Chile · 15 Days · 30 Moments · September 2016

Tim Kovess

Vacaciones de Tim en Chile

13 October 2016

TORRES DAY 5 P3 - CHILENO TO TORRES CENTRAL We continued our descent from Camp Chileno to Torres Central taking very few breaks and just revelling in the relative rest of going downhill (although with Ash's bad knee this was in some ways harder than uphill), and finally we were covering distances faster than the park estimated walking times. That was a nice feeling. (Downhill and no breaks made a big difference). So it only took us around 2 hrs to reach Torres Central, instead of the nearly 5hrs going up. We were Back by midday, gradually walking out of the winter wonderland into just cold and overcast Torres Central. We had 2 hrs to kill until our buses so went to the nearby hotel restaurant, which was ridiculously priced and bought an $8 hot chocolate as congratulations. What an experience - and how much we looked forward to a hot shower, clean clothes, soft bed and some different food. The simple things ay
TORRES DAY 5 P2 - ITALIANO TO CHILENO So sunrise didnt happen and it was too cold (but still incredibly viewing) at the mirador to stay too long, so no sleeping mats and bags were dragged out. Plus we didnt have a lot of spare time until we had to be on the tracks again heading to Torres Central and getting our bus out of the park. So we headed down and began our day of falling on our arses. It was slippury! But super soft as well so no danger there (although we didnt know where it was rocks or just path cos the snow covered everything). We absolutely loved the walk back to Chileno - it was a black and white world and screamed fairytale forest. If only we weren't pressed for time we could have really strolled through and enjoyed it even more. Shoes were super wet though - runners aren't snow apprpriate, FYI.
TORRES DAY 5 P1 - MIRADOR FOR SUNRISE What a surprise today was. While there was some light snow aroubd sunset the bight before, it wasn't anything too hectic, but when we woke up at 5am we immediately found out why we'd been extra cold last night. As i unzipped the tent i noticed it was a lot tighter than before, and then a whole wad of snow fell through once i unzipped it. We were snowed in! And it was pretty exciting - although it was also 5am and we were keen to get to the summit asap, which was quite difficult in the snowy conditions as it went everywhere pretty quick. But we got our sleeping mats and bags together and a bunch if snacks and headed up there by 6.30 (which was running a tas light to get up there by 7am). It was such a different hike up to the evening before with a fresh, almost foot deep, layer of snow on everything. Luckily another couple had gone up first and created some tracks in the snow cos it was seriously hard to find the path.

12 October 2016

TORRES DAY 4 P4 - MIRADOR TO BASE TORRES We didn't last too long up at the mirador as the sun was setting, the snow starting to fall, and the wind staying pretty strong. But the walk back down gave us a little insight into what we were in for the following day. Snow had begun to consistently fall, only lightly, but enough to put a thin layer over the path and trees. It looked incredible and it was a treat be in out while snowing. We were soon back at camp and cooking our last dinner for the hike (which was a good thing) and off to bed with the intention of a 5.30am start for sunrise at the mirador.
TORRES DAY 4 P3 - BASE TORRES TO THE MIRADOR We took advantage of the remaining light and climbed the 45min hill to the mirador of Los Torres. Partly so we knew what time to get up the next morning and partly because although it was pretty overcast, there were some pockets of clear sky and we hoped to get a glimpse of the towers. Although we didn't get a full view of 'los torres' we did get a partial glimpse (the three rock peaks mostly obscured by clouds), but the rest of the scenery up there was more than enough to make up for that. Beautiful blue lagoon and snow covered landscape were incredible and one of the few times i've been in the snow while it was snowing (only lightly at this point, but the strong winds up the top would stir up the top layer of snow off the ground and give fleeting experiences of heavier snow fall. It was awesome. And we were lookkng forward to doing it all again the next morning.
TORRES DAY 4 P2 - TORRES CENTRAL TO BASE TORRES From camp Chileno we continued on up the mountain towards Base Torres, walking past some beautiful snow covered mountains, rivers and through the woods. The following day we'd be in for a dramatic change of scenery, but today it was really nice and spring like. It took us about 2hrs for this second leg before we srrived to our camp, and once up there we had a feeling we'd be in for a cold night. The ground everywhere was pretty damp and we were now very close to the Torres mirador, which had snow and ice up there. Lucky ash scored a safety blanket from a friend and we put that down on our tent floor which also helped waterproof the tent a little more. After setting up our tent and a cup of tea we decided to pay the Towers a visit, which was about 45mins up a pretty steep incline, but this time without bags thank gawd!
TORRES DAY 4 P1 - TORRES CENTRAL TO BASE TORRES We finally made it to bed on night 3 after a hot meal and by morning our spirits were lifted again. Smashed some porridge then hit the trail again. After our 22km on day 3, this time we were heading to Camp Base Torres, a free camp about 10km away just at the foot of the 'Towers', the iconic mountains the park is named after. The weather was a lot nicer today and we actually had sunshine for a bit. The difficult part was that this day would pretty much be all uphill. It was a recommended 2 hrs to camp Chileno, and then another 1.5hrs to camp Base Torres. The scenery along the way was yet again incredible. We saw a deer looking thing along the way which was cool. But the packs did not feel any lighter. The first leg took us 2.5hrs. Not bad considering.

