Backpacking to The End of the World

Chilean Patagonia

Ever since we got to Chile one of our main longings was being able to travel to the Chilean Patagonia. We new we just had to go to the “End of the World” because we had heard wonders of Torres del Paine and it just seemed so cool to get to know the last piece of land all the way to the south of our continent. We figured out the available dates we had to be able to go with our 2 Mexican boyfriends who studied at a different university than us, and with whom we had already been traveling and got along super well, so the moment we knew we had a long weekend we started looking for flights. We probably bought our flight to Punta Arenas around a month before we left, so we had some time to plan our stay of about 5 days there. We decided we were going to do couchsurfing so I started to send requests to the approximately 30 people who lived there. I found a guy in Punta Arenas who was willing to accommodate the four of us for around 2 nights, and a family in Puerto Natales that worked as a tour agency and who just asked you to buy the tours from them as an exchange for letting you stay in their house. We had everything already set but it was a while later, right before we were supposed to leave when we figured out that it was better to arrive to Punta Arenas by plane and go directly to Puerto Natales by bus because that’s were all the touristic spots and tours left from, so we cancelled our stay in Punta Arenas.

The bus ride from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales turned out to be around 4 hours, when we got there we walked around for a bit but there is really not much to see. Puerto Natales is a very little and calm town so we just walked around and took some pictures and then went right to our couchsurfing home. The house were we stayed at was of a Chilean family, conformed by a couple, their 13 year old daughter and a son who we just saw once. They dedicated their life to hosting backpackers so they had a pretty different family dynamic. Each night they had dinner with whichever group of travelers was visiting the place. At the same time as this was interesting and different we noticed it was difficult for their children because it was so unstable. Their daughter was so used to people leaving that she told everything so straightforward, she was not shy at all and she could seem a little mean, but it was understandable since she had to get used to strangers all over her house and in her bathroom and sharing all the common areas. The house was one of the dirtiest places we’ve ever been to. It was insane. The lend us a room with 2 bunk beds and a sofa, that had probably never been cleaned, and the whole house had a carpet but they had a dog who did whatever she wanted and I’m not sure they even cleaned after her. Still, it was free, so we didn’t complain; we got so many funny stories out of that house that it ended up being kind of cool at the end. We just had to contribute by preparing and buying one dish at dinner and help cook and clean the dishes, but this was not a problem at all for us.

We ended up buying two tours, one to one of the main glaciers, the Balmaceda, and the other to Torres del Paine. The first day we took the Balmaceda one, it left early in the morning and we went by boat to see it. It was so beautiful, we just saw it by boat though, because there was no way to get out and walk around end. After the boat we went to visit another glacier, the Serrano one, in which we actually had to hike for around a half hour until we got to take a closer look to it. After this the tour included a Chilean meal at a local restaurant and we got to meet some of the people that were in our tour. The tour was just half a day long so we got back to Puerto Natales around 5. We showered and changed and walked for a while in the town. The next day we had to get ready for the Torres del Paine tour and we were so excited because this was so famous and it was the one we had heard the most about. We visited La Cueva del Milodón first and did some other stops along the way until we got to the park. Unfortunately the weather was so bad, we had chosen the last day for this tour on the hopes on having nicer weather, but it ended up being worse so when we got to the Torres del Paine park there was so much mist and clouds that we couldn’t actually take any of the trademark Torres del Paine pictures. Still, we had a lot of fun, and we walked around the park and saw some of the ice broken from the glaciers and it was such an amazing place. I decided that I would love to go back and actually stay and camp in the park like a lot of people did, it was so beautiful and so untouched by men, I thought it was amazing.

When we got back to the house we were so tired, we just showered and had dinner and spent some time with the host family and talked to them about our day. We went to bed early again that day because we wanted to have some time to visit Punta Arenas the next day, because our flight left at night so we had the whole day to walk around. We got there around 11 in the morning and it turned out there was not much to see. We asked for the main landmarks and places to visit and we just went to a cemetery that was supposed to be famous because of a statue of “El Indiecito” but it was nothing special. The weather was also terrible, we walked and carried our bags through the cold and the rain so by the afternoon we just asked for a mall were we could eat something and walked there and stayed there for the rest of the day. We then decided to leave for the airport where we had to wait also for around 3 or 4 hours until our flight left. The airport was so small we didn’t have a lot to do either, but we had Internet so it was enough for us. We got back to Santiago so tired and very late at night.

This trip was definitely an awesome experience because it was the first time we did couchsurfing and we got to visit amazing places, but our expectations were so high that I think we didn’t enjoy it as much as we should have. Definitely the bad weather was a big factor in not being able to appreciate it to the fullest, but still, we tried to make the best of it. Looking back I loved all the places we visited but I think we should have researched a little bit more about the best tours and places to go, because we had no idea of all the things we could do and we just went along with whatever was in the way.

Patagonia is such an incredible region, I’m sure the Argentinian side is just as amazing as the Chilean. I loved the fact that its still so isolated, life is so simple and peaceful there and the natural landscapes are astounding. We got incredible pictures and I can just imagine how it would look with the sun shining. I would love to be able to go back and get to spend more time in the Torres del Paine natural park. You can just get so in touch with nature that I’m sure it must be amazing.

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