Condoriri trailhead Bolivia

The ABC’s of Hiking South America

“Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.” – Anatoli Boukreev

While North America has the Rockies, South America is blessed with the spectacular Andes Mountain Range. The Andes are an incredible mountain range passing from north to south through seven countries making it the longest continental mountain range in the world. There is something about the Andes that is simply magical. The grandeur, scale and scope of the Andes is mind-boggling. Over 4,300 miles long (7,000 km) and at points up to 430 miles wide (700 km), the Andes are immense and are blessed with some of the highest volcanoes in the world and largest ice fields.

I have been lucky to have set foot on the Andes in Peru, Chile, Argentina and most recently, Bolivia. There is no way I can pick favorites as each place has been unique and special in its own way. Here are the A,B, C’s of the best hikes in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, some of my most favorite places on earth to hike.


Located at the end of the world, in the tiny Patagonian outpost El Chatlen lies Los Glaciares National Park, one of the finest in Argentina. The landscape is serene and the raw beauty of remote Patagonia is sure to inspire. There are several day hikes in the park and instead of camping, you can spend the nights at a local inn indulging in delicious local food and wine. You are also a bus ride away from the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, definitely worth a visit.

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Los Glaciares National Park

My Top Five Wild Hikes

I just finished reading Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” a dark, raw and fiercely humorous book on how one woman finds herself during a three-month long trek through the wild Pacific Crest Trail. The book is powerful, emotional, honest and inspiring, and Strayed uses her brilliant memoir to take a hard look at self-discovery, heeling and change.

Of course when times are tough, we can’t always pick up our bags and leave town. Yet, I often find that there is no better way to escape and reflect upon life than to go on a hike, and the more remote and wild, the better. I have been fortunate to have done many wonderful adventurous hikes over the years.  Although every hike I’ve done has been special and has brought me to a new place, there are a select few that have truly inspired me and are unforgettable.

Here is a list of the top five wild hikes that are bound to get your mind thinking.

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Farewell Patagonia…until we meet again

The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.  – Samuel Jackson 

We woke up Saturday morning to perhaps one of the most perfect days in Patagonia.  The birds were singing in full glory to welcome the rising sun above the serene Patagonian landscape.  The sky was as blue as the sea and clear except for a few lazy powder puff clouds lingering off in the distance.

We packed our belongings and ate our last meal at the Eco Camp with our friends.  Despite the amazing week we had experienced, I felt a deep sadness and distress at the thought of leaving.  I knew that leaving the park represented a return to reality:  Work, stress, life in the fast lane, and no more “smelling the roses” each day.

As our van pulled out of the park’s main entrance and we looked for one last time at the breathtaking landscape around us, we realized that the view was the exact opposite as when we had pulled into the gates of the park at the start of the week.  When we had arrived, our first sight of the park was completely hidden by clouds.  When we left, it was nearly cloudless and spectacular.

Like my soul, the clouds had lifted and we could see the phenomenal beauty of the park in all its glory.  As I took in my last sight of the park, I made a promise to never stop marveling at the beautiful world we live in and more importantly, to relax more often, enjoy life to its fullest, and most of all, be happy.  Out of everything that I had gained from the trip, these few words of wisdom were the most valuable of all.

Last view of the park.

On the way home, in Punta Arenas, I made sure that I had a chance to stop in the Plaza de Armas and rub the toes of the infamous Ferdinand Magellan monument.  That means I’ll be back.  I certainly hope so!

Stay tuned…next post will be to the Land Downunder!

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The unforgettable hike to the flagship “Torres” del Paine

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson 

Today was it.  The final leg of the “W” trek to the infamous, mysterious las torres, the towers, which are the trademark of this incredible park.  It was going to be a long, tiring hike taking over 8 hours of our day.  But I was ready for the challenge as I always am.  We prayed that we would have a clear day so that we would be able to actually see the towers and the Gods must have been watching us from above.  When we woke up in the morning, the sun was shining brilliantly against an azure blue sky.  It was a postcard perfect day, a rarity in Patagonia.

