Most people recognise Patagonia as a mysterious place deep in South America…or a brand of adventure gear for serious hikers. Patagonia is a unique destination, home to a famous wilderness trek in the mountainous Torres del Paine National Park. The trek is locally known as the W trek, given to the W shaped track that interlinks the three granite towers, the French Valley, and the Grey Glacier. The trek is approximately 70 kilometres (43 miles) in total distance and is one of the most scenic treks in the world.
It is a walking only track, no vehicles allowed. There are luxury lodges at either end and refugia and camp grounds within the Park. All stores and equipment are walked or packed in by horses as there are no roads.
On this particular trek we undertook two legs of the famous ‘W’ walk. The first leg started steeply winding its way through a mass of folded earth, (a geologists dream) into very pretty valleys with beautiful streams and stunning views.
The trees en-route have been grasped for support by many hands as walkers haul their way up the steep sections of the track creating a beautifully polished-wood appearance.
After a climb up a loose rock slope and rounding a group of massive boulders we were greeted by the spectacular ‘Towers of Blue’ aka the ‘Horns’ looming over a blue glacial lake. Many visitors make the pilgrimage to the towers and due to the long trek call them the ‘Towers of Pain’ but translation of Paine in Spanish is actually blue due to their hue.
The second leg began with a scenic ferry ride into Grande Paine with the majestic towers reflected in the wake of the boat reminding us of the previous days trek.
We arrived at Grande Paine in the middle of the day and spent the afternoon walking into Grey Lodge where we stayed the night. It was exciting to see our first glimpses of icebergs and glaciers. The next day we were fitted with crampons, helmets and ice picks and transferred via zodiac to Grey Glacier where our guides (including Mikki below) instructed us on the basics of ice hiking.
We spent 5 hours on the icesheet, discovering ice caves, water fountains and ice climbing in a truly spectacular setting.
After a full day at the Glacier we relaxed on a catamaran cruising with a scotch and 30,000 year old ice in hand. Our next destination the Singular Hotel in Puerta Natales, one of the most spectacular luxury Hotels in Chile.
After a fabulous meal and a solid night sleep we had the opportunity to go on either another hike, mountain biking, horse riding or rock climbing. A group of us, mostly novices, chose to rock climb and were in for a challenging morning. Whilst on a rope high up the mountain, shaking with fear, a condor came to visit me. The sound of its wings soaring through the air around my head is not something I will forget. What a treat for a complete beginner!
The next day we headed off to our next adventure – Antarctica!! Read about this epic journey here.
Our trip to Patagonia and Antarctica began and ended with a night in the historic city of Santiago. This is a very interesting place with its colourful street art, beautiful old buildings cool restaurants and crazy cocktails.