11 October 2016

TORRES DAY 3 P2 - CAMP ITALIANO TO TORRES CENTRAL After visiting Valle Frances, but cutting it short due to the weather, we were back in Camp Italiano by aroubd midday. Our next booked camp was only half an hr away, and while this was meant to be our rest day, we decided to bite the bullett and try to make it to the next camp along today instead, rather than have to do an epic walk on day 4. Well this was a mistake (kind of). Our attempt to avoid an epic walk day 4 only pushed it into day 3. It took us about an hr to get to Camp Frances and change our booking, then another 3 hours to get to Los Cuernos, and then over 5 hours to get to our campsite. We didn't arrive until 9.30pm, which made it around 12 hrs of walking for the day, most of it with our packs on. It was hell and as a reflection i took very few photos this day. Wven though we had a stunning turquoise lake beside us the whole day. Arriving to camp wasn't ideal either - cold, windy, raining.😟
TORRES DAY 3 P1 - VALLE FRANCES Day 3 begins. We started this day similar to others: being cold, eating porridge, and after everyone else. But this time we also got the happy surprise of mouse holes in the tent, and some of my delicious nut mix gone. Grrr Today was meant to be our rest day, where we would just walk up to Valle Frances (about 6 hrs return trip) from camp Italiano, without our packs finally as its a closed circuit that takes you back to italiano. Then we would pack up our tents and take our bags a short 30mins to Camp Frances that we had prebooked. More on that later. Here are the snaps from Valle Frances. We only went up about an hrs worth as the weather wasn't great and it started to snow a little (which was exciting) but was getting too cloudy to see mountains further in the valley so we decided to bail and get back to italiano early.

10 October 2016

TORRES DAY 2 P2 - GREY TO ITALY So we finally arrived to camp Italiano at about 6.30, which made it a 7hr trek (including breaks and lunch), which was pretty good for us against the suggested time of 6hrs, and all due to hauling ass in the inclement weather for the first leg. So when we got to italiano we were farrked! And everyone else had pretty much finished dinner already 😒 But so glad to get there and there was an incredible view of an ice covered mountain smack bang in the face, which was also incredible with the moonlight later (as i washed pans in freeezing river water). We also had the joy of mice eat through out tent in the night to get to our food which we stashed beside us in the hope they wouldnt eat through our backpacks. Mission fail on that one. 3 holes later...🤔 and a nut mix and some oats. But they didnt get too much thank gawd. As per i opened my kindle once all set in my sleeping bag and my eyes went blurry immediately and consciousness escaped me. Buggered
TORRES DEL PAINE DAY 2 - GREY TO ITALIANO P1 Today we continued our foray into proper hike/camping and it got harder. A lot harder. This was evidenced by a paultry amount of photos taken for the day and a general disregard for the will to live. Well maybe thats overstating matters, but it elwas tougher. And i guess also we had seen at least half the track for that day already so less need to stop for photos every 5 minutes. It was 11km from Grey to Paine Grande then another 7.6km to camp Italiano, which is a free camp run by the national park. We left around 11.30am (had a lazy start to the day and were pretty much the last to leave - a theme we'd continue throughout our time at the park and which arguably did not serve us well). The first leg to Paine Grande was real tough - gale force winds and heavy rain from behind drenched our legs (although grateful it wasnt a headwind or rain, so were much better off than the ppl we passed heading the other direction).