Morning view outside our Eco Tent.  A few fluffy clouds floated graciously against my favorite colored sky:  Blue.

We felt so incredibly lucky.  Cristian told us that a group of Irish travelers had attempted the trek to the towers three times over two days and had never seen a thing. Since the towers are the most famous and unique feature in the park, we really wanted to do the hike and more importantly, have decent enough weather so we could make it to the top and see las torres unhidden by the clouds.  The thought of such dedication, persistence and perseverance of the Irish trekkers intrigued me.  What a pity, I thought reflectively yet secretly hoped we would not be faced with a similar fate.

After another large breakfast of an all-you-can-eat-yet-not-feel-the-slightest-bit-guilty buffet, we headed out for our big hike to las torres.  The first forty-five minutes were relatively tiring, knee-breaking work as we ascended from 0 to 1,500 feet rather quickly.

A few more clouds trespassed into the sky.  Yet so far so good.  The view was still promising. 

The hike was a lot of ups and downs through a huge river valley that afforded spectacular panoramic views of the park.  The pure air was so fresh that my lungs were overjoyed and at ease.  I tried to enjoy each and every step with my eye on the prize.

Here is a picture of the heavenly Valle Ascencio beneath our feet.

I was amazed how well my body was doing given all this hiking.  No major aches or pains.  I felt like I was on top of the world both physically and mentally, nothing like how I felt healing my old battle wounds for six months after completing my first marathon a year before while working a job that required a ton of tedious travel and unwanted stress.   I could feel each part of my body as it worked to move me forward, methodically and purposefully, towards my goal.

There were lots hills in the hike.  At times it felt like hiking over a rollercoaster track. 

The hike was gorgeous.  Our views of the surrounding mountains and the massive glacial valley were phenomenal.  I took it all in as best as I could, knowing that today was our last day in the park.  We also hiked through a beautiful Patagonian rainforest that had patches of snow on the ground leftover from the previous day’s storm.  Thankfully the storm was yesterday and not today as I would have been extremely disappointed to miss this hike.

The blossoming red flowers within the Patagonian snow-covered rainforest.  Somehow, Spring had managed to arrive.

The windswept trail showed years and years of trees that had faced the wild forces of Mother Nature in Patagonia.

Cristian pointed out a tree that was recently damaged by the wind.  There were remnants of snow scattered across the ground from the previous day’s storm.

The last hour of the hike was the most difficult.  We hiked one hour up on terrain peppered with large, slippery rocks left over from the glacial age.

Going up and hitting the glacier Moreno. (No…I’m not falling over with exhaustion or tripping….just bending down to tie my shoe!  Thought this picture demonstrated the difficult trekking conditions.  I’m seriously not that clumsy!).

At this point, the snow was up to our knees so it was quite exhausting work, taking up all our energy and effort to continue up.  We also had to be extremely careful because the rocks had become slippery and we didn’t want an accident to happen hours away from camp.

As we got closer to the top, I had a surge in anticipation.  The sky was still clear and we had an excellent chance at seeing all three towers.  We knew that this was a rare opportunity so we hurried up as fast as we could.  We finally reached a huge boulder, which marked the last ten minutes of the hike to the top.  We still couldn’t see anything and were forced to keep our heads down the remainder of the way due to the treacherously slippery and steep conditions.

Almost there!

We continued up and then all of the sudden they appeared, three stunning blue granite towers soaring majestically up in the sky.  The sight was so extraordinary that we felt like we were on another planet.

And finally….here they are, all three of las torres, in all their glory jetting up to the sky.

We hiked up to a flat plateau with a superb view of the towers and admired their spectacular height.  At almost 10,000 feet high, the towers rose above us in an intimidating manner and it was hard to grasp their true magnitude.

I made it!  Yeah!!!!

Paul and I, thankful that we reached the top, got to see the three towers before they disappeared into the clouds.

Getting windier and colder.  It was time to put on more layers.

