We spent an unforgettable five days in Torres del Paine National Park. The park is situated in Southern Chile, Patagonia and is one of the largest national parks in the country. Our original plan was to hike the famous “W” trek over the course of our five days in the park, but you know what they say about plans... Inclement weather caused a few cancellations and abbreviated what was supposed to be a very ambitious hiking agenda.
We were blessed to have booked our tour through Armadillo Expeditions (by way of LocalAventura) run by Nili and Felipe. They were both our age and recently married and we clicked very quickly as friends due to their passion for travel and shared lust for life. Felipe served as our hiking guide and we were both immediately struck by how knowledgeable, helpful, and hilarious he was.
Bad weather led to a trail closure on the first day, which I think was a blessing in disguise. Our changed plans led to a much shorter hike where we spotted and stalked a puma. I say stalked, but there is no way that someone with my size and dexterity could have remained unnoticed and the puma quickly disappeared into the wilderness. Nonetheless we saw what is an incredibly rare animal which we would not have had plans not changed. We spent the night and all subsequent evenings in “Refugios” which are essentially public cabins with six to a room in bunk beds. I would have to say this is the first-time Mandy and I felt as though we were “roughing it” which makes me laugh since our setup was miles ahead of the outdoor camping we avoided.
Day Two was our most difficult hiking day (about 12 miles) but was cut short at its most difficult point due to the heavy rains – probably another blessing in disguise. Due to the delays, Felipe went above and beyond to rearrange our planned excursion and ensure we still had a great experience. He was also handy in curbing my reckless eating habits by enforcing a strict celiac diet which I dually appreciated and scorned. The next two days were spent hiking to glaciers and lakes as well as spotting wildlife along the way.
What I will really remember the most though is laughing and learning more about Felipe and his life growing up in the area and working in the park the last 14 years. When we finished the trek, and returned to Puerto Natales – a nearby city, Felipe and Nili took us out to dinner on their dime and we had another great night of laughs. We had been on the road almost six weeks by this point and despite our countless adventures, it is palatable how much we miss the people we love – Felipe and Nili were the shot in the arm we needed. All told we hiked about 30 miles and gained an appreciation for the outdoors and some new friends. // Jeff