It wasn’t looking good for our W hike. It was raining like gatos y perros in Puerto Natales. It was too soon to start panicking. After all we still had 3 days before the start of our hike and this was just a passing storm. No worries!
With the rain coming down hard we didn’t venture far from our hotel opting to have lunch at their cute cosy cafe (sandwiches were OK) and dinner across the street at Aldea (fantastic meal).
The rain continued all night but in the morning it stopped though dark heavy clouds still covered the sky. We took advantage of the break in the weather and went to Fantastico Sur to register and pick up our refugio and transportation vouchers for the trek as well as go over our itinerary and any logistics.
Afterwards we walked around town taking in the sites and attended the daily free 3pm Erratic Rock info sessions. These popular sessions cover everything you need to know about hiking the W and O circuits including weather, transportation, packing, campsites, refugio, park regulations, etc. At the end of the talk there was an announcement that the Park closed a couple of trails due to the heavy rains. The mood in the room instantly changed from chattering excitement to silent unease. They didn’t have any info about which trails were closed but we assumed it was one of the passes that were part of the longer O circuit so we didn’t think it would affect us. No worries!
We went back to the hotel to pack our backpacks and to wait for Sally to arrive from Punta Arenas. By the time Sally showed up the clouds lifted and the sun was peeking out. When we went to the waterfront to check out the sunset we were amazed to see mountain peaks that were not there earlier. Wow, look at that there are mountains out there.
Dinner was at Aldea again since G talked about the hare he had on his plate and got Sally excited about having dinner there.
Torres del Paine At Last
Our bus to the TDP was at 2:30pm so we had the morning free. It wasn’t raining so that was good. We took care of last minute errands and went back to Fantastico Sur to register Sally and asked about the trail closures. They confirmed that the Park did close the trails and it was the trails to Mirador Torres (viewpoint of the iconic three Towers) and the French Valley. What? NOOOOO! Not the Mirador Torres trail THE SAME Mirador Torres trail we are supposed to hike tomorrow. OK time to worry!
With not much we can do we went shopping and had a quick lunch at La Chocolates de la Patagonia before walking to the terminal to catch our bus. We were taking the Maria Jose bus arranged by Fantastico Sur to TDP. The drive was about 2 hours and afforded us some great views of the surrounding plains and mountains plus close up views of guanacos (South America camelid) and the ostrich-like rheas.
Just as we crossed the park borders, the clouds suddenly parted and angels started singing when out in the far distance the Torres in all its grandeur was before us. It was a sight to behold.
We stopped at Laguna Amarga to pay our entrance fee and to catch the shuttle to the Las Torres area where our Refugio was located. There was a greeter who showed us our way to the Refugio and told us that we were lucky because we were able to see the mountain today. We had rain here in the last few days. Yes we know!!!
At the Refugio Torres we checked into our bunk rooms where we interrupted one of our bunk mates who was reading. Expecting a run-down shed with beds, the bunk rooms were actually nice and we had a view looking out to the mountains. We asked our bunk mate if he was able to hike up to see the towers. He said he left before dawn and was about 45 minutes away from the mirador before the rangers blocked him from climbing up further. It didn’t seem to matter as he wasn’t able to see the towers even during his trek up as they were hidden under the clouds.
After claiming our beds and putting stuff away, we went outside to enjoy the views of the mountain although it was obscured by some lingering clouds.
We saw this huge hare while walking around. May be the same one that G and Sally ate at Aldea. Look at it running away from them.
D was very tempted by the services this sign was offering.
Slowly the clouds started to dissipate to reveal what they were hiding all along. First it was a glimpse of a granite peak and then a view of the second peak until finally we were able to see all three Towers. How absurd was it that we were here and seeing this in person?
We hiked up a hill to get closer views of the Towers and talked to a guy who told us that it had rained heavily in the last few days and that people got stranded, camera equipment got ruined and trails got closed. It was his last day here and he wasn’t able to hike to the mirador to see the Towers up close. As he looked out to the Towers that for so many days alluded him, he shrugged his shoulders and said what are you going to do?
At the fancy and cushy Hotel Las Torres we crashed a horse show that the hotel was putting on for their guests.
At dinner we spoke to a group who changed their schedule just to stay an extra day at our Refugio hoping that they could hike to the mirador today. But as with the two other guys we talked to it wasn’t meant to be.
By the time dinner was over the skies were completely clear giving us unobstructed views of the Towers as well as hope that the clear weather will hold out.
Bus Sur (Punta Arena to Puerto Natales)
We took Bus Sur again for our trip to Punta Arena to Puerto Natales. It was a three hour bus ride. The Bus Sur Punta Arena terminal was a convenient four blocks from our hotel. Buses in Punta Arena have their own terminal as opposed to a central terminal.
Once we arrived in Puerto Natales, it took us a while to get a taxi as the taxis that did come by were already claimed by other people who were smart enough to call them in advance. It took about 20 minutes before we were able to get one so it may be worth calling a taxi in advance to avoid waiting, especially when it’s raining.
Costs: $12 pp
Maria Jose (Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine)
Arranged by Fantastico Sur, this bus company offers excursions and transportation to TDP. There was a slight musty smell when we first got in most likely due to the other sweaty hikers that just got off. The driver was nice and helpful when we had to stop off to pay our entrance fees.
Puerto Natales, Chile
Nice funky place with a cute cafe. Rooms were large and cosy. About 3 blocks from the waterfront and close to the center of town. About 10 minutes from the plaza. Only issue was that our toilet was broken and we had to manually flush it. Also the shower was kinda cramped.
Refugio Torre Central
Beds: 25 to 27
This was a great refugio. Clean and well-maintained. There were a couple of common areas for people to hang out with views of the mountains and Towers. Our bunk room slept 6 people maximum and we were full to capacity. There were lockers where we could store and lock our bags/stuff. There were two dinner seating times: 7:30 and 8:30. We had the 7:30 seating time. Dinner wasn’t too bad and consisted of salad, beef stew, potatoes and pudding for dessert. We also got complementary welcome drinks. Yeah so this is quite roughing it.
Puerto Natales, Chile
Great little restaurant that was conveniently across the street from the hotel. Served modern Chilean cuisine mostly serving lamb, hare, rabbit and seafood. All the things D really doesn’t eat. Good thing they had some vegetarian options. G loved his hare so much we went back a 2nd night this time with Sally. Sally got the hare while G got the lamb.
Puerto Natales, Chile
Nice simple place serving classic Chilean fare. We ate here for lunch and we both got the lunch special: Pollo con Arroz. Came with soup and dessert. The service was slow and took longer to get our food than expected. We had to rush through our meal so we can try to make the 3pm Erratic rock info session. The food was good though.
La Chocolates de la Patagonia
Puerto Natales, Chile
We had a quick lunch here before leaving for TDP. Both G and D got toasties. Nothing to rave about.