Thursday 10th December 2015 – From Administracion to Paine Grande
I woke up in Puerto Natales at the Erratic Rock in the 5-beds dorm at 6.15am at the same time as Lola, the French girl I had gone shopping with for food the previous day. I finished packing the bag and went for brekky downstairs. At the brekky table, there was a couple who had just finished hiking the O (called also Circuit) in 7 days and a guy who had done it in 8 days. It was nice to hear them debate about what the best was, doing it clockwise or anti-clockwise.
I left at 7.35am for the bus of 7.50am and realised I was actually late and started running with my big backpack on, heavy with 10 days of food. Not the best way to start ahahahaha! There was another guy at the hostel who was taking that bus and I thought he was in front of me already but then once I reached the bus, I realised he was not there yet. Five minutes later, I saw him arriving, also running. At the end, we both made it! Here was the bus.
Here was the map of the 100km bus journey.
Channel to our left.
We spent the bus ride chatting and looking at the Torres del Paine map and trying to figure out how we wanted to hike the Circuit. Evan had 8 days but wasn`t sure where he wanted to start. He was from Philadelphia working with his family in construction and showed
me photos of an eco-house located in El Bolson called the Earth Ship where he had worked for 2 weeks. He explained all about it to me. It was built with recycled car tyres filled with sand and had some air pipes and water pipes running under the house which were warming the rooms and providing clean air. It looked really great. I wish I had seen this house when I was there. More about this house here!
Here was the sign going to Torres del Paine. What an exciting moment!
We saw some guanacos from the bus.
We arrived at the first of the three stops, the entrance to the National Park. A woman came in to explain to us how it worked and what each of the stop was.
We got out and filled a form giving identity details and how long we were planning to spend in the park.
Then we paid the entrance fee and were given maps and entrance ticket.
Here is the map provided.
Then we watched a video for 2 minutes about the risk of fires and things to do and not do.
There were three huge fires in February 2015, February 2011 and December 2011 caused by tourists which destroyed dozen of thousands of hectares. I found this article talking about it in-depth.
Since then, the Park created this video that all hikers have to watch when they register and enforced rules and fines to avoid this situation again.
We went back to the buses. Evan decided to start hiking from here and grabbed his backpack. I was transferred to another bus going to Stop 2 then Stop 3. I had decided to stop at Stop 3 and start with the tail of the Circuit which makes it the Q. Off we continued.
At Stop 2, I had a thought for Paul and Manue from the blog “T`as quoi sous ton poncho?” when I saw the Pinnochio Wicked campervan they had travelled with for 2 weeks on the Carretera Austral and on the Ruta 40:
Many people disembarked as it was the most common stop where the catamaran takes hikers on Lake Pehoe to the Paine Grande campground.
I turned back and everyone had gone!
Three guys got transferred to my bus though and 2 girls joined so we were 6 people carrying on to Administracion. The views of the Lake Pehoe from the bus were really great.
We arrived at Stop 3, at Administracion.
Here is the bottom of the map. I was about to go from “Administrative Headquarters and Visitor Centre” to “Paine Grande Ranger Station” through Las Carretas camp and Pehoe lookout.
I realised it was now already noon so I made lunch there by grabbing two tortillas and spreading one with peanut butter and one with cream cheese and a few slices of salami. It was a cold lunch, so no gas used, quick and efficient. This was to be my lunch every day for 10 days! Note: If it was to do again though, to save time, I would have bought a sandwich for that lunch and eaten it in the bus just before to arrive there!
It was very windy and cold outside that day. I registered by putting my name in the registry. They had the images of the animals we may see in the Park.
Then I realised that I had lost my Cusco hat, probably in the bus. So I walked to the bus to see if they had it. Luckily they had it. Then I walked back to Administracion building where I grabbed my big backpack. Just by going to the bus and back I still managed to get lost, ahah. I had the ambitious plan to walk to Linda Lagoon first and back, which is normally a horse trail, before to head to Paine Grande, but I couldn`t find the beginning of that path and realised anyway that it was getting pretty late and that I better get going. I asked at the reception how to get to the beginning of the path to Paine Grande. She showed me this map and said “After the house with red walls and a yellow roof”, you turn right and then continue until you will see a sign indicating the beginning of the trail to your right. I thought alright, let`s try. The funny thing was that all houses had red walls and yellow roofs! Ahahaha. I almost got lost, of course.
Even here I was hesitating and finally walked to the left.
Here was the beginning of the path.
Here I was!! Finally!
The path was pretty flat and uninteresting at the beginning as it was very close to the road.
It was also super windy and rainy so I stopped and added my rain pant and gaiters on top of my hiking pant. I felt warmer and more prepared for the rain. I hiked all day with a Merino short sleeves shirt and my Gore-Tex jacket on top protecting me from rain and wind and that was enough. The path got prettier.
What was making it nice was the beautiful blend of colours of the high grass, red and yellowish.
Until I reached the Rio Grey though, it was super super windy with the wind right in my face, a wind coming from North-West where I was heading. My nose kept running and I used lots lots of tissues. This wind was so strong it felt like Patagonia was playing and trying to knock me down. I started a system. New tissue pack in the left pocket of my pack and used tissues in the right pocket. This wind, jeeeez, what a Patagonia wind. It was getting me so tired, it was so hard to breathe! I pondered. Could people even go deaf when spending too long in a wind like this?? Most of the time, I was happy and laughing though. I was in Patagonia! And this unique Patagonia wind reminded me of that constantly! I was in the famous legendary incredibly beautiful Torres del Paine National Park! On my first day! I was so excited. And I was not afraid anymore of going hiking alone. Travelling alone has never scared me, probably cause I started early. I remember being 15 and sent to Germany for a 2-week German language learning programme and staying with a hosting old lady and going to the zoo alone and going to the movies alone and enjoying exploring wherever I was at the time by myself. But hiking alone? That was a first. Hiking alone had scared me until now. And I realised it was actually alright. I ran only into two people before to reach Rio Grey. I turned back and realised the woman had a kid sleeping on her back, probably 2-3 years old. They were hiking with their kid! So cool!
