We woke up early – weather clear and calm, an ideal day to reach Base de Torres.
The trail started at the Los Torres Hotel
where parking was available. From the parking it is approx. 1-1/2km to the start of the actual trail, as yet we did not knew what was lying ahead. The trail led upwards along a river with scenic views and passed the Chileno Lodge and camping
site – pretty full this time of year as this is a popular overnighting spot to do the W-trail.
We carried on, after another 7km the hectic steep section started leading to the foot of the Torres pinnacles. By the time we had reached this section the weather had completely closed up. Nevertheless we proceeded and reached the lago at the foot - unfortunately the Torres covered by clouds.
Seeing the condors soaring around these peaks was wonderful.
As it grew colder we made our way down again, knees suffering. By the time we reached the vehicle again we had done a 21km round trip in 12 hours and could feel the pain – age setting in?
The park offers a variety of interesting fauna and flora.
On the way down we rested at the Chileno Lodge and had a decadent hot chocolate and muffin – very worthwhile stopping here and resting a bit.
Although the weather was not as it had promised in the morning, we enjoyed this trail.
The evening rained out, after a stormy night we woke up to more rain, but enjoyed some cake and cappuchino in the comfortable rented camper of our Austrian neighbors Rudi and Gisa before we drove down to the Paine waterfall and on to Lago Azul.
While enjoying the trip leisurely observing the many Guanacos with young, the Torres cleared up for a while offering us a photo opportunity from this perspective.
From here we drove back to the entrance near which the camping site Serrano is situated – a privately run site with wooden shelters, good ablutions and hot water -a pleasure to stay at. Since the angling season had closed a week earlier, we had no problem finding space – we believe it is better to book here when entering the park to ensure a spot.
On our way to the Grey Glaciar ranger station we hoped to see the elusive Huemul -not lucky, only see Patagonian scrub hares. Due to the rain it was not worth proceeding further to the glaciar and we turned back -on the way the mountain massif opened up long enough to do a panorama photo or two.
Still on our list were to Salto Grande and do the trail to the Cuernos lookout. Rain did not make it a pleasant walk and we are forced back- the raindrops felt like icicles when they hit the face – the wind was strong and visitors with children had to guard them not to be blown over.
Another night on Serrano camping compensated and a hot spaghetti went down very well.
Next day we proceeded back towards Puerto Natales with the caves en-route that we had skipped coming up.
We stopped at the immense 200m deep Cueva de Milodón – the cave so named after the finds of the extinct Milodón, a giant sloth that used to roam Patagonia with other extinct species.
In 1895 Hermann Eberhard found the remnants of this 10000 year old sloth.
From here we reached Puerto Natales again.
Before darkness we did some essential shopping and then found refuge at Camping Güino for P6000pP – all structures made from galvanized sheeting in true Patagonia style like so many old houses. They had a kitchen where all campers could prepare food and spend time inside this heated room and also offered a laundry service.
We took some time out to enjoy the colourful wall paintings depicting the life of the original inhabitants of this area, the Aoniken and Kaweskar Indians.
The mural is by artist Angelino Soto Cea and is restored every ten years since it was first painted in 1996 on the walls of the municipal stadium.
Buildings in Puerto Natales are generally colourful and many are still constructed from corrugated sheets.
While we proceeded down the Ruta 9 towards Punto Arenas we had a good sighting along the road of two birds of prey devouring a skunk – the whole area was smelly of the typical garlicky odour of a skunk.
Spring was in the air and very evident near Rio Tranquilo. En route the wind was picking up and the clouds remained spectacular.
Just short of Punta Arenas we visited the well-known open-air marine museum, the Museo Nao Victoria, that displays a replica of the Não Victoria, the ship with which Fernando Magellan had circumnavigated the globe and who had discovered the Magellanic Straight at the time.
Also a replica of the HMS Beagle can be entered, the ship with which Darwin and Captain FitzRoy had travelled to this remote region.
For the night we found a room in the Hospedaje Aventura Austral as camping in town is virtually non-existent. However, we could only stay for one night and could not stay the next for Xmas. What a luxury for us – central heating, a hot shower, breakfast included, all while the wind howled outside. For supper we walked to the Café Sarmiento at the outlook Mirador Cerro de la Cruz.
The good Wifi at the hostal allowed us to call family to exchange Xmas wishes and greetings before we looked around town and admired more art and painted buildings, all well done.
Then we headed south to drive towards the southernmost lighthouse, all along the Straights of Magellan and in the hope to find a sheltered wild camping spot somewhere along the way. We saw Sea Lion, Cormorants and Canquen Colorado, a type of duck we had not seen before.
When we reached Cabo San Isidro, chatted to Martha in her southernmost kiosk in Chile, the weather started clearing.
To reach Cabo Froward Cruz de los Mares, the southernmost point, is a 32km hike – not what we wanted to do on this Xmas day. On our drive back we found a wonderful spot, sheltered and quiet, in a little forest along the way – only one other family camping about 300m away. The wind died down completely – so unusual for Patagonia and a true gift on the day - we could lit candles for Xmas supper!
During the night a drizzle set in, we erected our tent and awning, the wind stayed down and allowed us to enjoy the moment in this remote part of the earth. During the 25th
December there was some more family activity, some music and quadbikes, but towards evening everybody left and we were the only ones remaining in the area.
Along the channel we counted about 40 delapidated Chinese fishing vessels, many wrecks and rudimentary shelters.
From Punta Arenas we followed the Ruta 9 north and off onto the 255 at Governador Phillip.The road remained spectacular in its flatness and clouds.
At Terminal San Gregorio
with its desolated buildings and rusty shipwrecks, we took some time out.
To cross the Magellan Straights a short ½ hr ferry trip is required from Punta Delgada to reach Punta Espora – the ferry ran regularly and the cost was P15000 for 2 persons and the vehicle. Finally we had reached Tierra del Fuego ( Fireland).
The day was drawing to a close and there was no camping site or hospedaje to be seen, the wind intensified and the temperature plummeted.
There were no trees, no little forests, no hills, no nothing to shelter here. Flat countryside.
This post covers 19th