The famous circuit, which attracts adventurers from all over the world, consists of tracks that when plotted on a map, resemble the letter W. It was 76 km in four days – of all the trekking I have done in Patagonia, this one had the most beautiful view. You should pay attention to everything: flowers, lakes, rocks, mountains, ground and people who always run into you with a friendly ¡Hola! Most hikers are not young (aged between 30 and 60) and are able to carry the heavy backpack, besides walking for hours with a smile on their faces.
There are a few options of accommodation in the park: luxury hotels, refugios (like a hostel) and camping sites. We chose to stay in refugios: you do not need to carry camping equipment and food, not to mention the comfort of being in a warm room, watching several tents moving because of the strong wind. The wind here can knock down a person carrying a heavy bag – I mean it! We were lucky to get strong wind only one day, but this is very rare.
Day one – after stretching with a great view facing the PAINE GRANDE Mountain, we set off. We left Pehoé refugio and went to GLACIAR GREY, 22 km round trip, with just a small backpack for the day. We walked by GREY lake until an ICEBERG CEMITERY, where you can see the glacier. Some hikers create a game: throwing stones at an iceberg which had a strategic hole, and they spent hours trying to hit it.
Day two – About 24 km from Pehoé to Cuernos refugio passing by PAINE GRANDE (3.050m) and VALLE FRANCÉS. What a view! We could see an avalanche on the mountain top. We went around mountains, crossed rivers and walked by Lake Nordenskjold until our destination. We were almost there when we found a perfect beach (with small two-colored rocks instead of sand) and stopped for a while – we wish we had stayed there all day.
It was hard work; we had 9kg-backpacks on, but I am getting used to it. Sometimes I was so amazed with the place that I started taking pictures and forgot to take off the backpack when we stopped to rest.
Day three – we got our backpacks and headed for Las Torres refugio, the park entrance for cars; a busier place with bigger infrastructure. The walk was full of descents, shorter (11 km) and just as beautiful. As we arrived early, we had time to know the surroundings, go on a hike and take pictures without being afraid of getting lost. It was nice to see the birds on the trees in the evening, but getting covered in mud in the middle of the horses was not.
Day four – time to visit the famous TORRES DEL PAINE – we climbed to the base of one of them through a path that deserved lots of pictures. There was sun, clouds and strong wind sometimes, but we hoped for sunny weather up there – otherwise it would be freezing cold. We walked by a river, passing by cliffs and then a hard ascent on big loose rocks. It was hard 19 km altogether, but totally worth it: we were warm from the sun, we enjoyed the view while having a snack and it snowed as we went down. Still on our way back there was a rainbow with the blue lakes and the mountains in the back. A gorgeous day! As we went back to the same refugio, we took only the small backpack with the basic; it would be complicated to climb with all the equipment. There are people who climb the mountain carrying the tent, though – there is a camping near Torres, in the middle of the rushing wind. Only for climbers, this is the requirement.
We left the next day, everybody was tired but happy. We had got closer and very supportive of each other, and while we were waiting for the bus there was a group massage. This was the longest and hardest trail I have ever done carrying a heavy backpack. As I have overcome this one, I can consider doing longer trails, maybe the Paine Circuit.
LODGE PAINE GRANDE – the boat gets here. The place is big and comfortable; there are rooms for 4 people, a shared bathroom and leisure areas with a fireplace. The generator stops working at night, you need a flashlight to go to the bathroom. There is a restaurant and bar with a wonderful view. Chilean wine on sale!
LODGE TORRE CENTRAL – compared to the others, this one was dull but comfortable. There are rooms for 8 people, overlooking Torres. Shared bathroom and restaurant.[/box]
Translated by Lúcia Maciel
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