The Towers of Pain

Torres del Paine is a Chilean National Park somewhere down at the bottom bit before you turn left for the Straits of Magellan. We camped here for four days and survived to tell the tale. Some of our party regarded it as the highlight of their trip but I’m going to have to do quite a bit of mental editing to sort through all the cold and discomfort (which frankly did not bring out the best in many of our companions) to get to the worthwhile parts.

In the meantime, I’ve signed the this post with the gorgeous picture of a little purple and white trumpet flower that Grahame stopped to photograph for me on one of the steep and muddy trails. It is surely the finest floral tribute that a girl could wish for.


The Torres del Paine segment of the trip was included so that trekkers could have the opportunity to try out the famed “W” walk, something apparently renowned amongst the boots-n-backpack fraternity the world over.* The group had been divided into W-walkers and non-W-walkers even before we set off but that was more on the basis of booking requirements rather than endurance skills since some of the fittest among us had declined to take part. Grahame and I were in the non-W group, sometimes referred to as the “Y” (why?) group but were somewhat dismayed to find that, for three out of the four days in the park, we were expected to trek up to 20k per day, an itinerary that amounted to a total trekking distance actually further than that of the Ws.

Pictures 13-35 show our experiences of the first day, when our poor unsuspecting local guide, Nicholas, had to shorten an introductory trek for the whole group but, whether that was due to the weather or our mixed abilities, he was too tactful to say.

Pictures 35-78 show the delightful nature walk that Grahame and I took after declining the opportunity to “see off” the Ws with a long trek, the most scenic parts of which were situated in the last few kilometres. In the event, only one non-W made it all the way to the French Valley, the others turning back early for fear of missing the boat.

Pictures 79-105 show our free day spent riding at a nearby Estancia. It was absolutely heavenly: a quintessential Patagonian experience, riding through twisted, moss-hung trees and splashing through river beds with a couple of friendly dogs gambolling all around us. And did I mention the views? Although they made it seem so easy for us, these were fine, highly bred horses; in fact my fifteen year old, Puma, was an endurance prizewinner. Grahame rode as a child but I have only had a few lesson and I really have my sister Miranda to thank for this memorable experience. Without her encouragement and loan of the magic jodhpurs, I would never have dared try something like this, especially after last year’s serious burns.

Pictures 106-123 show our final day in TdP. Having survived the riding without damage to my poor, scarred legs I wasn’t walking anywhere, thank you very much. Grahame joined the other non-Ws on their quest to “reunite the group by meeting up with the victorious Ws” but, by the end of the day, everyone eventually straggled back at different speeds, some having missed the final viewing point altogether. Again, it was right at the end of the trail and only accessed by the steepest part. A better briefing would have meant that we could have given it a miss and strolled up to the condor viewing point opposite the campsite. Oh, well, the bloody birds would probably have been as uncooperative as usual and such pictures as we do have are not too bad at all.

*(21-2-14) I am very pleased to be able to add that some of my feedback (and no doubt that of other, better qualified trekkers) has been taken on board by the Dragoman company and a few changes put in place. Torres del Paine has the potential to be a wonderful experience for everyone on such a trip as well as an even better experience for the outdoorsmen/women in the group.     











1 Comment

  • Sandy says:

    These are wonderful photos! What magnificent topography as well along with amazing blooms! So glad you were careful of your wounded legs!

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