Torres del Paine

We often say that there’s beauty to be found in every corner of our planet, and we stand firmly by that statement, however, it’s also true that some places are, for many different reasons, a lot more special than others; Torres del Paine is a great example of that!

Although many claim this site to be unique, the truth is that about 100 kms away, across the border in Argentina, there is a very similar site; Torres del Paine’s hippy twin sister, El Chaltén (great video about it here). Six months earlier, we spent several days hiking around there where many people warned us to take our time because Chile is more expensive and less “free” in other ways… Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to find out for ourselves exactly what they meant by that… 

So, there we were, in Puerto Natales, knackered after a very tough week of cycling from Punta Arenas. As explained in the previous entry, the region of Magallanes had pretty much knocked us off our wheels, so a good break was in order. We spent a couple of days with two “local” hosts and then two more in a small hut that we rented; we do love getting to know people but as an older, married couple we also sometimes need to be alone.

All of that time, we mostly looked at the forecast a lot, hoping for a few days of acceptable weather in order to go and see those babies by bike (“normal” people go by car/bus), and ate warm and hearty food in preparation for what was coming; 4 to 5 days of inevitable crappy weather (spoiler)!

All in all, we didn’t actually like Puerto Natales that much and prefered Punta Arenas a lot more. It’s difficult to explain why but Arenas has a more “falling off the map” feeling to it while Natales is just there to service the national park. It’s probably a fun city, but we weren’t there for that. 

Lots of food … funny thing; that wasn’t even all of it !

Initially, we actually considered not going to “Las Torres” at all; it was going to cost us a lot of money and energy and the chances of even seeing the famous peaks were slim. However, the next boat out of that dead-end was in a week anyway so that tipped the balance towards “Let’s just go!”, we filled our pannier with A LOT of food (there is absolutely nothing between the city and the national park), said goodbye to Shirley, the resident cat, and left on a cold October afternoon.

Oh, it was also very windy, of course it was (seriously, read our previous entry)! 

Before we continue, one quick word about food in Puerto Natales, but before we do that, please take a quick look at where this place is located on a map; yes, it’s far from everything! That, and the fact that it’s not actually connected to Chile by any road, results in fresh food being of very low quality, albeit very expensive, there. Sometimes we weren’t sure if we were eating a tomato or a cucumber and just hoped that at least its natural properties were intact. 

Anyway, back to the road. The first day we managed only 30 kms. It’s our life philosophy to avoid taking the same road twice so we opted for the “loop” to Torres del Paine meaning that we would go past the Milodón’s Cave. One of the reasons we wanted to visit that is that Marco had just previously read “In Patagonia” by Bruce Chatwin (amazing book BTW) in which the cave is mentioned. Funny thing, even if we hadn’t wanted to go, just as we were cycling past it, rain, then snow, started to fall almost horizontally so we took refuge behind one of the buildings.

We had seen a wild-camping spot about 20 kms away so we got a hot drink and waited for the weather to improve but it never really did. About an hour before sunset, we talked to the staff and they informed us that sometimes cyclists set up camp behind the abandoned restaurant just across the road. There was a “half shelter” in the back which would protect us perfectly from the wind and rain/sleet/snow… “perfect”! 

We are prepared for the cold, but the worse thing about sleeping out in those conditions is the fact that the wind makes a lot of noise; the tent moves, corrugated roof sheet rattle, trees, grass … everything! You get a 360° concert and it’s hard to get some proper sleep. 

Next day we got some hot water and a huge, warm hug from the cleaning lady at the Cave and we left. It was cold but sunny and the mountains were beautiful. There was a thin blanket of fresh snow on the peaks and it was quiet. It was a bit like the landscapes you see on documentaries about far away mountainous regions; a long valley, snow on either side on the mist-covered summits, a river in the middle, small lakes here and there.

Only problem; nowhere to stop when you’re a cold cyclist. Oh, we also got mud-splashed a couple of times by vehicles hurrying to the park, wanting to make the best of the nice weather which, of course, didn’t last. A shy drizzle was waiting just around the corner reminding us of the fact that in Patagonia you can get 4 seasons in one day. 

At around 11, having cycled almost 3 hours, a break was in order. We had seen some buildings on Maps but weren’t sure of what they were, so we checked them out. There were no signs of life but 3 pick-up trucks parked outside one of the houses. We went, knocked, heard a voice, opened the door and were “welcomed” by several guachos (Patagonian cowboys) and their WTF looks. It was, after all, raining horizontally AND the sun was shining at the same time. One of them, the boss, invited us inside, offered some hot water, asked if we had lunch already and then told us to sit down, opened a huge pot of hot stew in the middle of the table and told us to help ourselves.

In Patagonia, hospitality seems to be like the weather but a lot faster; you get 4 seasons in 30 seconds! 

The beginning of the afternoon was less cheerful, the road was in dire conditions, the potholes filled to the brim with muddy water, the climbs steep and the views blocked by thick, low clouds. 

That’s not what we came here for! 

The last straw was when, once reached a particularly vertical, hence sweaty, summit, it started to rain at exactly the same time as the wind started howling in our faces! We immediately felt like two popsicles!

Life at the end of the world has its constraints; one needs to accept them.

We don’t remember why we were smiling so much but we were wet inside AND outside and wearing almost all of our clothes so it must have been hilarious 😉

We finally arrived at the entrance of the park and, frankly, we didn’t really feel like going in. We were cold, tired and a bit frustrated at the fact that we couldn’t see anything around us. The staff there was super friendly though; they invited us in, allowed us to dry our clothes on the radiators and gave us some tea! We talked with them for a while, explaining our concerns, and they let us in on a small secret; if you use the park as a through road, you don’t have to pay; the only catch is that you have to enter and leave the same day. 


We were not going to do the hike to the Torres anyway, so that was a great deal for us! The plan was to pitch the tent in the nearby campsite and enter early the next day. We asked how much that was; 60$ … to camp!?!?!? Even the Park’s staff felt that was very overpriced so, since it was the end of the day anyway, they allowed us to enter already and camp in the unmissable Lago Pehoe campsite. Cool! 

And just then, as the plan was all coming together marvelously, the sky opened up and we saw them; Las Torres del Paine in all their glory! A sign from above? Of course not, but we’ll never forget that view!

Once at the campsite, we had a hot shower, ate, and went to bed early. The campsite is famous for its amazing views over the Cuernos and, since we witnessed a gob-smacking sunset, we decided that the sunrise would also be spectacular. Alarm at the crack of dawn it is! It had been an incredibly tough past couple of days although we ended up saving 70$ for the park’s entry fee but, truth be told, that sunrise alone would have been worth it! 

We had breakfast with our eyes glued to the peaks and then had a lovely morning cycling with those amazing views and felt grateful that, for once, the wind was on our side there because, damn, it was strong, so powerful that although it was coming from behind, we once had to get off our bikes and push because it was throwing us off the saddle!

All that was left to do was head back to Puerto Natales, which we did on the main road and with, yes you guessed it, lots of wind, say farewell to Shirley, board the Crux Australis, and slowly cruise around the inhabited fjords for a couple of days and reach one of the best cycling destinations in the world; La Carretera Austral!

You can also find us on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube where we will soon upload videos on the amazing time we spent in the South of Chile. Don’t forget to subscribe if you don’t want to miss any of them! If you don’t follow us on any social media sites but enjoyed reading this blog entry, please consider subscribing to our newsletter as this will enable us to grow and will keep you updated on our progress, publications, etc.

And please don’t forget that part of our adventure consists of fundraising and raising awareness for two incredible NGOs so please help us to spread the word and, of course, if you’re feeling generous, donate here.

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