After taking several pictures, we found a perfect spot for our last Patagonian picnic lunch with arguably one of the best views Torres del Paine National Park has to offer.  As we admired the view, we felt truly lucky to have seen all three towers uncovered by the clouds, knowing quite well that this rare opportunity was truly a special gift.  We stayed for over an hour despite the strong, cold winds that were penetrating our multiple layers of clothes.  It was hard to leave knowing that this would be our final trek of the journey.

Me marveling at the towers and reflecting on what this week meant to me.  It is amazing how utterly relaxed I felt.  It was if my body, mind and soul became one for a last fleeting moment in time.  Soon, regretfully, I’d have to go home and face reality.

The knee breaking descent…

As we hiked back to the camp, I took in each awe-inspiring view as much as possible, trying to seal it into my memory as best I could.  Despite my fatigue at this point in the trek, I somehow felt a bit lighter with each step as if all the stress in my life had finally been released, up into the sky, chasing after las torres and dissolving  into the heavens.

As we made our final approach to the Eco Camp, I at last understood what utter freedom truly meant.  When the only thing that matters in life is life itself.  I felt so happy and at peace with myself that I didn’t want this trip to end.  I wondered why we need so much in today’s world and why our lives are so stressful.  It didn’t make any sense to me.  In nature, none of that stuff matters.

Almost there…

We arrived at the camp filled with a glorious feeling of accomplishment and deep satisfaction.  We had reached our goal and even surpassed it beyond expectations.

Photo of Paul, me and our wonderful guide, Cristian.

That night, we celebrated the end of our journey with our guide Cristian and all the other members of the fabulous Cascada team.  We indulged in a fantastic send off dinner and this time the three of us split two bottles of wine.  We shared stories of our trip and laughed a lot more freely with our Chilean friends.  It was quite a memorable evening despite my lingering headache the next day.

View of the towers from the Eco Camp.

One last look before we went to sleep.

Stay tuned…next post is my last one of Torres del Paine National Park.

Adventure Travel Chile TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

The calm after the storm: Day 4 Hike in Torres del Paine National Park

“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – Lillian Smith 

We rose leisurely, after being trapped for hours in the snow crusted refugio high nestled beneath los cuernos in Torres del Paine National Park.   My body felt at peace for once after being so cold, tired and distraught over our miserable, long day of trekking in the Patagonian elements.

I pulled back my covers, climbed out of bed and did the thing I do first each and every morning of the day, no matter where I am:  I pulled open the blinds to peer outside.   I took in a huge sigh of relief, smiling and thrilled, to see the sun once again.  The storm had passed and it was clear once again in Torres del Paine.

We had a leisurely breakfast and left the refugio around ten o’clock for a short four-hour hike along the aquamarine Lago Nordenskjold bringing us back to the luxurious Cascada Eco Camp.  Although it was not perfect, it was a gorgeous day in comparison to what we had experienced the day before.   It was cool, partly cloudy and dry.

As we hiked away from the refugio, we could see the imposing Los Cuernos (“the horns”) in the background.  Cristian told us that the refugio at Los Cuernos was his favorite one in the entire park and we could finally understand why.  On a cloudless day, the jagged peaks of Los Cuernos soared majestically in the sky, reaching upwards behind the refugio.  The view was quite stunning and serene.

The peaks of Los Cuernos sticking above our refugio.

We took our time and hiked at a light pace, marveling at the spectacular scenery that was finally uncovered.  I inhaled the fresh, clean air and let my body relax, taking each step at a leisurely pace.

Passing Lago Nordenskjold, it is still quite cold.

While enjoying our picnic lunch in an open valley, we saw two condors soaring gracefully above us, in search of food.  Suddenly I realized that this was what we had come to Patagonia for:  An escape from everyday life and a taste of absolute freedom.  Being outside surrounded by nature and far away from phones, computers and TV’s, was one of the most liberating feelings I’ve ever experienced.  At that moment, I wished we could stay here forever.

Wind blowing fiercely off the mountains….yet the sky was getting bluer and the sun was warming up.

Look at it blow!

