It is extremely hard to write about Patagonia without sounding like self involved and pretentious asshat. In this day and age of oversharing and #humblebrags everywhere its hard for a life long photographer and traveler to sound honest and open about traveling and showing the experience of it all. Believe me, to travel is a privilege, and I am blessed to be able to save enough money, take the time off and be able to see the earth. I know that not everyone have the means to do this no matter how hard they try. For this I am grateful.
So here is how it went down. My wife and I wanted to go on a honeymoon. Europe was nothing but cities, cities equals food and stuff, food and stuff equal money, every day, and we did not want to spend our honeymoon walking around cities, spending way too much money on food and stuff we really don’t get excited about. So, South America was our next choice. We decided that two weeks in Chile would be something we would not only love, but we could balance a pretty great experience doing something outside, along with some time on the beach, and then a couple days in a city. The absolute best of both worlds!
It took us all of 5 months to plan the whole thing. 4.75 months alone to plan our trip to Patagonia.
Forgive me if this post does not turn into a Torres del Paine “how to” post. There are hundreds of them, they all say the exact same different and confusing thing and it was absolutely maddening trying to figure it all out. But, in the end, everything worked out perfect, and everyone was just as confidently confused as everyone else there.
It rained, it snowed, it was hot, it was cold and yes, it was so incredibly windy that Ashley and I had to hold onto each other so we would not fall. Torres del Paine is and was everything we read and heard about. I will say this, it is a place that, just like the Alaska Range, Paris and St. Peter’s, MUST be visited to be understood. It was a really special time for both of us that we will never forget. The hardest part of it all was this. Places like this are never fully known. So many people go on trips and walk away talking like they have fully comprehended what they have done. To think, that by spending 5 days, 8 days, hell, even a month a place like Patagonia, that you understand it, is everything that is wrong with travelers. Walking off the boat to the end of our trip I KNEW I barely was able to scratch the foot thick outer coating that is Patagonia, and it made me sad, very sad. Because it is such an incredible place, and it is so incredibly far.
The last thing is this, Torres del Paine is considered a National Park in Chile. A person will experience a wide array of things in the park. There is one giant beautiful resort in the park “Camp Torres” and one older building at Paine Grande. There are also tiny yet perfect cabins in three other camping areas (You can see them in the pictures below) It seems that TDP is trying to cater to the whole spectrum of people who want to experience the park. That spectrum starts at the people who just want to be left alone with their backpack and just need a place to drop a tent all the way up to the people who don’t even want to carry a backpack, or sleep outside, who want wine and hot meals and who need to be taken care of. Seeing this spectrum and how it was managed made me a little scared for the park itself. Right now, you do not need any sort of reservation to get into the park just get on a bus in Punta Arenas and show up! BUT you do need to reserve a couple of the camp sites along the route. Which made me wonder and concerned for the future. When more and more people start coming into the park, without reservations, without letting the park know they are coming, what is the park going to do? At some point, without the park being in any sort of control of how many people are coming in a week or a month, sooner or later, the park will be overrun with people. In fact, one of the camps was completely full when we were there, and it was not even the high season. From what I saw the park and the people and companies that manage it are doing a pretty amazing job. It was clean, organized, some of the trail markers needed some help but other than that it was a well run place. But like I said, they have no way to limit the amount of people that are showing up. And eventually this will be a problem well after they even realize it.
Overall our experience of Patagonia was a short lived one. Like I have mentioned before, the shear size of Patagonia is hard to even wrap your head around. And we were lucky enough to see a tiny bit of it. Like so many cliches, getting to Torres del Paine is a traveling experience a true journey. Three flights and three busses just to get to a national park is something that takes a little work and patience. But, it really is worth it.
I hope these images inspire some people to commit to getting down there sometime in the future. If anyone already is planning to get down there and have any questions PLEASE let me know how I can help. This was a very hard trip to plan mainly due to the amount of conflicting and confusing information all over the internet.
- Denver -> Dallas -> Santiago -> Punta Areans - Flights.
- Punta Arenas -> Puerto Natalas -> Torres del Paine -> Los Torres Trailhead - Busses
- Hike Torres del Paine the "W" for 4 nights
- Fly back to Santiago. Rent Car. Get lost in Valparaiso. Find our way to Zapallar for 4 days
- Drive back to Santiago for 3 days
- Fly home.