From the penguins in Ushuaia to the W-Trek in Torres del Paine
The internet connection in the South of either Argentina and Chile is not the best. Therefore we have been MIA for a while.
During the past weeks we've been visiting the penguins of Ushuaia, made new friends (humans and animals) and hiked through the Torres del Paine National Park with our backpack and tent.
Since we only had one full day in Ushuaia before catching another flight to El Calafate, we wanted to make most out of our stay there and booked a boat tour to visit the Light Tower, the sea lion and a sea bird colony and of course the famous penguin island. Since we were short on time, we couldn't book the tour where you can actually step foot on the penguin island and walk among them. Since there is only one tour operator that offers this, it is something that you have to plan and book ahead. By the way: the tour operator is also the owner of said island... So we booked a regular tour where the boats kind of "strand" on the island and you get pretty close to the animals as well. It was an amazing experience for us and we absolutely LOVED it.
The flight to El Calafate took only one hour and we used our time in the little town to book our tour to Perito Moreno Glacier when we get back in town on the 1st of March. The next day we boarded a bus which took us to Puerto Natales (Chile). The ride normally takes about 5 hours but you have to cross the Argentinian/Chilenian border and therefore go through both border controls and immigration processes. Since the Chilenians take it very serious what you can and can not bring into the country (and all buses and luggage are thoroughly searched by a dog and humans), and since there were a lot of tour busses arriving together, the whole process took close to two hours.
From the Puerto Natales bus terminal we walked about 15 minutes to our hostel (Yaganhouse) and used the two nights in Puerto Natales to prepare for our 5 day hike at the Torres del Paine Nationalpark. We also ate amazing seafood and discovered the first and only Whiskey and Gin distillery "Last Hope" in Puerto Natales. The place is owned by an Australian couple (Matt and Kiera) and they serve amazing drinks. The bar is well stocked with different and Whiskey from around the world and Matt is more than pleased if you bring one from your country and sell it to the bar. Importing stuff into Chile is difficult and it's the easiest way for them to stock up their shelfs. We will definitelybring something from Switzerland when we come back to this amazing place! Check it out if you ever are in Puerto Natales!
Whith a tripple whater proofed backback and fotopack, we made our way to the bus station again and cought the transfer bus to Torres del Paine National Park. We did have some trouble since our backback left on a bus without us, but since we are already South American approved we managed to not freak out and got it back at the next stop which was Laguna Amarga (Administration office of the park). It took about 1 1/2 hours until we were through with everything (standing in a loooooooooooong line again waiting to pay the park entrance fee of 21'000 CLP per person and get an approval stamp from CONAF that we are allowed to stay in the park). The bus dropped us at Pudeto where we were supposed to catch the 11 am catamaran that brought us to Paine Grande. Since everything took so long we had missed the catamaran and the next one wasn't scheduled until after 4pm. So we left our backpack at the station and hiked a little bit up the hills. When we came down we realized, that there must have been another catamaran since the other backpackers were all gone and just our pack was still there 'grrrrr'. We had to wait until 4:15 for the next one.
When we finally made it to Paine Grande we set up our tent and explored the campside. We were staying there for two very windy nights. On the first day we hiked up to Glacier Grey and back (4 hours each way) and were amazed by natures beauty. On the second day we hiked to Campamento Los Cuernos which was another 8 hours because we also hiked up to "Mirador Frances" (1,5 hours each way). We were very lucky with the weather and had plaine sunshine and a little clouds and drizzles of rain along the way. I woke up the other morning with a sore throat and tried to cure it as best as I could while hiking from Los Cuernos to Campamento Chileno, which is based at the bottom of the famous "Torres del Paine". We planned to hike up there by 4am to see the sunrise and of course for Marco to take some pictures.
We woke up at 3:15 and I decided that I was going up there no matter what. I didn't come that far to give up now and not see the Torres from up close. So we took our sleeping bags, head lamp and fotopack and were on our way by 4am. After a two hours hike (steadily up up up...), we reached the Torres (Torre Central, Torre Monzino or Torre Norte and Nido de Condor). Marco set up his photo equipment and I slipped into my sleeping bag. It was freezing and the wind was blowing pretty hard, but it was all worth it when the sun hit the Torres. We hiked back down at around 8am and packed our stuff to leave for our last campside Las Torres where we would spend another night before leaving the park.
We are now back in Puerto Natales and will head on on February 28th to El Calafate.