9 October 2016

GLACIER GREY, TORRES DEL PAINE DAY 1 P5 And some pics of the day 1 star of the show: glacier grey. I cant tell you much about it, other than that its a glacier. They offered walks on it and kayak rides nearby but they were exorbitantly priced and the weather wasnt great so we enjoyed it from not so far away instead. Beee-yewtaful!
TORRES DEL PAINE DAY 1 - P4 Well we set off at about 11.30 on the 11km, 4 hr suggested hike and arrived at 4.40pm, so around 5hrs in the end. As we got nearer to glacier grey we started seeing little icebergs in the water which was really cool. Also along the say we noticed a couple of things about the trees - firstly was the extent of fire damage to them. There have been two big fires in the park in the last 5 years i believe - both from foreign tourists (one burning their toilet paper i thibk, the other while cooking). It will take 200 years till the forest is back to the way it was. The other thing (shown in previous post) is that tje smaller trees all look like theyre blowing in a fierce wind, wven when there is none. Which reflects how insanely strong the winds are here regularly, which we definitely experienced a fair bit of. We pitched our first tent then went to the mirador and marvelled at the incredible glacier grey - my first.
TORRES DEL PAINE DAY 1 - PAINE GRANDE TO GREY So from the ferry we set off on our first hike - this one was 11km from Paine Grande (the bottom left point of a 'W') to Lago Grey (top left point of a 'W'). This is when it finally sunk in what we were doing, and also what we should have been expecting. I dont know why but i dont think either of us expected it would be hard work, even with camping (maybe some bad sleeps). But Torres del Paine is not just a scenic walk around a national park with nice level walking tracks. They go up, they go down, and rarely is it a nice even sueface. And with probably around 20kg on my back, if not a bit more, the grind started to set in. On this walk we also got our first lesson in the inaccuracies (or at least irrelevance) of the park hike estimates. Their maps give a time indication for each hike - and after 5 days we can proudly say we didnt come close. We were well over, often. Theyre obviously not times for ppl who take photos, breaks, and bags
TORRES DEL PAINE DAY 1, P2 The bus into the park was almost enough to satisfy the effort getting to patagonia. First the park entrancw qhere we could see the famous Torres mountains, then the bus for half an hour through the park to the ferry (we were starting our W-trek in the west and finishing in the east), and then the 3min ferry had phenomenal views (was $36AUD one way). So we were more than a little excited once we arrived at Paine Grande lodge ready to start our trek. We had everything we needed to camp for 5 days, and we could feel it. The lodges along the trail offer dorm rooms and meals, but in our research that was going to ens up costing over 100US a day. Our way was more like $35US, but a lot more effort. And the 5 days we were there didnt have a very appealing westher forecast at all.

8 October 2016

PUERTO NATALES AND DAY 1 TORRES DEL PAINE We did or two nights in Punta Arenas, did nothing really other than rest up, then got a 3 hr bus to Puerto Natales (also super expensive town), the launching pad for treks in Torres del Paine. Fair to say this was a huuge goal of our whole trip, and something we thought of every time we told ppl we'd be finishing our trip together in Patagonia. We had one night to prepare in Puerto Natales before we set off, so it was a little rushed. And we're not super experienced campers either which made it harder. But we went to a free info session in town (who then tries to get you to hire their gear) which was useful and confirmed our plans mostly. We hired out tent and sleeping bags and mess kit and gas and all that then hit the supermarket and bought wayyy too much stuff. Our bags were exploding and SUPER heavy. That would come back to bite us. But next morning got the 7.30am bus for 2 hrs to the entrance to Torres del Paine - we were here!

5 October 2016

TRANSIT TO PATAGONIA after returning the van and spending a final two nights in San Pedro laying low (and avoiding their exorbitant prices), then we were on the 6.45am bus to Antofagasta on the coast (about 5hrs away), a flight to Santiago, a night in Santiago at La Casa Roja and then a flight next morning to Punta Arenas in Patagonia Chile! Our first two nights in Punta Arenas were very relaxed and didnt really do anything as we prepare our bodies and minds for the next 5 days hiking Torres Del Paine. This morning we're taking a bus to Puerto Natales and from there we will hire our gear and get some food before we start our hike tomorrow!! Super excited. Yayyy. As for punta arenas - we stayed at Hostal Entre Vientos whichbwas nice but expensive at $21US a night for a dorm room, but then everything in this town seems expenny. It also seems half asleep, and we figure its a calm before the storm before high season really picks up start of november.