Our lunch spot…a little slice of heaven.

We arrived back at the Eco Camp by early afternoon and the weather had done what it is known for in Patagonia—-a complete turnaround.  The birds were singly loudly, the sun was shining brightly and there was not a single cloud in the sky.  It felt like summer in Patagonia.

View of the Torres (towers) behind the clouds and our destination for tomorrow’s hike.

We took it easy fo the rest of the day, enjoying the change in weather and wishing we had shorts.  By late afternoon, our cocktails were awaiting which was followed by a delicious dinner.  At this point, we felt truly spoiled.  The meal was a far cry from the food at the refugio.

Paul and I enjoyed another gourmet meal at the Eco Camp. 

Once again, we had the entire Eco Camp to ourselves and we could only imagine how different our entire experience with Cristian would have been if there were more people on the trip.  A group of two is nothing like a group of twenty.  The intimacy is gone as well as the serene, peaceful moments which are washed away in continual chatter and noise.  How fortunate we were!  It felt like fate.

We drank wine as the sun set behind the torres, excited about tomorrow’s hike to the mysterious, granite towers which name this park.  We prayed for good weather but remembered Cristian’s famous words:  “Never the know” in Patagonia.

Stay tuned….next post will highlight the magical hike to the towers.

Adventure Travel Chile TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

A wet, cold day hiking in the icy Patagonian rain

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

After a fitful night sleep with pelting rain against our paper-thin tent and a real fear that our tent would up and wash away in the flooding waters underneath us, we awoke to utter, damp cold.  Throughout the night, I pulled on whatever pieces of extra clothing I had inside my backpack to keep warm.  A wool hat, gloves, a fleece, long underwear and thick, warm socks.  But I was still frozen to the bone.  Worse yet, I was even more fearful about our hike ahead.  Given the terrible weather, I was sure it would not be fun but there was nothing we could do.  Our schedule was tight and we had to go, rain or shine.

Here is me on that cold Thursday morning, freezing in the tent and not wanting to get up to face the long day ahead of hiking in the elements.  Notice my one comfort from home, my “international” pillow, that goes with me where ever I go.  Given everything, I still had a smile on my face!

Paul nudged me sometime around seven am and it was time to get out of my warm, cozy sleeping bag and start the day.  Since I was already dressed
(one benefit of sleeping in your clothes!), I was ready in no time.  I unzipped the tent gingerly, and gazed outside.  The day looked ok, perhaps even better than expected.  It was overcast and there were some dark, heavy clouds.  But it had stopped raining and the wind had died down.  I thought maybe we’d be lucky and it would clear. Today was supposed to be the second leg of the “W” trek, which was another long hike up to the French Valley, a gorgeous flower ladden valley with supposedly spectacular views of the park.

After a quick breakfast, we set out on our hike in uncertain conditions hoping it wouldn’t turn ugly.  We knew that the weather in Patagonia can be absolutely crazy and little did we know, we were about to experience it firsthand.  About twenty minutes into the hike, the clouds drew darker and the wind suddenly picked up.  Cristain said, “Is coming….the rain” and we quickly put on all our rain gear over our clothes.  Then Cristian said more urgently, “Is coming the rain, big rain” and we leaped at high-speed under a large bush for cover.  According to Cristian, no matter what kind of advanced rain gear you have, you would be completely soaked within five minutes thus it was best to take cover and wait it out.  I had never seen such an intense combination of wind and rain before in my life.  It was completely, utterly wild.

After fifteen minutes, the rain let up slightly and Cristian thought it was safe to continue.  We really had no choice anyway.  We couldn’t go back; we had a schedule to keep and had to keep pushing ahead no matter how miserable it was or became.  Unfortunately the rain also meant clouds so we could not see a single thing.  That is by far one of the worst disappointments possible when it comes to trekking:  All that hard work and no reward with a view.  Oh well.  I was briefly dismayed by the weather when I remembered that the group before us had rain for the entire week and saw absolutely nothing.  What a pity!  So I decided to count my blessings and hope for the best.

