South America, North America · 254 Days · 32 Moments · August 2017

My Adventure in Torres del Paine, Chile

19 April 2018

Day 5. This is it. Last day here. Hike to the Torres and then to Hotel Las Torres. Because of all the drama around my flight, not worrying about getting back anytime soon. It is raining pretty steady. Can't see the mountains from the Refugio. Heading out at 10:00. The hike intensity was between the French Valley, which is still the hardest and Refugio Grey. The hike between Refugio Frances and Refugio Chileno was just long and wet. It cleared up nicely though for us once we reached the towers. On the way down we witnessed a scary moment. A hiker going up hill went over the side. His head was below road level. We managed to grab him. He told us to let go and he began slipping again. We got him back up made sure he was OK and proceeded on down hill. A little later it began to snow lightly. One thing that I noticed looking back on it, I was always the leader. They told me they liked my pace. These guys are half my age and I was ahead of them most of the time.
Day 5 part 2. Anyway the group called me a rabbit. They seemed impressed with my ability to go up the step inclines as easily as I did. All the compliments felt good. Finally made it back to Refugio Chileno. Had lunch, grabbed our stuff and headed to Hotel Las Torres for the shuttle. Once there celebrated with a beer and burger! Caught the shuttle back to Armaga Station. Rita, the Australian, had left her phone on the bus and had to wait for it to come back. Then it was on a bus back to Puerto Natales. Once back, camera started working! Yeah!!! Called Expedia and got my flight worked out as well. They said they had no record of me confirming the 24th flight, so now I couldn't leave until the 29th. Nearly lost it. Got a refund and rebooked for the 21st. It has all worked out so far. Paid $1400 for a one way ticket, but hopefully get a full refund. And saved a lot of wasted vacation days. I guess I'll have to accept it.

18 April 2018

Day 4. Today started out wet and stayed wet from Domo Frances to Refugio Chileno. I found the shortcut, but it didn't seem like one. First time my mindset changed. From touristy to resolve. It was quiet except the sounds of rain and rushing water. Update: Day just got worse. My camera started acting funny, now won't even turn on. Took it apart to dry out; hoping that works.

17 April 2018

Day 3. Woke at 6:00 because of alarm. Not needed. Generator did not kick in until 6:19. Staff, everybody still sleep. Need to change. Headed out at 8:30 am heading to Domo Frances. Beautiful scenery. As usual took a lot of pictures. Heard a couple of avalanches, small ones. Heard the glacier at French Valley cracking, sounds like thunder. Didn't realize after I checked in at Frances that I need to go back to Italiano. Once there, the hike to the view point was much harder than the one at Refugio Grey, much harder. Total distance for all this, 14.83 miles. Anyway, my vacation was marred by an unexpected call from Expedia telling me my return flight was cancelled. I'm in the middle of this beautiful scene and my phone rings. It was like a joke. Got my new flight booked, finally after several tries. Now leaving PA the 24th. Called Rachel and work. Hoping there are no more surprises. But still it is so beautiful here. Too bad there's cloud cover now.
Day 2, part 2. Blue hour and golden hour were disappointing because of cloud cover. However, later that night after 9:30, the sky was almost clear and got some decent shots of the Milky Way. Room has a whole new cast. One, a German woman named Hike, Yeah, right... Whatever. Also met an older couple at dinner, we talked; they're from Virginia. Winds stepped up its game last night. Hard to sleep. It rocked the building! Pity those guys in tents, because the wind was intense. Lol. Kind of worried about the trail tomorrow. Heard about 19 miles and very rugged. A lot did not go up to Britanico. Said clouds made it not worth it. Still plan on trying.

16 April 2018

Day 2. Today is most likely going to be a day of rest. Since it was an open day. Either way, woke this morning to a light but persistent rain.clouds on the mountains. Still beautiful, but not conducive to getting a good sunrise. One cool thing that happened while I was eating breakfast. I noticed two red foxes playing not more than a 100 feet from us. They did not seem to care that we were there, so after breakfast, I went out and snapped some pictures of them. We'll see, maybe I go back out to that lookout with my 360 camera. Ok, I went back out. But only to the first spring. I couldn't help it. Glad I did. The lighting was much better. I got some cool shots I'm a little tired, but not as bad as yesterday. I stopped a lot to take pictures and video so I recovered faster. It's so beautiful here and soooooo quiet. Video and pictures will not do it justice, but I'll remember it forever. Now I'm sitting here having an Austral cerveza and recharging body and batteries.
Day one, part 2: Came back last night to find the room I was in, Zorro, was now full. An Aussie named Mitch and two women, one Spanish and one Asian. Wasn't expecting that. Kind of weird to think they mix the sexes like that. Neither of the women talked to us. Both slept in their clothes. Both snored, very loudly. But I can relate. When you're exhausted, you sleep hard. Maybe that's a new phrase "hike hard, sleep hard".

