Day 5: W is for Weary & Wistful

Triumphant. Jubilant. Exhausted. These were our feelings summing up our last day in Torres del Paine as we arrived at Paine Grande, officially completing the W circuit. It was absolutely one of the most incredible experiences we’ve had in our lives, and this World Biosphere Reserve is worthy of all its accolades, praise and worship.

Floating Ice Sculptures

As promised, the weather was perfect for kayaking around magnificent Grey Glacier and its icebergs – absolutely clear sunny skies and no wind. Couldn’t ask for a more perfect outcome.

A short walk from our Refugio brought us to base camp Bigfoot where we met our guide Felipe, signed our life away and got outfitted with wetsuits and PFDs. After a quick lesson and safety briefing, we launched the kayaks onto the lake, gliding over the tranquil silvery water towards Grey Glacier. G&D occupied one double sea kayak and Sally and an assistant guide, Lucho, shared another. Felipe was on a single kayak leading the way.

Chile Torres del Paine National Park
Sally admiring the equipment

We spent our time paddling between and around giant floating iceberg sculptures, marveling at their size and different geometric shapes.

Chile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National ParkWe made our way towards the face of Grey Glacier receiving stern warnings to not get too close to the icebergs and the glacier wall.

Chile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National ParkOnce we got within 50 feet of the glacier wall, we rafted up and soaked in the surrounding scenery while having chocolates and hot “tea” that consisted of cinnamon, honey and ginger.

Chile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National ParkAfter some more paddling we headed back to base camp and along the way stopped to check out a waterfall tumbling down into the lake.

Chile Torres del Paine National ParkBack on shore, we continued the hike further up to the Grey Glacier overlook for spectacular overhead views of the glacier and the grand Southern Patagonia Ice Field that stretched out beyond.

Chile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National ParkAfter scampering around the overlook to get closer views of the glacier, we headed back to Refugio Grey and stripped down to shorts and t-shirts before starting the long hike back to Paine Grande.

Chile Torres del Paine National Park

The Last Leg

With the sun shining brightly, the views of the mountains and waterfalls that were obscured by clouds the day before were more striking, more breathtaking, more sparkling. We ate lunch (the most delicious chicken salad sandwich ever) on the move to make certain we made it back to Paine Grande Refugio in time for our 6:30 pm ferry back to civilization.

Chile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National ParkChile Torres del Paine National Park

Here’s a video of him pecking

We arrived at Paine Grande around 5 pm, astonished that we (meaning G&D) completed the W circuit without any serious injuries or meltdowns.

Chile Torres del Paine National Park
View of Los Cuernos when we arrived at Paine Grande Refugio

With 1 1/2 hours before the ferry departure, we hung out at the Refugio’s bar where Sally discovered her new favorite Patagonia cocktail, the Calafate Sour. It’s pretty much a Pisco Sour except made with calafate berries, native to Patagonia. We reminisced over photos about our whole experience and whined about how much pain our bodies were in. As we took in the fantastic views of Los Cuernos from our perch, however, we were reminded that it was worth all the blisters, muscle aches, and joint pain.

Chile Torres del Paine National Park
The cold, the pain, the aches.  It was all worth it.

And then it was time to get on the boat. We waited with about 100 of our fellow backpackers for the boat arrival. Chile Torres del Paine National Park

After lining up to check in, we dumped our bags, adding to the growing pile of backpacks scattered in the middle of the boat, and grabbed a seat. A few minutes after departure we were allowed onto the upper decks, so we rushed up to get a spot and enjoy the fresh air and open views.

 

 

The views were just absolutely amazing, giving us basically a sweeping panoramic view of the whole W circuit in thirty minutes.

Chile Torres del Paine National Park

Chile Torres del Paine National Park
Paine Grande (L), French Valley (M), Los Cuernos (R)

Chile Torres del Paine National Park

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Maybe we should have just done this boat ride and saved ourselves the time and pain. No, no, it was still worth it.

We went straight from the boat to our waiting bus and relaxed for the 2 1/2 hour ride back to Puerto Natales. By the time we reached Amerinda Lodge it was 10 pm and we had no time to relax and enjoy any downtime with a 7 am bus to catch in the morning to El Chalten, the gateway to Argentina’s version of Torres del Paine. We still had to grab dinner, take a shower and repack everything. It was after 1 am when we finally went to bed. It was going to be a long day tomorrow.

Tour Outfitter:

Bigfoot Patagonia Adventure
Puerto Natales, Chile

Offers both kayak and ice hike excursions around and on Grey Glacier.  Located on the eastern shores of Lago Grey, the kayak excursions explore the east side of the glacier. Equipment was totally top notch and the guides were very conscientious about your safety on the water and around the icebergs. Nice touch is the tea and chocolates they offer during the tour.

Accommodation:

Amerinda Hostel
Puerto Natales, Chile

This time our room was outside the main lodge in a separate building. Room was nice and comfy. Bathroom smallish. Didn’t stay too long to really evaluate the room properly.

Eats:

El Bote
Puerto Natales, Chile

The same restaurant we had lunch at our 2nd day after arriving in Puerto Natales a week before. Good Chilean comfort food. The avocado/crab salad which Sally ordered was pretty tasty and so was the sauteed veggies.  G had the gnocchi and D had the Milanesa Napolitana.

 

 

 

 

 

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