3 October 2016

VALLE DE LA LUNA - DAY 4 AND FINAL STOP ATACAMA Our last day had arrived. So we breakfasted at salar de tara before packing up and getting back in the van towards San Pedro and our final stop of Valley of the Moon. Ash had her Vicuñ (related to the llama) game on strong and got some good shots up close on the way as well. Valle de la luna was well named also, cos it looked like sometjing straight off the moon/out of starwars. 4 days on the road eñwas catching up with us at this point and we did a pretty abridged version of this place starting with Piedras Coyote first then entering the main part of the park (3,000 entry) and visiting 2 of the 6 or so sites on offer. But that was enough and got some good views of the surroundings from the top of Duna Mayor. After that it was back to (super expensive) San Pedro to clean out the van, check back into hostel and return the van without damage and $1000US bond intact - youbeaut! Such a good idea this one from Ash. We absolutely loved it!

2 October 2016

CAMPING SALAR DE TARA - DAY 3 ATACAMA After our super satisfying visit to salar de tara we got back in tje van, drove up close to the salars near the big rock from that morning, then started scouting a campsite for night 3. While sleeping again at 4500m wasn't ideal, and the wind had become outrageous in all directions, we still preferref the idea of another night in this spectacular place rather than pushibg for time to get back to san pedro and find another place. Eventually we found a perfect rock shaped like a foot. So we set up camp, whipped out the Clos and settlef in for another cold but awesome night. But as it turns out camping out under the stars was warmer than inside the van, with the wind break from the rock and its heat from the day i think it was warmer. Water bottles still froze but. That night, between us, we saw 29 shooting stars! And the milky way just lit up the sky! There was no sign of the new moon either, which made the stars even clearer. Planetarium much
HEARTS MENDED, SALAR DE TARA DAY 3 ATACAMA Soon after we got to our van, and as we contemplated the unrealistic goal of hiking there across the desert (cold at 4500m and blowing a gale), we came across a couple driving their 4x4 on the way there. They were asking directions and as we let slip that we hadnt actually been because we didnt trust our car, so they offered to take us with them! We jumped at the offer, and so spent the day with Virginie and Serge from the French island of 'Reunion' next to Mauritius. They were so nice, and travelling with their two daughters of 8 and 12 for 4 months around south america! Now thats adventuring. And salar de tara didnt disappoint. Those two really made our day.
EXPLORING AND HEARTBREAK, SALAR DE TARA After breakfast at our big rock friend, we got in our van and started a verrry tentative journey towards the actual Salar de Tara. We were advised by Wicked that the van probably couldn't make it there across the desert and you really need a 4x4, but we remained hopeful that they were being overly cautious. After a short way we came across a pretty steep gravel hill. At this point we were worried, so we got out of the van and continued on foot to check the terrain ahead and see if the steep hill would be worth the ridk (i.e. Was the rest smooth sailing from there?). Well, it wasn't. There were more steep hills and super sandy bits, and as the first tour groups of the day turned up in their 4x4s our hearts began to break while we looked out over the beautiful but never ending desert in the drection we wanted to go. We resigned ourselves to the fact our van wouldnt take us there and started back to prepare some food and begin hiking there
SALAR DE TARA, DAY 3 ATACAMA It was a cold strange night our first one at Tara, not having any bearings of what was around us. By the morning our water bottles were frozen too, which had stayed inside the van. Yikes! But when i went for a piss during the night and looked up at the sky it was hands down one of the most incredible sights ive ever experienced. We hadn't stayed up late really, and so i hadn't realised that it's after midnight that the sky really hits its peak for clarity, and it was wow! The morning also had its pleasant surprises, as we'd camped right next to one of the main salar de tara attractions we wanted to see - an incredible volcanic rock that looks out of this world and certainly out of place on the expansive, flat sands of the desert.