As we approached the turnoff for the French Valley, it was still raining hard and we were starting to get very cold and wet.  We took a break in the wooded area that was kind of protected by the rain and ate our soggy lunch in silence.  By this point, I was really discouraged because we would not be able to hike the French Valley yet still had another two, long hours to go in the cold, hard rain until we reached the refugio at Los Cuernos.

Here is a photo taken at our cold, miserable lunch.  Yes it is the middle of the day and it is black out!  I’m amazed that I am still smiling…..

The last two hours of the hike were quite miserable.  The wind and rain picked up and the trail was muddy and slippery.  Cristian kept telling us to “use the stick” meaning our hiking poles so we could balance ourselves and not fall into the muddy mess.  The rain fell down hard, in sheets and at one point even sideways!  We were completely soaked and I could feel water swishing between my toes with each and every step.  I couldn’t stop dwelling on the weather and the fact that I was missing out on unseen beautiful views.  But there is nothing you can do about Mother Nature and here she was in all her glory.

When we finally saw the refugio off in the distance, we were extremely relieved.  Fortunately we arrived just in the nick of time.  As soon as we got inside, the wind blew like mad and the rain suddenly turned into sleet and snow.  An unbelievable winter storm had struck outside and the refugio shook and creaked with each powerful gust of wind.  Wow, we couldn’t imagine being stuck outside, hiking in that insane weather.  We hung our wet clothing and gear next to a fireplace to dry and then sat in the main common room watching the storm through twenty-foot glass windows in complete amazement and fascination.  It was winter in Patagonia indeed.

The rest of the afternoon and evening at the refugio was quite an experience in itself.  One by one, wet, soggy trekkers would enter the refugio going through the same routine as we did; first a huge sigh of relief, followed by removing all wet items and hanging clothing to dry by the crowded fireplace, and finally sitting down at our table and telling us about their adventure getting to the refugio.  By the end of the day, there were about twenty of us trapped inside the refugio from all over the world.  SInce there was not much else to do, we hung out and talked for hours.  I couldn’t stop thinking how crazy it was being stuck inside this place sitting at a table filled with people from all over the world in one of the most faraway places I’d ever been.

The wind howled and rocked the refugio all night long yet both Paul and I slept like a baby, warm and dry, with the fire still smoking out in the common area.  Since we had no idea what the weather would be in the morning, we decided to indulge in an extra hour of sleep.  When we got up, I peeked out the window and lone behold there was a blue sky!  We were so happy!

Photo the next day of the Refugio los Cuernos where we spent a unforgetable night.

Photo the next day of Los Cuernos (the horns).

Unfortunately we were not able to get many photos of our day trekking but were thankful for the beautiful days we already had and hopeful that the weather would return to the better.  For anything is possible in Patagonia, even four seasons in a day!

Stay tuned…next post will continue our trek along the famous “W” trail at Torres del Paine National Park.

Adventure Travel Chile TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

Traveling in Patagonian style: Cascada’s Eco Camps

There are few places in the world that stir up such longings and true joy of Mother Nature than Patagonia….

We arrived at the insanely beautiful Torres del Paine National Park around 5:30 PM, completely blown away by its unforgettable beauty.  After taking a few photos near the entrance of the park, we climbed back into our van and drove in utter silence trying to take in the raw splendor of this incredible place.

Not long after entering the park, we pulled into the Cascada Expediciones Eco Camp and were instantly greeted by Cascada’s warm staff.  The team included Marcelo (the head chef), two Assistant chefs and Rodrigo.  Although I had seen pictures of the camp on Cascada’s website, seeing it in person was much better.  It was phenomenal and well beyond our dreams and expectations.

The Eco Camp is a novel alternative lodging created by Cascada to offer an efficient, luxurious, and earth-friendly option for lodging in the park.  It is the first Eco hotel south of the Amazon and the only one in Patagonia.  It’s innovative design uses state of the art environmental technology resulting in a luxurious four-star “camping” experience in harmony with nature.  Although you don’t stay at the tent the entire time while visiting the park (one night was camping outside in a tent in the rain while two other were staying jam-packed in a crowded refugio), the three nights we were at the Eco Camp were heaven.

