My time hiking Patagonia was fantastic. This
park is like none other on earth. The mountains are like none I've ever seen.
Great towers of granite jutting into the sky at
the top. Lush forests as you ascend the mountain. Semi-arid range below.
At every moment there is natural beauty in every
direction. It was a marvelous experience.
When I left on this trip, I was prepared to hike
in the park alone but I suspected that it might not be the case. After all, I
was taking the Navimag Ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natalies, the town
that gives you access to Torres del Paine. Four days on a ferry would surely
present opportunities for travel friendships and possibly hiking partners.
Indeed it did. I met Noemie on we made plans to hike together.
I had a problematic knee. She was recovering
from knee surgery she’d had just 6 months before. So, despite me being her
mother's age, we were a reasonable match. Of course, she was ahead of me on the
trail. Legs and lungs 20+ years younger did give her an advantage but she was
gracious with it and we had a wonderful time.
We were also a match in our approach to travel.
Traveling simply and inexpensively was fine for both of us.
Thinking that I would be on my own, I had made
bookings at the refugios for my bed and board before leaving. Noemie had not
been sure that she would go into the partk and, traveling for 5 months, had to
be careful with her money. So we decided to camp. We rented the equipment in
Puerto Natalies and enjoyed night after night in a tent. I love camping and
would not have preferred it any other way.
We also cooperated on packing for the park.
Because she was on a longer trip, Noemie had a large pack. I had a smaller pack
(40 liters) and a day pack. We reorganized our things putting everything we
didn't absolutely need in her large pack and left it at a hostel so the we
could go into the park with two small, lighter packs.
All this, and buying lots of nuts and fruits for
the trail, was done quickly on the morning we arrived by ferry.
Torres del Paine
Before you get there, planning to hike Torres
del Paine is confusing. Now that I've done it I can't remember why, but thank
goodness for the travel bloggers who helped me (Jeff of Career
Break Secrets and Paige of Tripeezy) by answering countless
questions. They also confirmed that it wasn’t just me who found it confusing -
this was a relief.
In addition to the help of Jeff and Paige I had
a surprise bonus. A cousin (kind-of) living in Santiago is married to man who
used to be a mountain guide. As luck would have it, he was one of the people
who designed the W hiking trail. He described in great detail what would be
involved. He set priorities in case my knee didn't hold out and strategies in
case the weather didn't cooperate.
So, with planning help from many people, Noemie
• Hiked the right side of the W
first. We went to the campground which is about an hour from the top the first
day. This took about 3.5 hours.
• The next morning we hiked to
the end of the trail for a fabulous view of the Towers - something we would not
have had the day before. We then:
• Hiked down to the bottom again
meeting many people from the ferry along the way.
• Took a shuttle bus from the
Torres Lodge to the main road
• Waited two hours for a bus
which took us to Lago Pehoe.
• Took a ferry which took us to
Grand Paine where we camped our second and third nights.
• On our third day we hiked to
the Grey Glacier.
• Our fourth morning was raining
so we left early by ferry and bus for Puerto Natalies.
We arrived back in Puerto Natalies around 5pm
and quickly researched buses to our next destinations. Noemie was going to
Argentina. I was going further south to Punta Arenas. As luck would have it,
Noemie could grab a bus at 6:30. Again, a hurried repacking of our backpacks
and Noemie was on her way. After spending so many days with her, sharing
wonderful experiences, it felt odd. But normal as well. That’s what happens
with solo travelers. We are now Facebook friends and, who knows, we may meet
Alone, Not Lonely on the Road
Gauchos & Gringos - Keeping in Local in Chile's Lake District
About the Author
Janice Waugh publishes Solo
the blog for those who travel alone. She has been quoted in the Washington
Post, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Toronto Star and many other media outlets. Her
blog offers solo travel stories, tips, safety advice and destination ideas as
well as a couple of free ebooks including Glad You’re Not Here: a solo
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