Road trip to Torres del Paine

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Our second adventure in Patagonia was a guided tour around the Torres del Paine National Park to see all the main sites. This could definitely be done by yourself, if you could rent a car and knew which points to aim for. That would definitely have been my ideal, just because I like to be in control and don’t love the idea of paying someone to do something I could do myself, but without that option this was definitely the next best idea.

The road trip around the park was my highlight of the trip to Patagonia. The park is absolutely beautiful and full of things you can’t even imagine existing, but it’s also way too big to see yourself without committing to the full 4 day trek. I didn’t want to miss any of it and this was definitely the best way to do it.

Once again, we started the day before the sun could be bothered to wake up, but we braved it anyway. Our first stop was the Cueva del Milodón, a 200 meter long cave and incredible natural monument. We walked through the cave, which also serves as an archaeological dig site, and learnt all about prehistoric Patagonia. The cave contains remnants of extinct animals and human activity. One of the animals that lived in this area was the Mylodon, a giant sloth that went extinct roughly 10,000 years ago. The cave has a life-size replica of the Mylodon at the entrance for size reference. It was apparently a herbivore, but it would still scare the crap out of you.

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We continued our drive, and once we got close to the park we stopped at various look out points. From the very first look out, we could see the eponymous towers of the ‘Torres del Paine’ perfectly. We had been expecting rain and clouds, but it was such a clear day and it made every view even more surreal.

There is no way to explain the beauty of the park, so I’ll just show you.

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Those dark grey pointy mountains on the side? Those are the ‘Torres’ of ‘Torres del Paine’.
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Laguna Amarga

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You know how in skyscrapers, the higher you go, the less the difference seems? Maybe this isn’t a relatable analogy, but I lived in skyscrapers for a few years. On the 19th floor, the height is insane and the cars look like ants. But from the 40th floor, it more or less seems the same. You get so high that the difference is barely noticeable, your brain can’t comprehend the difference in something so extreme. That’s what Torres del Paine felt like, in terms of beauty. It was all so so beautiful that after a while you start to become immune to the extreme beauty – it’s all just incredibly beautiful.

Or at least, that’s what I thought until I arrived at Lago Pehoe. I was becoming immune to the beauty, until we got there.

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Lago Pehoe does not look like it should exist in this world. It looks like a beautiful mystical kingdom from a far away mythical land. It looks like the White Queen rules it and somehow a rift in time and space opened and it slipped through to our world. It shouldn’t be here. It shouldn’t be real. It is the prettiest place in the entire world.

I didn’t actually end up taking that many photos of it, because I spent the entire time insisting that it clearly wasn’t real and just staring at it in awe. Luckily, Jess kept it together and managed to take photos of its beauty.

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We went to one of the campsites for the W Trek for lunch, which was all closed but still had benches and areas to sit and relax and even a little convenience store that was open and provided me with much needed coffee. We took our lunch and walked down to the shore of the lake, where we sat down and admired the view.

Sitting on the shore of Lago Pehoe, staring at the bright blue water and incredible mountains, sipping low quality coffee, with my best friend, was honestly my favourite moment of the whole trip. It still seems surreal.

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Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay there forever, so we bundled back into the van and continued on to see the Grey Glacier. Unlike our previous low key site seeing, of driving up to a lookout, bracing the wind, taking snaps, and bundling back into the van, this experience was a little more intense. We got out in a car park and were told it would be a little bit of a walk. This seemed ok. We walked through a forest, across some dubious bridges, and all of this seemed fine. And then we reached the huge open beach of the Grey Lake and it’s unbearable wind.

A note on the wind: Patagonia is always cold. It is the south of the country, very close to Antarctica. It is mountains and lakes and glaciers. We went in winter. We knew it would be cold. We had prepared for cold. We wore at least five layers every day, and we could deal with the cold. What we couldn’t deal with however, was the wind. Nothing protects you from the wind! The park is notoriously windy and there is nothing you can do to escape it, particularly from the beautiful vantage points that offered such amazing views because there was nothing blocking you. Sometimes we would get out of the car and I wouldn’t even be able to look at the beautiful sights because the wind was too damn strong to look up or face the right direction. I don’t like the cold, but I can handle it. This wind is another thing.

So we’re on this huge open beach, and our guide tells us that we have to walk all the way across it to be able to see the glacier. This was honestly the most intense resistance training I can imagine. I couldn’t even lift my head up, all I could do was focus on my feet and try to battle my way across the sand. You couldn’t walk in a straight line, the wind would blow you across and we could not stop cackling as the wind crashed us into each other as we made tiny steps across this vast expanse.

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Eventually, we made it to the other side. At this point we had to go right up to the water, so the little pebbles were blowing up and hitting our faces. I wanted to look up and admire the glacier that I had worked my ass off to see, but honestly the wind was so strong I could barely open my eyes. Also our phones died, so I don’t think we even got good photos.

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Trying to pick up the ice to get a photo with it, as the tour guide insisted. Our phones died before we actually got the photo.
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I don’t really remember seeing this view, but it looks incredible. The Grey Glacier is off in the distance.

And then, we turned around to do it again. In an attempt to block some wind, we linked arms with the couple that were on the tour with us and fought through the wind together. It was absolutely absurd but a very cool experience, and one that I don’t think you can do in summer, as the ice melts and the lake covers most of the beach.

This was our last stop on our tour, and then we drove back through the park. We might have stopped a few more times but I barely remember. The tour was amazing and the park even more beautiful than I could have imagined, but I was exhausted and I spent the trip home watching out the window in silence.

This was my favourite day of the trip, and every time I look at the photos again I cannot believe I saw those things and that they exist in this world. Torres del Paine is absolutely incredible and I am so so so glad I went.

 

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