15 April 2018

Day 1. Arrived at Armaga in the morning. Paid the 21,000 pesos for the entrance fee. Picked up my permit and watched a short video on safety. Next got back on the bus and headed to Pudeto to catch the 11:00 am catamaran to Refugio Paine Grande. Checked into the Refugio and hit the mini market. Finally started the trail towards Refugio Grey. The hiking was awesome. There were several times that I was just taken aback. One of the things I wanted to do was take a water bottle and fill it from a running spring. Bad idea because now that I know what real mountain spring water tastes like nothing else can ever fool me. I must have drank 5-6 bottles easily. I did underestimate the difficulty of the trail. To say it was hard is an over simplification. It was fun getting to Grey, but coming back was harder. I feel like hammered dog shit right now. Both knees hurt, both feet hurt, back not so much. Fortunately this is the only leg I need to do a round trip. Over 14 miles.

14 April 2018

Started the day on another plane ride. This one takes me from Santiago, Chile to Punta Arenas. The flight was beautiful and awe inspiring. Once I landed in Punta Arenas I tried to see as many of the things that I wanted before I left for Puerto Natales. I used my real camera for most of those but here are a few. I also added another "Things you don't see everyday". It was a funeral procession. The hearst was actually a BMW, white. I also had heard that dogs were everywhere; and they were. Wasn't a bad thing though; they all seemed nice. Saw a big herd of sheep, horses, guanacos, cattle, AND a bunch of flamingos on the way to PN. The drive is a little surprising though, as it was flat where we were. I can see some mountain ranges off in the distance. Anyway since I had decided to change my departure from PA to 3:00 pm, that means it will still be day light when I arrive in PN, instead of 00:15. Anyway got to go. Don't want to miss any of the scenery.
Had one of those moments on the flight down to Punta Arenas. It was prefect. I'm on the port side of a south bound airplane at sunrise. The only way I can try to convey the feeling is to say my eyes were like a very thirsty man and the view was the coolest, freshest water. I couldn't get enough. Even when everything was covered in clouds, all I could do was to imagine what lay underneath. It was so beautiful; and to think I haven't even seen the park where I'm headed.

13 April 2018

So landed in Santiago, Chile with no real issues. I admit that the LATAM plane I took was nice. They had these cool little disks that worked like a day night mirror. I honestly felt like it was dark outside. With Lua's help secured a taxi and spent the night in a comfortable hotel rather than an airport. Call me crazy, and if Lua hadn't helped, I probably wouldn't have done it, but got in a cab with 4 complete strangers, all guys. They wanted a lift to get coffee. Anyway, they went their way with no issue. Forgot it was Friday and I'm in central Santiago, about 20 minutes from the airport. A little loud outside my room, but that's ok. Have a 3:00 am wake up so I can get to the airport on time for my flight. Next stop, Punta Arenas.
Meet a nice Chilean journalist named Lua. Made the negotiation of customs, cabs and gate changes a lot easier. And Taylor will be happy to hear that she is big into anime! Anyway thanks Lua!

12 April 2018

Finally made it to my first stop, Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México. Took a little to get to my next gate. First had to find it. That meant checking in with LATAM Airlines. Next, the Mexican TSA wasn't going to let me go through because they said I was way too early. Wanted me to rent a hotel. I told a white lie and said I had no money until I landed in Santiago, Chile. Guy wasn't happy, but said go ahead, just don't show his boss my boarding pass. Next they had fun scanning my bag. My boom mic caught their attention. I mimed singing in to it to show them. Some of them got a kick out of that. Eventually I got through. Found my gate. Found a Starbucks; that was good. Now just sitting here waiting. Now, I just want to go on record and say that all this drama doesn't detract from the experience. I mean this is what an adventure is: uncertainty. Sure, I'd rather just get there the way I'd originally planned; But this will just add to the excitement.
This is the look of someone glad to ACTUALLY be moving...
Can't make this stuff up. We were supposed to leave at 07:05. It's 08:19 and we're stuck in San Diego. The temperature gauge on the plane is acting up so now we have to change planes. Update: Plane was grounded. New flight leaves at 11::30. <sigh>... Update Update: It's 11:17 and I'm sitting in our shiny new plane waiting to leave.
Couldn't sleep. Too excited. Got to the airport, through the TSA check and still had over 2 hours to wait.

11 April 2018

Ok, I'm less than 24 hours away from the trip of a lifetime. I had some scary moments last week; LATAM went on strike the 9th of April. Because of this, I had flights cancelled twice! I ended up paying over $1300 for my ticket and I have a 47 hour flight. Yuck! But I'm still excited. Bags packed, checked in, got local currency. Now just waiting.