1 October 2016

SUNSET DAY 2 - ATACAMA Day 2 and we were again shafted from our planned camp spot, as we weren't allowed to spend the night inside Valle de la Luna. So we decided we'd start driving towards Salar de Tara, our planned location for the next day. But the day was getting on and not far out of Sab Pedro it was time to pull over and enjoy another awesome sunset. We ended up driving until 9.30pm and went all the way to Tara, having not found a suitable, non creepy campsot during the drive. But even at Tara it was a bit creepy as we had no idea what was around us, the roads inside were just dirt/sand, and we knew there were paths in there where the van probably wouldnt be able to go or it would get bogged. But we ventured a small way in, found a huge rock/sand wall in front of us and decided we'd sleep there the night, at 4500m altitude.
GUATÍN CACTUS CANYON - DAY 2 After our breakfast at Altiplanicos we were driving back to San Pedro, refuelled, then had a short 30mim drive to Guatin. This place was recommended to us as a good camping spot, but we decided to take a picnic lunch down instead. It was a hot little hike through the cactus canyon but we found a nice spot for lunch alongside the river and then had a bathe in the creek. That was actually quite cold - but gave me a chance to use my new towell like thing after i lost my travel towel in Uyuni, i think the colour really brings out my eyes, don't you?
LAGUNAS ALTIPLANICAS - DAY 2 ATACAMA having slept in the driveway of the park it wasn't much of an effort to continue up the road (although was around 6km of bumpy dirt rd which was slow going) and feast our eyes on the lagunas. We were the second group up there so thankfully still felt very calm and isolated before the hordes arrived from san pedro on their group tours. We whipped out the cooking gear too and had what would have to have been my first truely picturesque breakfast. Also featured in this album is a pic of our disgust faces, as for the entire 4 days of atacama i had the worst gas ever. Hands down. It was bad. It was windows down constantly type stuff and my stomach wasnt happy. Thankfully it wasnt a full blown stomach bug ay.

30 September 2016

CAMPING NIGHT 1 - ATACAMA We reluctantly pulled ourselves from Piedras Rojas and got back in the van to drive about an hr and a half back to Lagunas Altiplanicas to try and watch sunset and sleep there. Hiwever we were foiñed in our attempts as the park closes at night and you can't camp inside, so we were denied entry. So we winged it, waited till the rangers left then slept in the driveway to the lagunas entrance, at around 4200m altitude. Luckily for us the surrounding scenery was heaven and we got an awesome sunset. Double down win. We also saw three foxes at dusk whcih was sck - you can see them in one of the golden photos if you zoom and look closely. They were right on the rd as we drove past. Ps it was a little creepy sleeping in the driveway i have to say. But wow the sky was awesome, if only it weren't so cold.
PIEDRAS ROJAS, ATACAMA DAY 1 After around 3 hours of driving, including some photo stops along the way, we got our firdt glimpse of Piedras Rojas and begun to be blown away! We actually didnt expect this place to be very impressive as Ash hadnt seen many photos online or heard much of it, so that just added to it even more. The whole time we were there we couldn't stop commenting pn how fake it looked. The mountains as the backdrop just had this painted on look which really shows in the photos also. It was also bloody windy down by the blue/green waters and i was freezing me tits off, but it was a real highlight of our adventure this firdt stop. More photos in next post.
PIEDRAS ROJAS CONT More pics from this ridic place
ATACAMA DAY 1 P1 Ash had the genius idea of hiring our own van to see Atacama desert, and wow was she spot on! Especisñly after 3 days doing the salt flats tour i don't think we were excitef by the prospect of more geoup touring. Plus San Pedro is one of the most expensive places on earth - like $6AUD for a coffee, $20 for a basic large pizza, $7 for icecream, $8 ATM fee. Need i go on. So pretty sure the van, at around $80AUD each a day worked out cheaper in the end. Anywho we hired from wicked campers a 3 seater sleeping van and after spending the morning preppinh we were finally on the rd by around 1.30pm. And there were some incredible sights along the way to our first stop of Piedras Rojas.

28 September 2016

SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA, CHILE Our salt flats tour left us at the Chilean border where we got in a van that took us to the nearby (about 45mins) town of San Pedro Atacama. After getting stamped at immigration we were off on foot to find our hostel. Forst impressions of the place was that it was definitely a desert town, with everything having an earthy tone and largely mud brick constructions for all the properties. There was also an inordinantly large amount of chilean flags about which gave me a weird feeling of overpatriotism. Soon after we found at it was Chile month, where everyone celebrates being chilean, and the flag were a temporary thing. Phew. We stayed at Paso de Los Toros, mainly cos it was the cheapest place we could find with a shared kitchen. Bit it was a little rough around the edges, and instead of walls between dorm 'rooms', they just had blinds hanging down and partitioning a warehouse style room. Even so the place was pretty comfy and great beds. (Matched jacket)