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Puerto Natales, Chile

Written on: Saturday February 16th, 2008

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Puerto Natales, Chile 

Author: Julie 

Hola! 

Well, the blog is now 2 months behind and we?ve forgotten quite a few details, proving why the blog is really important for memories. There?s just so much that happens each day, it?s hard to keep with the writing all the time so we?re constantly falling behind. Unfortunately, that means the blog entries for the next couple of months are going to be pretty short. Sorry everyone! We may be behind but we?re not giving up on it.  

We spent two days in the village of Puerto Natales. The bus ride from Punta Arenas to the little village and gateway to the most visited park in South America was only two hours long (11$). We were dropped off just a block from Erratic Rock, our hostel for the next couple of nights before we left for the park. Erratic Rock is an interesting place as it is owned and ran by two American men who fell in love with the park. They noticed there was a huge lack of accommodations for the hundreds of backpackers that passed thru each year so decided to take a chance and open a hostel that would meet all their backpacking and trekking needs. It isn?t a large place but their helpfulness made it such a popular place that we had reserved ahead so we didn?t have to run around trying to find a room. We checked in and found out that we were in their Annex section, the home of one of the owners which has a couple of extra bedrooms for couples (25$) and a dorm room to catch the spill-off reservations when the main hostel is fully booked. Their stroke of genius was that they also did equipment rental and free daily information session for the new arrivals. 

We attended the 3 PM information session the next day and were glad that we did as it answered many of our questions and also provided us with some great ideas on what to pack, how to pack it, what kind of weather to expect and the details on transportation in and out of the park. We recommend this free information session to anyone about to do some trekking in the park, the information provided is invaluable in ensuring a great time in the park, and you don?t need to be staying at the hostel, it?s open to anyone. 

Loaded with information, we spent the next couple of hours running errands and renting the necessary equipment we would need for the 7 days we would be in the park. We bought extra wool socks, stuff sacks, and rented trekking poles (3$ a day) and sleeping bags (3$ a day). We also stocked up on munchies for the trek with a large portion of our money going towards chocolate. 

We returned to our room later that evening to spend the next couple of hours packing. The weather in Torres del Paine is known as being at best unpredictable with the norm being a day of sunshine, followed by intense rains, then sunshine, then 100KM/h winds to be followed by a snowstorm, more rain, then triple rainbows all within a three hour period, therefore we needed to pack for all weather conditions, and our packs needed to be waterproof. 

Here is a list of the items we packed for our 6 night/7 day hike: 

General

  • Underwear
  • Quick dry towel
  • Toiletries
  • Snacks like fruit, beef jerky, power bars and chocolate
  • Plastic water bottles
  • Knife
  • Extra straps/rope
  • Duct tape
  • -10C Sleeping Bag
  • Extra garbage bags for waterproofing
  • Digital Cameras
  • Passport
  • Money
  • Headlamps
  • Books

For Hiking

  • Hiking Pants/Shorts
  • 1 pair Hiking Socks
  • 1 Quick-Dry T-Shirt
  • 1 Long Sleeve Quick-Dry Top
  • 1 Fleece Sweater
  • 1 Gore-Tex Jacket
  • Hiking Poles
  • Mitts/Gloves
  • Tuque
  • Scarf
  • Hiking Boots

For Relaxing

  • Winter Underwear
  • Down Jacket
  • 1 pair Socks
  • 1 T-shirt
  • 1 pair Shorts
  • 1 Long-Sleeve top
  • Running Shoes

You might be wondering why we didn?t classify the Winter Underwear under the hiking section and it?s because of some wise advice that was given to us by Rustyn during the information session. The weather in the park is so erratic that by the time you?ve taken out your waterproof clothing and put it on, the storm has passed, you?re soaked and cold but then the wind picks up and the sun comes out and you?re dry within 10 minutes, at which point you are sweating from all the heavy gear. The time it takes to stop, take the clothes off again, store it in your bag after having stopped only 30 minutes before to put it on has cost you 20 minutes of hiking. So, it?s better to wear as little clothes as possible, make it all quick-dry and you?ll be dried faster and longer. You arrive at the campsite quicker and only once there you pull out the cold weather underwear. They are clean and warm and by then you?ve stopped moving for the night so you need the extra heat. We followed his advice and it worked like a charm. Most of the time we were in hiking pants and a t-shirt only with the occasional long-sleeve or jacket to combat the cold of the extreme wind we experienced.