of nature. We will never
forget sitting across the face of the glacier by ourselves, admiring the uninterrupted view of ice pouring into the
emerald green lake below us.

   It is really not possible to fully portray the beauty of Patagonia in words, or in pictures, for that matter. It is a
remarkable place, where nature shows off its best works. We hope to return here one day and see the remainder
of the park. When we do return, we know one thing. It will not be via a 37-hour bus ride!
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Torres del Paine National Park
Glacier Grey