About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi

"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Doin' the Dubya

After a wonderful few days in Chalten, we headed back to El Calafate to catch the bus to the Chilean border, and on to Puerto Natales.  This town on the inland fjord through southern Chile, the Beagle Channel, and was visited by Fitzroy on the HMS Beagle on his first voyage to the area, before the Beagle's more famous second voyage with Darwin plied the Straits of Magellan and Beagle Channel.  Nowadays the town is best known as the staging area for travelers to the Torres del Paine National Park, about a two hour bus ride away.

The town is chock-a-block with tourist and guide agencies, gear sales and rental shops, and hostels and restaurants.  Unlike El Calafate, though, the town has a gritty, down-to-earth feel, much like towns in Alaska or coastal British Columbia.  And perhaps best of all, it has a terrific micro brew pub, Basquales, that became our home away from home for a couple of great evenings!!

We did our homework on possibilities for exploration of Torres del Paine, looking at trekking options in the park.  The two most famous treks are the "W", taking about 5 days, and the complete loop, requiring a week or more.  We opted to do the "W".  Then, there are options to either camp in campsites or stay on beds in the refugios along the way.  And then, you can either carry your own food or eat at the refugios.  The nice thing about using the refugios is that it lightens your pack, as you don't need to carry tent, pad, stove or food.  But the downside is that it's expensive, and costs over $100 usd per person per day.  We opted to rent all of the gear in Puerto Natales, and carry it for the 50 mile trip.  In addition to saving $$$, it also gave us more flexibility to spend nights at more possible sites than just the offerings at the refugios.  In the end, renting the gear cost approximately $300 for the entire trip for the 4 of us.  Park admission cost an additional $40 per person.

Hordes of trekkers waiting for the ferry
But there's a reason for the cost.  The park is truly spectacular!!!  And like the Parque de los Glaciers at Chalten, the park attracts visitors and trekkers from all over the world.  And you are hardly alone on the trails.  But for the most part the camp sites were clean, the streams are all clear, cold, and safe to drink, and the views every day are some of the best in the world.

After entering the park, we boarded a boat for a short jaunt up the lake to a refugio and the trailhead to begin hiking.

Just about a year ago, a large fire started by a trekker burning his toilet paper on the trail, engulfed much of the park.  Much was burned, but due to the sub antarctic climate, the "forests" here have much less fuel to burn than forests in more temperate latitudes.  Thus the damage, though obvious, was perhaps not as devastating as similar fires would have been closer to the equator.  Our hike began in the burn area.

Views got more and more amazing as we neared the Lago Gray, dotted with icebergs, and finally the Gray glacier itself, continually calving new bergs into the lake.

Sign at a ranger station
The trails were excellent, and we were incredibly lucky with the weather.  The first four days were mostly clear, but more important, the wind was down, as Patagonia is famous for its high winds, especially at this time of year, the southern summer.  Tattered flags and bent trees tell the story best.

High winds above

Each day we hiked up a leg of the "W" shaped (on map) trail.  And at the end of each leg, we were rewarded with one viewpoint more beautiful than the previous.  It was indeed a privilege to be hiking in this weather window, as many do the 50 mile, 5 day trek in rain and high winds.  We think it may have something to do with our little Bolivian Pachemama icon, which was always close at hand.....just sayin'....

On our last (fourth) morning, we awoke at 4:15, to be on the trail by 4:30.  The goal was to reach a high lake at the base of Los Paines spires to watch the sunrise.  We were not disappointed.  We watched it get lighter, with the tips of the peaks touched by the sun, just as the weather socked in.  In the windblown drizzle, we hurried back down to camp, and were drinking an Irish coffee (to warm up!) in a 5 star lodge at the end of the hike by noon.  Truly an amazing "walk in the park".....

Next we're off to Punta Arenas and points south, in search of penguins.....

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