2007 Roadtrip Torres del Paine, Chile

Dimitri and Audre made it to the fin del mondo, at the end of the continent in South America, after slowly driving from one end of Chile to the other for about 3200 miles (in our station wagon with all of our luggage and our bikes on top of it). We drove into the unique UNESCO Biosphere site and gasped when we had our first glimpse of the pillars of Torres del Paine--the massive, multi-colored, emblematic rocks carved by glaciers—in the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Patagonia. Traveling the world for 12 years, as we have been doing, how could we miss this, or now that we have seen it, how could we forget it?
Us, our rig and the famous Torres del Paine, at the end of the world

There are several hotels that offer complete packages with all meals, day hikes, spa treatments and other activities, at various prices (but all gagingly expensive). Our decision on where to stay was based on location, close to the activities we wanted to do.

The park is huge and most people want to trek it over a number of days. It is a magnet for trekking aficionados who consider Torres del Paine the sine qua non for any full-fledged trekker.

We, however, wanted a nice, warm (dry) hotel with organized, guided activities during the days. We stayed at Hosteria Las Torres del la Patagonia, Estancia Cerro Paine, Torres del Paine, Chile (56) 61 360360, web: (http://www.lastorres.com/) and chose the "Secret of the Nothofagus" Seven Night/ Eight Day Program which cost US$2576 per person. Our Grand Total Cost was US$5152 or US$736 per day. By the way, foreigners do not have to pay tax (with the proper stamps and papers in their passports).

We took advantage of every program and every excursion included in our package in order to try to "get our money's worth". We had a great time and would highly recommend spending the money and enjoying every second of your time at Torres del Paine.

The first day we went on an all-day guided excursion and hike to Lago Grey where we saw the floating icebergs and the glacier in the distance.
The icebergs on Lago Grey that were blown 17 km by the wind from the Glacier Grey

It was amazingly windy that day—the famous Patagonian wind was putting on a demonstration for us. Lunch in a box was included on the hike and we were nearly blown off the side of the hill as we ate it. The guide was enthusiastic and enjoyed showing us the flowers and explaining about the park. There were lovely little orchids and other flowers that grew close to the ground (no doubt, to stay out of the wind, if they could). We hiked through the Nothofagus forests with Lenga, Nirra and Coihue, the trees that can survive in the harsh climate of Patagonia. We saw the calafate bush which in December was still green (not having the ultimate blue berries yet.

After our hike we went back to the hotel and used the Jacuzzi in the spa before dinner. We learned that a part of our package was a “Honeymoon Spa” package that included massages for each of us, the use of the sauna and Jacuzzi, with champagne and a cheese plate. We booked that for two days’ later.

Dinner was either a buffet or could be ordered à la carte from a menu. Generally the food was good, although not refined. The woman who greeted and seated people was part of the family that owned the estancia/hosteria and she was warm, friendly and fun to talk with.

After dinner, we wanted to watch one of our previously recorded TV shows on our computer with the Vista Ultimate software that permits recording TV off of a normal television. The hotel didn’t have any TVs. In that case, usually we would have watched it in our hotel room but this room was infinitesimal and uncomfortable (and didn't even have a proper closet. We took out the clothes we needed for our hikes, our horseback riding, bike riding and the spa activities and put all of our 11 suitcases in the hotel's storage room.)

There was a lounge area near our room with sofas so we made ourselves comfortable there and turned on the TV show. Someone came out of a room nearby and complained about the noise (the walls being so thin). We got out our earphones and were then able to watch our TV show without disturbing anyone.

On our second day we went on the catamaran excursion on Lago Péhoe. The views were awesome and the day was really fun. )
Los Cuernos from the catamaran on Lago Péhoe, our 2007 Season's Greeting snap

We ended the day in the spa with a sauna and Jacuzzi. On our third day we went on a three-hour horse back ride near Lake Nordenskjold. Even though we aren’t horsy types we had a blast.

Horseback is yet another means of transport in Torres del Paine, Region XII, Chile

The experience of riding a horse though a running river was new to us and great fun.
Horseback riding across Rio Ascencio is a great deal more pleasant than crossing by foot. Audre is bearly visible in her blue jacket

And the views—oh my goodness were they good!

Our fourth day was the guided hike called the Patagon Trek. It was 4 hours and went to the caves painted by the natives long ago. We saw herds of guanacos, a camelid creature that makes Patagonia its home. After our five hour excursion we were ready for our Honeymoon Spa package and it was divine.

The fifth day was the most famous hike called Las Torres. It was nine hours and included a box lunch. The first part was on horseback up a very steep mountain to a shelter/refugio where we left the horses and continued up, up and up on foot for an hour or so through the rough terrain to one of the most famous views of the Torres: the Mirador Las Torres. We were impressed with our ability to scramble up (and then back down) the boulders of the moraine.
The moraine that we scrambled up (and down) to the Las Torres Viewpoint

Then we got back on the horse to descend to the steppe below. My job was to stay on the horse as he picked his way down the narrow and steep trail. His job was to stay on the trail because the drop-off from that narrow trail was dramatically steep (and beautiful) to the river far below (I looked; others in our group could not—too scary). Afterwards we had a lovely spa experience with the sauna and Jacuzzi at the hotel.

The next day we went on a bike ride with our bikes and a guide around the estancia/ranch that the hosteria is a part of. The first part was great for biking but when we left the ranch, the trail started to deteriorate to a footpath and we had to turn back after a couple of hours.

Biking across the Estancia Cerro Paine, with the Torres in the background. Audre is wearing her Sunblock Hat to guard against the treacherous sun coming through the ozone hole at the "fin del mondo"(end of the world)

The package we had bought included half-hour massages for each of us that day so we enjoyed them and the sauna and Jacuzzi that afternoon.

On next two excursions were to Lago Grey in a vehicle (designed for those who aren’t walkers) and to Lago Azul. We had one more Honeymoon Spa included in our package which we enjoyed immensely. I figured out that had we taken all of the excursions that we chose, and did all of the spa activities included in our package, on an à la carte basis, our total price would have been $5845. So we saved some money by taking the Program package and had a great time too.

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