Torres del Paine
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Trekking the Torres del Paine Circuit in the Patagonian Andes By Mady MacDonald

When you've walked through 110 kms of various mountainous microclimates, where do you start explaining? I guess at the beginning, where it was sparkling and happy and a lot like a Doris Day movie.

Walking up to the Torres lookout

We took nine hours to walk into the Torres and back (without packs since we were camped at the base of the trail but there is camping available at
Campamento Torres). It was a long walk and
getting to the lookout involved a bit of bouldering (one of my favourite treats).


We had great weather until we topped the ridge (with the usual big smile on my face Ö I love topping ridges to get to a spectacular place) and then clouds partially obscured the famous Torres del Paine (although it was still beautiful with it's cloudy glacier lake and towers). This walk was two-thirds up, one-third down to get there.

What was lovely was the herd of horses galloping through the campsite and along the river at top speed followed by a couple gauchos. Also, after we had a camp fire (the only place in the park where itís allowed) and dinner, I paused before going into the tent and there was a huge hanging full moon to my right, the Towers lit up by the sunset straight ahead and the sun setting to my left. It was after 11:00 pm ó gotta love these long Patagonian summer days. What was lovely was the herd of horses galloping rough the campsite and along the river at top speed followed by a couple gauchos.

Torres del Paine campsite to El Serůn (16 kms)

Now this was a day I won't soon forget. We woke up to a blue-sky day.

Sunlight beat down and light breezes played in the twisted trees. Green parrots cackled above the tent.


We broke camp and headed off onto the Torres del Paine Circuit. We climbed steeply and then levelled out in rolling horse meadows. Every once in a while we opened and closed the gates while elegant Andalusians watching us lazily from the trees.

  Peaks, lakes and rolling grades accompanied us for this first half of the day. When we descended we were in a large herd of horses, primarily one-year-olds and their moms. Pina is allergic to horses but I waundered into the herd and stood quietly. Soon enough their youthful curiosity brought them nosing over and I had new friends. This became a little problematic for Pina since they wanted to get close to her too. But she loves horses and so just tried not to touch them.
After a few pictures, we moved them away from the fence and passed through into an expanse of daisies as far as the eyes could see. We thought this would be a temporary situation and took more photos but it turned out that we walked knee-deep in daisies for the rest of the day and part of the next day. That's the Doris Day movie part: Horses and daisies and sunlight and gurgling rivers, surrounded by mountains. Gotta love alpine meadows.
Many hours later, after walking through these flat plains of wildflowers and after one mirage that Pina had saying that she'd seen the camping area before (so I left her to rest in the sun while I walked back a kilometre or so only to find that this was not the case, which is what I expected) we arrived at El Serůn. After lying down in the daisies for a few moments to rest and enjoy the sunshine, the tent (my lovely new Eureka Mountain Pass) was pulled out and set up.  

Cristian, the guy who oversees the hostel and camp area, offered to help and proved incredibly friendly, eccentric and welcoming. We saved a little fuel by cooking on his big cast iron stove and chatted over dinner.

Thereís nothing quite like waking up to the sound of flitting birds, wind and fresh air on your face while youíre cocooned in a warm sleeping bag. On this morning I blearily looked out my little window to an overcast day. Ah well, could be worse. After cleaning up and having some oh-so-yummy oatmeal (blek) we packed up and headed off into the fields of daisies along the lazy, winding river.

  Before long, the path took a turn upwards and we climbed above the fields and river to top the ridge and walk towards Lago Paine for a few hours. Winds and showers accompanied us, but nothing too miserable. There were still dozens of varieties of wildflowers (big yellow clumps here, wild purple sweet peas twining there, little scarlet nodding flowers and lots of sharp, thorny plants that discouraged grabbing foliage for balance).
We idled and scrambled along for a few more hours and finally descended back into the valley. Here, we managed to get a little lost since we missed a river crossing and instead followed the river, but eventually we retraced our steps, found the orange markers and continued on.
We stopped for lunch at Campamento Coiron (if anyone plans on doing this trail, I donít encourage camping at this midway point since itís very basic, but itís good for lunch stops) and just as we set up under the cover of a big tree, it began to pour. We had some great instant lasagna and hot mint tea with honey and as we packed up the rain subsided to a steady drizzle.
This gloomy day was unfortunate since this valley was supposed to have superb views but every once in a while a mountain cleared briefly. It wasnít until the end of the day that sunlight began to show itself and as we approached Lago Dickson, we had a small taste of the views around us.  
After a bit of mud and a few pasarellas (footbridges that are actually just logs thrown over rivers... if itís a really fast river you might get a rope to help you balance) we crested the small ridge that looked over beautiful Lago Dickson.
  It was a beautiful sight with its sparkling blue glacier, looming mountains and pristine lake. More photos and then we skidded down the steep slope, threw our packs over the complicated gate, climbed over and set up camp. After tending to our feet, we prepared dinner, munched on some cookies and turned in for the night.
Page 2 - Lago Dickson to Los Perros
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