I’ve always wanted to visit Patagonia for the W trek. This year I decided to spend a good 8 months traveling around, starting from Chile. Though my trip was cut short due to COVID-19(12 days after the start of my travel), my time in Patagonia was memorable.. too short of a travel.. I did not make it to Argentinian Patagonia, but I will be back one day.
I planned my W trek six months ahead of my travel date, as I know I will be going there in early March. The exact date of my trek was from March 12th to March 16th. After doing my research on the trek I’ve decided to do it from East to West, spending four nights camping. Campsites Chileno and Frances were operated by Fantastico Sur, while Grainde and Grey were by Vertice Patagonia.
Due to the virus, my flights were canceled multiple times and my trip to Shanghai was also canceled before going to Chile. In the end I did HKG-DXB-MAD, stayed in Madrid for 3 days before flying out to Santiago in Chile. From Santiago, I did another domestic flight to Punta Arena, stayed there for 2 nights and took Bus Sur to Puerto Natales. PN is the gateway to Torres Del Paine!
Early on March 12th at 7am, we boarded the bus from the bus terminal to Laguna Amarga; paid the fees and registered there and from there we boarded another bus to Las Torres. From Las Torres service center we did once more some packing and went on the trail around noon. The hike up was excruciating as the food I bought weren’t the smartest choice, including kgs of canned tuna and fresh fruits.. Once we arrived at Campo Chileno I knew immediately what I should be finishing. It was around 1ish and the check-in wasn’t available so we just left our big pack by the office and headed up to the Torres. The weather wasn’t great so pictures didn’t turn out that well, and I was expecting a more impressive landscape. The last km or two was pretty steep with lots of big small rocks. We spent around 45 mins at the lookout. When we returned it was getting dark. Campo Chileno offer hot showers 24 hours and hot water were offered for free. It was chilly at night. Luckily I had enough layers on and slept through the night. Wifi packages were available for purchase.
March 13th, we were back on the trail at ~10:30. A lot of walking on this trail from Chileno to Campo Frances, via Campo Cuernos. From Cuernos to Frances I thought it would be much closer but it was still another an hour ish ups and downs to go. I love the views on this day as I was walking by the water and open air for the entire way. Campo Frances were in the woods; compared to Chileno, Frances shower and cooking areas are much farther. That night we saw lots of stars, cooked our food (Chileno didn’t allow open fire) and we also had beer. I was sure not only us did the round trip from the cooking area to our campsites more than once.. It was a few mins walk uphill.
March 14th was a day from Frances to Grande. After half an hour walk or so we dropped our stuff off at the Italian Ranger station for our hike to the Britanico Lookout via the Frances Look out. It was another few hours up and downhills it started to rain here and there. Then we arrived back at the Ranger Station, picked up our stuff and went onto Paine Grande. This campsite by far was the nicest and most equipped among the 4 campsites we stayed, but shower facilities were basic. This campsite was also reachable by the catamaran so it’s common for day hikers. Here we had a bottle of good carmenere and slept through the night.
March 15th was a relatively easy hike(compared to the previous hikes) from Grande to Grey. At times it was soooo windy that I felt like being blown away. The wind could get very strong so when it happened I just sat down or stopped. The wind was especially strong at the Lago Grey lookout. On the way we also saw a half rainbow. From Campo Grey we went further to see the glaciers. It was a short walk from Grey and gave you a taste of how the southern glaciers look like. We slept early that night as our had to start our hike back to Grande early the following morning.
March 16th we were off the track again at 7am. By 10ish we arrived at Grande and had time to kill til our catamaran came at 11:35am. We were tired and slept through the bus ride from Pudeto back to Puerto Natales via Laguna Amarga. Of course we celebrated with a great dinner and had lots of food and drinks the following days.
During our W trek, we found that the Argentinian border were closing to tourists and people were panicking about their trips and so on.. I was going to Calafate after the hike but didn’t turn out that way, so I decided to stay in PN for a few days. Another decision was to be made regarded my travel plan was to either the back home due to the outbreak starting in Chile then or to stay in Chile. I picked the latter initially thinking I would stay out from the city and perhaps spent a month or two in Patagonia, but I decided this plan would not work for me as the local government was starting to shut down public transportation starting from April 1st. That announcement was a game-changer for me as I didn’t want to be stuck at a place for two months without going anywhere nearby, in a foreign country. I went back to Punta Arena, took my original flight to Santiago on the 20th and got another flight flying from Santiago back to HKG via DXB.
I was already the lucky one who could finish the trek. The day after I returned from TDP the park was closed down due to the virus and many people were stranded or had to leave right after they arrived in Chile. Chile is amazing and there were so many activities to do down in Patagonia as well as up north. I was going to stay in Chile for 1.5 month but didn’t work out, but after it all goes better. I will return to South America for sure.