The Eco Camp was built a few years before our visit by Cascada in an effort to be more ecologically sound by limiting the impact visitors had on the park and the environment.  The Eco Camp is far more than your ordinary campground.  There are 16 Eco Tents dispersed around the camp, which are built with a wooden floor and a canvas top.  Each ten contains one or two real beds making sleeping a much more comfortable experience after a long day’s hike.  There is also a separate hut for the ladies and men’s bathroom, with real live hot showers, a rarity in the trekking world, and efficient toilet systems that create little impact to the environment.

However, in my opinion the highlight by far of the entire Eco Camp is the large Eco Dome which housed the dining and living room for the guests and offers a stunning, panoramic view of the world-famous Torres del Paine (towers) from dusk until dawn.  The Eco Dome also contains a full kitchen where delicious home-cooked Chilean meals are served for a sunrise breakfast and candlelight dinners.

During a typical week, the Eco Camp can accommodate up to 30 guests.  Yet due to our incredible luck, during our week the lodge accommodated just two:  Us.  Thus the three nights we stayed there, we were waited and dined on by the entire staff in the most amazing, spectacular “tent” I’ve ever stayed in.  It was utterly unbelievable.

Here is a photo of me standing outside the Eco Dome where our warm fire awaited, a view of the mountains and delightful hot food made my belly ache.

Since we were the only ones staying at the camp, we got the pick of our Eco Tent and decided on the one furthest away from the Eco Dome and with the best view.  Here it is:

We unpacked a few of our belongings, enjoyed a fresh, hot shower (a pleasure in itself after hours on the road) and then headed to the Eco Dome for the remainder of the night.

When we entered the Eco Dome, Cascada’s “cocktails” were awaiting us as well as a warm fire in an antique wood-burning stove.  Every night before dinner Marcelo or Cristian would prepare our cocktails.  For Cristian, the word cocktails did not mean exactly what one would think.  Cascada’s cocktails would always include a glass of the traditional, yet controversial “Chilean” drink called Pisco Sour (there is a fierce battle going on with the Peruvians who claim it as their national drink) and a large assortment of appetizers ranging from different kinds of cheeses, homemade spreads, crackers and always a bowl of lovely olives.  We didn’t bother to correct Cristian’s use of the word cocktails since we found it quite entertaining.  During the week, cocktails would become a much-awaited tradition after a long day of trekking.

Me thoroughly enjoying my cocktails, even though all I did that day was sat in a van!

Dinner was served around 8 o’clock and we were amazed to see that it was still light out.  In the summer, the sun doesn’t set until well after ten giving trekkers many hours of daylight for exploring. Of course we never hiked that long however it certainly was wonderful watching the sun set while we ate to our hearts’ content.

Photo of Marcelo, our chef, preparing tonight’s meal.

It was just the three of us for dinner:  Me, Paul and our guide Cristian, at our own elegantly decorated table with candles and a magnificent view of the Torres del Paine.  Marcelo had exquisitely prepared a delicious four-course Chilean meal, which was served with our choice of red or white Chilean wine (I took some of both!).  The entire meal was absolutely yummy and well beyond our wildest imagination.

Photo of Paul and I enjoying a wonderful meal of excellent food and conversation.  I decided that I could get really used to this kind of lifestyle!

As the sun began to set over the splendid Torres (towers), it was time to get some sleep for we had a huge day of hiking ahead of us.  I could hardly wait.

View outside the Eco Dome at ten pm.  It was still light, just like Minnesota in the heart of summer. 

It was hard to describe my feelings for this magical place.  I had written a few words down in my journal which when I look back, years later, on this trip to Patagonia, I believe give it justice:  Amazing, spectacular, magical, surreal, special, happiness, peace and most of all, paradise.

Stay tuned…day one of the “W” hike in Torres del Paine National Park. 

