Puerto Natales is the nearest substantial town to Torres del Paine national park. Brad and I had a rental car we picked up in Punta Arenas so we could get the park, but we stayed in Puerto Natales.
When we arrived we planned to stay in an Airbnb and of course I had not met our host I only knew his first name (Carlos) and I had the street address. Brad and I were driving along and a gentleman was waving to us, we were on the street we were to stay on so we parked the car and introduced ourselves, we shook hands and expressed how pleased we were to meet him. The gentleman didn’t speak English but I understood pretty quickly that he wasn’t our host due to the way he was speaking. You can tell when people aren’t expecting you by their tone. In any case we showed him our map to the place we needed to be and he pointed us in the right direction. Two days later after having drove around town quite a bit we ended up on the same street where the kind gentleman pointed us in the right direction. It was then we realized we hopped out of our car and introduced ourselves and shook hands with a man who was telling us that we were going the wrong way on a one way street. As always Brad and I are leaving an impression of American tourists all over the world!
The thing about southern Chile is that it’s pretty much off the beaten path. There are options for staying in Torres del Paine however they are very expensive. Driving wasn’t really an issue except that there are no gas stations near the park. We fueled up each day in Puerto Natales which was no problem at all.
We also stocked up on groceries in Puerto Natales. There are food outlets in the park, we bought two protein bars and two GatorAids for about $20.00. So you can see its best to bring a lunch with you.
Since we normally stay in Airbnbs we were able to hard boil some eggs each day we went to the park and have a bit of a lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches. Our go to for travel food. We just make them without mayo but we add lots of cheese, butter, ham, salami so it works. I have had more bread, sugar, cheese and preserved meat in the last month than I have had in all my life! Often I feel a bit disgusted with my options. But it’s tough here. All fresh fruit and vegetables (right now at least) are pretty sad. Soft apples, no bananas and wilted lettuce. I think I would burst out in tears if I could have a bowl of broccoli. Weird!
In southern Chile they love mayo. I have never seen anything like it! Mayo and mashed avocados. We saw hotdogs absolutely drenched in both. Brad thought it might be such a good source of calories that they load up, it does get cold here. We also had trouble finding unsweetened yogurt. It has sugar, or stevia and also mostly it is zero fat which seems to contradict the mayo in so many ways. Why eat zero fat yogurt but load up on mayo? Sometimes the world is puzzling.
One thing I noticed nearly everywhere that was different from the USA is the packaging. Many countries offer soft sided packages similar to large ketchup packets you get from fast food places only with screw off tops. I only see jars of glass with metal lids in the USA or cans. Some plastic squeeze bottles but that’s it.In Torres del Paine we ran into an issue with the wind. We wanted to take a boat ride to Grey Glacier but it wasn’t running when we arrived so we then thought we would do a big hike up to Mirador del Torres but when we arrived the wind was blowing about 90 km per hour which is about 55 miles per hour for the folks in the USA. Walking around in high winds is pretty fatiguing so we just went back to town. Town is a two hour drive on a dirt road. One day we ended up with a flat tire which was a pain but quickly remedied. Brad took the flat to a tire repair shop and had it fixed for about $6.00. It was one of the better communications we have had here in South America. Any tire shop guy always knows why you’re there and what you need. No talking required.
Torres del Paine is a pretty small park. We saw everything we wanted to see in three visits. There are big backpacking hikes that can be done there but I am not a back packer so we just did day trips.
The day hike to Mirador del Torres was one of the most difficult hikes I have done. We walked 15 miles round trip and it was tough. The end part of the hike up is about a km over boulders and then of course on the way down my knees were on fire. We were pretty lucky we started out in the sunny early morning at 8:00 AM and reached the Mirador (view point) by 1:00 PM. Had a quick break and started back down because it started to hail and rain. Our hike down to the midway point was quite rainy. But we had rain gear so it worked out. The Mirador was spectacular but a bit cloudy so my pictures didn’t totally turn out. It a shame because I felt like is was a big achievement for me to reach the Mirador but then not have a nice view due to the clouds. But I have a record of my visit so I will include it even thought it’s not a great shot.
Other notable things from the area are wild guanacos which is like an alpaca, flamingos, condors and lots of hawks.