There were a few spots where the GPS coordinates of the tracks were given. I compared with my own GPS but mine was not matching, it was a second-hand, so probably not that perfectly accurate.
Beautiful views on that first leg.
I reached the Rio Grey and started walking right, with it on my left.
I continued and reached the first campground where I chatted with three Russian travellers who had spent 7 days on the W, just taking it easy. Towards the end, they had just enjoyed chilling out and were now heading back to Administracion to catch the 6pm bus. It was 3pm and it had taken me 2 hours and half to get to Las Carretas campground with the wind in my face with a 30 something kilo backpack full of 10 days of food. So they would be fine! There was this sign at the campground indicating how much had been walked and how much was left to go but it often proved to be inaccurate during the hike.
The three Russians going away.
Walking a bit and looking back at Las Carretas campground. It was the emptiest one I saw on the entire trek, so minimal! It was a bushcamping style campground and definitely great for people looking for quietness.
The CONAF sign and RKF post-it.
I continued alongside the river.
I saw some really pretty flowers I had never seen before.
And lots of other flowers.
I continued walking until I reached Paine Grande campground around 7pm. During my walk, I ran into three French guys who had come hiking alone and had met each other on the track. They had done the W in 3 day and were going camping at Las Carretas. Towards the end, I ran into a couple from Halifax, Canada who had pitched their tent at Paine Grande and just walked to the mirador to see the lake. Otherwise, just one guy who was going to the mirador too. No one else. It was nice to have a first day with no one around, just to get into it.
Here was a couple of photos of the rest of the walk until Lake Pehoe.
View of Lake Pehoe.
Backpack and trekking poles.
View behind me, where I was coming from.
I started walking from Lake Pehoe to the campground and passed the Goose Family.
Getting closer to the campground.
From a distance, the campground looked huge. It was actually half a camping / half a resort. I registered as a camper and was told it was really windy and that it would be better to pitch the tent next to the hills. I searched for a spot and pitched my tent. While pitching my tent, there were 3 French girls in the tent near mine who were planning their food menus for the days to come, that was funny. We chatted a bit when they got it and I told them it had been a pleasure to hear them talk about food while I was pitching the tent. I am finally writing down these notes from my travel journal into this blog post 4 months later (but will still anti-date this blog article to the 10th December, the day when what I am writing about happened), anyway, the anecdote about these girls is that a month later, while I was having lunch with a friend of mine in Paris in Le Marais, one of them was at the table…right next to our table and we chatted about that day where we had met on Paine Grande campground. Small world…!
There was this Patagonian kangaroo hanging around the tents the way Australian kangaroos hang out the tents in Australia too, oblivious to campers.
Here is a little video of him.
I had been told at the reception that there were hot showers so I grabbed my stuff and tried my luck and the shower was kind of warmish enough to take one. Luxury hiking this Torres del Paine park, no hard-core bushcamping for days without showers hey. A bit of cheating maybe but hey, if there are hot showers available, why would I not take one? Just for the sake of being a hard-core hiker? Naaa, I went for it. And it was nice. The American guy who had helped me repack the bag the day before had given me the tip of washing the
underware under the shower so I did that and hanged it inside the tent to dry up. Cool idea.
Then I grabbed my MSR Whisperlite International stove, the bottle, the pot and cutlery and the mash potatoes 3-dinners bag and headed to the kitchen. It was huge. I ran into Jade and Vincent that I had chatted to at Don Bosco supermarket two days before. They
had finished dinner but hanged around with me and we chatted. They had also started with the tail of the Q the day before (the name we give to the path I had just walked) and had done a return-trip to the Grey glacier that day. They were going to Italiano campground the next day, which was what I was also planning to do. It was great as they were super cool. They introduced me to Alex, Julien and Theo who were in the 6-month class in Santiago with Jade. Alex was setting the pace: tomorrow morning, let´s start hiking at 7.45am. Sounded good to me.
When we were in the kitchen, I started my stove. The Whisperlite International starts
with a “prepping” step where you send some liquid white gas to the stove and fire it up with a lighter and turn off the stove and wait for the flames to decrease. That phase helps warming up the stove and tube so that once warmed, it can get out as a liquid and transform quickly as a gas. Once the flame decreases, you reopen, the liquid gets out again, transforms into gas and the flames are bluish and the stove is ready to boil the pot. However, the preheating phase creates big flames and if people have never seen this kind of stove, they can get scared. And as we everyone had watched the movie about the risk of fires, they can get even more scared…And that`s what happened!! Luckily, I was facing everyone and could look at them and shout around with a big smile “It is alright, guys. This is normal. Nothing to worry about! Thanks!” That was funny. I could only laugh thinking how scared they would be if I had an MSR Dragonfly, an even more scary stove!!
At our big table were two hiking women from America, Lannie and Marta with who we chatted too.
After dinner, they were cleaning the bathroom and I had to wait a bit before to be able to brush my teeth. I used that time to grab some red bricks available there and put one on each peg of my tent. It was getting really cold. Then finally, toothbrushing, toilets and we all retreated to our tents.
Tomorrow, alarm clock at 6am! Off to Italiano campground! I am in Torres del Paine!!!! Whooohoooooo!!!!! Finally there!!! Made it!!! 😀