29 March 2018

Was informed yesterday that one of my connecting flights was cancelled. Webjet setup a new flight. Unfortunately this one doesn't arrive in Punta Arenas until April 14th at 12:27am. Yeah, midnight. Now I have to cancel my hotel and shuttle and bus tickets. Worse, I now need to figure out how to get from PA to the park before 11:00am; otherwise, I miss the ferry and will need to wait until 6:00pm. Sigh...

26 February 2018

Bought a new pair of hiking boots on Friday. That should give me enough time to break them in. I think it was a smart move to not use my old work boots that I wore into the office. I think the sole is much better at gripping on loose dirt and gravel. Wore them this morning in the cold here in San Diego, it was around 36 degrees; and I felt fine.

8 February 2018

Went to the bank and converted some money so that I'd have a little petty cash in Chile. This is 191,000 Chilean pesos which is $350. Make it rain, right...
I went to weight watchers yesterday just to see how much weight I would be adding with my pack and parka. 27.2 pounds. Not bad I guess since I need to carry everything I need for 5 days.

3 February 2018

This was my first test of wearing my backpack for an extended amount of time. Hike was suburban with minimal hills. The distance was 4.68 miles. Walked at night, but it was still in the 70s unfortunately. I'm walking tomorrow morning, little colder so I'll include my jacket.

2 February 2018

So I think I've got all my camping reservations made now. Made a few changes. The only question I need to answer is how I'm getting from Puerto Natales to the Hotel Rio Serrano. I made a request at a local bank today for Chilean pesos so I don't have to do it when I get off the airplane. I'm also wanting to book a glacier hike, but it looks like I'll need to wait until I'm there as no one else has signed up. I'm starting to get excited again because I've been reading and watching videos on the park. Can't wait!

30 December 2017

Got my VR glasses, that go with the 360 VR camera, yesterday. Was trying it out last night. Kind of cool. Hopefully I'll be comfortable enough to do some 360 video in Patagonia.

29 December 2017

So it's been an exciting couple of days. I got a Samsung 360 Gear VR camera for Christmas. And I also ordered, and got, today, a new phone; Samsung Galaxy S6, and memory card for the camera. Setup and began using the phone and tried out the camera. It connects to the phone so you can use the phone to see how the video is being composed. Still waiting on the VR glasses. My hope is to get familiar with the camera enough to take some 360 degree video in Patagonia for the people back home.

8 December 2017

Got my passport in the mail today. Finally have a picture that shows me after my weight loss.

17 November 2017

Renewed my passport today as well. Was glad to get rid of my old photo. New one shows me 38 pounds lighter.
Bought my airline ticket today through $928.96 with trip protection. I leave San Diego on April 12th at 7:05am. Land in Mexico city at 12:50pm. Leave Mexico city at 7:55pm and arrive in Santiago Chile at 6:15am on Friday the 13th! Finally, I leave Santiago, Chile at 10:00am and arrive in Punta Arenas at 1:25pm. Whew, it's going to be a long trip, but I hope to use the layovers as an opportunity to check our the area, especially Punta Arenas. Wish me luck!!!

14 October 2017

Bought my roundtrip bus fare from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales. Bus leaves PA at 6:00 pm and arrives in PN around 9:15 pm. Also booked a hotel in PN prior to entering the park, the Rio Serrano. Booked the Chileno Sector in the park. This seems to be the only place open during the time I'll be there that is close to the base of the 3 towers. Booked my CONAF lodging for Refugio Grey, Paine Grande, and Los Cuernos. Checked ticket prices and they're around $1798 for round trip. The other day I bought a solar charger for my phone. Considering unlocking my phone and buying an out of country SIM card. I already have my backpack and parka. Got one of my two Hepatitis A shots. Should be able to book the flight soon; maybe by December. Fingers crossed...

19 August 2017

18 August 2017

This was a practice shot I took in California in preparation for my visit. ISO-6400, Aperture- 2.8, Shutter- 10 seconds. Taken at Galleta Meadows Estate.

8 August 2017

I've been planning the trip for about a week. Collecting information on plane tickets, hotels, refugios in the park, packing list. I've also been thinking about various shots I want to get including the Milky Way at night. In fact basically picked the travel days based on the new moon. I'm excited about this rather unexpected trip. I honestly wasn't expecting Rachel to let me go because we've been trying to pay off the house. I guess she does understand how important this is to me. Right now the plan is to fly in 04/12/18 into Punta Arenas and take a bus to Puerto Natales. After that it's basically check into a hotel as close to the park as I can. The trip from San Diego to Punta Arenas is about 24 hours. Distance is 6546 miles. For reference, from Punta Arenas to Antarctica it's about 2993 miles. The trip from the airport to Puerto Natales is about 3 hours. From Puerto Natales to the park is about 2 hours.