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Welcome to Punta Arenas! A Day at the End of the World

Patagonia’s utter remoteness and isolation has added to its appeal because it has helped keep the hordes of tourists out and allow only the true adventurers in.  In fact, getting to Patagonia is half the adventure.  It often requires well over 24 hours of travel.  For us, it took three flights totaling 17 hours in the air just to reach Punta Arenas, one of the southernmost commercial airports in the world and our launching off point for Torres del Paine National Park.   Once in Punta Arenas, it takes a minimum of five hours by bumpy car ride to finally reach the park, and then you are finally there in the middle of nowhere.

Here we are loading our first of two flights from Santiago to Punta Arenas:

Landing in Punta Arenas instantly reminds you of where you are.  Located on the blustery shores of the Strait of Magellan with Antarctica’s ice-mass not far away, it is not unusual to land in extremely windy conditions.

Although I had read about Patagonia’s notorious wind, I truly was not prepared for how windy it really was.  As we made our final descent, I could see the gigantic white caps below and the tiny runway awaiting us.  Although I was clutching the armrest of my seat as hard as I could, I still could not contain the excitement and energy I felt about finally arriving in such a wild and remote place.  Our captain informed us that we had landed in over 60 mph winds and unfortunately we would have to wait a few minutes to get off the plane because it was too windy to attach the gate!

Stepping outside the airport, I finally understood what mucho viento meant.  Too much wind.  Incredible amounts of wind, like I’ve never experienced before, anywhere.  Excitement rushed through my veins as a wind gust nearly knocked me over.  The wind was absolutely unbelievable.  All I could think of was “Welcome to Patagonia!”.

We spent the night in Punta Arenas at a quaint hotel located only two blocks from the main square.  Despite the fine comforts of our hotel room, we both had a restless, fitful night’s sleep.  Our minds were not put at ease.  We had no idea what kind of adventure lay ahead.

Photo of our lovely hotel, Hotel Isla Rey Jorge

We woke up the next morning to the buzz of traffic circulating the busy streets.  It was Monday and the town had come to life.  Most people in Punta Arenas travel by taxi so that explained the crazy stop and go whirl of traffic.

Unanswered questions loomed inside our minds.  How big would our group be?  Where would they be from?  What would the weather be like?  And most important of all, would we have fun?  We couldn’t wait to find out.

There was not much of all, if anything, to see in Punta Arenas.  Yet we made the most of our morning walking around the windswept town.  We visited the main city cemetery which proved extremely interesting.

Here is a picture of the crazy trees and Paul standing outside the entrance on that cold and windy morning:

Having never been to a South American cemetery before, I was amazed at how they bury their dead….above ground!

We also passed by the premier hotel in this tiny, uneventful town:  Hotel Jose Nogueira.

By lunch time we had seen everything and had only a little more time until we would meet up with our driver from Cascada who would take us to the park. We found a little pizzeria and enjoyed a delicious lunch as the only foreigners in sight.  We could hardly wait to meet our guide and hit the long ride out to Torres del Paine.  It was sure to be an adventure of a lifetime!

Stay tuned…coming soon is our arrival at the glorious Torres del Paine National Park! 

Adventure Travel Chile TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

The magic of Torres del Paine

Greetings from Patagonia…wish you were here!

Photo taken in November 2003 during a trek in the famous Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia Chile.

Hidden at the far southern tip of Chile is home to Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most insanely beautiful parks in the world.  In this remote, windswept region of nowhereland, you can experience four seasons in a day and winds so powerful that they knock you down.  It is one of the most spectacular settings possible for trekking yet extremely difficult to reach.

As you drive through the barren pampa land without seeing much of any sign of civilization, the park magically appears out of the sky.  When you drive along the long, gravel round entering the park this is the view you see:  Unforgetable.

Stay tuned….my next series will be on Torres del Paine National Park starting with a day visit to Lima, followed by a trip south to Puenta Arenas an unusual town that is extremely windy, followed by a visit and trek through the world-famous park. 

Adventure Travel Chile TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking